El Dorado County, employee union enter negotiations | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado County, employee union enter negotiations

Mackenzie Myers
Mountain Democrat

According to the El Dorado County Employees Association Local No. 1, over 80 county employees attended the June 26 Board of Supervisors meeting asking for better wages.

Though negotiations between the El Dorado County administration and its employees began in late May, dozens of employees showed up at the June 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, bringing the issue of what they call low wages to a more public light.

On behalf of the El Dorado County Employees Association Local No. 1, which has about 900 members, David Cox asserted the county has a surplus that could go toward paying employees fairer wages. Cox said the issue was felt "deeply and widely throughout the county" and that local employees are pursuing better compensation elsewhere.

"This is not a rocket-science issue," Cox told supervisors during open forum. "It's really clear. If you improve wages, you solve this recruitment and retention problem."

Jere Copeland, chief negotiator on behalf of Local No. 1, said Monday he couldn't provide exact numbers of county employees taking jobs elsewhere, but did say the issue tends to affect employees holding professional degrees — such as engineers, mental health workers and social workers — more than less-specialized employees. In search of better wages, these workers will head to neighboring counties like Placer or Sacramento, he said.

About half the county's employees are members of Local No. 1, according to Copeland. Though each employee received $2,400 in one-time payments last year as part of a deal, according to Copeland, they haven't seen a raise since 2015. This time around, negotiations center only on wages, he said, not benefits, conditions or other aspects of employment.

In fall of 2017, the county offered to bring employees' wages up to 10 percent below the area's median wages, he said, but workers want more.

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"We don't think that's good enough," Copeland said. "That doesn't get us where we need to be. We'll continue to lose people to other counties if we're still that far below other counties."

Historically, negotiations have lasted between eight months to a year, sometimes going as long as a year and a half, Copeland said. He is hopeful the talks won't take that long.

According to the EDCEA website, they met June 28 and held another negotiation session on Thursday, July 5. After the initial opening, Copeland said negotiations typically occur in biweekly sessions.

In a written statement from spokeswoman Carla Hass, the county said it is prohibited by law from commenting on anything related to employee negotiations. Hass also could not verify the number of employees leaving or staying in county positions in time for press.

"We have no idea where or if former county employees gain employment in other counties or elsewhere," Hass wrote.