SACRAMENTO COUNTY: Citing Low Wages, Health Workers Strike
After rejecting a proposed three-year contract last week, Sacramento County health workers, including mental health workers and pharmacists, initiated a strike last night at 10:00 p.m, the Sacramento Bee reports. Felix Huerta, chief negotiator for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 146, said, "It's going to be a multi-day strike. We haven't decided how long yet." County officials, "disappoint[ed]" by the decision, said last week that "supervisors would fill in and that services would continue" (Davila, 9/18). The proposed contract, which was rejected by a 2-1 vote by the 550-member union, included cost-of-living increases of 8%-11% over three years and "one-time equity raises" of 2.5%-5% "to bring wages into line with the market." Huerta said these numbers "didn't reflect the fair market value of many employees, including pharmacists, licensed vocational nurses and medical assistants." He added, "At Kaiser, LVNs can make $19 to $22 an hour, but the top county pay is $14.95. The ... (cost of living adjustment) and equity isn't going to get them up to that." The union also wants the county to contribute more to employee health insurance premiums and wants any deal made retroactive to July 1, the day after the last contract expired. Steve Lakich, the county's chief labor negotiator, said, "We thought the agreement was a good agreement and addressed the recruitment and retention problems that the equity increases were intended to address." He cited data showing county workers have salaries comparable to those paid in the public sector and about 10% less than private sector (Davila, Sacramento Bee, 9/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.