In what one union is calling a “breakthrough contract,” Los Angeles County workers are poised to receive a 10 percent pay raise, an extra week of vacation and a new paid holiday if a tentative labor pact is approved.
However, county passage is not assured.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to vote at its regular meeting Tuesday on pay raises for county firefighters, deputy sheriffs, criminalists, custody assistants, coroner investigators, peace officers and other groups. The agreements, which have already been ratified by those unions, include a 3 percent raise in both fiscal 2015-16 and fiscal 2016-17 and a 4 percent increase in fiscal 2017-18.
The largest county workers union has yet to ratify their pact, which then would go before the supervisors separately. The membership of Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents nearly half of the county’s more than 100,000 employees, will vote through Nov. 19 on a similar pay raise — 10 percent over three years. Their pact also includes a fringe benefits package with an additional paid holiday starting in 2017 for Cesar Chavez Day, which will be recognized on the last Monday of March, an additional week of vacation for employees who have more than 24 years of service, which brings the total allowable vacation for county workers to five weeks a year, and hikes in the county’s contribution to health care benefits.
If the SEIU agreement is approved by the county, the other unions’ workers are expected to receive those same benefits.
The total cost for the pay raises for SEIU employees is $97.9 million in fiscal 2015-16, $133.4 million in fiscal 2016-17, $126.4 million in fiscal 2017-18 and $93.7 million in fiscal 2018-19, according to information provided by county spokesman David Sommers.
The county’s total budget is $28 billion.
County staff did not lay out the total cost of the agreements that the supervisors will vote on Tuesday in its board report.
The supervisors must approve pay increases to union contracts by a super-majority, according to a new board policy. The board is viewed as pro-labor with Democrats Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas holding the majority, however, the contracts must receive approval from at least one of the two conservative members, Supervisors Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich.
Only Solis responded to requests for comment to each supervisor on the proposed SEIU contract.
“I am pleased that the county of Los Angeles has tentatively reached a contract with SEIU because unions help hard-working families,” Solis said in a statement. “It’s important that we remain competitive with other employers and retain our highly dedicated workforce. This agreement helps us achieve that.”
A spokeswoman from SEIU did not respond to requests for comment. Documents on the SEIU website characterized the proposed agreement as a “breakthrough contract.” County workers have not received a new paid holiday in 30 years, according to the SEIU.
Jeff Steck, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said his union membership ratified the 10 percent cost-of-living increase by a 75 percent margin.
He said ALADS still is bargaining the fringe benefits package. Each bargaining unit has a “me too” clause in their contract, so that all bargaining units are granted equal benefits.
Steck said he was disappointed with the bargaining process because he was hoping to raise salaries so that the department could be competitive with other agencies when it comes to recruitment.
He said in 2002, the Sheriff’s Department used to be in the top third in terms of salary for law enforcement officers in California. Now, he said, LASD is in the bottom third.
“As a cost of living adjustment, it’s fine, but the problem is, it just keeps us even with the bottom third,” Steck said in an interview. “We think we need to be in the top third to attract quality candidates.”
He said the union also was hoping to bargain different benefits into their contract like a wellness bonus to encourage deputies to stay fit and an education bonus to recruit deputies who have degrees or to reward deputies who wish to continue their education.
“We’re hopeful in two years we’re going to be able to rectify the problems that we have now,” Steck said.
Data provided by the county show that county workers received a 10 percent raise over the three years preceding the Great Recession. County employees did not receive a raise for four years during the recession. They received a 2 percent raise in fiscal 2013-14 and a 4 percent raise in fiscal 2014-15.
The Board of Supervisors has been lauded for its prudent fiscal policies that weathered the Great Recession without layoffs to county employees.