Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Contact: Khanh Weinberg, (408) 921-0098, firstname.lastname@example.org
Appellate Court Denies Tulare County Appeal, Workers Must Be Paid Back Wages
PERB 2015 decision stands, Tulare County broke contractual promises to SEIU Local 521 members
VISALIA, Calif. – A state appeals court has ruled in favor of SEIU Local 521 members in Tulare County, affirming a previous decision by the Public Employment Relations Board that the county could not unilaterally impose pay freezes on its workers.
In a February 2015 ruling, PERB had ordered Tulare County to “make whole” workers who were denied the promotions and merit step increases that had been expressly promised them in a labor contract.
The county appealed the decision and the case moved to the California’s Fifth Appellate Court.
“This is a victory for workers and SEIU members in Tulare County,” said Ryan Wilson, a supervising Child Support Officer and Tulare County Chapter President with SEIU Local 521. “We hope the county will accept this ruling and move on rather than waste more taxpayer dollars on court appeals.”
The case stems from an SEIU charge filed in 2011 alleging that the county violated workers’ contract 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.
The PERB 2015 ruling ordered 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.
Said Kristy Sermersheim, the union’s Chief Elected Officer: “We are happy that both PERB and the appellate court have agreed that Tulare County violated our agreement and treated workers in bad faith. Our members are committed to serving the Tulare community and their work is indispensable. This is a fair, just and long overdue decision.”
Service Employees International Union, Local 521 represents 40,000 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.