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Workers OK County Pact, Set Vote on Closed Shop

December 22, 1988|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

The Ventura County government's largest union has ratified a contract that provides average wage and benefit increases of 4% annually over the next 3 years.

Still to be decided is a separate provision that would require county government workers eligible for membership in the Public Employees Assn. of Ventura County to pay union fees whether they are members or not. The measure requires approval of more than 50% of eligible employees and will be decided by a special election slated for April, said Barry Hammitt, association executive director.

The provision, known as an "agency shop" clause, would require non-union county employees to pay up to 95% of the $182 annual union dues levied on association members. It is strongly opposed by some non-union members and two Ventura County supervisors.

While Hammitt said the fees are necessary to cover contract negotiation costs, Supervisor Madge Schaeffer said it is unfair for those employees who don't want to join the union.

"I am philosophically opposed to the agency shop," Schaeffer said. "It takes away a person's freedom of choice."

Whether the "agency shop" clause passes depends in part on what percentage of those eligible to vote actually belong to the union. County officials claim that 49% of the about 3,500 of eligible voters are association members; Hammitt pegs the figure at 58%. Because of the confusion, the county's personnel department is recounting the number of eligible employees.

Hammitt said government employee unions in Riverside, Alameda, Contra Costa, Shasta, Solano and Santa Clara counties all have approved agency-shop provisions.

But Schaeffer said that county governments don't automatically deduct union dues in all those counties, but instead make the union go after employees who don't pay up.

Hammitt said all 10 association bargaining units approved the new contract, which gives raises of between 6.25% and 16.25% over 3 years.

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