By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 06/19/14, 8:10 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Five of six bargaining units of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association ratified a new contract with the county on Thursday following a ballot count met with criticism from opponents of the contract.

Dissatisfied with their representation and a contract they say continues to gouge them financially, some of the nearly 12,000 county employees represented by the SBPEA are pushing for new representation from Service Employees International Union Local 721, and were hoping for a “no’ vote by the member majority, which they thought they had — until Thursday.

“The numbers are just completely opposite of what we voted last time,” said Yesenia Olague, an employment services specialist for the county’s Transitional Assistance Department who opposed the contract.

On May 29, 573 members of the union’s administrative services unit voted “no” on the proposed contract and 241 voted “yes,” Olague said.

On Thursday, the count came in at 540 voting “yes” and 316 voting “no.”

“That, to me, says these ballots were tampered with,” Olague said.

On Wednesday, SEIU Local 721 union organizer Martin Manteca sent a letter to the SBPEA requesting an independent party be present during Thursday’s ballot count to ensure a fair and neutral process. The letter was signed by 10 SBPEA members opposing the contract, which calls for a 7 percent retirement pickup previously covered by the county, a 50 percent reduction in annual step increases and increased health care costs. The contract is in line with 15 other union contracts already approved.

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