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Workers OK Tulare Co. strike

Tulare County employees represented by Service Employees International Union Local 521 have voted to authorize a strike should negotiations with the county break down, a union spokesman said Friday.

Sam Shaw said 98% of the membership voted in favor of the strike authorization during meetings in Porterville and Visalia on Wednesday and Thursday.

Contract negotiations stalled when the county declared an impasse on Aug. 13, but mediation between the county and the workers is scheduled for Tuesday.

According to a statement issued at the time of the impasse by Human Resource Director Tim Huntley, the county's "last and best" proposal was for a 2.75% pay increase and a one-time payment of $500 to each employee. The county also would pay more into the health insurance plan to coincide with premium increases.

Union leaders, however, say the county's proposals won't even cover rising health-care costs or allow workers to survive in a declining economy.

SEIU represents 2,700 county employees, according to the union. The contract expired June 30.