Contra Costa County clerical workers are taking preliminary steps to strike over what their union says is frustration with bad faith negotiating by county officials, but the county says the deal on the table is the same one offered to other unions.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2700 is conducting several days of strike voting that began on May 27 and ends June 3.
Once the vote count is complete, if the members authorize a strike, "We will evaluate all the extenuating circumstances," union President Robbie Ann White said.
If the union does strike, it would ask the (Contra Costa County) Central Labor Council for a "strike sanction" under which the council's member unions would honor the picket lines, said White.
County Administrator David Twa said the county is aware that the union is in the process of taking a strike vote.
"Should they decide to strike the county will take appropriate steps to maintain services to the public," he said.
Local 2700 represents about 1,600 county clerical workers, said White. That works out to about 16.5 percent of the county's roughly 9,700 employees.
The labor contract between the union and the county ran out June 30, 2013. The county has offered a 4 percent wage increase, to make up for a pay cut of 2.75 percent three years ago that was coupled with a larger share of pension-and-benefit costs; the 4 percent increase would be effective the month after the union ratifies a contract.
There would be a 3 percent additional wage increase on July 1, 2015, and two payments of $750 each, one this year and one next year, said Twa.
"This is consistent with what we have agreed to with other bargaining units, and represents a significant turnaround from the past few years when we were unable to put pay increases on the table," Twa said in an email Monday.
But White, contacted by phone Monday, said the county is not bargaining in good faith.
"They have stretched this negotiating process out for 11 months," she said. "Now they're saying, 'take it or leave it.'"
White said that while the county's offer is the same one it made to other unions, "Our workers are the lowest-paid in the county."
She said the average salary of her members working for the county is $40,000 a year, and that a third make $33,000 a year or less.
"Many single-pay households can't afford health care," White said.
The union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the state. Twa said it would be inappropriate to comment on the complaint at this time.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.