Nearly every member of the Orange County Employees Association voted Friday night to reject a labor deal proposed by county supervisors through a private negotiator.

According to late-night vote tallies, 99 percent of the membership rejected the county’s last, best and final offer, which culminates nearly two years of negotiations.

Both sides will likely now move to formal mediation and fact-finding, which could take up the next month.

The current offer, which would cover more than 10,000 county workers throughout a variety of departments, has drawn scorn and criticism from union representatives, because it reportedly includes no raises for seven years, features hikes to health insurance premiums and includes punitive sanctions if county workers refuse the deal.

Union spokeswoman Jennifer Muir responded in a statement issued Friday night:

County workers voted overwhelmingly to reject the County’s last, best and final offer because they saw it for what it was: An attempt to bully them into accepting a bad deal and a threat that if they didn’t agree, politicians on the Board of Supervisors would make it worse for them in the future.

Those threats are clearly retribution to County employees for their part in standing up against what the Grand Jury called a culture of corruption here — a culture that continues in the wake of Carlos Bustamante’s arrest and the announcement of an FBI Task Force to investigate corruption in Orange County government. The Board of Supervisors responded to those reports by attempting to cut the Grand Jury’s pay. And now politicians on the Board are attempting to exact that same retribution on county workers.”

Supervisor’s Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach both said recent final offers to OCEA and the deputy sheriff’s working for the county are the direct result of the $73 million in disputed property taxes lost to the state.

Supervisors Janet Nguyen, Pat Bates and Todd Spitzer did not respond to a request for an interview this week on the recent labor deals being offered.

Nelson directly put the blame on the state situation, saying he was willing to fund raises if Sacramento had let up on seeking repayment of overdue property taxes following the state’s win in court against Orange County.

Moorlach said earlier this week, “We’re dealing with a situation where the state has made our budget going forward very austere.”

To date, the only bargaining unit that has been offered a raise was the county managers, which achieved a 1.25-percent raise through mediation after initially refusing the county’s offer.

Apparently the only other group getting a raise this year is the county supervisors themselves. They got an automatic 1.4-percent raise, because Gov. Jerry Brown increased the compensation for judges and supervisors’ pay is set to 80 percent of a judge’s salary.

While Brown authorized the raise for county supervisors, Orange County taxpayers will fund it, because it comes out of the county general fund.

Moorlach said he is looking into whether he can legally decline the raise. It seems he will have to fight a county counsel opinion, which has not been disclosed, that was issued to all supervisors advising them that they cannot refuse the raise.

That irony is not being lost on union representatives.

“The Board of Supervisors proposed these cuts at the same time as they accepted a pay raise for themselves — a raise that just showed up on their paychecks and was awarded retroactively to July,” Muir declared. “And it happens at the same time as they continue voting to approve multi-million dollar contracts to their campaign contributors.”

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