But union reps for the State Bar’s two bargaining units — one for attorneys and the other for regular employees — did just that. And it still wasn’t good enough for the State Bar Board of Governors, even though both sides have been in a standoff, and without a labor agreement, since Dec. 31.
Earlier today, the board, meeting in San Francisco, unanimously rejected the union’s “bottom line” demand and sent State Bar management back to fight for more concessions. How many and what kind wasn’t made clear.
State Bar governor Laura Chick, who’s the controller of Los Angeles, expressed “great concern” about the economy and increases in “salary overhead.”
Governor James Aguirre, a lawyer with Los Angeles’ Richardson & Fair, added that the board is “very aware of the shifting landscape.”
Yeah, the economy’s in the dumper and the State Bar’s strapped financially. But even the agency’s negotiators, including Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley, felt the union had offered a good deal.
“Management is satisfied,” Hawley wrote in a memo recommending accepting the compromise, "that the proposed amendments are consistent with the board’s direction to effect cost savings from the existing 2009 budget and going forward, while at the same time assuring that the board’s institutional goals for the State Bar can be achieved through the prudent management of State Bar resources and personnel.”
Union reps had agreed to lose Lincoln’s Birthday as a holiday, give up comp time for certain employees and take a 2.5 percent step increase rather than the 5 percent negotiated last summer when the economy wasn’t so grim. The reduced step increase would save the Bar $1.7 million.
“This is a significant concession,” Hawley told board members today, adding that negotiators brought them “the best deal we could get.”
Hawley called the vote disappointing. “Both the union and management teams worked hard in challenging times to satisfy our constituencies,” he said outside the meeting room.
Hawley admitted that the budget is “an obsession” with the State Bar right now, but said “it’s never good to be operating without a union contract.”
It’s also a bad time for a strike, as both sides wouldn’t look good. And so far no one’s talking about one.
There’s also no talk yet about laying off employees. But with belt tightening cutting off circulation and no increase in Bar dues in sight, the State Bar’s between a rock and a hard place.
Union reps couldn’t be reached late Friday. But Hawley said he’ll go back and try to work something out.
“We accept that this is not an outrageous proposal [by the union],” Hawley said. “It’s the times and the budget: They demand that something else be done.”
As does an obstinate State Bar Board of Governors.
— Mike McKee