North Bay Business Journal: County OKs contentious contract with SEIU in-home health care workers

NewsSeptember 29, 2009

By D. Ashley Furness, Business Journal Staff Reporter

SANTA ROSA—The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors renewed a contract impacting thousands of Service Employees International Union in-home care workers this morning, despite claims that organizers inappropriately barred some members from voting for representation.

A group of in-home support services workers staged a protest on administration steps this afternoon opposing the three-year memorandum, which goes into effect Thursday. Several supervisors expressed concerns with the union during a public meeting this morning, but the board unanimously approved the agreement.

According to protesters during the 1:30 p.m. gathering, the union for the first time this year did not allow members to send ballots through the mail and did not provide a copy of the contract. Voting was limited to polling locations at difficult times and places and it was also charged a security guard was hired to “block” workers known to oppose the union, according to protesters.

“The Service Employees International Union is testing the integrity of this Board of Supervisors,” in-home worker Marie White said. “They want [the board] to approve fraud.”

Union representative Shareefa Joseph confirmed the change in voting process before a 2 p.m. public hearing at county offices this afternoon, but said it was made to increase transparency in the process. The union official called the workers’ claims “unscrupulous” and that all Sonoma County in-home caretakers were provided a copy of the contract and 90 percent voted. The protestors claimed only 400 of about 3,800 were actually able to cast a ballot. 

In a related county contract also approved Tuesday morning, a pay reduction and the elimination of one position were implemented for public authority managers of the home-care program.

The changes come in then wake of statewide cuts to the program totaling about $38 million this fiscal year.

The county has contracted with the union for the program since 2001.

Source: North Bay Business Journal