Sonoma County employee union prepares to strike next month

The largest group of unionized Sonoma County government employees plans to strike next month to protest what it says is county inaction on a union proposal to save taxpayer money and several other issues it says amount to unfair labor practices.

But the planned Feb. 28 walkout also is geared, indirectly at least, to rachet up pressure on now-protracted contract talks with the county, where the employees face a package of unpopular pay and pension cuts.

A proposed labor agreement with those concessions was overwhelmingly rejected last month by members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents about half of the county's 3,500 employees.

The workers include frontline staff at most county departments outside of public safety divisions, whose sworn ranks would not be affected by the walkout.

The standoff has developed in the 10th month of negotiations between the county and the union, and after years of job cuts, unpaid furloughs and other reductions aimed to fill large recession-era deficits.

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