California State Scientists Walk Picket Line in First-Ever Strike

California State Scientists Walk Picket Line in First-Ever Strike

Striking members of the California Association of Professional Scientists march in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Thousands of scientists who work for California have begun a three-day strike over lack of progress on contract talks. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

11/17/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Scientists working for the state walked off their jobs on Nov. 15 throughout California in a first-ever strike of state civil servants.
The California Association of Professional Scientists started the three-day “Defiance for Science” strike, becoming the first state worker union to strike since California civil servants were first granted collective bargaining rights in 1977.
The association’s contract ended in July 2020. State scientists have not received any annual salary increases since then, and negotiations with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration have stalled, according to the association.
“We’re tired, but we’re also energized,” said the organization’s President Jacqueline Tkac in a press release Tuesday. “We’re tired of this administration’s delay tactics and woefully inadequate offers at the bargaining table. We’re tired of the governor talking up California’s scientific approach to environmental policies while he fails to adequately compensate the scientists who inform and enforce those policies.”
According to the association, state scientists’ pay has lagged by 30 percent or more for nearly two decades compared to the salaries of those in similar state, local, and federal positions. Wages have also fallen behind those of their supervisors and managers, the association claims.
The scientists work in 30 departments researching life-threatening diseases, safeguarding wildlife and abundant natural resources, maintaining the food supply, and addressing toxic waste and pollution in the air and water.
Union members overwhelmingly authorized a strike in August after talks failed to produce an agreement that members would ratify.
Workers began picketing in Sacramento Wednesday. The protests expanded Thursday to include locations in Los Angeles, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and Eureka.
The union was also set to rally outside the California Democratic Party’s State Endorsing Convention Nov. 18 in downtown Sacramento.
About 4,300 rank-and-file scientists and 1,300 supervisors and managers in over 30 state departments are included in the strike. The association is seeking to close pay gaps with local, federal, and other positions in state government.
The state’s Public Employee Relations Board determined Sept. 26 that after nearly 1,300 days of bargaining, further negotiations between the union and Gov. Gavin Newsom required mediation.
The two sides met with a mediator on Nov. 8, which concluded with the scientists’ organization informing the state that union members would strike to notify Mr. Newsom that his representatives must come to the next mediation session Nov. 28 ready to move toward “contract terms that value state scientists,” the organization said in Tuesday’s news release.
The Newsom administration filed an unfair practice claim last week against the scientists in an attempt to stop them from striking, according to the press release.
The state “will continue to work with [the association] to achieve a fair successor agreement as we have with other bargaining units,” California Department of Human Resources spokesperson Camille Travis said in an email to the Associated Press.
Last month, the union expressed disappointment in a press release posted on its website by Mr. Newsom’s veto Oct. 8 of legislation that would have required the University of California, Berkeley’s labor center to study the existing state scientist salary schedule and provide recommendations for alternate models for rank-and-file scientists.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1677 would have required that the union and the state’s human resources department be consulted in structuring the study, according to the association.
Striking members of the California Association of Professional Scientists march in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Thousands of scientists who work for California have begun a three-day strike over lack of progress on contract talks. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Striking members of the California Association of Professional Scientists march in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Thousands of scientists who work for California have begun a three-day strike over lack of progress on contract talks. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.