Members of Los Angeles County’s largest employee union voted to give their leaders authority to call a strike, after months of contentious talks about wages, employee healthcare and working conditions.
“If we need to go there, we’ll go there, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to negotiate this at the table,” said Blanca Gomez, a children’s social worker who is on the union’s bargaining team.
Guess what, they’re arguing about healthcare too:
Healthcare has been a sticking point in negotiations. Employee health premiums are set to increase in January, which SEIU says will amount to a pay cut for many workers, even with the 6% raise over three years that the county is offering. Workers agreed to go without raises for the past five years to allow the county to weather the recession without layoffs or major service cuts.
The county has offered to cover the health premium increase, but only if the unions agree to health-benefit cuts for future employees, a measure that county officials say is needed to curtail potentially crippling retiree healthcare costs. County workers now get all of their health costs covered in retirement.
Goodman characterized the county’s approach as “holding healthcare for current workers hostage to a plan to really severely reduce healthcare for future retirees.”
Any discussion of reining in the outrageous retirement benefits that California public workers enjoy while ruining the largest state economy in the US is met with that kind of rhetoric. Big Labor is content to strangle small businesses to death to fund some of the most economically insane retirement commitments in the world. It can’t go on forever, of course, but the unions don’t show any hint of yielding until everything around them is on fire.