California State Workers Inch Toward Strike

By NICK CAHILL

seiu-1000-califSACRAMENTO (CN) – Gender pay inequity was a key issue Tuesday when the 95,000 members of California’s largest public employee union voted to authorize a strike if negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown continue to stall.

Service Employees International Union Local 1000, representing more than 95,000 California workers, said 92 percent of its voting members authorized SEIU officials to call a strike.

The union has rejected the state’s offer of a nearly 12 percent salary increase over four years and has been negotiating with Brown since April.

“Local 1000 has been and will continue to negotiate in good faith. When the state’s conduct doesn’t meet this standard, it is our duty and responsibility to hold them accountable,” SEIU 1000 president Yvonne Walker said in a statement.

The union says the state’s latest offer fails to address gender pay inequity: that its women members are paid 19 percent less than average state workers.

With California’s budget operating at a surplus and an estimated $11.5 billion rainy day fund, it’s time for Brown to reward civil service employees, Walker said.

“The state’s ‘take it or leave it’ approach to bargaining and other objectionable conduct away from the table undermines the bargaining process, and only serves to widen the gender pay gap for California families,” Walker added.

Other bargaining units already have received raises this year, including state scientists and engineers. Thirteen state unions are negotiating contracts that expired in July.

California’s maintenance workers’ union also rejected Brown’s offer and authorized a strike in July.

The SEIU authorized a strike in 2009 but was able to strike a deal with the state. Walker said bargaining will resume this week.

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