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Brown Administration Agrees to State Worker Pay Raises

CPR photo/Ben Adler

SEIU 1000 members rally at the State Capitol last week calling for pay raises, which they'll receive as soon as July 2014.

CPR photo/Ben Adler

The budget isn’t the only deal California Governor Jerry Brown announced Tuesday.  He also announced a tentative agreement on a contract with California’s largest state workers union, SEIU Local 1000.

The raises would come in one of two ways:
- If the state meets certain unnamed revenue targets: a 2.5% raise on July 1, 2014, followed by a 2% raise on July 1, 2015
- If the state misses those targets: a 4.5% raise on July 1, 2015

“We have achieved each of the four top priorities identified by our members,” said SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker in a statement released early this morning.  “Protecting retirement security, preserving our 80/20 health benefit premiums, no new furloughs or PLP days and a wage increase for everyone.”

Brown had insisted on a "cost-neutral" contract that did not include any pay raises.  That prompted Walker to declare "the fight is on" at a massive rally at the Capitol last week.

Because the pay raises would not start until July 2014 at the earliest, the governor can argue that the contract is, in fact, "cost-neutral" for the new state budget that he and Democratic legislative leaders agreed to on Monday.

However, state workers currently take one furlough day per month, equivalent to a five percent pay cut.  Those furloughs will expire at the end of the month.  Additionally, a three percent raise for top-step employees in the current contract negotiated with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that will expire at the end of this month will also take effect at that time.

So a top-step SEIU 1000 state worker currently earning $47,500 (reduced by furloughs from $50,000) will earn just under $54,000 as of July 1, 2015.

Asked about the deal Tuesday afternoon, Brown called it a "fair proposal" but declined to discuss it further to avoid jeopardizing its chances of being ratified. "If I characterize it to please the critics, then I might say that it’s good for the taxpayer.  And if I’m trying to get it ratified, I’ll say it’s a helluva deal for the workers.  So either way, I will err – and therefore, I will say nothing more than it’s fair."

SEIU says the deal also includes a guarantee of no new furloughs over the course of the three-year contract for its more than 95,000 members.

Walker says Brown’s respect for state workers made negotiations easier than they were under former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  "Does that mean he would have given us everything we asked for?  Probably not, cause that’s not his reputation.  But at least it didn’t have the pile-on effect of using his state workforce as a political football."

The Brown administration must still negotiate contracts with 10 other bargaining units. A spokeswoman for CalHR, the state agency handling negotiations, says the SEIU deal could serve as a template for the other unions - though each union has its own issues to discuss.

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