The State returned to the table with Unit 17 on Thursday, July 6 to negotiate our contract. SEIU Local 1000’s bargaining team is once again facing the same issue as in previous weeks: the State’s position does not prioritize or consider the needs of nurses who have worked through COVID and remain in incredibly difficult situations.

SEIU Local 1000 presented the following proposals to the State’s negotiating team today –

  • 10.19.17 Prevention and Management of Assaultive Behavior or Therapeutic Strategies and Interventions Training (Unit 17) – SEIU offered a counter proposal for this article section to strengthen the language for department equivalent training and for Joint Labor Management Committees to help resolve training issues at the departmental level
  • 11.XXX.17 Seniority Differential (Unit 17) – SEIU presented this new proposal to benefit BU 17 employees with a seniority pay differential for their hard-earned years of state service
  • 12.9.17 Overtime Meals Allowance (Unit 17) – SEIU presented this article section with new language that mirrors the Master table language that was passed to increase the meal allowance and for automatic payment as opposed to using the CalATERS system 

The State offered counterproposals for the following articles today –

  • 13.24.17 Orientation (Unit 17) – the state rejected the Union’s language and proposed new language of their own, which the team will review and respond to accordingly
  • 21.23.17 Recruitment and Retention (R&R) Committee (Unit 17) – the state proposed rollover for this article section
  • Appendix 2.17 – FLSA Exempt Employee Differential (Unit 17) – the state proposed a minor language change to this contract appendix, which the team will review and respond to accordingly
  • Side Letter 16.17 – the state proposed that this Side Letter go to the Master table, but then pulled it back for further review after being educated on this Side letter by the BU 17 Chair 

“Today seemed very rushed by the State,” said Unit 17 Chair Vanessa Seastrong. “We only received three article sections, and the State even retracted one from negotiations because they believed it didn’t involve Unit 17 and wanted to send it to the Master table.”   The BU 17 Chair, Vanessa Seastrong, had to educate the State’s chief negotiator that Side Letter 16.17 is a Unit 17 specific Side Letter.

This Side Letter (16.17) is an important piece of technical language that maintains the rights we have in our contract in the event of an oversight at the table.  The language in this Side Letter covers all the elements that may be left over after bargaining. This is a routine piece of bargaining that we have as a technicality to ensure that language remains in place even if it’s not specifically bargained over either by oversight or any other reason. “All bargaining units have shared language in Side Letters,” said team member Shelia Coonan. “Every bargaining unit has this language. Still, the State’s chief negotiator said it didn’t pertain to us exclusively, which is untrue.”

“I don’t understand how they think this didn’t apply to us,” said Coonan. “This shows a lack of care with how they’re approaching our contract. They didn’t think they were meeting with us today, resulting in a hurried, unprepared, and unfocused meeting that does not reflect our member’s priorities or a serious approach to negotiations.”

This is not bargaining as usual, but a reflection of a problem created by the State’s bargaining team. After months of working at a snail’s pace, ignoring our demands for the care and attention our contract deserves, they are now surprised to discover there is still a lot of work to do.

Of the three article sections that were discussed today, Unit 17 pushed the State’s team to consider the reality of the workplaces under discussion. One article section under discussion, 10.19.17, deals with assaultive training for departments.

“We need training for our departments to provide workplace protections from assault. Our members need to be involved in developing these programs because members are getting hurt in their workplaces and need to be trained on the issues they actually face,” said Bob Mutebi, Alternate Vice Chair.

The current trainings provided by the State are not sufficient to address the existing problems.  We need safer workplaces, and we need every worker to go back to their families safe at the end of their workday.

“What we have right now is a situation where the State finds or invents a training which is not equivalent to the dangers we face in the workplace,” said Seastrong. “Members have consistently found these trainings inadequate.” Additionally, while on the job, the State needs to ensure that during critical moments, their workforce is provided the essentials they need to do their job.

Article section 12.9.17, discussed at the table today, addresses meal tickets for members working overtime. “Our members need automatic meal tickets for overtime,” added Mutebi. “Currently, there is a long process of application, which discourages nurses and leads to them losing money while working. We also want to increase the amount from $8 to $10, to better serve the nurses who need to use these programs.”

Major issues that the State has long been aware of also need to be addressed. Experienced nurses are leaving state service faster than they can be replaced, creating critical shortages of workers for many departments across the State. Article section 11.XXX.17 would help address these issues. “We are asking for longevity pay for nurses who have worked over 16 years,” said Seastrong. “Retaining nurses is absolutely crucial for maintaining the quality of the services we provide.”

Retention is extremely challenging due to the difficult conditions and poor support and low wages provided by the State. This has led to overwork and degraded services across California.

“The current vacancy rates mean we need to have incentives in place to keep experienced nurses on the floor,” said Mutebi. “Other nurses will benefit from their experience, and patients as well, since they maintain continuity of care.”

These proposals all reflect serious issues faced by nurses across California. Without a dedicated partner at the table who will confront these problems seriously, negotiations will continue to reflect the scattered and unfocused approach of the State’s bargaining team.

 “A serious point of concern for me as the Vice Chair is that the State negotiating team assigned to us has shown very little or no commitment to adequately addressing the widely and deeply felt concerns of RN’s,” said Unit 17 Vice Chair Mary Naidoo. “Poor responses to issues we have brought forward are evidence of poor research into issues raised. The State’s lack of information to substantiate their rejections of our proposals is a clear demonstration of how little the State values our health and safety and how their lack of planning to address our unsustainable workloads.”

As bargaining continues, nurses’ voices must be heard by the State’s negotiating team. Members are creating mobilizing actions across California, and Unit 17’s nurses demands must be taken seriously.

“We need the State to work with us in achieving a contract which will benefit all,” said Naidoo, “not only in our work environment but to help nurses attain the work-life balance that we as dedicated state workers deserve.”

Unit 17 will return to the table as needed to complete negotiations on this contract for our members. To see updates on other bargaining unit contract sessions, please visit the Contract Action Center page at

There’s real truth to the Local 1000 slogan, Stronger Together. We only win a great contract with a strong Local 1000 membership. So, if you’re not already a member, we encourage you to join us today.

If you have questions about actions planed at your worksite, contact the Member Resource Center (MRC) at 866.471.SEIU (7348), Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.