Mendocino County workers take fight against takeaways to the Board of Supervisors
Today, Tuesday, August 29, Mendocino County workers rallied at the Board of Supervisors meeting to defend county services. The rally comes after members voted last month by 92.4% to authorize a strike.
For the past five months, the county administration has refused to negotiate in good faith with its employees — all while staffing levels continue to hemorrhage. Fighting for the community’s access to road crews, public health nurses, children’s social workers, and other vital county services, County workers feel that the situation has become untenable.
Despite a staffing crisis that is threatening the safety of Mendocino’s families, the County has proposed a wage freeze and dramatic increases in monthly employee health insurance premiums. Their proposals would raise monthly employee premiums upwards of 65% in some cases.
The County’s proposals would exacerbate the exodus of County employees leaving for jobs in surrounding counties and the private sector, while making recruitment even harder. Ultimately, these proposals would result in even higher vacancy rates, reduced services, slower response times, and more of the County’s children and elderly becoming at risk.
Akesh Eidi, an at-large member of the SEIU 1021 Executive Board and program administrator, told the Mendocino Board of Supervisors during public comment, “We already know that we have problems with access to healthcare resources. This Board has suggested we reduce our use of healthcare. If you increase healthcare costs, in some cases by 65%, you’re asking us to get sick, get hurt, and not go to the doctor.”
Veronica Wilson, a social worker who works with Mendocino’s homeless population, added, “I am tired of the disrespect, the lack of willingness to negotiate in good faith with us. We don’t have a contract, and that is unacceptable. I don’t want to leave the County. I don’t want to have to strike. I will have to postpone payments to strike. But it is becomingly increasingly necessary to confront the staffing crisis that is leaving our community behind.”
SEIU 1021 North Coast Vice President Mary Sandberg also added, “We’re understaffed. We’re falling behind other counties, and all on unsubstantiated claims about the budget. That’s why I’ve called on the State Auditor’s Office, who are investigating this County’s internal practices.”
The Board of Supervisors and the CEO’s office have struggled for months to get a clear handle on the County’s finances, pleading ignorance about its actual financial position. At the same time, the County has made the specious claim that they have a structural deficit of $11 million. In reality, total revenue for Mendocino County has increased 44.8% since 2019-2020. Since 2015, Mendocino County has regularly and significantly underprojected its tax revenue, missing the mark by anywhere between $1.3 to $10.3 million.
“County employees need to see that the Board and the administration have their backs,” said SEIU 1021 Mendocino County Chapter President Julie Beardsley, a senior public health analyst for the county. “We love the work we do, but it is becoming harder and harder to get the work done. When we see other counties moving ahead and Mendocino County remains mired in dysfunction, it can be disheartening.”
Mendocino County has a county-wide vacancy rate of 29%. Among the critical staffing shortages jeopardizing the health, safety, and well-being of county residents, including the most vulnerable, are:
- A nearly 40% vacancy rate in Family & Children’s Services — putting at-risk kids in danger;
- A 44% vacancy rate in Department of Transportation road crews, meaning our roads don’t get paved or repaired in a timely manner;
- A 47% vacancy rate for public health nurses, putting our low-income and elderly populations at risk; and
- A 70% vacancy rate for mental health clinicians.