Our bargaining teams have returned to the table this week, fighting for a contract that respects, protects, and pays all SEIU Local 1000 represented state workers. Our Bargaining Unit 20 negotiating team went to the table on May 15 to negotiate financial matters that impact these vulnerable and underpaid classifications. Subject matter experts in the unit discussed the issues they experience in the workplace and explained in detail to the State the consequences of years of short staffing and low pay.

During today’s bargaining session, the team proposed four sections for “rollover,” maintaining important workplace protections secured in previous contracts:

  • 11.5.20 – Release of Paychecks
  • 11.61.20 – Split Shift Differential
  • 11.63.20 – Certified Nursing Assistant/EMT Pay Differential
  • 12.18.20 – License or Certificate Renewal Fees

We proposed the four sections below with new language to reflect changes we want to see to our contract:

  • 10.5.20 – Safety Orientation
  • 11.1.20 – Special Salary Adjustments
  • 11.60.20 – LVN Recruitment and Retention
  • 11.62.20 – Dental Assistant Registration Differential

Additionally, we made a counter proposal in response to the State’s first counter proposal for the following section:

  • 13.12.20 – Employment Opportunities

Finally, the State and the Union reached a tentative agreement on the following rollover sections:

  • 19.18.20 – Rescinding Approved Time Off
  • 19.31.20 – Split Shifts

The language proposed today about safety orientation by the bargaining team reflected the same concept as BU 17. The bargaining teams are trying to align the language of Units 17 and 20. “We work side-by-side with each other,” said Unit 20 Chair Heather Markovich. “LVNs, CNAs, RNs, and Medical Assistants working on the same unit should have the same protections.”

Today, the bargaining team proposed special salary adjustments for Unit 20 employees, asking for individual pay raises for some of the most impacted and lowest paid classifications. “We let them know our members should not have to suffer anxiety about homelessness or paying for food instead of rent,” said Markovich.

These issues are at the heart of the State’s current crisis of vacancies in positions across California. “If they don’t pay and respect us, they will run out of employees,” said Markovich.

“If the wages are not raised, no one will come to work for the state.”

The focus at the table on economics is giving voice to the concerns of state workers who have struggled for recognition of their needs for years. Experts spoke about their experiences in job roles across California, including a Senior Clinical Laboratory Technologist, an X-ray technician, and SSA-I (ASL interpreters) from the Department of Rehabilitation and School for the Deaf in Riverside.

“We are dealing with ASL proficiency,” said bargaining team member Silas Wagner. “It takes years of experience to become an interpreter with the skills necessary for the unique needs and education levels of our deaf state employees. Someone who has 6 months experience, which is listed in the job description, will be woefully unprepared and overwhelmed on the job.”

These jobs are in-demand positions; not everyone can be an interpreter and years of experience are needed. The State knows this but has refused to pay these qualified professionals what they’re worth. “They work hard,” said Wagner. “Those in these roles need to be taken seriously.”

The State also heard from a Senior Clinical Lab Technologist and an X-Ray Technician in regard to how their low pay has impacted new hires and retention. The high vacancy rate has increased their workload; instead of covering one facility, they have to cover multiple facilities. The Senior Clinical Lab Technologist must have a license from the State Department of Health Services. In order to obtain that license, they must have a bachelor’s degree and a major in clinical laboratory science. Due to the low pay, most people with this license seek higher-paying positions outside of state service.

Similarly, the X-Ray Technicians also have a high proficiency level for their job along with a license. Due to low staffing levels, they also service multiple facilities while they were originally hired to service just one facility. This also causes patients to be transferred to outside facilities if there is no X-Ray Technician on duty as they are at another facility. The cost of transporting patients along with their escorts is extremely high, which is costing the state unnecessary funds.

In the CNA classification alone, there are 749 vacant jobs across the state. Uncompetitive wages have meant that the state can’t hire, further exacerbating the problems. In order to solve the state’s financial issues regarding their workforce, Unit 20 employees need to be paid a fair and competitive wage.

Unit 20 returns to the table next week, on Monday, May 22. To see updates on other bargaining unit contract sessions, please visit the Contract Action Center page at seiu1000.org

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.