Planned Strike of 95,000 California State Workers Called Off

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Minutes after a state court judge on Friday delayed deciding the legality of a looming strike of California’s state employees, the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 told its 95,000 members the “strike is off!”

“After weeks of preparing for a strike, we have been in conversations with the state and we both feel we have found a pathway forward. Therefore, we have withdrawn our notice to strike and will continue bargaining today,” said Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker following Friday’s ex parte hearing.

On Saturday, the union said it had reached a tentative deal with the state. Neither union leadership nor the state’s human resources department would disclose the details, which must be approved by both union members and the Legislature.

When asked about the deal at an unrelated press conference Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown – always the voice of fiscal restraint – reminded Californians the next recession may be around the corner.

“We want to be careful because the economy is uncertain, the revenue stream is not maybe where we would like so we need some prudence,” Brown said of the tentative deal. “We’ve had seven fat years and we may be coming into seven lean years.”

Before the announcement of the tentative deal, and with a potentially historic and troublesome strike set for Monday, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei ordered the two sides back in court Dec. 13 for a potential ruling on the legality of the union’s planned strike.

Brown and the California Department of Human Resources had filed a petition Thursday, saying that the union’s planned strike was illegal because of a no-strike clause.

Bargaining talks had failed between the Democratic governor and SEIU Local 1000, and the union recently said it would strike for the first time in its history on Dec. 5.

The planned one-day strike would have disrupted the first day of the legislative session where newly elected lawmakers are sworn in, and the Capitol’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony also planned for Monday.

As they exited the closed ex parte hearing, the attorneys for the union declined to speak with the media or say whether the one-day strike would go on as scheduled.

The court gave no explanation to the media as to why the public was barred from the hearing.

Brown and SEIU Local 1000 have been negotiating since this past April, but talks stalled again in November. The union has accused Brown and the state of bargaining in bad faith and has rejected the terms of a proposed four-year, 12 percent raise.

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

“The state has provided no explanation or justification for its unlawful conduct and it is our duty and responsibility to hold them accountable,” Walker said last week.

Union leaders on Thursday sent a cease-and-desist letter to the California Department of Human Resources, claiming the department was holding illegal meetings and harassing union members about the planned strike.

“No employee should be forced to engage in a captive-audience meeting to chill their rights. The state’s position that employees do not have a right to strike in this setting is preposterous,” the letter said.