UKIAH, 7/20/23 — Mendocino County employees with SEIU Local 1021, whose labor contract expired in June, may be going on strike. Union members say that low pay and high vacancy rates of county jobs are putting vital services for children, elders and families at risk.
Union leaders have accused the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and executive office, which includes CEO Darcie Antle, of bargaining in bad faith — and gone so far as to file a labor complaint alleging violations of state law with the Public Employees Relations Board.
“In the most recent negotiations, the County suggested that its employees pay more for their healthcare and retirement – an overall pay cut that will further harm the County’s ability to address its staffing crisis,” union members said in a press release Wednesday.
A recent straw poll indicates more than 85% of union members support a strike, according to field representative Patrick Hickey, and union leaders will authorize their negotiating committee to call for a strike if 75% or more of its membership vote to do so. SEIU 1021 is the largest union representing Mendocino County employees, with more than 700 members. It remains to be seen how long such a strike might last, and to what extent it might affect county operations.
“We would rather not have to go on strike,” chapter president Julie Beardsley said. “Unfortunately, the county has left us no other choice. We are voting to go on strike to save county services – the services that keep our community’s families, children, and elderly safe.”
The Voice reached out to Mendocino County CEO Darcie Antle, as well as the board of supervisors, regarding how the union strike might affect county business. Fifth District Supervisor Ted Williams said the strike would likely go unnoticed by the public.
“Instead of embarking on the Sisyphean task of arguing for an unrealistically inflated county budget, it would be far more efficacious to advocate for as many living-wage roles as the county’s existing financial state can viably support, thus sidestepping the issue of an overabundance of positions,” Williams said in an email Wednesday night.
Supervisors Dan Gjerde, Glenn McGourty, John Haschak and Maureen Mulheren did not immediately respond to a request for comment. County CEO Darcie Antle also declined to respond.
Ballots have already been mailed out, and union members have until July 28 to cast their votes. A rally and barbecue held today, Thursday, July 20, will be an opportunity for union members to turn in their ballots. The event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. in the park at Alex R. Thomas Jr. Plaza, 310 South State Street in Ukiah.
SEIU 1021 filed an unfair labor practices charge against the county in June, accusing them of bargaining in bad faith. According to the California Public Employee Relations Board, Mendocino County has until tomorrow, Friday, July 21, to respond.
“Once that occurs, the assigned Regional Attorney will assess whether to issue a complaint against the County or send SEIU a warning letter, which informs the union that it failed to state a prima facie case against the County. If SEIU receives a warning letter, PERB provides SEIU with an opportunity for it to amend its charge to include additional factual allegations sufficient to state a prima facie case,” PERB general counsel J. Felix De La Torre said in an email this morning.
After that, the state may send this labor dispute to mediation or to an administrative hearing. For more information check out Staff Up Mendocino County at www.staffupmendo.org.