January 26, 2022
From Liberation News

On Jan. 25, 1,600 Service Employees International Union Local 521 essential workers avoided an Unfair Labor Practice strike by bringing Santa Cruz County to reach a tentative agreement. The tentative agreement includes important wins including across- the-board wage increases of 9% over three years, $1,250 pandemic/hazard pay bonuses, the Juneteenth holiday, language around staff turnover and more. 

SEIU 521 workers in Santa Cruz County include child support specialists, public health nurses, social workers and other frontline workers who work closely with working class communities in the county. Veronica Velasquez, a social worker and the Santa Cruz President of SEIU local 521 stated, “We strongly believe this agreement is an important step towards meeting the critical recovery needs of our community and workers” (SEIU 521).

After nearly eight months of negotiations, on Jan. 18 SEIU 521 workers announced that they would not be accepting the County’s “Last, Best, and Final Offer” and 93% of the members voted in approval of an Unfair Labor Practice strike starting on Jan. 25 in order “to reach a fair and just deal that addresses the challenges facing county workers” (SEIU 521 Press Release).

Amy Meza, a public health nurse, stated, “As professionals, we are committed to keeping our residents safe and protected from infectious diseases like COVID-19, but also from the County Board’s unwillingness to hear workers and fix their broken funding and hiring systems. We have no choice, but to go on strike to protect our community recovery” (SEIU 521 Press Release).

Workers fighting for better pay, lower turnover, filling vacancies, and funding social services

The recent Omicron surge brought 2,806 new cases to Santa Cruz County just on Jan. 24 (New York Times). In their contract fight, SEIU 521 workers recognized as a key issue the County’s failure in combating the COVID-19 crisis due to underfunding public services and the workers who run them.

Featured photo: @SEIU instagram.

Source: Liberationnews.org