Lolita Harper

Lolita Harper, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, the labor union representing county sheriff’s deputies and district attorney investigators, speaks during a rally Tuesday outside the San Bernardino County Government Center pushing for higher pay for sheriff’s deputies. SEBA has been in labor negotiations with the county for more than a year. (Photo by Joe Nelson)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 05/24/16 – 11:30 AM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Dozens of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies rallied outside the County Government Center on Tuesday, pushing for higher pay after more than a year of stalled contract negotiations.

The rally was hosted by the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, the labor union representing sheriff’s deputies and district attorney investigators. It came on the day the Board of Supervisors was discussing the labor negotiations in closed session.

SEBA has been negotiating with the county for more than a year, since March 2015, and an impasse was declared in December. Union representatives say, based on their own research, that deputies in San Bernardino County are paid on average 14 to 18 percent less than their counterparts in surrounding counties. Deputies who are seven years into their careers earn on average 27 percent less than their peers in surrounding counties.

“We are simply asking to be compensated at the levels that are average for our peers,” said Detective Grant Ward, SEBA secretary and leader of the union’s safety negotiation team.

Deputies stood united behind a podium, wearing black T-shirts that said, “On the front lines,” with “SB Strong” written underneath. They held photos posted to boards of deputies mounted on an armored vehicle and posing with children.

Ward said the biggest hurdle has been the county’s negotiating style. He believes the county does not come to the negotiating table with compromise in mind — unless it is the employees making the compromise.

“The county’s style has been demand, not negotiate,” Ward said.

Deputies have not taken contractual raises in more than five years, giving back $23 million in concessions due to the county’s rough financial shape, said Ward.

“We were assured by the county’s top executives that those concessions would be restored when the economy turned around. Well, the county’s in a much better financial position, but we still have not received a fair contract,” Ward said, adding that the county, in the past six years, has enjoyed annual budget surpluses ranging from $32 million to $163 million, and to date has compiled $450 million in reserves.

To read expanded article, click here.