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May 21, 2022

Strike averted as County, employees reach agreement

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The union that represents some 1,600 County of Santa Cruz employees has averted a strike after hammering out a tentative agreement during all-day negotiations Monday.

The agreement between Service Employees International Union Local 521 and the County came just before demonstrations that were set to begin at 7am Tuesday.

The tentative agreement will now be voted on by union members in the coming week, then go to ratification by the County Board of Supervisors, the union stated in a press release.

“We are extremely proud to have stood resilient throughout our negotiations,” said SEIU Local 521 President Veronica Velazquez. “We strongly believe this agreement is an important step towards meeting the critical recovery needs of our community and workers.”

The new three-year agreement includes across the board wage increases totaling 9%, pandemic hazard pay and important contract language to begin addressing staffing turnover and high vacancies, union leaders say.

“We are grateful to have reached a tentative agreement with SEIU Local 521 on a new contract and avert a strike,” County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said in a prepared statement. “Many in our community depend on the County to help meet their needs and those of their families, and assuring that we can continue providing high-quality services without interruption is in everyone’s best interests.”

The union threatened a strike on Jan. 18, saying that a majority of members were rejecting the county’s final offer.

The union represents employees who work in numerous sectors of the County, including public health nurses, social workers, cooks, custodians and public works employees.

Union leaders said that workers have faced staffing shortages that leave them overworked and put their departments at risk

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