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County government union overwhelmingly rejects contract proposal

The largest union of Sonoma County government workers on Monday soundly rejected a proposed contract that would have cut their pensions and pay.

Eighty-three percent of those workers, represented by Service Employees International Local 1021, who voted opposed the proposal.

About 1,200 of the 1,700 workers who would have been covered under the three-year agreement were eligible to vote. Voting began last Tuesday. The union represents about half of the county's 3,400 workers.

Lathe Gill, area director for Local 1021, said the proposed contact "didn't deliver enough on health care."

He also cited cuts to holiday time and pensions for the sweeping rejection.

"You can't live in Sonoma County for six years without a cost-of-living adjustment," Gill said.

The result canceled today's scheduled ratification vote on the proposal by the county Board of Supervisors and stalled the county's progress on long-sought measures to curb rising public pension costs and reduce overall compensation levels by 3 percent.

"It's disappointing," Supervisor Shirlee Zane said. "There has been a lot of work on both sides. We did have a tentative agreement, and we were hoping they would ratify it."

County Administrator Veronica Ferguson stopped short of calling the union vote a setback but acknowledged it delays changes county officials believe are necessary to sustain the pension system.

The proposed contract resulted from seven months of negotiations and was the first for the county's 11 bargaining groups to include both county-proposed and state-mandated changes to pensions, revisions that affect current and future employees.

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