ICEA rejects final offer


Press release (from June 2)

Inyo County Employees Send Resounding Message With “NO” Vote

 Inyo County Employees Association voted down Administration’s “Last Best and Final” offer yesterday with 18.75% voting to accept the offer, and 81.25% voting to not accept the offer.  Participation in the vote was high. The Union, Local 315 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), will now continue fighting for a fair contract.

ICEA, which represents the majority of the County workforce and its lowest paid employees, has been bargaining since April of 2016 and working without a contract since October.  Employees’ last increase was a 2% increase in July of 2015. ICEA has been holding informational rallies and picket lines since December.

Union members have expressed serious concern about the County’s ability to recruit and retain experienced employees, and the negative impact this has on services to the public.  Last week, the County had 32 open positions, the overwhelming majority of which were in the ICEA bargaining unit.  Employees report that skilled employees leave the County to work for DWP, CalTrans, or other agencies where they believe they have a better future.

The Union is also concerned that the lowest paid employees at the County are struggling to make ends meet, and that increases in minimum wage will increase private sector competition with service provider jobs. According to Laura Boyer, an Office Tech I in Social Services, “After paying into my retirement and health insurance each month I bring home the same amount I did at a job where I qualified for Medi-Cal.”

The Union recently reviewed the County’s 2016 Audited Financial Report, and characterizes the County’s financial condition as strong, and sufficiently flexible to provide fair cost of living increases.

According to AFSCME Financial Analyst Gary Storrs:

“The general fund’s unrestricted portion at the end of fiscal year 2016 was an extremely high 53.7% of the fund’s spending. This compares extremely favorably to a Government Finance Officers Association benchmark which calls for unrestricted funds to be at least two months (16.7%) of spending. The GFOA benchmark clearly considers assigned funds to be unrestricted, and indicative of financial health. Inyo County had a high ratio of unrestricted funds to spending.

Moreover, even if one accepts (for the sake of argument) that only unassigned funds truly indicate financial flexibility, Inyo County’s unassigned funds at the end of fiscal year 2016, totaling $23.0 million, by themselves still constituted an extremely strong 44.8% of expenditures. At any rate, the GFOA and bond rating firms clearly consider all unrestricted funds at least somewhat available, to the extent that the designation is not set in stone, or it would be restricted.”

The difference between Administration’s offer and the Union’s proposal of 2% annually is comparably miniscule.  According to Administration, the full cost of 1% for the bargaining unit is $187,000, and the general fund is responsible for only 47% of that amount.  The Union’s last proposal was less than the current Consumer Price Index of 2.7%.  The Union also indicated its willingness to eliminate an existing benefit worth approximately .4%, in order to get to an agreement.

The Union calls on the Board of Supervisors to reconsider its position, and instruct the Administration Bargaining team to return to the bargaining table.

Here are some of the many reasons employees have shared about their decision to vote “no”:

“I voted no because fair wages equals a healthy workforce equals a healthy community.

Please support our delivery of services to the most vulnerable in our community by supporting those who deliver the services!” 

-Merry Brown, Substance Abuse Supervisor, Health and Human Services

“I voted no because I feel we deserve more for the hard work we do! We are all just trying to get by to make ends meet and give the community the best service we can.” 

-Margaret Mairs, Program Services Assistant II, Lone Pine Senior Center

“My vote against the county’s last, best and final offer is simple, the purpose of a COLA is to counteract the effects of inflation. The county’s offer does not adequately do that. “

-Yvonne Freeman, Integrated Case Worker III, Social Services

“I voted no because at our salary rates, 1% means less.  We work really hard, and we are the ones that keep the County running.” 

-Alejandro Ortiz, Heavy Equipment Operator II, Independence Roads

“I voted no because asking for a 2% COLA is not unreasonable considering the Consumer Price Index says the cost of living has gone up 2.7%!” 

-Sam Nelums, Prevention Specialist, Health and Human Services

“I voted no because the offer from the Board of Supervisors is insulting, the area we live in according to the numbers provided by the Board has a cost-of-living increase that is almost triple the offer that was presented to us. This union represents the lowest paid employees at the County. These are the people who need the cost of living increase the most.  How can you expect quality employees to stay with an organization that refuses to pay them what they are worth?”

-Kaleb Hanson, Office Technician III, Social Services

“I voted no because protecting animal welfare is stressful enough without also having to stress over how to stretch my paycheck to cover the cost of living in this expensive area.”

-Katie Bird, Animal Control Officer, Sheriffs Department

 “I voted no because the County is in good financial condition, because other counties and agencies are getting real COLA’s despite the CalPERS issues, and because there is no good reason to deny us a real cost of living increase.” 

Patricia Snyder, Legal Secretary III, Probation Department

“I voted no because I don’t feel upper management is concerned with our daily struggles of staffing shortages and increasing work loads. Upper management is applauding themselves with salary savings, while their employees struggle.”

-Paula Riesen, Road Department/Building & Maintenance, Account Technician III

14 Responses to ICEA rejects final offer

  1. Informed and Tired June 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    They do not

  2. Consider This June 15, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    The lowest paid ICEA represented position starts out making a salary of $2139 per month. Hourly that comes out to approximately $12.35. That employee would pay out approximately $371.00 per month for the health plan. Without considering any costs the employee is required to pay out for retirement, this employee would now have $1768.00 per month or $10.21 per hour before taxes. This person will also have to pay co-pays and deductibles before their health plan will pay.

    The same person can work at a minimum wage job earning $10.00 per hour earning approximately $1732.00 per month, go into the Public benefits office and qualify for a Medi-CAL plan with no out of pocket costs for their family and get food benefits for their family… BONUS!

    This is flawed, regardless of your stance on public benefits you can see how one could be almost encouraged to stay at their minimum wage job and stay on public benefits instead of working for the county.

    Keep in mind that minimum wage is increasing to $10.50 per hour as of 1/1/2018 and $11.00 per hour 1-1-2019 (even more for employers with 26 or more employees) .

    Perhaps this is why the ICEA union is so concerned with getting a decent COLA increase?

    What do you think?

  3. Low-Inyo June 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    Mellow Yellow… guess would be they do….doubt the County is required to,or wanting to hire drug abusers,even with the legalizing the use of marijuana….I know of a few local business’ that still won’t hire potheads to drive their company vehicles or be dealing with the public and their customers at their companies…….that prop passing isn’t going to change that any…

  4. Mellow Yellow June 13, 2017 at 7:21 am #

    Does anyone know if Inyo County still conducts drug-detecting urine tests on its prospective employees before making them a job offer?

  5. Inyo Citizen June 12, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Didn’t this union get a huge “equity” increase last time around?

    And don’t they get automatic 5% raises every year on top of that? And all of the other unions accepted the same offer this union is now complaining about. But the union budget analyst says the County has tens of millions just sitting around in its budget doing nothing so this union should get more…

    Hmmm…something smells.

    • Local Tax Payer June 12, 2017 at 11:59 am #

      This union didn’t get a huge equity increase last time around. This union received a small COLA, that contract has been expired for quite some time now. Certain positions countywide received an “equity” a while ago but I wouldn’t call it huge. Many of those positions were higher level positions, and the “equity” did not apply to many other positions in this union.
      All the other unions did not “accept the same offer this union is complaining about”, the offer was accepted by the correctional officers and it was a poor decision in my opinion. The offer was also accepted by upper level management who already gets paid more than the members of this union. The county put out a press release to make it look like this union was the only one that didn’t accept the offer which is false.

      • Inyo Citizen June 14, 2017 at 11:29 am #

        Local Tax Payer let’s try to be informed not just…well let’s at least not just make things up.

        Luckily there are some actual (not alternative) facts. Here is what appears to be the last MOU:

        Article 7 gave this union a 6% increase. You can see that article also gives 8% for “longevity.” aka not getting fired? Not to mention those automatic yearly “step” raises.

        Article 14 gave this union the additional “equity” raises. For three pages worth of job titles! Which cost the County more than half a million dollars according to the article. I guess “huge” is in the eye of the beholder. I happen to think that more than half a million dollars is huge.

        And the County’s press release referenced “three more” agreements. So the total is 4 employee groups? How many are there? 5?

        Since this is the only union in the papers going on and on about negotiations it seems pretty clear that this union is the only group rejecting the deal.

        • Local Tax Payer June 15, 2017 at 11:17 am #

          Ok, so you posted a link to an MOU that was signed in 2013. That was signed 4 years ago! That contract is expired and the 6% was over the course of time, not all at once. Is it not justifiable for employees to request a COLA now? The effects of inflation haven’t stopped.
          The longevity pay that you refer to impact employees who have been with the county for a certain amount of time. Do the entry level employees not deserve a COLA because those that have been with the county for 10 years get longevity pay?
          How long do you think you have to work for the county before your “automatic yearly step raises” stop? Do you know? Most employees are in a position for 4 years and our “topped out”. So, between your 4 year mark and your 10 year longevity pay you get do not have any increases. That is unless the union fights for a decent COLA.
          Yes, I am aware of the 3 pages worth of job titles. I get that some of these positions received huge increases, others received very small increases, and many others received NONE!
          My point about the article was: out of the 3 employee groups, 2 of these were management and unrepresented employees, which are not a fair representation of the entry level workers in the ICEA union.
          This union is a large union and is standing up for what they believe in. It hardly means that they are the only ones who are unhappy or that they are the only ones who “rejected the deal”. Have you taken a look at other contracts signed in the area? Caltrans, Big Pine Schools, Inyo Courts? What about other current contracts in the county? ICPPOA?

  6. Not Asking 2 Much June 9, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    I can only speak for myself, but I am thankful I have a job; a steady job. I feel that the work I do does deserve a COLA in order to keep up with inflation. I work very hard and I don’t think a 2% COLA is asking for too much. I know I surely won’t be doing less work! In fact, I’m actually doing more work considering we are so understaffed in my department; so in order to meet deadlines set in place by the feds, we are all slammed day in and day out.

    I’m a single mom of two and I live paycheck to paycheck. I drive a total piece of crap car and I live in a crappy house because it’s all I can afford. I make the decision to either buy groceries for the kids or give them money for the book fair rather than trying to get my car fixed or find a better place to live. I work really hard to be this poor. So for the BOS to say the job I do doesn’t deserve a 2% COLA is hurtful and feels like a slap in the face. Maybe they need to live a day in life of someone like me to help them to understand the struggles we face……oh, but wait, most of them have been in our shoes at some point or another, but how quickly we forget.

  7. Alex Jones June 7, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    Anyone who has a job and gets paid 40 hours a week regardless of if they have a vacation or are sick should be happy they have a steady job. There are lots of poeple out there that would love to be in their position. If they don’t like it get another job. That’s the problem with society today they want more and more for less and less work. People just be happy that you have a job!

    • Time for a new BOS June 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

      The county had 21 open/ unfilled positions in March 2017 and now the county has 32 open / unfilled positions. That is a VERY obvious signal that employees are leaving and the county cannot attract new employees.
      If there are not workers,work does not get done. Which one of our Board members is doing rate payers good by not fixing this problem before there are 50 vacancies and more work does NOT get done? Dan? Jeff? Mark? Rick? Matt? Who wants to be re-elected? I think it is time for a new board who can get work done!

    • Local Tax Payer June 9, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

      “There are lots of poeple out there that would love to be in their position. If they don’t like it get another job”

      There are several openings, they should go work for the county! The problem is what you are suggesting, people leave to get another job and their vacancies are not being filled. The individuals who are covering the duties of those vacancies DO DESERVE a fair COLA.

    • Charles O. Jones June 12, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

      @Alex Jones,
      That all sounds well and good in the comments section. But in the real world, employers need to offer a compensation package that is adequate to attract and retain employees. If they don’t, employees leave for greener pastures elsewhere. Which has been happening. Maybe you should apply for one the various open positions available.

  8. Sasshlee June 7, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

    Is that about a COLA or what employees “deserve”? Those aren’t the same thing. 1% or 2% isn’t going to convince nurses and therapists to live here… we live in a very specialized environment that simply isn’t for everyone… what they are paid is less impactful than the fact that they have 2 groceries stores and 1 department store to shop at. County hiring and retention has little to do with what they are paid and more to do with the avialabilty of housing and services. Not everyone can love where there is no mall, reduced health care options, and only a specific type of entertainment.

    As far as the analyst… I wouldn’t believe an analyst the county hired to say they couldn’t afford, why believe one the union hired? Numbers aren’t as black and white as people think.


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