There were some walkouts amid contract negotiations between county government and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 last week. SEIU folks said Friday was a deadline to get a tentative agreement in time for ratification by the end of the month, when the current agreement expires.
That didn’t happen, and the talks are scheduled to continue. SEIU sent out a press release today, containing an open letter to the Board of Supervisors. In it, the union says tying future raises to increases in property tax revenue creates a conflict of interest, since the people who assess property values are, themselves, county employees who could benefit from the higher property taxes that come from higher assessed values.
Here it is:
Open letter to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors:
The employees of San Joaquin County, represented by SEIU Local 1021, are currently in bargaining over a new contract and working in good faith to negotiate an agreement with the County before the current contract expires on June 30.
These workers are the County’s front line staff. They work in the hospital, the landfills and the jail. They take care of the levees and channels, and pick up trash dumped illegally by the road. They assess your homes, inspect the restaurants you eat in, provide services to the mentally ill. They dispatch the sheriff when crime is reported, and ensure that our most vulnerable residents, children and the elderly, get the care they need. They enroll the less fortunate for welfare benefits, and will help thousands of residents qualify for health benefits under federal health care reform.
These workers ARE San Joaquin County, these workers are YOUR neighbors.
At the bargaining table, however, San Joaquin County wants to pit these workers against the very community they serve. They want to link future wage increases to revenue generated from sales and property taxes.
SEIU Local 1021 sees a huge conflict of interest with this proposal. What will homeowners think when their homes and property are assessed? They will think, “The workers get a raise when my assessment goes up, so they have a vested interest in raising my property taxes.” If their assessment appeal is then denied, the public will never believe they got a fair hearing. Local 1021 members will not agree to be placed in such a position.
The County needs to step up and be a responsible employer in the community. It needs to treat its employees — your neighbors and family members — with respect for the work that they do instead of pitting them against the people they serve. The County needs to make a reasonable investment in the services that keep our local economy churning.
Instead, its lack of interest in negotiating a fair and equitable contract with its employees will only endanger these services. The issue is whether the County is serious about investing in its workforce so it can provide the vital services our community needs.
William R. Petrone
Interim Director for San Joaquin County
SEIU Local 1021