VICTORY! Tentative Agreement is reached at the 9 Union Healthcare Coalition Table in Contra Costa County

Healthcare Relief and Wage Increases Part of the Tentative Agreement

At the 11thhour, a Tentative Agreement for a 3-year contract extension was reached in Contra Costa County. 

In a major VICTORY for more than 4,800 County employees, a coalition of nine unions, led by Local 21, reached a Tentative Agreement that accomplishes huge gains for members. It takes significant steps towards fixing the healthcare package for County employees and ensuring real wage increases over the term of the new contract. 

For years, County workers have seen their wage increases eaten up by out-of-control healthcare premium increases that made already unaffordable healthcare costs worse. This whole time, Contra Costa County has not been paying its fair share– the County ranks last in public employee healthcare costs in the Bay Area, with family premium costs that were set to rise to $947 per month on the Kaiser plan in 2019. 

Workers have either struggled to make high payments for healthcare, or they have been forced onto high risk/ high deductible plans for themselves and their families. As a result, County departments suffer from retention and recruitment problems that negatively impact services for the public, as workers flee to nearby jurisdictions with better benefits. This fall, thousands of workers across the county formed a nine-union coalition to fight back and change the healthcare system for county workers, and won!

Over the last few months, coalition members placed hundreds of phone calls to the Board of Supervisors’ offices, rallied and made public comments at the monthly Board meetings, collected more than 2,000 employee petition signatures, and engaged in solidarity pickets at a dozen County worksites – all of which created the pressure and leverage needed to come to an Agreement with the County. The win highlights what a union is all about: workers coming together and using collective strength to make positive change. 

Members in Contra Costa County won a deal they can be proud of. In addition to 4%, 3%, 3% raises over the three-year deal, the County will pay a fairer percentage of health premiums moving forward, increasing each year of the Agreement. The County will also cover 100% of the premium increases for 2019, and workers have won a new healthcare structure that will level the playing field and allow for new providers to enter the market in 2020. 

“This win is huge for County workers,” says Sue Guest, Contra Costa County Chapter President and Local 21 Vice President. “Our chapter is at 92% membership and climbing, and that’s why we had the strength to lead this Coalition and make change to a healthcare system that’s been unjust for decades. This will save members thousands of dollars over the course of the contract, and it lays the groundwork for even more savings in the future. We can be very proud today.” 

Local 21 members ratified the Agreement this week by an overwhelming margin, turning out to vote in greater numbers than in any previous contract. 

Here are the key Agreement highlights:

  • 100% County coverage of all medical plan premium increases for 2019.The planned increases next year of 9.02% for CCHP, 11.9% for Kaiser, 10.9% for Health Net HMO, and 14.74% for Health Net PPO will be entirely absorbedby the County.

  • A 3-year contract extension with the following wage increases: 4% on July 1, 2019, 3% on July 1, 2020, and 3% on July 1, 2021.

  • Asecond Open Enrollmentin early December to allow members to make new healthcare selections based on the Tentative Agreement. 

  • The County will pay a fairer percentage of total health premiums moving forward: a major move to a 75% (Employee only & Employee + 1) /76.5% (Employee + 2 or more) cost sharing structure in 2020, 78.5% cost sharing structure across all plans and tiers in 2021, and 80% cost sharing structure across all plans and tiers in 2022. These percentages will be based on the second lowest priced non-deductible HMO plan (currently Kaiser A), and an equal dollar amount will be paid for all other plans. This is a big win because the County is paying significantly less currently, and only 50% of yearly premium increases. And basing an increased cost-sharing structure on a lower risk/ low deductible plan is a win for the Coalition. 

  • A $2 million pot of money to address unit specific issues(like equity adjustments, compaction, differentials, etc.) starting in January 2021. The $2 million will be divided between the Coalition unions on a per capita basis. 

  • Kaiser high deductible plan participants will receive a $500 HSA contributionfrom the County in 2019, and a $625 annual HSA contributionin 2020 and beyond. 

  • A path to securing more affordable plans in the future: the new Joint Labor/Management Benefits Committee (JLMBC), made up of all nine Coalition unions and County representatives, will begin meeting soon after a deal is ratified to find new, more affordable healthcare plans starting in 2020 for our County employee market. 

  • The Coalition unions will be empowered to help keep annual premium increases in check with a seat at the table during yearly premium negotiations between the County and plan providers. 

  • The JLMBC will continue to work onplan design changes that will reduce costsand improve quality of care for County workers. 


Why this Agreement is so important for all of us:

Many of us are already covered under contracts with a fairer healthcare benefit, but the win in Contra Costa impacts us all. Why? Our strength comes from our solidarity. 1,100 of our fellow union members have just fought an epic battle that makes our union stronger at every bargaining table across the union, because everyone knows Local 21 has just been at the forefront of a major fight and won. Also, none of us are safe from attacks on the benefits we have already won in our contracts. Whether its healthcare, or our pensions, we know that anti-worker forces will come after us in the future. We can all look to the Contra Costa County chapter for a roadmap on how we can protect ourselves by being strong and activated union members ready to stand up for what is right! 

Kudos to everyone who worked on the landmark deal in Contra Costa County!