San Mateo County Members Win New Contract—But Fight Continues for Social Services Workers

Our AFSCME Local 829 brothers and sisters won a new three-year contract this week after reaching an agreement with San Mateo County management.

After meeting dozens of times with county management over seven months and not getting a fair deal on wages and health benefits at the negotiating table, members stepped up the pressure by hanging signs in their workplaces, wearing union shirts, signing petitions that were delivered to the Board of Supervisors, attending solidarity rallies at worksites, showing up in force to the board meetings and, eventually, authorizing a strike.

That wave of action helped Local 829, which represents 1,700 members who work for San Mateo County, win a 12% raise over three years.

“Throughout this process, it was important for us as working people to stand strong and hold our ground for our families that we provide for and the public who deserve the best public service,” said AFSCME Local 829 President Ryan Shannon. “The county only works if we do. Now that we have an agreement, we are confident that the county we love to serve will remain strong.”

While members all agree the new contract is a step in the right direction, one of the bargaining units—which represents about 800 social services professionals—voted no on whether to accept the new agreement from the county, and those members will continue fighting for a fair contract over the coming weeks.

That unit represents a number of social workers, mental health workers and other social services professionals, whose jobs often come with harsh working conditions and huge caseloads—sometimes with few resources to help them do their jobs effectively. When those members brought forth proposals to the county to address their working conditions and staffing shortages, the county’s offers didn’t go far enough, said Local 829 Vice President Felipe Donaire, a social worker for San Mateo County.

“The union, workers and management used to work well together in our unit and we were able to address issues through our labor management process,” Donaire said. “Somewhere that got lost and and management has not addressed many of our issues. Workers are fed up with being ignored.”

Our brothers and sisters from the county’s social services unit have decided to hold a strike of their own in March.

“Make no mistake,” Shannon added, “We are all AFSCME, and we are behind our brothers and sisters from the social services unit as they fight for a better deal for the members there.”

Overall, members say they are pleased that everyone showed solidarity throughout the entire process.

Because they stood together, county management agreed to work with Local 829 and other unions to find a solution to the discriminatory retiree healthcare system that is currently in place for workers, Shannon said. The unions are expected to form a committee and reach an agreement by the end of the year, and the county has agreed to offer an incentive to accomplish that goal.

“One thing is clear: the county now knows, like it never has before, that AFSCME is willing to fight for its members and for what’s right,” Shannon said.