The County of San Bernardino and SBPEA Teamsters Local 1932 announced a tentative agreement this past week. The agreement is the result of an economic re-opener agreed upon during the last contract negotiations in June 2014.
Some county employees are very upset about the terms of the tentative agreement, saying that the raises are not enough. The agreement gives county employees a minimum of 7.17 percent over a 31-month period during the 44-month contract. Long-term employees of 15 years or more will receive an additional 2 percent. Some classifications will receive equity adjustments in addition to the across-the-board raises and longevity pay.
The tentative agreement, as currently negotiated, is worth about $130 million, meaning that is how much payroll and benefit costs will rise for the county for the total of the 44 months covered by the agreement. For years prior to this, the county budget was balanced on the backs of employees who saw paychecks decrease, sometimes by hundreds of dollars.
There is a fraction of employees complaining that the offer by the county is too little and want their peers to reject the offer. The problem with this is that the county is under no obligation whatsoever to return to the bargaining table. If employees reject the offer, the county can force the union to abide by the original terms of the contract with no raises at all.
County employees have little recourse. They have a valid contract in place that will not expire until June 23, 2017. They cannot lawfully strike unless the current contract fully expires.
If county employees reject the tentative agreement, it is conceivable the county will return to the bargaining table. However, Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux has a history of punishing county units that reject the county’s offer by offering less in economic benefits with each rejection.
The tentative agreement extends the end of the contract until July 31, 2019. SBPEA Teamsters Local 1932 agreed to it because the extension does several things. First, it added 5 percent in COLAs.
Second, it pushes the next contract negotiations out two election cycles. That is important because there are two county supervisors who are extremely anti-employee who will be up for re-election. It gives the union a chance at running candidates who are employee-friendly thus creating a pro-employee majority on the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Robert Lovingood will face re-election in June 2016. Supervisor Janice Rutherford will face re-election in June 2018. Both are downright hateful towards employees and have tried to hold the line on increasing employee pay and benefits.
Finally, with this tentative agreement the county agreed to form a committee to explore options regarding medical coverage, including coverage for retirees. The union has many plans with huge participation, which should lower the cost of premiums. This could not be accomplished until 2019, and the new expiration date will allow for it to be part of the next negotiation cycle.
Ballots will be mailed on Nov. 13 and counted on Nov. 30. If the tentative agreement is defeated, it may mean no raises until a successor agreement is negotiated in 2017 or 2018.