SEIU contract bill stalls at end of session

In a year when little happened legislatively, even less happened when it came to the administration renegotiating contracts with the major public employee labor unions.

The largest state union, SEIU Local 1000, represents 95,000 state workers. Their deal often is used as a model by other bargaining units in the contract negotiations that typically happen twice a decade. When bargaining for a new deal this past February, SEIU 1000 made major concessions, including a 4.6 percent pay cut and the loss of Lincoln’s Birthday and Columbus Day as holidays.

However, since then the economy and the state budget situation both got much worse. Negotiations with other bargaining units essentially came to a standstill. So did AB 88, the bill needed to ratify the SEIU 1000 deal. The bill needed a two-thirds majority—meaning it needed Republican votes—and in this most partisan of years, it didn’t get enough of them.

“The idea is to get it on the governor’s desk and then either force him or shame him into signing it,” said SEIU 1000 spokesman Jim Zamora, before the Senate vote. He added, “If he refuses to sign it, he should explain why he is breaking a promise, why he is going back on an agreement that his representatives signed with us back in February. We realize economic conditions have changed since then, but we have also come forward with ways to make up the difference.”

AB 88 was granted reconsideration by a 39-0 vote in the closing hours of session, but it never got another chance in either house. This was despite further concessions made by SEIU 1000, a drastic reduction in some backup employee compensation funds included in the measure.

Author Ed Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, echoed the opinion that the governor hadn’t done enough to get the bill through.

“Ratification of labor agreements are usually done swiftly and without any opposition,” Hernandez said. “Both SEIU 1000 and the Governor had to sign off on the agreement — they both did that. The Legislature’s role is to simply ratify the agreement through legislation and that is what we attempted to do. I am disappointed that the governor is not going to live up to his side of the agreement and even more, I am frustrated that the state is not going to benefit from the monetary savings that this agreement would have provided to the state’s general fund.”

 After the close of session, SEIU 1000 president Yvonne Walker released a statement saying AB 88 got “caught up in the larger dysfunction in the Capitol.”

However, the governor’s spokesman, Aaron McLear, said the SEIU 1000 deal would have to renegotiate their deal because it has been made “moot” by the budget and the negotiations that came since February.

“The contract that the governor signed but the Legislature failed to pass is now moot because the Legislature has since passed a budget that includes a saving from three furlough days, not one,” McLear said.

Editor's Note: Corrects earlier version to show that flooor vote was for reconsideration, and deletes reference to bill taken hostage.

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