County Workers Strike Over Health Benefits
About 4,000 Sacramento County workers picketed government offices on Tuesday to protest contract negotiations that have stalled over health care benefits, the Sacramento Bee reports (Kollars et al., Sacramento Bee, 9/6).
Union officials said the county wants to shift more health care costs to workers, although many county employees have agreed to a more limited choice of health plans (Chan/Reese, Sacramento Bee, 9/5).
The county has proposed phasing in changes to the health plans of about 3,000 workers by requiring them to pay 5% of premiums in the first year, 10% of premiums in the second year in the contract and so on until the workers are contributing 20% of the cost of premiums. New employees would automatically pay 20% of health care premiums.
Most county employees already pay 20% of premiums, but some still make no contributions to health care premiums.
Workers also are concerned about a provision of the contract in which the county's portion of insurance premiums would be based on "the least expensive, full coverage HMO health plan offered by the county."
Union members are worried that the county will drop coverage through Kaiser Permanente for less expensive, more limited coverage, according to Sandra Poole, executive director of United Public Employees Local 1, which represents about 4,000 county office and technical employees and social workers.
County Chief Financial Officer Geoff Davey said the county has no plans "to drop Kaiser anytime soon" because it has the least costly plans, but he added that that could change (Reese/Korber, Sacramento Bee, 9/6).
As of late Tuesday, 15 labor groups representing 11,000 workers debated the county's contract proposal.
Some of the groups were negotiating contract terms, while talks with other were stalled, according to the county's chief negotiator Steve Lakich (Kollars et al., Sacramento Bee, 9/6).
County officials expected all public clinics, counters and offices to be open Tuesday morning and said they would later assess where to deploy available personnel and whether to close some offices (Sacramento Bee, 9/5).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Wednesday reported on the strike. The segment includes comments from Gloria Adams, a striking clerical worker, and Lakich (Ciurczak, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/6).
The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.