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October 21, 2009 > SEIU Local 1021 forgoes salary increases

SEIU Local 1021 forgoes salary increases

Submitted By Guy Ashley

Alameda County today announced that its largest union, SEIU Local 1021, will help the county government weather the severe economic downturn with a plan that will save as many services as possible for local residents while keeping union workers employed.

The County has seen revenues plummet as costs have soared. In July the Board of Supervisors approved a $2.4 billion budget for 2009-2010, closing an unprecedented $178 million budget gap. Further cuts were then adopted by the State legislature and the Governor to close the growing gap in California's budget, including "borrowing" more local property taxes and redevelopment agency funds and making deep cuts to safety net programs and services for the County's most vulnerable populations. For Alameda County, this means the loss of $40 million more in property taxes, $10 million of redevelopment agency funds and additional program cuts of at least $15 million to $20 million - on top of the $178 million funding gap.

Recognizing the severity of the budget crisis, members of SEIU Local 1021 met and discussed what they could do. The union offered to forego the three percent raise members were due to receive in December 2009. In return, the current contract will be extended for another two years to December 2012, preserving all the other terms of the agreement. This will save the County $5.5 million this year and $11 million annually.

"We understand these are tough times," said Fran Jefferson, Field Director for SEIU Local 1021. "Our members stepped up and did the right thing for our community, protecting vital services for our neighbors and protecting each others' jobs. I was impressed by their overwhelming willingness to help."

SEIU 1021 members' action comes as Alameda County conducts ongoing negotiations with its other employee labor groups aiming to help minimize the impact of this deep recession and to stabilize salary and benefit costs going forward. These negotiations reflect the tough fiscal times affecting Alameda County. In balancing the current County Budget, the Board of Supervisors was forced to eliminate 285 positions within the County workforce of about 9,300 full-time equivalent positions. SEIU 1021 represents about 4,350 Alameda County employees.

Throughout the budget deliberations, County supervisors and labor groups openly discussed the possibility of negotiating labor pacts that included employee concessions to save jobs. To date, the managers represented by ACMEA have stepped up and agreed to zero salary increases for three years and to begin sharing in the cost of their health care premiums next year. The unrepresented managers will also forego salary increases for three years and begin contributing towards health care premiums.

"Since the adoption of the 2009-10 budget we have been working diligently with our employee labor groups with an eye on minimizing layoffs and securing multi-year agreements that will help reduce and stabilize our costs," Alameda County Administrator Susan S. Muranishi said. "The offer by SEIU members is a significant first step in that process, and it reflects a spirit of cooperation within our employee ranks and strong labor leadership that understands what is needed to help Alameda County navigate these difficult financial waters."

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said that amid the current economic difficulties all County employees are being asked to take unprecedented actions to keep County government operating. Carson said he hoped all County employee labor groups would agree to make sacrifices similar to those being made by SEIU 1021.

Carson, who chairs the County's Budget Work Group, said, "I am proud of the positive working relationships we have developed with employee labor groups over the years, including their engagement and understanding of the budget process which certainly helped us to get here. We still have a way to go before we emerge completely from the economic storm we are currently in, yet this agreement is a sign of the collaboration and cooperation County government will need to survive these tough times and remain a positive force dedicated to improving the lives of residents of Alameda County."

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