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Sacramento County employees threaten strike over better pay, working conditions

The United Public Employees union represents more than 3,500 local government workers at various Sacramento County departments

SACRAMENTO, Calif — The labor union representing more than 3,500 Sacramento County employees is threatening to strike if it cannot reach an agreement with the county on a new contract.

The United Public Employees (UPE) represents court staff, social workers and many other local government employees carrying out essential functions throughout the pandemic. 

Dozens of members gave emotional statements at the Wednesday meeting of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors about their COVID experiences.

Ted Somera, the executive director of the union, said it would mark the first time the UPE has declared a strike in more than a decade, but employees have reached a breaking point over stagnant wages in the face of inflation and pandemic working conditions. 

"If you’re not going to value them at work and then come back when contract negotiations are open and not compensate them for a livable wage, it’s insulting," Somera said. 

County supervisor Phil Serna said the board couldn't get into a detailed conversation about the subject matter or make any decisions based on off-agenda comments, but thanked the members for coming.

"I do want to thank everyone that spoke and everyone that took time to join us in chambers for holding us accountable tonight," Serna said. 

The meeting comes weeks after the Sacramento City Teachers Association strike brought instruction to a halt. Teachers and associated staff raised many of the same COVID and pay-related grievances. 

"You want us to take our lives and put them at risk, my family’s life and put it at risk, and yet, you don’t want to pay me to do it," said UPE member Keisha Brann.

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