Public employees with Siskiyou County in Northern California started a five-day strike on Monday. They’re asking for a better pay increase, health insurance, and retirement benefits.
Contract negotiations between the 340 rank-and-file workers and Siskiyou County have lasted since last spring.
County offices remain open during the strike. The union — called Organized Employees of Siskiyou County — and the county have agreed to have 40 union workers provide essential services during the strike.
Labor representative Matthew Rokes says union workers want a contract reflecting what was recommended in an independent fact-finder’s report.
“The employee association accepted the fact-finders report, but the county rejected it,” Rokes says. “So they really left us with no option but to strike.”
Siskiyou County has offered a 4.75 percent salary increase to its workers, but they want an even 5 percent. They also want better health insurance and retirement benefits in the form of deferred compensation.
In a press release, county administrator Terry Barber says Siskiyou County is struggling financially and that its employees receive a better benefit package than other rural counties.
“The independent factfinder noted that the current level of benefits may not be sustainable in the future,” the press release reads.
But Rokes says the county could afford better contracts with its lower-ranked employees.
“The county has been padding salaries for upper management, the board [of supervisors], and the CAO,” Rokes says. “They balance the budget on the backs of rank-and-file members. They’ve been providing really lousy contracts since 2012.”