Dear CASE Voting Member:
CASE began discussions with CalHR regarding bargaining for a new contract earlier this month and we have secured additional table dates in April. We will be using these upcoming bargaining sessions to focus on a number of issues.
In the short term, we will discuss the elimination of the PLP/Furloughs so we can restore the pay of our members back to their full – albeit deplorably low – amounts. As most of you know, the Governor announced in January that this issue would be subject to bargaining after the May Budget Revise (which will be released around May 14). Unfortunately, to date, despite the clear improvements in the state’s budget, CalHR has not been willing to commit to any final agreements until the May Revise. As a result, the discussions now are at a broader conceptual level until they have authority to discuss and agree to more specific terms. We will keep pressuring them on this issue.
As part of these discussions, we will obviously focus on the fact that state revenues are coming in much higher than previously projected, as well as the fact that the State has received billions in federal stimulus money, some of which is specifically designated for essential workers. As you might imagine, all of the state’s 21 bargaining units are seeking relief from the PLP/furloughs, and some are seeking reinstatement of deferred raises that were postponed as a result of the COVID pandemic. While we have a raise set for next summer, we do not have an existing deferred raise to reinstate. Instead, we are bargaining for the raise that we would have previously negotiated had the pandemic not forced the agreement to the side letter. We are working hard in gathering the evidence showing that our salary deficit is at crisis levels and has only worsened during the pandemic. This crisis is hampering recruitment and retention of high-quality lawyers and judges and is having a particularly negative impact on our members who are from BIPOC communities. We anticipate CalHR will assert that the Governor’s Department of Finance as well as the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office have projected that while California has a one-time surplus this year, the outlook for FY 2022-23 is not as rosy and there will be structural deficits in the State budget. Second, the Governor has stated that he is interested in spending the money on one-time projects rather than on items that create ongoing cost pressures. CASE is ready to counter these arguments when they inevitably arise and we are prepared to fight hard to maximize the benefits to our hard-working members.
The negotiations about removing the PLPs will likely be accompanied by a demand from the State to eliminate the $260 health subsidy as well as the OPEB cuts. We will obviously work to keep those benefits, or increase other benefits to redress their loss, even after PLPs are rescinded. Moreover, while the current Side Letter provides for a raise in July 2022, we are looking to expand the scope of our bargaining discussions to achieve more immediate increases in our salaries and to put our salaries on track to catch up with other public sector legal professionals.
Beyond the short term, we are also having discussions with CalHR to make substantial long-term changes to various benefits. As one example, we are looking at revising the notoriously poor maternity and paternity leave options available to our members, which we believe disproportionately and unfairly impacts women, and is of critical importance to CASE since a majority of our membership is female. As another example, we are looking to improve the way the State reimburses us for expenses, including hotels, travel, and per diem expenses, all of which fail to accurately reimburse our members for the actual costs they incur on behalf of the State. It’s bad enough that our salaries are ridiculously low; we should not be having to subsidize the State for legitimate business expenses as well. However, these items are likely broader than just Unit 2, because they would be applicable to all State employees. Accordingly, we are developing solutions that can be supported by all unions as well as the State.
The input of our members is crucial to our efforts and we wish to thank you for the valuable insights, observations, and suggestions we have been receiving recently from members in all departments. Please, do not hesitate to send any comments, questions, ideas, or bargaining priorities to firstname.lastname@example.org. We try to answer or respond to all inquiries, but sometimes that takes time given that all the Board members are volunteers and have their own day jobs as well.
As we get into more substantive discussions in April and May, we will keep you updated.
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As always, your support of CASE and your colleagues in Bargaining Unit 2 is greatly appreciated.
The CASE Board of Directors