California healthcare workers to join countywide strike Jan. 25

Workers in California's Santa Cruz County, including healthcare workers, plan to strike Jan. 25.

The move comes after workers rejected the county's "last, best and final offer," according to a news release from the Service Employees International Union 521.

"Workers made clear from the resounding rejection of the county's [offer] that we will not accept any agreement that does not sufficiently invest in community services during a public health crisis," Veronica Velazquez, social worker and SEIU 521 Santa Cruz County chapter president, said in the release. "The county is forcing county workers to strike over unfair labor practices; we have made our willingness clear to management that we are ready to continue negotiating to reach a fair and just deal that addresses the challenges facing county workers."

SEIU 521's contract with the county expired in September 2021, and union members approved a strike authorization Dec. 7. The union cites concerns about the county's job vacancy and staff turnover rates — as well as what they say is insufficient county investment in wages for workers — as factors contributing to the decision to strike. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, Jason Hoppin, communications manager for the county, expressed disappointment about the planned walkout.

"It is disappointing that after six months of negotiations, the union has chosen to forgo state mediation and opted to strike. Unfortunately, it is those members of our community who depend on county services and staff — from public health workers to benefits representatives to road repair crews — who will bear the brunt of this decision," Mr. Hoppin said. 

SEIU Local 521 represents 53,000 public-sector and nonprofit, private-sector workers in California. This includes more than 200 healthcare workers (mental and behavioral health specialists, public health nurses, clinic nurses, medical assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, physician assistants and others) who work at Santa Cruz County clinics, medical centers and work sites.

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