Social Workers Struggle
Union asks county supervisors to join negotiations.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
After hitting a stalemate with county officials during wage negotiations, Monterey County social workers have asked the Board of Supervisors to intervene-and show them more money-at the Board''s June 25 meeting.
The union is asking for a 4.5 percent wage increase and a $1,000 retention bonus for 150 eligibility workers-the county employees who determine if a client can receive benefits such as food stamps and MediCal. These county workers currently make about $31,812 a year on average, says Wren Bradley, a field representative for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 535, which represents about 400 Monterey County social service workers.
"Last year our workers got a 1.03 percent salary increase, and their managers got a 5 percent increase," says Bradley.
She points to Chief Administrative Officer Sally Reed''s current $166,783 salary, and the County Social Services Director Keith Honda''s $91,273 salary.
"The difference keeps getting larger and larger," Bradley says. "Our members deal with the most poverty stricken members of the county-members society would like to pretend don''t exist. As a consequence, the county doesn''t consider our members real people either."
Bradley says wage negotiations broke off last week after 87 percent of the voting workers rejected the county''s 4 percent salary increase offer.
But County negotiators tell a different story.
"[Bradley] said she wanted to discuss a proposal that had no budget impact," Honda says. "This proposal clearly has a budget impact. Four percent plus another one-half percent, plus a $1,000 retention bonus for the union''s 467 employees-that alone is $467,000.
"Our offer is one that takes into consideration a variety of factors including the financial condition of the county and potential contingencies that exist because of the state budget. We''re taking the position that it''s fiscally sound."
Although county managers did see a 5 percent raise last year, they won''t receive a salary increase in 2002-03, Honda says.
Both Bradley and Honda say no future talks are slated for the near future. Bradley says the union has requested a mediator enter the discussion, although Honda says he has yet to see a formal request. He says the county doesn''t plan to make the social workers a new offer.
"That''s a subject we''re not going to discuss with the media," Honda says. "One of the things the county is not going to do is negotiate the budget."