Contract ratified for 9,000 Santa Clara workers

Santa Clara County’s largest employee union on Wednesday ratified a labor contract reached with the county late last month, union officials said.

The four-year tentative contract with Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents more than 9,000 county workers, includes an annual 4.5 percent increase in wages for the first year and 3 percent annual increase for the remaining three years, union officials said.

Employees would not have to contribute more to their pension or health care plans, according to union officials.

On June 25, the union voted to hold a strike on June 30, alleging that the county was not addressing multiple concerns surrounding unfair labor practices, economic inequality, public safety and an insufficient amount of workers.

Four days later, the county obtained a court injunction that stopped roughly 500 essential workers, which included emergency dispatchers, social workers and jail employees, from participating in the strike.

The county and union reached a tentative agreement on June 30, hours before the strike was scheduled to begin.

The union’s social services bargaining unit had voted the contract down during a vote on July 11, but evidence of misrepresentation to the unit’s membership about the overall agreement prompted a re-vote.

The unit approved the contract during the second vote on Wednesday, union officials said. John Sokolich, a social worker and member of the negotiations team, said in a statement:

“We believe this was a good agreement that will help us recruit, retain and develop a first-rate workforce that the community deserves.”

The contract will now be sent to the county’s Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

Board of Supervisors president Dave Cortese said in a statement:

“The negotiations over the past weeks were challenging and members on both sides of the table acted in good faith. … Our most vulnerable residents will be able to continue receiving services without interruption.”