Contract extends $3,100 health care perk to another group of California state employees

About 4,000 more California state workers will be eligible for monthly stipends to cover their health insurance premiums under a tentative contract agreement with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.

The benefit appears in a new agreement between the administration and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment. CalHR posted the agreement to its website Thursday.

The $260-per-month stipend for workers with a CalPERS insurance plan first appeared in a contract with the state’s largest union, SEIU Local 1000, which represents about 100,000 workers across a broad range of job classifications. The amount is equal to the average worker’s insurance premium and it allows public employees to keep about $3,100 a year that had been going toward their health care plans.

The one-year agreement between the attorneys union and the state also provides a 2.75 percent general salary increase, doubles available leave cash-out and requires some employees to increase retirement contributions by a half-percent. The agreement is projected to cost the state about $107 million.

Last week, the union’s president, Peter Flores, suggested the union might consider holding out for an extended period of time to wait for a larger increase after the state offered a cumulative raise of 7.5 percent over three years.

Flores said in the update that attorneys and judges working for local governments and the federal government often make far more money than their state counterparts, limiting the state’s ability to hire and retain workers in the legal field.

A salary survey from Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the Department of Justice showed a 23 percent pay deficit for state attorneys.

A separate survey by UCLA Labor Center found a greater disparity in maximum salaries for public sector attorneys of 29.5 percent. The state legal union commissioned the UCLA study.

The shorter-term agreement suggests the union could be going back to the bargaining table soon to work on the pay disparities it has cited in arguing for bigger raises.

“The parties felt it was best to have a short, one-year agreement so as to allow for a deeper discussion about the extent of the disparity in the state’s legal infrastructure,” Flores’ message to members reads.

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Wes Venteicher anchors The Bee’s popular State Worker coverage in the newspaper’s Capitol Bureau. He covers taxes, pensions, unions, state spending and California government. A Montana native, he reported on health care and politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh before joining The Bee in 2018.