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Strike authorization vote by 55,000 L.A. County workers set to begin

October 22, 2013|By Seema Mehta
  • Service Employees International Union members protest for higher wages in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 1, 2013.
Service Employees International Union members protest for higher wages… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

Tens of thousands of unionized Los Angeles County employees will begin voting Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike because of stalled contract negotiations.

The weeklong vote will not automatically lead to a strike if approved, but it does represent an escalation in tension between SEIU 721, which represents 55,000 workers, and the county. The union’s contract expired Sept. 30, and leaders staged a walkout that drew thousands of protesters to downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 1.

In fliers posted around the Hall of Administration, the union accuses the county of “simply not bargaining in good faith.”

“We have made many serious proposals during more than four months of bargaining, but the county has not taken our proposals seriously,” the flier said.

SEIU officials have said the last offer the county made for a new contract would provide 4% in raises over two years, but increased medical costs mean that low-wage workers' pay would effectively be cut. County officials say they have offered a 6% raise, similar to that signed on to by several other labor unions that represent other county employees.

In the flier, SEIU says county labor negotiators have said verbally they would agree to 6% if all other issues were taken off the table. In emails to employees, the union has said the county has refused to cover increasing healthcare premiums or to increase staffing, decrease caseloads for social workers and add a Cesar Chavez holiday. 

David Sommers, a spokesman for the county, called the strike authorization vote “premature.”

“We are still hopeful to have a resolution soon and continue to actively negotiate in good faith,” he said. “Meanwhile, we continue to close new agreements with our other labor partners that will provide employees with raises totaling 6% over the next 18 months.”

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Twitter: @LATSeema | Google+

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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