SEIU 1021

Over 500 Sonoma County workers rally as contract expires
A settlement for 2300 County workers remains distant as County administration refuses to take adequate measures to address retention and recruitment


Over 500 SEIU 1021 members working for Sonoma County braved the rain and cold to rally outside and inside the county administration building as the Board of Supervisors met last Tuesday, February 28, as their contract expired with the County still insisting on takeaways that would completely absorb or even eclipse the cost of living adjustment for many workers.

Since October, SEIU 1021 members working for Sonoma County have been negotiating in good faith with the County administration to settle a contract that will make real strides to address the County’s staffing crisis, which is damaging the services county residents receive. 

Inadequate staffing has enormous consequences, including for public safety. The county faces $15 million worth of damage to its roads from winter storms and flooding but currently has fewer than 30 full-time road workers for nearly 3,000 miles of roads. 

According to road maintenance worker Mike Woodbury, who has worked on county roads for 35 years, the lack of staffing has left them scrambling to keep up with resident complaints and unable to perform basic road maintenance – which can lead to dangerous situations. In 2020, the County agreed to pay out a $1.3 million settlement to a cyclist who fell into a large pothole and suffered grievous injuries as a result.

“Unfortunately, County administration doesn’t seem to feel the same urgency as we do to protect and improve county services,” said SEIU 1021 Sonoma County Chapter President Jana Blunt. “Despite acknowledging that they need to do more to retain workers, who are leaving in alarming numbers, so far they have continued to play games in negotiations, trying to offset small improvements in pay by taking away existing employee benefits and demanding higher retirement contributions that decimate the value of the COLAs they are offering. 

“Our contract negotiations team is laser-focused on retention and recruitment so that we can make sure that county roads and infrastructure are safe; that our at-risk children, seniors, low-income families, and people with disabilities are protected and have the services they need; that the permits businesses and individuals need are processed in a timely way; and that the County’s revenue-generating departments are able to accurately and timely collect the taxes and fees the County is owed.

“And they are doing this despite being in a very solid economic position by their own calculations and projections. The county’s economy is strong. By insisting, against all available evidence, that they can’t do better to hold onto the workers they still have and recruit new ones, the administration is shrugging its shoulders at the churn and burn in its workforce, even as its most vulnerable residents suffer the consequences.”

“But those of us who spend our days providing the services that keep our county running are not about to give up. We are asking the Board of Supervisors to assert their authority and hold their administration accountable for doing more and better for our communities.”

Read and listen to the story from KRCB NorCal Public Radio here.