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$3,000 bonuses, 10.9% raise in first California state union contract of bargaining season

Sacramento Bee logo Sacramento Bee 6/29/2022 Wes Venteicher, The Sacramento Bee
The California Capitol building basks in the afternoon sun on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, the last day of the Legislatures 2021 legislative session in Sacramento. © Xavier Mascareñas/The Sacramento Bee/TNS The California Capitol building basks in the afternoon sun on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, the last day of the Legislatures 2021 legislative session in Sacramento.

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California state employees who operate power generation facilities are eligible for a new variety of retention bonuses worth up to $3,000 over the next three years under a new contract agreement.

About 1,000 state employees represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 are eligible for the “workforce stability stipends” under the agreement. The tentative contract, which also delivers a 10.9% raise to most of the workers, is the first full state contract agreement of this year.

The stipends provide $125 per month, paid in four lump sums of up to $750 starting January 2023 and running through August 2024, according to a summary of the agreement posted online by the state Human Resources Department.

Additionally, employees who are at the top of their pay scales — about 70% of the group — will receive raises of 2.5% this July, 4% next July and another 4% the following year.

The agreement also allows employees to be reimbursed for 100% of their costs if they take public transportation or a vanpool to work, up to the maximum IRS limit of $280 per month. And it increases uniform and footwear allowances.


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“It’s definitely a step forward but we still have to deal with some vacancy issues,” said union representative Brandy Johnson. “Overall it’s a good agreement and we’re getting there but we’re still not done dealing with issues that impact the unit.”

Johnson said the union is still in negotiations over pandemic bonuses. The Human Resources Department recently announced agreements agreements with state law enforcement unions that deliver $1,500 bonuses.

The agreement will increase state spending by $13.1 million per year by fiscal year 2025-2026, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office review.

In its review, the LAO raised concerns that the pay hike might not be enough to significantly boost retention of the HVAC workers, pointing out that 22% of the jobs covered by the union were vacant as of May.

“Retention of the most senior employees seems like it has become more difficult,” the analysis states.

The analysis points out that pay for employees in the unit lagged their local government peers by 15% in the most recent Human Resources Department survey.

And inflation, if it remains higher than forecasts predict, could further affect the state’s ability to stay competitive, the analysis states.

The new contract begins July 1. The small unit’s current contract expires June 30.

Several other state employee unions with contracts expiring at the end of this month have not yet posted agreements. They are Cal Fire Local 2881, the Professional Engineers in California Government, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment.

When the contracts expire, state employees continue working under the terms of the expired agreements. The California Association of Professional Scientists is working under an agreement that expired in July 2020 while negotiations continue.

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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