U.S. News

California public union OKs strike authorization

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California’s largest state employees’ union voted on Saturday to approve a strike authorization measure to protest furloughs of state workers and pressure state officials to ratify its labor contract.

A spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1000 said a strike was not imminent but that the vote authorized union officers to initiate certain job actions, including a strike if necessary.

The SEIU represents about 95,000 state employees, including clerical workers and teachers.

The group’s labor contract with the state expired last year, SEIU spokesman Jim Zamora said. The union negotiated a new deal with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration in February, but the contract has not been ratified by the state Legislature.

Earlier this week, the Republican governor signed a bill that closed a more than $24 billion budget gap. Under the legislation, furloughs will continue for state workers for three days a month, cutting their pay by 15 percent.

“We feel that he (Schwarzenegger) really undermined any kind of a contract deal by pushing these furloughs on folks,” Zamora said.

The SEIU said the strike authorization was approved by 74 percent of its membership.

Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Peter Cooney