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Shasta County's largest public employee union goes on strike Monday

A white suspension bridge in Redding, California with a tall post on one side.
Chad K
Wikimedia Commons
The Sundial Bridge in Redding, California, the county seat of Shasta County

Shasta County’s largest bargaining unit will be going on strike on Monday, following an impasse in negotiations with the county over a pay increase. The union represents over 800 county employees across every department.

After months of negotiations, county employees from office assistants and clerks to animal care technicians and IT specialists, authorized a two-week strike starting on Monday.

Steve Allen is the business manager for United Public Employees of California, Local 792. He said the county hasn’t budged on its offer of a 7% increase over the next three years. The union is asking for a 15% raise over one year.

“We’re just coming off inflation being 8%, just inflation alone in the fall of 2022,” he said. “So their offer just wasn’t gonna cover the increase in cost of living.”

Allen added employees also saw an increase in the cost of health care this year. He says the county's offer translates to a pay cut for some of the lowest paid staff.

Allen said the underpaying of employees in the county is affecting retention rates. He said among those represented in this general unit, around 200 of those positions are vacant.

Meanwhile, in a meeting on April 25, Shasta County supervisors approved the hiring of seven more employees to help with the county’s effort to hand-count ballots in future elections. The added cost for changing voting systems is expected to be in the millions, according to the elections department.

County Public Information Officer David Maung said the increased spending on elections and refusing to reach a deal on employee pay raises aren't directly connected.

“It’s obviously a financial decision because it’s coming from the general fund and that’s how we pay most of the employees at the county,” Maung said. “But the voting situation and the UPEC general negotiations are not related at all.”

But, Allen said if the county has the money for things like major changes to elections, they should have enough to pay their staff a living wage.

Allen also said the county could choose to impose a final offer on the union employees, known as unilateral implementation in California law. But according to the California Institute for Local Government, that rule can only impose an offer on employees for one year, and can’t be used to force changes to work rules or operational procedures.

Maung says they won’t be closing any offices during the strike. But, he said residents should expect delays accessing some services.

Allen said the employees participating in this strike are taking unpaid time off work, and don’t want to leave residents without access to critical services for weeks. But he said they hope the strike sends a message to the county supervisors to approve a better deal.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.