SLO sheriff’s deputies support county strike: ‘We are facing many of the same struggles’

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

Patrol and correctional deputies in the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office say they support county workers on labor strike this week because they’re experiencing the same struggles negotiating for better wages.

The Sworn Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association each issued statements of support for the 1,700-member San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association, which plans to strike starting Tuesday.

“We know the difficulties they are facing in their current contract negotiations as we are facing many of the same struggles in our own current negotiations with the county,” the Deputy Sheriff’s Association said in its statement.

“We haven’t seen a big change in our wage in nine years,” said Lars M. Luther, president of that 160-member union. “It’s incredibly expensive to live in the county and it’s getting harder and harder for county workers to simply afford the basic cost of living.”

Luther echoed comments made by SLOCEA members that employees willingly gave up their raises to help the county through the recession. Now that the economy has bounced back, the county has not budged on reasonable wage increases, the union members say.

Luther said workers in the Deputy Sheriff’s Association have worked without a contract over the past year and are at impasse with the county, adding that the employees’ medical contributions are so high that they negate any wage increase.

Those employees cannot strike by law because they are essential to public safety. About 160 SLOCEA employees are barred from striking because they have been identified as essential to the health and safety of the public.

“SLOCEA is not asking for the world. All they’re asking for is to keep their heads above water,” Luther said. “We stand behind our fellow county workers during this trying time and this courageous act.”

Representatives from both sheriff’s deputy unions said they cannot perform their jobs without the support of those who serve in the various capacities represented by SLOCEA.

SLOCEA workers who plan to strike include employees of multiple departments, including Probation, Social Services, Behavioral Health, Child Support Services, and Animal Services.

“We sincerely support SLOCEA efforts to secure fair and equitable pay and benefits for its members,” SDSA President John McDaniel said in a written statement.

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