SLOCEA Strike Information

Last Updated: December 11, 2018 at 10:09 a.m.

The County of San Luis Obispo’s largest employee union, San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association (SLOCEA), notified County leaders that SLOCEA intends to call a strike as early as December unless their demands are met. SLOCEA has demanded that the County renegotiate the terms that were already imposed for fiscal year (FY) 2018-19.

This page contains important information and details about the threatened strike, the County’s position related to the strike, and important instructions to Departments and employees. County officials understand that, except for essential services employees and upon proper notice to the County, employees have a right to strike after impasse procedures are completed.

During the strike, the County will be driven by three important goals: 

  1. To continue to provide appropriate services to the public under strike conditions, including those services that protect public health and safety.
  2. To ensure that all employees, strikers and non-strikers alike, are safe, secure, and treated with respect regardless of support for the threatened strike.
  3. To treat employees fairly.

“We have talented employees who provide important services to our community. We’re disappointed that SLOCEA members voted to strike rather than accept the two-year proposal the County offered earlier this year, and we look forward to getting back to the negotiation table with them early next year,” said County Administrative Officer Wade Horton.

“Our offer remains open to meet early and negotiate over FY 2019-20 wages,” Horton added. “Our goal is to provide excellent public services in a way that is fiscally sustainable. Should SLOCEA proceed with a strike, employees will be treated fairly as we look ahead to working together to restore labor peace.”

 

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Members of the public or departments can report any known strike-related job actions (i.e., picketing, demonstations, etc.) or report concerns related to strike activity.

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Related Forms & Documents

List of Essential Positions Requested
SLOCEA Wage Benefits Offer and Imposed Details
SLOCEA Negotiations Timeline
Board Letter: Impose Wage and Benefits Changes (October 2018)
For Employees: Important Strike Documents
PERB Documents

Frequently Asked Questions

Are employees paid when they strike?

No, employees are not paid and may not code vacation, CTO, sick leave, or personal leave during a strike. Also, Departments may decline vacation requests for time when strike(s) may occur, as well as cancel previously approved vacation during strike if employee is “essential” to public health and safety.

But while employees who strike are not paid, SLOCEA-represented employees who are deemed essential to public health and safety and required to be at work during the strike will continue to receive their normal pay while they are working.

Are SLOCEA members underpaid by 9% and are some job classifications under market by 17%?

Only a handful of job classifications base wages are more than 9% below market, and those classifications received an additional equity increase to compensate for this market position. The market survey conducted by the County did identify that the County’s contribution to healthcare contributions (also known as cafeteria contributions) for employees with dependents was the biggest driver to the market position. This is a key reason the County also increased the healthcare contributions provided to employees with dependents. This increased contribution puts the County’s contribution more in line with what the comparable agencies are providing.

Are sworn officers, like firefighters and police officer, barred from striking?

Any employee that meets the definition of an essential employee could be barred from striking. SLOCEA currently does not represent Deputy Sheriffs, Correctional Deputies, Juvenile Hall Officers, Probation Officers, District Attorney Investigators, firefighters or police officers.

Are there any “dos” and “don’ts” for supervisors and managers?

Supervisors and managers may:

  • Inform employees of work rules and consequences of not following them
  • Honestly answer questions about the status of negotiations
  • Express appreciation for employees who come to work during a strike
  • Observe and record information that comes to your attentions in the normal course of your employment

Supervisors and managers may not:

  • Threaten employees with discipline if they are participating in a protected labor action
  • Ask employees about union strike plans and if the employees support or will participate in a strike
  • Promise employees more favorable treatment for not participating in a strike
  • Eavesdrop on union meetings or search employees’ desks or lockers for evidence of strike plans
Are there any restrictions on SLOCEA-represented supervisors?

Only those deemed "essential". Employees deemed "essential" will have to continue working during the strike. The County's priority is to continue to provide appropriate services to the public under strike conditions, but most crucially provide services that protect the health and safety of the public (essential employees).

Can Department Heads deny vacation requests during a strike? 

Yes. Per normal practice, approval of any vacation requests is by Department Head and Manager discretion. The CAO has instructed that vacation leave will not be approved for days when the strike occurs.

Can employees picket?

Employees can picket, but attention to safety is critical; entrances and exits cannot be blocked. Department Heads should immediately call Human Resources if employees are picketing, so that it can be determined in the activity is protected.

Can employees strike for less than 1 day or intermittently?

The County and SLOCEA have agreed that employees who participate in the strike will do so in increments of one (1) day. SLOCEA has agreed that employees may not strike for a partial day (i.e., four hours, two hours, etc.).  Also, SLOCEA shared with the County that they have been communicating to union members that once County employees return to work after striking, they cannot return to the strike. This means, an employee cannot strike Tuesday, work Wednesday, and then strike again Thursday.

Can employees use sick leave during a strike?

Many employees may be tempted to call in sick, so they can be paid for the strike days. However, employees may not be paid sick leave if they strike. The County will require a physician’s certificate as a condition of granting paid sick leave during a strike.

For those employees on a previously approved, protected leave, departments will verify that employees do have approved intermittent leave under FMLA or are on Worker’s Compensation. These employees will not need to present another doctor’s note for these absences, since the absences have already been approved.

Can other employees in other unions join the strike in sympathy with SLOCEA-represented employees?

Bargaining Units that have a current MOU with the County all have "No Strike" clauses that prohibit their members from participating in a sympathy strike.

Can SLOCEA-represented employees strike?

Since impasse procedures have been exhausted and the MOU has expired (June 30, 2018), except for defined “essential services” employees, SLOCEA represented employees can now assert their right to strike.

Can the County replace or fire someone if they participate in a strike?

No.

Did the BOS give themselves a large pay increase?

No. The last time the Board of Supervisors had an increase February, 2015, and that increase was 5%, which was equivalent to what was being given to other County employees at that time. In December, 2016 it was recommended that the Board receive another increase, but the Board members rejected this recommendation and voted to not receive an increase. The Board of Supervisors also did not receive the wage or cafeteria increases that SLOCEA and unrepresented members received for this fiscal year.

Did the SLOCEA-represented employees really get 12% wage increases since 2014?

Yes. Since 2014, SLOCEA wages increased by about 12% in total (not including the 0.5% increases and equity adjustments imposed this year). Wage increases were as follows:

  • FY 2014-15: 2.3% across the board in wages
  • FY 2015-16: 2.5% across the board in wages;
    • Plus 0.3% of total SLOCEA payroll, distributed to classes that were below market (otherwise known as “equity” adjustments)
  • FY 2016-17:  3.5% across the board in wages
  • FY 2017-18:  3% across the board in wages;
    • Plus 0.5% of total SLOCEA payroll, equity adjustments to base wages for those classes below market

However, the County recognizes that employees may not have felt the impact of these increases as much as they would have hoped due to rising pension and health care costs over this same time period. Accordingly, it was a key strategy for the County that for FY 2018-19 we increase health care cafeteria contributions for SLOCEA-represented employees, as well as delay a pension increase to July 2019 that otherwise would have occurred in January. Both of these initiatives reduced and/or eliminated altogether the effects pension and healthcare costs have on an employees take home pay for this fiscal year.

Did unrepresented employees receive 11% wage increases from the last negotiation?

For FY 2018-19, unrepresented employees received what was imposed on SLOCEA members, which is a 0.5% wage increase. A few unrepresented classifications were identified to be significantly below market in base wages, and these classes received additional equity increases of between 2.80% and 11.41%. Similarly, a few SLOCEA classifications were also identified as below market in base wages, and these classes also received additional equity increases of between 1.22% and 10.00%.

The total compensation increases for unrepresented employees was approved at a 4% of total payroll across two years, resulting in across the board wage increases of 0.5% effective July 1, 2018 and 2% effective July 1, 2019. It's important to note that this is the same proposal offered to SLOCEA members but wasn't ratified. 

Do all SLOCEA-represented employees have to participate in a strike?

Represented employees are not required to strike if they do not wish to, and striking employees cannot stop other employees from coming to work. However, employees choosing not to strike may feel peer pressure to participate or be intimidated or uncomfortable coming to work (i.e. “crossing the line”). Human Resources is available to assist these employees in resolving their situation.

How did it go from fact-finding recommendation of 3% to employees only receiving a 0.5% increase?

After receipt of the fact-finding recommendation, the Board authorized additional authority of 4% of payroll for a two year MOU, which included increases to wages and cafeteria contributions. In order for the Board to budget for these increases the proposal was for a greater increase in the second year of the MOU than the first as follows: 0.5% in wages and the cafeteria increases were proposed for the first year of the MOU, and 2% in wages were proposed for the second year of the MOU. This proposal was tentatively agreed upon by SLOCEA and the County, but failed ratification of the membership.

The County cannot impose a new MOU on employees, and we cannot deprive SLOCEA the right to continue to bargain with the County. As such the County can only legally impose the first year of the County’s final proposal, which is why the 0.5% and cafeteria increases were imposed, and not the additional 2% for the second year.

How will the County handle a “sick-out” – a scenario where many employees call in sick on the same day?

A sick-out is an organized absence from work on pretext of illness. The CAO has instructed that if sick-outs occur, the HR department will issue a memorandum to all SLOCEA represented employees that, effective immediately, the County will require a doctor’s note as a condition for granting paid sick leave.

I’m a SLOCEA employee, do I have to strike?

No. Represented employees are not required to strike if they do not wish to, and striking employees cannot stop other employees from coming to work. However, employees choosing not to strike may feel peer pressure to participate or be intimidated or uncomfortable coming to work (i.e. “crossing the line”). Human Resources is available to assist these employees in resolving their situation.

Is there a new MOU between the County and SLOCEA?

No, the County is not able to impose a new MOU on employees, only items from its final proposal. The County and SLOCEA will be returning to the table to continue negotiations over a successor MOU.

What are equity increases versus wage increases, did SLOCEA classifications receive equity increases?

Equity increases are additional increases that are given to classifications that are shown to be significantly below market median, or have other compensation issues that need to be addressed in addition to across the board increases.

The following SLOCEA represented classifications received equity increases: Health Education Specialist, Lead Health Education Specialist, Social Services Investigator, and Supervising Social Services Investigator were all identified as being the most significantly behind market (10% or less below market) in base wages as compared to similar classifications in comparable agencies (employers). To address this issue, these classifications are receiving an additional increase, otherwise known as “equity increase”, to help bring their pay closer to what the market calls for. A study was also conducted for the Property Transfer Technician series and Supervising Property Transfer Technician. Due to the additional complexity of work and greater knowledge, skills, and abilities required for employees in these classifications to perform the job, these classifications are also receiving an equity increase.

The additional increases for these classifications ranged between 1.22% and 10.00%.

Certain unrepresented classifications also received equity increases based on this same criteria. However, the majority of unrepresented classifications received the same 0.5% across the board wage increases for this fiscal year as was imposed on SLOCEA represented classifications.

What employee or union behavior or actions are allowed/not allowed during a strike?

Protected (actions that do not result in discipline)

  • Strike/Complete stoppage of work – employees receive no pay, and County will continue operations
  • Picketing – employees may only picket on their off hours, including lunch breaks, or while they are on strike
  • “Work-to-Rule” – This is where employees perform only duties required by formal class specification and do not perform any other duties

Unprotected (actions that may result in discipline, up to and including termination)

  • Sit out/Sick out – an organized absence from work on pretext of illness.
  • Intermittent (“In-Out”) Strike – a series of short, unannounced strikes, where this is little loss of pay for employees.                                                            
  • Slowdown – employees literally “slow-down” any work they normally complete.
  • Sit in – employees stop work altogether but take over employer’s property, which prevents the County from continuing operations."
What happens during a strike?

During a strike employees represented by a Union who wish to participate an organized strike do not report to work and do not get paid except for those "Essential" employees which are employees that cannot strike because their services cannot be interrupted due to the health and safety of the public.

The County and SLOCEA have agreed that employees who participate in the strike will do so in increments of one (1) day. SLOCEA has agreed that employees may not strike for a partial day (i.e., four hours, two hours, etc.). Also, SLOCEA shared with the County that they have been communicating to members that once they return to work after striking, they cannot return to the strike. This means, an employee cannot strike Tuesday, work Wednesday, and then strike again Thursday.

What salary and benefits increases has the County offered and/or imposed?

The County offered a two-year deal with increases to wages and benefits, but after that deal was not accepted by SLOCEA members and all impasse procedures were exhausted, the County imposed the first year of increases offered for FY 2018-19. Click here for that information. 

When will the strike begin and how long will it last?

SLOCEA has notified the County that a strike will start no sooner than December 11 and will end on December 14.

Who are “essential employees”?

Essential employees are employees that cannot strike because their services cannot be interrupted due to the health and safety of the public. For example, Utility workers, Water Workers, Airport Maintenance Workers, Nurses, and others, are essential. When the County receives notice of a strike, we will seek to reach agreement with SLOCEA on this list. If the County and SLOCEA do not agree on the list of employees, it will be submitted to Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the State agency that oversees labor relations, for final determination. Review the list of identified essential positions represented by SLOCEA. Employees who are considered to be essential during the strike period will each be notified in writing.

Who is threatening to strike?

SLOCEA Bargaining Units including BU01 - Public Services, BU02 - Trades & Crafts, BU05 - Supervisory, BU13 - Clerical

​Why are employees threatening to strike? What are they demanding?

SLOCEA has notified the County of their intent to strike due to their dissatisfaction with the recently imposed wage and benefit increases.

Why did the County impose the wage and benefit increase on SLOCEA represented employees?

The County and SLOCEA began the negotiations process in December of 2017, and the County and SLOCEA had several negotiations sessions in an attempt to reach agreement. We also went through the impasse processes of mediation and fact-finding in an effort to reach agreement. Ultimately SLOCEA and the County were able to reach a tentative agreement for a successor MOU, but that agreement was rejected by the represented employees. All impasse procedures were then exhausted, and the County had the choice of imposing or not doing anything. A critical area of relief that the County could not ignore is the great need to increase the cafeteria contributions for employees with dependents. The County also needed to act quickly in order for employees to be able to make the appropriate healthcare changes during open enrollment as a result of the increased cafeteria contributions.

Below is a review of the contribution impact to SLOCEA-represented employees:

Contribution Impact to SLOCEA Employees

Why is the County not imposing increases for two years, as was proposed to SLOCEA? 

The County cannot impose a new MOU on employees, and we cannot deprive SLOCEA the right to continue to bargain with the County. As such the County can only impose the first year of the County’s final offer.

Will everyone go out on strike, or will some people have to continue working during a strike?

SLOCEA-represented employees deemed "essential" will have to continue working during the strike. The County's priority is to continue to provide appropriate services to the public under strike conditions, but most crucially provide services that protect the health and safety of the public (essential employees).

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