PERB rules Tulare County broke contract, must pay back wages

PRESS RELEASE FOR
Friday, Feb. 27, 2015

Contact: Tom Webster, tom.webster@seiu521.org, (661) 321-4163

PERB Rules Tulare County Broke Contractual Promises to SEIU Local 521 Members

County must pay back wages, rescind imposed freezes per 2011 contract

VISALIA, Calif. – The PERB Board has ruled in favor of SEIU Local 521 members in Tulare County ordering the county to “make whole” workers who were denied the promotions and merit step increases that had been expressly promised them in a labor contract.

“This is a tremendous victory for workers and SEIU members in Tulare County,” said Greg Gomez, Tulare County Chapter President with SEIU Local 521 who testified at the Public Employment Relations Board hearing on behalf of SEIU members. “It is a proud day when PERB agrees that the county must honor its contractual promises.”

The PERB decision, issued on Feb. 26, stems from an SEIU charge filed in 2011 alleging that the county did not bargain in good faith when it refused to honor its obligation to “thaw” a prior freeze on promotions and pay increases.

SEIU Local 521 had a contract with Tulare County from August 1, 2009 through July 31, 2011, covering employees in five SEIU-represented bargaining units.

The contract contained two key provisions related to flexibly-allocated classifications (promotions) and merit increases. At the county’s request during tough economic times, SEIU members had agreed to a freeze in those categories but that upon expiration of the contract, the county would place workers in the classifications and wage tiers they would have reached had there been no freeze.

Said Gomez: “During the recession, the county asked SEIU members to help out, and they did, saving the county millions of dollars on wages. In exchange, the county promised workers they would start to receive promotions and a wage increase again when our contract ended. When that date arrived, the county broke its promise and broke our trust. This week, the PERB Board ruled the county also violated our contract and the law.”

The PERB ruling orders Tulare County to make whole the affected workers by granting them the deserved one-time promotions and wage increase, with a 7% annual interest accrued from August 2011; and email to workers a notice of its violation of the law.

“Four years after filing our initial PERB charge, SEIU members can be proud that by standing strong together, our unity paid off!” said Luisa Blue, Chief Elected Officer, SEIU Local 521. “Our members work hard and are dedicated to the community they serve. It is only right that the county honor the contract with its workers.”

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Service Employees International Union, Local 521 represents 57,000 public- and nonprofit, private-sector workers in the central Bay Area region and in the Central Valley. Under a Community First vision, we are committed to making sure the needs of our community, and the vital services we provide our community, come first. We believe our communities thrive when residents, leaders and workers recognize that we are all in this together when it comes to our safety, health, and well-being.

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