Solano County service unions prepare to strike – The Vacaville Reporter
Local unions say staff shortages are not being adequately addressed. As their negotiations with Solano County continue, two local service employee unions are prepared to strike if the issue is not resolved before the contracts expire on Oct. 21.
Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21 are adamant they don’t want this occur. But in preparation, the unions staged a “school strike” on Friday at the Joseph Nelson community center in the city of Suisun.
Lessons included what employee rights are, what they can and cannot do in the event of a strike, regulations, the legality of strikes and more.
“This is where you go to really learn what a strike is and what it isn’t,” said SEIU 1021 Region Representative Elizabeth Harrison. we’re going to prepare… We don’t knock, but that’s how we learn what it is so that people don’t come out blindly.”
According to union representatives, there are more than 480 vacancies throughout Solano County that have not been filled. Employees tried to negotiate new contracts to replace those from 2019 which were due to expire on October 21. Harrison – also a social worker for Adult Protective Services – said this led to recruitment and retention issues, which in turn created a drop in morale.
“The county is a haemorrhage of great talent,” she said. “We’re talking about people in entry-level positions, all the way up to high-level management, people are leaving the county in droves. The benefits, the work environment, all those things are not enough to keep people here.
Even when the county hires new employees, Harrison said they seem to come out at a faster rate.
“They come in the front door, they come out the back in numbers faster than Solano can keep up,” she said. “The biggest issue with that is having a complete package that will not only recruit top talent but also retain them. That’s really what we’ve been dealing with for quite a while now.
Both unions raised these concerns with the Solano County Board of Supervisors during the public comment section at its Sept. 13 meeting, but since it was not on the agenda, no action was taken. could be taken.
Dae Kim, senior animal control officer, said the county initially “blew our minds,” but became a bit more receptive during the negotiation process.
“They are still dragging their feet,” he said.
With the October 21 deadline looming, Kim does not anticipate the case will be resolved by then.
“There is movement, for sure, at the negotiating table, but it is moving very slowly,” he said. “We’ve made significant progress, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to where we need to be yet.”
SEIU 1021 consists of employees from local government, health care agencies, school districts, county libraries, public safety agencies and more. IFPTE 21 is made up of professional and technical employees in industries such as transit, housing, healthcare and more. Together, Kim said the two unions represent about 75% of county employees, and this is the first time they have worked together on strike preparations.
“SEIU, IFPTE joining forces is the epitome of stronger together,” Harrison said.
One of the issues, Kim said, is the toll these jobs can take on employees and how that contributes to morale.
“It’s very hard work,” he says. “I take care of dying animals. We’re dealing with people who basically commit suicide, and we’re going to deal with animals because they’re no longer with them, or we’re dealing with homicide victims who have animals, or we’re dealing with all more traumatic experiences. When we cannot provide the level of service needed, it compounds that level of stress and depression. »
Kim also said the lack of staff resulted in longer than necessary response times and he had to purchase his own supplies.
“If I pay for my uniforms out of pocket, that doesn’t mean you give me the resources to do my job,” he said. “On top of that there are equipment issues, officer safety issues, and because of that people are leaving on a massive scale.”
Harrison said the turnover led to Solano becoming almost “the training county of the Bay Area.”
“People come here, they stay long enough to gain experience, they can get a title or something and then they’re out,” she said. “So we use our much-needed resources to train, and then people go out, use what they’ve learned here, and then take it to another county.”
What Harrison and Kim said union members would like to see is a competitive package that will attract quality employees and make them want to stay. The School of Strike provided an update on the bargaining process, information on the right to strike and next steps.
Kim said it’s important to make sure employees have the tools and knowledge to prepare to strike, though he hopes it doesn’t have to come to that.
“My hope is that I can be ready to strike in case our concerns are not allayed, but my hope is not to strike,” he said. “I hope the contract will be signed before it expires, I hope the members are happy with the contract we are negotiating, but if that doesn’t happen, I hope we are ready to do it.”
Reached by email, Public Communications Officer Matthew Davis released a statement on behalf of Solano County indicating that discussions with the task forces were ongoing.
“The Solano County Labor Bargaining Team, in consultation with the Board of Supervisors, is actively engaged in discussions with our labor groups,” he wrote. “The public can view all bargaining proposals and agreed terms on the county’s website, www.SolanoCounty.com. Interested parties can also sign up to be notified when the collective bargaining website is updated.