Marin public employees’ union authorizes strike
The Marin Association of Public Employees, the union that represents a majority of Marin County’s public employees, has voted to authorize a strike.
The vote was taken last week and ballots were counted late on Friday. Rollie Katz, executive director of the Marin Association of Public Employees, said 654 of the union’s members voted in favor of a strike authorization and 47 voted not to authorize a strike.
The union represents 1,471 of the county’s 2,740 employees. Only 1,280 of the employees represented by the union are members, however; the remaining 191 are fee payers who are entitled to representation but do not enjoy the privileges of membership.
“It’s a pretty strong statement by the members,” Katz said.
The vote authorizes the union’s 15-member bargaining team to call a strike if they deem it necessary. The team is made up of rank-and-file members elected by the full membership. Katz said no date for a strike has been set at this time.
“We hope we don’t have to strike,” Katz said, “but this vote is a very clear sign to the Board of Supervisors that they need to get management to move off of some of their positions and find a resolution.”
The two sides began working with a state mediator on June 13. The next meeting with the mediator is scheduled for June 25.
At last report, Marin County and MAPE were at loggerheads over a new three-year contract.
The county had proposed wage increases of 2.5 percent, 2.5 percent and 2 percent over each of the next three years. The union countered with a proposal for wage increases of 3.5 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent.
In addition to the dispute over pay raises, county managers and MAPE are at odds over several changes the county is seeking that could result in significant pay reductions for some lower-paid county employees.
“I can’t talk in detail about what has happened in mediation,” Katz said. “We’ve got a few smaller items off the table, but none of the make-or-break proposals. Nothing has happened that would move the needle significantly.
“We would hope there would be further movement in bargaining,” Katz said. “We’re certainly prepared to compromise. We have been offering compromises.”
There has been speculation that if MAPE calls a strike, other county unions, including the Marin County Management Employees’ Association, might stage a sympathy strike or work slowdown.
Katz said, “My expectation is that if we have a strike a number of other workers, including MCMEA, will be very supportive.”
The last time Marin County employees went on strike was the summer of 1998. At that time, MAPE was seeking a 10 percent wage increase over two years. County managers started out offering a 7.5 percent wage hike over three years. At the end of the seven-day strike, however, the county agreed to a contract that gave employees a 10.5 percent wage increase over three years.
As of July 2017, 55 percent of Marin County’s employees lived outside of Marin. Many say they can’t afford Marin housing prices.
Mary Hao, Marin County’s director of human resources, said Marin County recently conducted a survey of salaries across the Bay Area, including San Mateo, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa counties; the city and county of San Francisco; and the cities of Novato, Berkeley, Santa Rosa, San Rafael, Vallejo and Palo Alto.
“This cross sampling helps us determine the market rate for the same or similar jobs in those collective areas, based on median of the pay in these jurisdictions versus average,” Hao wrote in an email. “What we discovered in our research was that 90 percent of MAPE — represented job classifications have a pay range, that is — on average — 7.8 percent above the market rate.”
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