About 800 county workers plan to strike (for two days)

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

About 800 San Mateo County employees in the Health Services Agency and Health Department will strike Tuesday and Wednesday unless they reach a new contract with the county government.

The 800 are part of the lone bargaining unit of AFSCME Local 829 that didn’t ratify a contract that was approved by other county employee groups earlier this month.

The striking workers include social workers, therapists, benefits analysts and those who offer care to the elderly and veterans in the county.

Currently, the most a “Social Worker III” is paid is $93,096 a year. A mental health counselor can receive a maximum of $70,212 a year.

The other 10 bargaining units that ratified the new contract with the county will receive a 12% increase over the next three years.

If the county agrees to give the striking workers more than 12%, other unionized employees could come back to management and demand the same deal.

According to a statement posted on AFSCME’s website, the human services unit wants the county to improve their working conditions and relieve staffing shortages.

“(Their) jobs often come with harsh working conditions and huge case- loads — sometimes with few resources to help them do their jobs effectively,” said Local 829 Vice President Felipe Donaire, a county social worker. “When those members brought forth proposals to the county to address their working conditions and staffing shortages, the county’s offers did not go far enough.”

County spokeswoman Michelle Durand said that the county and the union remain in negotiations and “are hopeful we can still reach a conclusion.”

35 Comments

  1. I think the social workers and benefits analysts with Human Services Agency deserve higher pay. They’re constantly working under stressful conditions and are under staffed and provide vital/essential services to the individuals and families in the community.

  2. For a position that the county requires to have a Master’s and when the average annual income needed to buy a house in the Bay area is 300k plus, then yes you should cry. Instead of bemoaning workers who want more, you should want more for everyone.

  3. Why does a certain segment of AFSME think they deserve higher raise than the rest of their union members and all of the other unions that have already agreed to the contact? This is absolutely ridiculous and very short sided. These employees will all receive pensions which is a massive financial burden on Tax payers and is bankrupting many municipalities. When you really look at the total comp of the county employees they are doing much better than many employees in this county. If they want to strike that’s great – let’s outsource their jobs to contractors!! They will not have much support by voters for this absurd, greedy, and irrational strike. They do not deserve more than the other country employees!

    • Actually, most workers in the Human Services unit are getting a smaller raise than others. To name a few, dispatchers will receive an ADDITIONAL 10% raise, pharmacy technicians 8.6%, some park rangers 10%, and shift differentials for most other bargaining units. It’s not surprising these groups voted nearly unanimously to approve this contract.

      The other unions received more generous deals than AFSCME did. SEIU and Management received 11-12% raise, more vacation accruals, and two days off during the winter. Law enforcement union received 15-20% raise, more vacation accruals, and two days off. AFSCME easily had the worst deal, and in order to get the contract passed, they had to offer large bonuses to some groups.

      I voted against the contract because certain employees in the SAME classification would receive a raise but not others. Either give everyone in that classification a raise or don’t give it to anyone.

      As for replacing county employees with contractors, I’d like to see how long contractors would last doing our jobs. Turnover is already high as it is. Employees come to work every day knowing they will face verbal abuse, sometimes even physical assault by clients. Some clients are mentally ill and have little to lose. Workers use archaic computer systems appropriate for an ’80s workplace, all the while being demanded by managers to produce more to make up for the high turnover. Instead of hiring more workers, managers prefer to direct resources to less important areas.

      There is plenty of room for cost savings, but most of that will come from reducing useless trainings, unproductive meetings, reducing duplication of work already being done by the STATE or even other counties, etc. Upgrading the computer systems would go a long way. It should not take one or more hours to work on a client’s application or redetermination. But it does. The systems are THAT bad.

      • I agree, after are we not a “union”? We it befits some we are a union and when it doesn’t, we are individual agencies or departments. You can’t have it both ways. If we outsource let’s see how long it takes before folks start complaining where there benefits are and why they have no medical. Until you do the job than you are entitled and qualified to say anything.

    • Actually, a majority of the employees voted against the contract. Only 48.7% had voted in favor. It only passed because the union leaders decided that each bargaining unit could go its own way. Thus, a minority of voters decided the outcome for everyone.

  4. Actually, a majority of the employees voted against the contract. Only 48.7% had voted in favor. It only passed because the union leaders decided that each bargaining unit could go its own way. Thus a minority of voters decided the outcome for everyone.

  5. This article is NOT correct!! The ones getting a raise now & a 12% increase over 3 years are the Social Workers & Therapist. They are the ones getting over $102,000 annually, NOT Community Workers, Alcohol & Drug Counselors, Benefits Analysts, Job Developers, & many more. Let me fill in the parts the article left out. The other bargaining units ratified their contracts because they got a raise to their BASE pay IN ADDITION to the 12% raise we’ll ALL get over 3 years. I’m not sure how that’s fair or why that’s greedy but let’s give your co-worker a raise and not you because that’s just how the cookie crumbles. We’ll get you next year, ok? And let’s talk about the work that public servants do. The wages are significantly less than in the private sector and it’s usually offset by the satisfaction of helping someone AND the promise of a pension. Because why else would you work for the government when you could make more money working for the private sector?
    There’s no other reason to be here doing this work when we’re here being berated as greedy and lazy when we’re understaffed and we don’t have the resources to do the work we’re tasked to do. And now you want to take our pension away? And outsource our jobs? You better hope you never find yourself in a position to need the social services provided by the county because we’re not paid to care but we do the work because we DO care. Outsource the work and you’ll just be a number to someone; they don’t care who you are and they get paid very little to do very little. And remember that’s what you asked for.
    The unit that didn’t ratify were the Human Services Agency & Behavior Health & Recovery. They’re constantly working under stressful conditions and are under staffed and provide vital/essential services to the individuals and families in the community. For example, the Benefits Analysts have another health insurance program added to them when Covered California/Obama Care came into effect! A lot more work! They just want to receive equal pay to the surrounding counties of San Mateo County which is SF County & Santa Clara County. They are asking the County to be fair! The County is trying to compare pay to Contra Costa County, which is a lot cheaper to live there than the Peninsula. Please do your homework before you call us greedy.

    • The real question, Maria, is whether the people in the other bargaining units who just approved their new contracts will honor your picket lines this week? I have a feeling they’ll walk right past the protesters. They got what they wanted, and they don’t care about you guys.

    • Maria, the article looks correct to me and you haven’t pointed out one single error. You’re just mad that you’ve been called out as greedy.

  6. Who receives pensions anymore? Not many people do as they are extremely expensive! Pensions are too much of a burden for tax payers and they need to be phased out for all public employees. Also I agree with what FDR that government employees should not be unionized!!! We need pension & union reform now!!

  7. The strike will just make county employees look even worse to voters and taxpayers in San Mateo County. Minimal pension reforms are NOT enough – we need to phase out pensions for all government employees & offer 401(k) options only. Also, we need real union reform!!

  8. If they go on strike, I hope the county has the guts to do what Reagan did when the air traffic controllers struck — he fired every one of them! No planes crashed. There were no problems because supervisors took over until replacements were hired.

  9. @Dan, are you kidding? The board of supervisors and the Democratic Party machine in San Mateo County are owned by labor. The supes want to give the union everything they want. They just have to make it appear to the public as if it was a hard-fought battle. But management and labor are on the same side in San Mateo County.

  10. The bargaining unit provides assistance to the most vulnerable and needy residents of the county and requires education and training to stay abreast of all the federal, state, and local policy changes. These workers could earn substantially more in the private sector, but choose to spend their careers helping people. And people are calling them “greedy” because they are asking for a cost of living increase that is less than the pace of inflation? Seems cheap when the county has $177 million surplus. How much of a pay cut are these people supposed to take while the cost of living in the county is ballooning? What is the point of the county granting a pay increase when it is not retroactive to when the contract expired and they aren’t even seeing the full increase? Why is it so absurd for the county take care of these workers when they pay county manager hundreds of thousands annually?

  11. I don’t know about all of you, but if this union isn’t cutting it, if it isn’t doing it’s job which is to fight and represent us than let’s look for another one that does. Heck let’s look for one that gives a union pension. I mean if ima pay to be in one than at I least want something to show for when I retire… just saying.

  12. Don’t all government workers have the right to choose whether or not to be in a union (ie pay union dues) given the recent Supreme Court decision? When I worked for the county a few years ago as a Benefits Analysts, this choice was not available. It was so frustrating to be “represented” by a union who took my money and didn’t truly represent me! I worked very hard and had a high case load, yet many of my co-workers who had been there for years, didn’t work as hard, had lower case loads and were rude to clients. I complained to my supervisor who said she could do nothing because my coworkers were union members and she was in the same union with all
    of us. I asked my union rep for help and they essentially told me not to work so hard. I then told my union rep I no longer wanted to be a part of the union or pay them to represent me because they refused to do so. I was told union rep that I HAD to keep paying dues and I had no freedom to choose otherwise. It was a very dysfunctional work environment and lead to high levels of productivity issues and employee dissatisfaction. I left the county soon after this horrible experience and I’m now happily providing services to the community in the private sector.

  13. For the people commenting that SMC workers are greedy…They obviously do not live on the Peninsula. A salary of $93k yearly doesn’t cut it here. Employees have not received a raise in years. It’s time to hold the County accountable for their employees. Management and the Board spend money funding unnecessary positions to benefit themselves, but refuse to compensate those that make the most impact. I STAND with AFSCME! GO County- Human Services WORKERS!

  14. For the people commenting that SMC workers are greedy…They obviously do not live on the Peninsula. A salary of $93k yearly doesn’t cut it here. Employees have not received a raise in years. It’s time to hold the County accountable for their employees. Management and the Board spend money funding unnecessary positions to benefit themselves, but refuse to compensate those that make the most impact. I STAND with AFSCME! GO County- Human Services WORKERS!

  15. Want to know how greedy these AFSCME workers are? Read the comment above from “local resident” who says $93,000.00 a year isn’t enough. Enough said.

  16. To Former Employee-

    Thank you for sharing your awful experience and it supports my belief that this stike is ridiculous! $93K per year plus a PENSION and they are striking? Good luck getting any sympathy from voters.

  17. I’d love to see how many of the SEVERELY misinformed individuals trashing the county workers for striking would last in a job where rats wander about in the workplace (e.g. Shasta), where they face the daily risk of physical assault, where they occasionally have knives or guns waved at them, and where they have to constantly be vigilant and ready to protect themselves from violent outbursts by clients that include spitting and the throwing of furniture. County workers also contribute large portions of each paycheck (hundreds of dollars) to fund their pensions so it is a lie to submit its is funded completely by taxpayers. Just ask the County Manager Mike Callagy who pulls a pension of over $200,000 while he draws a salary of well over $300,000 PLUS added perks. Or ask Supervisor Don Horsley who ran for his seat on the promise he would not accept the $120,000 (at the time) Board of Supervisors salary because he too draws a pension of over $215,000. If you want to cry about your taxes going to people who don’t need the money, these are the county workers who should be your focus. Not the average county worker who has a salary well UNDER $100,000 – even if they hold a Masters degree – and even though could make a lot more money elsewhere with A LOT less grief but stay because they want to serve the community. Talk about selfish and ungrateful …. But then again the people who are trashing the workers and the unions and the pensions are certainly NOT relying on any county support and have no concern for their fellow humans who do need it. For shame.

  18. Oh wait – did I mention that Supervisor Don Horsley broke that campaign promise because after he was elected the county was suddenly no longer in a place of financial “austerity” so he now takes in over $350,000 (or more) in salary and pension? Just one detail worth noting while you trash county workers struggling to pay rent and commuting from as far as Sacramento or the Central Valley to work in our county. Man … the shame of those who think they know but are clueless!!

  19. Oh wait – did I mention that Supervisor Don Horsley broke that campaign promise because after he was elected the county was suddenly no longer in a place of financial “austerity” so he now takes in over $350,000 (or more) in salary and pension? Just one detail worth noting while you trash county workers struggling to pay rent and commuting from as far as Sacramento or the Central Valley to work in our county. Man … the nerve of those who think they know but are clueless!!

  20. When workers strike, that’s the time to outsource their work. Anybody making $44/hour for work that requires only a GED is overpaid. Other jurisdictions have outsourced entire departments with a great deal of success. Examples include Atherton (public works) and San Carlos (police, fire). Outsourcing means better work at lower costs. As a taxpayer, I don’t want to overpay for labor.

    • Only a GED? What are you talking about??? Many of the workers who are striking have Masters degrees and hefty student loan debt. Sounds like someone needs to outsource your job.

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