County union plans strike

The Labor Day weekend passed with the usually community events and political speeches throughout the nation and in California.

However, labor issues are coming to the forefront locally. Both Riverside County and Hemet Unified School District will be addressing them this fall.

Tuesday evening, Sept. 5, HUSD held a public hearing to receive the list of proposed issues from the Hemet Chapter of the California School Employees Association.

CSEA is separate from the Hemet Teachers Association, which signed a new contract with HUSD this spring after going through the impasse process. The new contract expires June 30, 2019.

The current CSEA contract expired last year. CSEA is proposing a new, three-year contract. The list of issues, the association wants to negotiate is three pages long.

Some of these, besides salaries and benefits, include leave time, use of building space, work schedules and evaluations.

The county has already declared an impasse with two of its labor groups. On Aug. 30, the county’s labor counsel, Zappia Law Firm of Huntington Beach, wrote both Service Employees International Union Local 721 and Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 777 informing them the county has declared an impasse.

The county also is negotiating a new contract with the Riverside Sheriff’s Association.

SEIU, which represents about 7,300 of the county’s roughly 20,000 employees, announced plans this week to go on strike starting Wednesday, Sept. 6.

“Declaration of impasse begins a process that could lead to mediation if requested by a union. Then, there would be fact-finding,” wrote county Public Information Officer Ray Smith in an email to the Town Crier.

“A person acceptable to the union and the county would hear both sides. If still no agreement at the end of fact-finding, the fact-finder would write a report that goes to the Board of Supervisors. The board members would could then direct staff to continue negotiating, impose terms, or do nothing,” he said, adding that both sides might reach an agreement at any time during the mediation process.

In the letter to the two unions, Edward Zappia said the impasse was authorized because of “… parties’ inability to reach agreement on numerous terms and conditions of employment after a year of negotiations and over 10s [sic] of bargaining sessions, and [the union’s] failure to respond to the County’s Last Best and Final offer issued back on July 12, 2017.”

The supervisors have had difficulty balancing the county budget for several years, and major salary or benefit increases will exacerbate their problem. But these employee groups have not had a new contract for several years.