Debra Barrios, joins Sonoma County employees at a rally with organizers from the SEIU outside the Board of Supervisors meeting in Santa Rosa, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

The biggest group of unionized Sonoma County authorities staff held a rally Tuesday demanding larger wages and a stronger hiring effort to deal with excessive vacancies and turnover they are saying are impacting the supply of public companies.

Bearing indicators studying “Employees Sonoma” and “Respect Employees,” roughly 100 county staff sporting purple T-shirts delivered that message to the Board of Supervisors at its weekly assembly. The group rallied exterior the county’s administration constructing in Santa Rosa earlier than a few of the crowd went inside to talk through the board’s public remark interval.

The employees, represented by Service Staff Worldwide Union Native 1021, described what the union known as a “extreme staffing disaster” inside county departments that’s fueling burnout and shouldering staff with an amazing workload.

Consequently, staff are leaving throughout departments and administration ranges, union members say, impacting supply of companies starting from social work to property tax assessments.

“The county is simply hemorrhaging good folks,” stated Ellie Campbell-Brown, a union officer and adoption social employee with baby protecting companies.

The union, which represents about 2,300 of the county’s roughly 4,000 staff — the most important native authorities workforce within the North Bay — is in the course of contract negotiations with county administration. The contract expires in February and SEIU’s essential push is for pay hikes to deal with the excessive price of dwelling in Sonoma County, stated Jana Blunt, SEIU Native 1021 president.

“What do we would like? A contract! When do we would like it? Now!” got here the group’s rally cry, which reverberated off the marble partitions of the primary hallway on the administration constructing as staff marched via Tuesday morning earlier than heading again exterior.

The county is taking staff’ issues critically, Board of Supervisors Chair Chris Coursey stated in an interview Tuesday afternoon. He added the board has been discussing recruitment and retention “lengthy earlier than negotiations began.”

“This can be a downside not simply in county authorities…,” Coursey stated. “It’s a problem in each office to maintain folks in jobs.”

Along with pay hikes, SEIU is in search of higher advantages for part-time reduction employees and an up to date job classification plan.

“There are simply fewer and fewer causes to work on the county, not to mention keep,” Blunt stated. “It’s not the golden employment that it was.”

In December, the Board of Supervisors accepted a dwelling wage adjustment to lift wages for its lowest paid staff and county contractors by 2.74%, to $17.25 an hour.

“We’re very glad about (that),” Blunt stated.

She added, nevertheless, that the dwelling wage elevate displays “how low a few of our staff had been making.”

In the meantime, in November shopper costs elevated by 6.2% 12 months over 12 months, in keeping with knowledge from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an company of the U.S. Labor Division.

Blunt stated the county has supplied 5%, 4% and three% raises over three years, “rather less than half” of what SEIU proposed.

“Is that this how lowly they worth the general public?” Blunt requested. “Since you get what you pay for.”

Coursey disputed the figures that Blunt outlined and stated the county was “providing extra” on the desk. He described the county’s counter as “most likely the perfect monetary package deal that’s been supplied to any county workforce in many years,” however declined to specify the main points.

“They need to do their negotiation in public, that’s advantageous,” Coursey stated. “I don’t.”

The county’s emptiness price has hovered round 12% for the previous 12 months, however Blunt stated the problem started in 2017 following the wildfires.

In April 2022, then-Human Assets Director Christina Cramer highlighted the stress attributable to burnout, excessive vacancies and excessive turnover through the county’s funds workshops.

“This implies employees are strained,” Cramer stated through the funds workshops final 12 months. “There are emotions of stress and nervousness and fatigue.”

Cramer not too long ago left the county for a place in Marin County after eight years because the county’s personnel chief.

In December, the board accepted hiring bonuses for some new hires, starting from $25,000 to $30,000 for positions within the Sheriff’s Workplace.

On Tuesday, a number of county staff criticized the usage of hiring bonuses as a “momentary band support” that won’t maintain folks long-term.

“It’s lazy and admittedly it’s not going to draw the people who we have to serve this county,” stated Travis Balzarini, the native chapter’s vp and worker within the data methods division.

Coursey stated the bonuses had been supposed to hurry up hiring.

“I perceive that hiring bonuses usually are not throughout the board raises,” Coursey stated. “We’re providing throughout the board raises.”

Amos Eaton, an worker within the county’s Human Companies Division who’s presently on depart, stated the affect of a shrinking workforce may cause issues of safety, comparable to when street crews are unfold skinny, and lead these ready for social companies to fall via the cracks. The shortages are additionally inflicting delays in different authorities work like issuing permits, he stated.

“Once we’re understaffed we will’t present the companies they ask of us,” stated Eaton, who has labored for the county for 17 years and is a union officer.

In an interview after the rally, Campbell-Brown, who has labored for the county for 15 years, stated it’s taking “a 12 months or longer” to course of adoptions.

Addressing the Board of Supervisors, Sherry Bradford described how new hires at a county-run name heart often don’t remain longer than six months.

“The general public must be very indignant,” Bradford stated.

You may attain Employees Author Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.