Employees of a Chula Vista-based nonprofit providing social services that help families become self-sufficient walked off the job Monday to protest the breakdown of negotiations over a new three-year contract.
About 250 people employed by the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee, or MAAC, formed picket lines in southern and northern counties, chanting “just be fair” and holding signs reading “fair wages now.”
The organization has over 500 workers and about 300 are members of SEIU Local 221. Employees work as drug and alcohol counselors, cleaners, family services staff, teachers, kitchen helpers and bus drivers. Throughout San Diego County, they provide a wide range of services including early childhood development, affordable housing, recovery homes, job finding, immigration, and school education at charter open to students aged 14 to 24.
On May 19, union members unanimously authorized Monday’s strike, which closed more than a dozen of its child development centers. They said they took action after 27 unsuccessful negotiating sessions over the past eight months. Organizers said the unionized workers had filed five unfair labor practice charges – two for intimidation of workers and three related to bad faith bargaining.
Union members said they want fair wages for all, a system that rewards those with seniority and gives workers room for advancement. They’re asking for an agency-wide minimum wage increase from $15 to $18 an hour, which MAAC agreed to, but union members say the organization refuses to pay those with more pay. experience.
Lily Camarena, who has worked with MAAC for 19 years, said the organization’s offer would worsen retention and not solve pay inequities.
“What this (proposal) would do is that if I was an associate teacher, entry-level positions would pay the same as me because associate teachers don’t make $18 yet. They would bring them to $18 and entry-level positions, even though associate teachers have a lot of experience under their belts,” she said.
Union members want the company to “relaunch an increment system,” said Local 221 representative Alisa Miller. It’s been frozen for at least 10 years. We want that to come back so that we don’t have that constant turnover.
MAAC President Arnulfo Manriquez said the organization’s offer is “a solid package” that tracks inflation, but cannot give more because it has fixed amounts of funding from government sources for its programs.
“We are stuck,” he said. “It’s not like we can go out and sell more of something to make more money. We still have to provide the same services. There is no where the extra money can come from.
MAAC operates on the basis of funding in place, he said. The nonprofit’s fiscal year 2022 budget includes $52.2 million in operating expenses, of which $26 million goes to salaries and wages. The budget forecasts revenues of $52.3 million, leaving a surplus of nearly $103,000.
A company-wide letter from Manriquez in May said MAAC’s offer to union members was worth $7 million over three years. Union members said Monday that MAAC initially miscalculated its total and it is now around $5 million.
Manriquez declined to confirm the amount of the nonprofit’s offer, but said “it’s the biggest we’ve ever done in our history” and that “we don’t have the resources. to do something as big as $7 million.”
He refused to share the full cost of their bid and said, “We would never backtrack.” Manriquez instead pointed to the nonprofit’s allocation of $3.5 million in a Federal Paycheck Protection Program loan during the pandemic, which is used on its employees so none have to be laid off. .
Camarena said she’s worried more people will leave their jobs at MAAC, which currently has about 50 openings, according to its website.
“People go to other agencies or they go to the fast food industry because they offer so much more,” she said. “It’s sad that we workers can still benefit from the services we provide. It is ironical.
Upon reaching an impasse, the nonprofit will seek the assistance of a mediator, Manriquez said.