Bargaining for a General Salary Increase: The Key is a Strong Membership


One of the key points we’ll be negotiating over when we return to the table next year is the General Salary Increase (GSI).

We don’t want to give away too much of the specifics of what will happen at the negotiating table since we need to keep those strategies confidential, but we are focusing on ways to build momentum and power to make the State seriously consider the demands of state workers. 

State worker needs have not been met. Long-standing problems, like wage freezes from the 2000s under Schwarzenegger and ongoing inflation needs to be addressed by pushing for a high GSI in our next contract. We know something “standard” won’t cut it.

So how do we put SEIU Local 1000 in the best possible position to get a good contract? Grow our membership.

Board Chair Bill Hall tells this story of his personal experience with “union power.” “In 2003, I was negotiating with the state on GSI and Personal Time Off for EDD employees. I was angry because when I made an argument that our membership deserved extra vacation, the State ignored our demands. After a short break, the State then rolled in two stacks of paper. A short stack contained members names and workplaces, while a much larger stack contained non-members. The State then addressed the entire bargaining team and informed us that given the overwhelming number of non-members, workers must be happy with whatever the State was giving them. I don’t think that’s true, but the best way we have to improve our conditions is by using our membership as leverage, and if membership rates are low, the State perceives our power to negotiate is also low. 

“The Professional Engineers (Unit 12) have approximately 98% membership in their professional association. The State sees that and thinks ‘Wow. They must be really upset with their working conditions,’ which allows them to aggressively bargain with the State and puts the State on their back foot.” 

High GSIs carry a risk for any politician. Governor Davis’ recall was largely driven by the impact of a ~19% GSI for State workers. One of our biggest concerns, and why we are so deeply involved in state politics, is how we run political cover for politicians making the necessary choice to raise salaries. This helps us approach the bargaining table with a stronger position and, coupled with high membership, is what allows us to make this fight happen. We can’t be successful without leveraging both of these pieces. 

Adds Board Chair Bill Hall: “The State is fundamentally wrong about where their money goes when they pay it to their employees. It is an investment in communities across the state. Our members spend that money locally, and that money drives the Californian economy, which directly benefits the state. As Local 1000 Board Chair AND a state employee, I only receive my state salary and benefits. The conditions that we negotiate are the conditions under which I operate, meaning my work is protected under the same contract as everyone else. As such, I have a vested interest in our success, and the best route forward is to build a union that has the power to accomplish the things that we need right now.”