Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) members from Orange County testified and advocated for a fair contract before the Orange County Legislature on Thursday, February 1. Signs reading “CSEA Union Strong” were held by workers as they listened to their colleagues.
Fair employee salaries, wages and benefits were advocated by employees of the Orange County Probation Office, the Orange County Department of Social Services and other supporters. The CSEA contract, according to Jessica Ladlee of the CSEA Southern Region Office, expired in December 2023 and the hope is to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible.
“Negotiations commonly address wages and health benefits. Changes in contractual language are also frequent topics of discussion,” said Ladlee in an email. “Reaching a fair contract will be beneficial in recruiting new county employees and retaining existing ones. Adequate staffing allows for a smoother delivery of services and eases challenges for existing workers.”
After regular business was conducted by the legislators on Thursday, the public was invited to speak on their matters for about three minutes.
Vince Ellison, a senior county probation officer, began acknowledging that he was dressed differently than his fellow probation officers in a shirt, tie and slacks and noted that that was what he used to wear when going into work.
“We have officers who have left the department because of lack of upward mobility and raises that come with it. Officers have stated that if the senior position was more monetarily enticing, they would have stayed with the department,” he said. “We are losing excellent officers to other police and probation departments for a higher salary. We’re just looking for our own page in the union book and upgrade for senior probation officers.”
Carmen Greagor, a senior probation officer, also noted the difference between the uniforms and what the employees first wore when joining the department. Probation officers were similar uniforms to their law enforcement counterparts with a firearm, utility belt, body camera, armor vest and other equipment. She also discussed educational qualifications and job protections compared to her county counterparts.
“Our department is comprised of 80% female. Since 2017 we have lost approximately 20 probation officers and probation officer trainees which does not include any retirements,” said Greagor. “Probation needs a separate page and salary scale from the CSEA general employees.”
Eileen Terry, a lifelong Orange County resident, has been a 19 year employee who works as a foster care, adoption, social case worker. “I along with my co-workers are all very dedicated and strive to do the very best for all the children and families we provide services for. I’ve seen many of my co-workers go the extra mile and put in the time and effort to be sure all the families and children achieve the best possible outcomes, “said Terry. “My co-workers and I are very proud of the important work that we do and we want the fair contract that we’ve earned.”
“As a former case worker who worked closely with CPS [Child protective services] social workers it is a shame that they go above and beyond for your constituents and yet they cannot rely on the majority of you for support,” said Rene Mejia. “Make sure that when you vote, you vote for a fair contract and if it is not fair you send it back because you do have that power.”
“Besides a fair and equitable contract that recognizes us and compensates us fairly as it does for all the other county employees that are higher level is that they really need to stop placing demands that are burning us out and making us sick physically, mentally, emotionally, and, you know, hire more employees,” said Marigrace Hartman-Miller.
“We’re not being treated fairly and when you look at the disparity in the raises that is being proposed to us, and what has been given to other Orange County employees, like the county executive, I just have to use this word, it’s ridiculous,” said Elenita Dalton. “I’m sure me and as well as every county worker in the county, we work very hard. We’re dedicated to the families in Orange County and the people that we work for. We give more than 100% and we’re just asking for a fair contract.”
Other members of the probation department sought essential worker pay which stemmed from the early part of the COVID pandemic and expressed concerns surrounding maternity leave.
Other comments addressed the need for additional staff, rising living costs and, again, a fair contract for county employees. No comments were made by the legislators at the conclusion of the meeting on Thursday afternoon.