SLO County is seeking a court order to keep ‘essential’ employees from striking

The San Luis Obispo County Government Center on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo.
The San Luis Obispo County Government Center on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo County officials on Wednesday announced they’ve requested a court order to prevent certain union employees from participating in a planned strike — a move that labor organizers say is unnecessary.

The San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association (SLOCEA) informed county officials Nov. 16 that around 1,700 workers plan to strike as early as December unless the county Board of Supervisors meets their demands, including a 2.5 percent wage increase.

County officials on Wednesday filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). Following an investigation, PERB could seek an injunction preventing employees the county deems essential from striking.

SLOCEA requested a list of essential county employees days ago, but received it only moments before county officials filed their charge, Pat McNamara, SLOCEA general manager, said Wednesday in a phone interview.

“It was unnecessary,” McNamara said of the filing. “It’s really more a tactic than a realistic concern of the county.”

According to the county’s unfair labor practice charge, there are at least 78 employees that the county considers essential, working in departments including Child Support Services, Social Services, the District Attorney’s Office and Public Health.

“The county is not trying to prevent a strike, but we need to be sure that any strike doesn’t jeopardize the health and safety of county residents,” county administrative officer Wade Horton said in a news release sent Nov. 21.

Potentially striking union members are employed by almost every county government department. Affected services could include probation, the library, veteran services, social services, behavioral health, child support services, animal services and public works.

Union organizers have not yet disagreed with the county’s list of employees who may not strike, McNamara said.

SLOCEA is willing to consider the county’s concerns regarding essential personnel, and union members don’t want to have a negative impact on residents’ health or well-being, he said.

The union will file an opposition to the unfair labor practice charge with PERB by Friday and will obey any orders that may be issued, he said.

“Public employees in California have the right to engage in job action,” McNamara said. “So we don’t want their right to be restricted unnecessarily.”

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