Workplace actions help secure new contract for OC eligibility technicians

Members of AFSCME Local 2076 voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract negotiated with Orange County, after four months of negotiations and multiple workplace actions.

The new three-year contract includes pay increases totaling 13% over the three-year period, as well as an additional $0.75 per hour for employees who work an assigned shift at a jail facility.

The bargaining team was also able to negotiate a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), which will be available to current and future employees. The HRA is fully funded by the County and the contribution will increase by 2.5% annually beginning in July 2024. “We think that getting the HRA for members after not having any type of retirement medical for over 17 years is a huge win,” said AFSCME Local 2076 President Diana Corral. “Now workers don’t have to wait until they’re 65 to get Medicare to have some sort of way to pay for medical coverage to retire.”

The reoccurring theme throughout this negotiations process was solidarity. Members felt that they were not being heard by the County’s negotiator, so they banded together and took action to call attention to their dire need for more staffing and livable wages. In September, hundreds of members joined picket lines throughout Orange County and on October 17 dozens of members attended the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting to give public comments regarding their workplace concerns. “We got tired of the games and decided that we needed to take action and take it to the streets,” said Corral. Also, more than half of the local’s membership voted on the new contract.

Now after ratifying a successor agreement, AFSCME Local 2076 will turn its attention to political action that will address their understaffing crisis. Workloads are unbearable for Orange County eligibility technicians due to the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation rates and unfortunately, Orange County is still not willing to hire more workers to do the job. So AFSCME Local 2076 will work with AFSCME California PEOPLE to take action at the legislative level to address understaffing. “This is one the great parts of having an international union is that we have political power,” said Corral. “And now we will have to use that leverage to get Orange County to do something about short staffing in social services.”