Accessibility Assistance
Mobile Site
Text Size:
  • Increase Text Size
  • Decrease Text Size
Site Search
County of Sonoma, California

You are here:

Labor Relations

Labor Negotiations Updates

labor negotiations collage

The County of Sonoma is committed to providing accurate and timely information to Labor in negotiations, and to the public regarding negotiations within the allowable legal framework in a way that does not jeopardize the Labor-Management relationship.

During the 2015 – 2016 negotiations with all the bargaining units, the County’s objectives are to balance the need to be a well-managed, fiscally prudent organization that appropriately meets the service needs of the community with the need to be an employer of choice that retains an engaged workforce and attracts well qualified talent.

What’s New

Posted November 21, 2015

The County and SEIU worked late into the evening last night in an attempt to reach agreement over a successor MOU. Although the parties have not yet reached a deal, both parties made meaningful movement and plan to continue negotiations on November 30, 2015, after the Thanksgiving holiday.

On November 13, 2015, in recognition of the fiscal challenge faced by employees with multi-party health insurance coverage under the County’s current contribution method toward healthcare, the County proposed to contribute a fixed dollar amount for healthcare based on level of coverage for active employees enrolled in County health insurance plans. The proposed amount for 2016/17 plan year, in combination with conversion of the current County contribution toward a Health Reimbursement Plan, is for a fixed dollar amount equal to 75% of the premium cost for the Kaiser HMO plan. This is generally consistent with the approach of many California counties to health insurance coverage for employees.

Member Savings - Impact of Proposal to Salary chartThe County’s proposal has a major impact on take home pay for SEIU-represented employees enrolled in family coverage, with the lowest paid increasing take home pay by $900 a month, or almost 24% of their monthly wages. Even the highest paid SEIU members who only cover themselves and one other person will see an increase of about $490 a month, or 5.4% of their monthly wages. In addition, the County offered to increase the County contribution for the 2017/18 plan year to maintain 75% of the premium cost for the Kaiser HMO plan based on estimated premium increases. This chart (PDF) shows the impact to employees in more detail.

The County continues to propose wage increases and numerous other benefit enhancements over a two-year period. However, as aptly described in the Press Democrat editorial this week, the County is cognizant of the need to balance competing demands for limited resources, including homeless services, affordable housing, firefighting, road maintenance, contracts with other labor groups including in-home care providers, and the need to continue paying down pension debt. The editorial can be found at:  

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful for the employees of Sonoma County and appreciate all of their hard work to provide important services to our community. We are confident that we can reach an agreement that recognizes the good work of our employees and represents sound fiscal management for our community.

Posted November 18, 2015

The County is aware that misinformation has been circulated about the collective bargaining process with SEIU, and we wish to provide information to dispel rumors.

Rumor: The County’s proposal will make health care more expensive for most employees.

False: The County has proposed significant increases to its contributions toward healthcare. These proposals increase county contributions to premium costs for all SEIU employees and result, for example, in an approximately $1,000 increase per month in take home pay for employees enrolled in family level coverage for the County’s Kaiser HMO plan in 2016.

Rumor: Sonoma County proposed a zero percent wage increase for county workers this year.

False: Employees represented by SEIU received a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) in July 2015. In addition to the healthcare proposal which will increase take home pay during the year, the County is proposing a 2% COLA in July of 2016.

Rumor: The County’s salary and benefits are below market as compared to other comparable agencies.

False: On average, classifications represented by SEIU are paid 4% higher than the market average in total compensation. As noted total compensation includes salaries and benefits and Sonoma County employees enjoy a comprehensive set of benefits. For example, employees who entered the Sonoma County retirement system (or a system with reciprocal benefits) before January 1, 2013, enjoy a 3% at age 60 pension benefit, the most expensive, non-safety pension formula available to public sector employees. This is a more valuable (and costly) pension benefit than the large majority of other public agency employees in California.

Rumor: The County is not bargaining in good faith and has implemented austerity measures and accumulated massive reserves without bargaining with the Union.

False: The County has met with the Union 22 times, exchanged volumes of data and multiple proposals, and has made significant movement toward an agreement in its proposals to the Union. State law vests the power and obligation to enact a county’s budget in the County’s Board of Supervisors. Making financial decisions related to the establishment of a budget is inherently within fundamental managerial policy and prerogative. The County has no duty to meet and confer with unions under state law about the need to reduce the budget or the establishment of reserves.

In an effort to explain County finances, the County has provided SEIU and the public with a complete listing of all the County reserves. The majority of County reserves are dedicated for specific purposes. The County does maintain a general reserve of unrestricted cash for emergency purposes. Currently this reserve has a balance equivalent to approximately 11% of annual General Fund revenues. As explained to SEIU and the public, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recommends maintaining a minimum of two months (or 15%) of General Fund operating revenues or expenditures as a level of cash reserves in the General Fund. The County maintains a target of 15% for these cash reserves, and is working toward this goal with one-time funds as they have become available. The county does not propose using any of these reserves which are one-time funds to pay for any on-going costs.

Posted November 13, 2015

The County and SEIU have met 22 times and negotiations are continuing. Neither side has declared impasse.

The County proposed a 21-month agreement, with an increase in the County’s contribution to medical insurance to the dollar equivalent of 75% of the Kaiser HMO premium, effective June 1, 2016. This encompasses conversion of the County’s current HRA contribution to a County contribution to premiums. In addition, the County proposed salary and benefit enhancements up to an additional 2% compensation in the 2016-17 fiscal year, for a total increase of approximately 4% in total compensation over 21 months.

  • For employees enrolled in family level coverage in the Kaiser HMO plan, the County’s proposal means that employee’s out of pocket monthly contribution in plan year 2016-17 will be reduced from the current $1392 to $492. This results in an employee savings of approximately $900 per month, and $10,800 per year.
  • For employees enrolled in two-party level coverage in Kaiser HMO, the employee’s out of pocket monthly contribution in plan year 2016-17 will be reduced from the current $837 to $348. This results in an employee savings of approximately $489 per month, and $5,868 per year.

The County’s proposal also increases the County’s contribution to single employee coverage so that the employee’s out of pocket costs remain stable.

In addition to numerous other proposals including enhancements to dental, vision, life insurance and employee assistance benefits, the County proposes to double its match to the Housing Assistance Program. This program assists eligible County employees in purchasing a home in Sonoma County.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wednesday, November 18, 2015.

Posted November 12, 2015

  • The County and SEIU have met 21 times and negotiations are continuing. Neither side has declared impasse.
  • The County and SEIU participated in voluntary pre-impasse mediation on October 28, 2015, October 30, 2015 November 6, 2015 and November 9, 2015to help both sides work towards reaching an agreement.
  • Pre-impasse mediation has concluded. The County and SEIU are continuing negotiations. The next negotiations meeting is scheduled on November 13, 2015.
  • The County and SEIU have a shared interest in addressing health care costs and have exchanged proposals that include increases to County contributions.
  • SEIU voted to authorize a strike and has received strike sanction form the North Bay Central Labor Council.
  • SEIU has not notified the County of a strike date.
  • No unfair labor practices have been filed by SEIU.
  • The County is committed to bargaining in good faith with SEIU in order to achieve an agreement that is acceptable to both parties.
  • In light of the strike vote by SEIU, the County is also preparing for potential job actions by putting plans in place to maintain essential services in the event of a strike.
  • Additional updates will be posted after the next bargaining session on Friday, November 13, 2015

Additional negotiations

  • In addition to SEIU, the County is currently in negotiations with three bargaining organizations, SCLEA (Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association), DSA (Deputy Sheriff’s Association), and DSLEM (Deputy Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Managers)

Posted October 12, 2015

The County and SEIU have met eleven times over the last three months in their effort to reach an agreement on a new MOU. The parties have submitted all initial proposals and some counter-proposals, exchanged considerable data, and are working toward a successor agreement.

The estimated cost of SEIU’s opening proposals exceeds an annual cost of $70.1 million within the first year of the agreement, equivalent to an approximate 39% increase in total compensation. On October 7, 2015, SEIU provided a counter proposal for an eight month contract that the County is currently costing.

The County counter-proposed an increase of approximately $9.1 million spread over a four year term, equivalent to a 5% increase in total compensation. As the numbers demonstrate, there is a significant gap between the cost of the County’s proposals and the cost of SEIU’s opening proposals.

SEIU has suggested that the County’s General Fund balances, which totaled $111.5 million at the end of FY 13-14, could be used to fund their proposals. However, this number included $31.8 million in the General Fund Reserve for emergencies, as well as $79.7 million that the Board designated for other specific purposes.

The General Fund Reserve currently has approximately $49 million (11.5% of annual General Fund revenues), which is short of the Board of Supervisors’ target of a 15% for General Fund Reserve.

Even more importantly, however, the General Fund reserve is one-time money. Any funding source used for ongoing increases in salary and other forms of compensation must come from ongoing revenue. The County’s proposals are based on projected increases in ongoing revenue and taking into consideration other Board priorities.

The County will continue to provide updates as bargaining continues.

Posted September 3, 2015

The County and SEIU have met six times in bargaining for a successor (new) MOU, and continue to exchange information and initial proposals.

The current MOU between the County and SEIU included a 3% reduction in salary and benefit costs. This was necessary due to reduced revenues from the recession and to meet long-term fiscal stability goals by reducing base compensation on an ongoing basis. To achieve this reduction, the parties agreed to the following changes:

  • Elimination of Hazard Pay by the end of the MOU;
  • Elimination of Supervisory Leave;
  • Increased employee pension contributions, elimination of employer paid member contributions (EPMC) and lower benefit tiers in accordance with the Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA);
  • Elimination of County contributions to the Deferred Compensation Program;
  • Payment of hourly premium pay only for hours worked as opposed to all time in paid status (including paid leave)
  • Consolidation of standby and premium rates, and elimination of certain premium pays; and
  • Elimination of pensionable compensation for holiday time, vacation and sick leave cash out.

Even with the 2013 reductions, SEIU-represented employees are well-situated in the labor market. On average, SEIU-represented benchmark classifications are above the average total compensation when compared against employees of comparable agencies, which include City of Santa Rosa, and counties of Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, Sacramento, San Mateo, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. The County has proposed a package with an overall increase to compensation.

The County continues to respond to numerous information requests and provide data relevant to proposals in an effort to reach an agreement in advance of the contract expiration.

The County will continue to provide updates as bargaining continues.

Posted August 20, 2015

The County commenced bargaining for a successor Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021. The current MOU expires October 31, 2015. The County and SEIU have met four times, and have exchanged initial proposals.

The County proposed a package with an overall increase to compensation. The Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) provides a standard that all employees (including legacy employees who became members of the retirement system before January 1, 2013) pay 50% of the normal cost of pension. Consistent with County’s pension reform goals, one of the County’s key negotiation interests is that legacy employees increase employee contributions toward pension over a three year period to meet this standard. Currently, General (non-safety) employees pay an average of 8.93% of salary toward pension, which is 1.71% less than 50% of the normal cost. This does not include the previously negotiated employee contributions toward unfunded liability, which expire in 2024, for retroactivity of enhanced pension benefits.

The County has responded numerous information requests from SEIU in an effort to reach a successor agreement in advance of the contract expiration.

The County will continue to provide updates as bargaining continues.

Posted July 24, 2015

Some content on this page is saved in an alternative format. To view these files, download the following free software.