With a number of ongoing strikes across Southern California, Orange County’s Board of Supervisors has unanimously endorsed giving 13,000 county employees a 13% raise.

Those workers get their first glimpse at the new bump in tomorrow’s paycheck. 

It’s part of a three-year labor deal with the county’s largest public union, which represents general employees in areas like public works, social services and health care. 

While few officials wanted to talk about the labor pacts, the deals are key to addressing vacancies and retention issues across the county government. 

The negotiations also raise key questions about nagging high vacancy rates that are key for many of the recent goals at the county.

For example, there are lingering vacancies in departments like the county’s Behavioral Health services, key players in the shift to health care workers instead of police for responding to mental health crisis calls. 

The planned vacancy rate for the county, according to officials who have seen the rates, is 8.1%. Yet the actual vacancy rate is 15.7%, raising questions for county human resources officials about how well they are recruiting for vacancies or working to retain senior level employees. 

Represented by the Orange County Employees Association, the recent labor deal covers most general workers across the county and also sets a benchmark for other public sector labor deals in terms of cost of living adjustments, which is about 4% a year over the course of the contract. 

The three-year agreement provides OCEA-represented workers a: 4.75% raise in the first year, a 4.25% raise effective June 28, 2024, and a 4.0% raise effective June 27, 2025—a total of 13% over three years. 

In addition to the general raise, the labor deal includes a host of special pay scales for different workers and general benefits like bereavement leave. 

To see the labor pact details, click here: OCEA Tentative Agreement.

It’s the first time in decades that the county’s main union has struck a labor deal – and secured unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats on the OC Board of Supervisors – before the current contract runs out.

The question now is whether other labor groups, such as deputy sheriffs and managers, will accept the same cost of living increase as administrative workers like secretaries. 

One union, the Orange County Managers Association, already sent out an email to their members warning them that they would not accept those terms:

“While we are optimistic the County will offer Managers adequate and fair compensation, we do not believe the OCEA offer meets those criteria. Managers should not expect to have a tentative agreement with the County before the end of this month but will continue to negotiate as long as it takes to get the best deal possible. We are fully aware that every pay period after the first full pay period in July will cost our members money due to the absence of a pay raise (although we will negotiate for retroactive pay). However, while that issue is a factor we consider, we cannot accept a subpar contract merely for the sake of time.”

This year, in rare fashion, all of the county’s major unions have their contracts coming up at the same time. 

And like the managers, many are close to running out of their current contracts – leaving open questions about what happens next. 

Labor groups like the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the Orange County Attorneys Association along with the managers and organizations like the Teamsters, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Operating Engineers Local 501 are all still in talks with no agreements. 


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