Several hundred Mendocino County employees walked off their jobs and onto picket lines Tuesday morning during a one-day strike over wages.
Passersby in vehicles honked and yelled in solidarity as Service Employees International Union Local 1021 workers and supporters from the Bay Area and Sonoma County marched with signs in front of the county courthouse in Ukiah.
Similar demonstrations were held at county offices throughout Ukiah and in Willits and Fort Bragg as members of the county's largest union took to the streets. County officials estimated about half the union's 700 members joined the strike, limiting but not shuttering most county services.
At 1 p.m., more than 300 people clad in purple SEIU shirts, made their way to the county administration building in Ukiah where they held a raucous rally.
“Rise up, shut it down, Mendocino is a union town,” they chanted in the hallways before heading into the Board of Supervisors' chambers to make their case for a pay increase.
The union's bargaining team called the walkout Thursday following a strike vote by employees and the county's declaration of an impasse on wage negotiations.
The union in June asked for a pay increase of 10 percent, the amount of an early 2012 pay cut, according to union officials. The union reduced the request to 10 percent over three years when the county offered nothing in return, according to Dave Eberly, Local 1021's Mendocino County chapter president. The county also rejected the second offer, he said.
County officials say the county cannot afford a pay increase at this time.
Union representatives say it can. The county currently has a reserve of $8.5 million, a record high, they've noted.
But county officials say the reserve largely is the product of one-time revenues that should not be spent on recurring costs that cannot be sustained, such as wage increases.