Strike Explained: Unfair Treatment and Safety the Cause
Dear Concerned Citizens,
You may have heard that Shasta County employees have voted to strike the week of January 30 through February 3, 2017. This is true. We would like our community to understand why we are taking this difficult and unprecedented step.
First of all, please be aware that the strike is not against you. The strike is against our employer, Shasta County, and is the result of years of frustration building to a point where we need to take action. A strike is the last thing we wanted to do but we truly believe we have no other choice to get the County’s attention. We are sorry for any inconvenience our strike will cause you in any delay of services this week and have worked with the County to make sure critical services continue to be provided.
A strike is a legal action that has been endorsed by the California Supreme Court for employees to take when negotiations break down. The purpose of our strike is to get the County to take our issues seriously. A strike is voluntary and is unpaid. Many of us won’t be able to afford to participate but we are going to do the best we can to make our point with the County and would appreciate any support you can give us.
Please join us on our picket line or stop by to donate canned food for the important non-profit charity we have chosen to support during our strike, the Shasta Senior Nutrition Program which is the County-wide food bank for our seniors, veterans, and low-income families. These are the very same individuals we serve at work each day, and we want to continue that service during the strike. We will be gathered in front of the County Administrative Building (where the big palm trees are) on Court Street and will accept canned goods at that location.
Our issues are about fair treatment and safety.
Regarding fair treatment, the County continues to insist on deducting a “retiree/admin” fee from our pay checks that the County does not deduct from our supervisors and managers. This fee is over $50 per month which hits us hard as the lowest paid employees in the County workforce. It is a fee we agreed to pay over 20 years ago when the County was in worse financial shape.
As the County’s finances have improved, the County has relieved other employees of paying this fee. However, it is stubbornly refusing to stop deducting it from our checks, despite a report stating the County has the funds to pay the fee and despite a neutral hearing officer’s recommendation that the County pay the fee after listening to both sides’ arguments in an evidentiary hearing.
To reiterate, our immediate supervisors, our managers and our department heads, in other words all the employees above us and paid more than us do not have to pay this fee but we do. All we are requesting is this fee be phased out over a three-year period. This is what the Hearing Officer recommends. This is the fairness issue that we are striking over.
Regarding safety, many of our employees are put in unsafe situations, particularly after hours, when called to duty. One example is when social workers responsible for responding to assist endangered children report to pick up a County car in the unprotected downtown areas at 2 am. There are many more examples. All we are requesting is that the County agree to participate in a “Safety Committee” where employees with Union participation can present safety issues for consideration and possible resolution. This is what the Hearing Officer recommends. This is the safety issue we are striking over.
Of particular note, the 2014/15 Grand Jury emphasized the difficult, poorly compensated, and unsafe nature of the job of Children’s Services Social Worker and recommended the County work to resolve these issues. When approached after the Grand Jury report was issued, the County told us to bring these issues up in future negotiations. We did so but the County has refused to do anything to resolve these issues.
These are our issues.
We appreciate your understanding as we exercise our legal right to strike to make our best effort to resolve these issues in a fair way.
We appreciate any support you are willing to lend, and especially appreciate your patience while we engage in this dispute with the County. It will be difficult as the County is notoriously stubborn when it comes to changing its mind about employee treatment.
We are your neighbors, your friends and your families.