Monday, June 23, 2014 – 09:30 a.m.

Hats off to San Bernardino County government for pulling off a masterful victory over its largest union last week.

All but one bargaining unit of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA) has agreed to accept a new collectove bargaining agreement. An agreement that doesn’t provide one single across-the-board salary adjustment. But does enact needed pension reform.

An agreement that adds very little compensation factoring into employee pension formulas.

The county’s last minute threat of serious cuts, in the event their last, best and final offer was rejected, seems to have done the trick. Sprinkling a few more dollars at certain employees also didn’t hurt.

In the end, the stated $6 million-plus in annual savings, the county said it needed to maintain service levels, actually went into the reserve fund.

That’s right reserves! Can you say duped?

In other words, the threat of cuts was a bluff. A bluff that did indeed work against a union with a decade’s-long leadership vacuum, not to mention disasterous track record representing its members.

The new agreement bars a decertification attempt by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which was hoping the current agreement would expire the end of this week.

SEIU was collecting signatures to force an election to allow SBPEA members to switch unions. That effort is now moot, since SEIU is past the legal window period for a decertification attempt. The normal window is the twelfth month (330-360 days) prior to contract expiration. A time which has already come and gone.

However, SEIU does have a couple bones to pick against the county, if it so chooses.

  • First, the county Employee Relations Ordinance is the most restrictive in the state, when it comes to challenging representation. The thirty-day window period, and petition signature threshhold requirement of forty-percent, always has been way out of line.
  • Second, the county may have crossed the line, when it issued an email eseentially threatening reprecussions if SBPEA members didn’t ratify the last offer.

Any challenge must go before the California Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).

It should be noted that last year the county graciously handed the current SBPEA president full release time. A move that likely helped smooth the path for this deal.

Congratulations to Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux and company for a masterful job!