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Thursday, June 21, 2007

SEIU pickets Napa, threatens strike

If negotiations continue as they are, Napa, CA county employee union members said a strike is possible. Marching around the county administration building on Third Street during the lunch hour, more than 100 employees clad in purple SEIU union shirts chanted slogans urged the county to make concessions at the bargaining table.

"We have brought up the s-word," said Jerry Heuschober, probation officer and a union leader. "We don't want to go on strike, but we will if it comes to that."

County employee unions banded together Wednesday to protest against what they called stalled contract negotiations and county proposals to have them pay a 300 percent increase for health insurance, take away overtime pay in some cases and limit disability benefits. Their current contract expires June 29.

Elizabeth Emmett, county spokeswoman, would neither confirm nor deny accusations from the unions. She said the county would not issue a public reaction.

"We're choosing to adhere to the rules of collective bargaining, which is you keep things confidential," she said. "If the union chooses to do something else that's their choice."

The county employee unions have come under fire from some interest groups, most recently the Napa Valley Taxpayer's Alliance.

Alliance President Mike Haley lobbied for the Napa County Board of Supervisors at their June 5 meeting to hold the line against union pressure. Haley said workers in the private sector could not expect cost of living increases each year and that most government office workers get paid more in salaries or benefits than their private sector counterparts.