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'Agency Shop' Clause for County Draws Fire

December 08, 1988|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writers

A battle is brewing over a proposed labor contract that would require most Ventura County government workers to pay union fees regardless of whether they are union members.

The contract provision, which is known as an "agency shop" clause, would require non-union county employees to pay as much as 85% of the $170 annual union dues levied on members of the Public Employees Assn. of Ventura County, said Executive Director Barry Hammitt. The fees are necessary to cover contract negotiation costs, he said.

But the agency shop provision has come under fire from two Ventura County supervisors and from some non-union government employees.

"A person should have free choice whether . . . to be a member of or financially support a union," Supervisor Maggie Erickson said this week in a prepared statement. Supervisor Madge Schaeffer also opposed the concept of an agency shop, but the three other supervisors gave preliminary approval to the contract last week.

Vote Scheduled

Members of the public employees association will vote on the contract Dec. 19, and Hammitt said that a vote of non-union county employees will be scheduled soon after that. To pass, a contract must be approved by more than 50% of all county employees.

The public employees union claims about 2,500 members. Hammitt says it represents a total of 3,518 employees in collective bargaining with the county, which has a total of about 5,000 employees. Among the employees not represented by the union are sheriff's deputies, firefighers, probation officers and the district attorney's staff.

Labor experts say contracts requiring agency shops are common in many industries.

Last year, the union and the county hammered out a $6-million package in wages and benefits that included a 2.25% raise in October, 1987, and a 2.5% increase in May, 1988.

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