Unions Set to Submit Referendum Petition to Force Supervisors to Reconsider $32k Raise


According to Contra Costa County Employees Unions, they have gathered more than 33,500 signatures which will force the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to reconsider a $32,000 pay increase.

Friday morning, the unions will submit the signatures to the County Clerk.  If verified by the clerk, it will trigger Board Rescission or a Special Election—a special election could be costly.

The effort, which began in mid-November, began after the Board of Supervisors ignored weeks of employee and constituent comments against their proposed 33% pay increase and pushed ahead the raise on November 4th.

In November, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (Andersen voting no) on a salary adjustment which netted them a $32,000 pay increase and tied their salaries to the salaries of judges. The Supervisors salary now jumps from $97,483 ($8,123.28 per/mo) to $129,216 ($10,768.92 per/mo) annually—a monthly increase is $2,662.72

Over an 8-year period, the Contra Costa County Supervisors have increased their salaries from $58,200 (2006) to $129,216 (2014).

In response, a coalition of partners opposing the Board of Supervisor raise formed and launched the referendum effort to overturn the Supervisors’ ordinance.

“The voters of this county have spoken against Karen Mitchoff, Mary Piepho, John Gioia and Federal Glover’s ill-advised 33% pay increase. It’s time these four supervisors put on their listening ears, acknowledge their constituents’ declaration, and rescind their titanic raise,” said Peter Nguyen, General Manager of Local 1.

According to a Press Release, in five weeks, signature gatherers (many of whom were volunteers) canvassed the entire county, enduring the cold, battling downpours, and competing with holiday shopping. The more the voters learned about the issue, the more incredulous and engaged they became. They helped spread the word—and circulate the petition—across west, central, east, and south county. By mid-December the petition sheets were being turned in at an incredible pace. Every few days there was another batch of signatures in the thousands.

Ken Westermann, former President of DSA, explained that “the referendum is about leadership and integrity. The people expect their elected leaders to lead by example. Candace Andersen aside, the Supervisors should be embarrassed, and publicly apologize to the employees and the people they were elected to represent.”

Cheryll Grover of AFSCME added “This is not a right or left issue. It is a right or wrong issue. The Board of Supervisors should know right from wrong. Time will tell if 35,000 (likely more) of their constituents can get through to the four supervisors when three public meetings and a large number of speakers could not.”

The bulk of the signatures were gathered between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The issue connected with voters, and the campaign caught fire. Those who signed the petition started asking for petition sheets so they too could be part of the referendum effort. In recent history, no board decision has engendered this type of constituent mobilization and community grassroots organizing.

More Information:

Nov. 19: Contra Costa Unions Set to Announce Referendum to Overturn 33 percent Supervisor Pay Raise

Nov. 13: Contra Costa Deputy Sheriffs Association Starts Petition to Reverse Supervisor Salary Increase

Nov. 7: Under Union Protest, Board of Supervisors Vote to Increase Salary by $32k

Nov. 4: Letter: Local 1, Board of Supervisor Pay Raise a Bad Decision and Self-Serving

Oct. 30: Local 1 Calls for Emergency Rally Encouraging Board of Supervisors to Rescind $32k Raise

Oct. 29: Transcript: Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Vote for $32k Raise


  1. I typically support my unions, but not on this. As ECT pointed out months ago, this $32k is a cost of living increase over an 8 year period. That is what, 4%? The same 4% the unions are seeking? This is politics at its worst. Hypocrites if you ask me.

    • Then all the other employees of the County should get “caught up” at the same time. THAT is LEADERSHIP. This is a GOUGING. I will be very happy to take the 4% per year that you are willing to give the “bosses”. We have been without MORE and longer than they have.

      AGREED! POLITICS at it’s worst. Politicians that would subvert a political system and their constituents for their own extreme benefit. And REQUIRE HARD WORKING union people to work this hard to get their voices heard. As if 40 hours a week wasn’t enough.

  2. Hard to feel bad for the unions. They now will find out what happens when you try to tell your bosses they make too much when indeed the factual evidence is to the contrary.

    In short, the unions really screwed their membership. To paint it any other way is ignorant.

    • As do the workers who work below them. When do we get compensated for the work we do compared to the same other jurisdictions that they used. What would happen if everyone walked off the job, would the supervisors be able to our jobs? Not likely!

      • That (the above) was to Anon #1 not responder Anon.

        But also the so called “evidence” was controverted (rightly) because it uses erroneous methodology, counties not comparable to us, counties who pay their OWN employees more in wages and benefits than we get, and also that these supervisors already get wages in line with Assembly members and THAT is more appropriate comparison as they are elected officials with similar duties, and not judges who have a requirement for the educational degrees required, etc.

    • QOUTE: An elected official speaks!

      Assembly Member Joan Buchanan: “I signed the petition! I encourage all voters to sign the petition. I believe in leading by example. The county supervisors who voted to increase their salaries 33% failed to do this. This will negatively impact their ability to reach agreements with their employee organizations and further erode public trust in government.”

      Don’t forget who YOUR bosses are…

    • Assembly Member Susan Bonilla doesn’t seem to be on your side either:
      “I continue to strongly urge the Board of Supervisors to do the right thing, taking the initiative to address the serious and valid concerns their constituents have over the board’s vote to raise their own pay. At a time when many families are still struggling, and workers have been asked to sacrifice during a difficult economic downturn,
      the Board’s action sends the wrong message.

      “I support this referendum, and will continue to work to reach a resolution that ensures accountability and fairness on this issue.”

      Remember who YOUR bosses are! Oh yeah, besides the VOTING PUBLIC!

    • As author Naomi Klein writes: We are witnessing a transfer of wealth of unfathomable size. It is a transfer of wealth from the public hands, from the hands of government collected from regular people in the form of taxes, into the hands of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the world.”

      I would suggest that when you seen 4 individuals, up front and personal, grabbing at 33% when their employees are still suffering at such an enormous level, Contra Costa County has entered the same race to the bottom as is worming it’s way through society at all levels now.

      This referendum is proof that people in DROVES feel that way too. This is not about unions. It is about a CORRECT sharing of the assets that it takes to run this county. Pay your employees (and FAMILIES of Contra Costa County) first!

      We have never begrudged anyone a fair wage. But the reverse is not TRUE!

  3. Whoa, wait just a moment… these people are elected, so why exactly are they not subject to OUR APPROVAL for a pay increase?

    Besides that being an obvious issue, it is disgusting to see such hubris from these people.

    • James, to have us all vote on an annual raise for the five positions would cost over two million a year (election costs). The 33 percent adjustment had a 200k financial impacts which was to correct 8 years of no increases. If you would have put their increases to a vote over 8 years you would have a cost of 16 million dollars. Now that’s just not smart.

      • I see – that is pretty expensive for a vote. Thanks for helping me understand that.

      • People wouldn’t be REQUIRING a vote (as is the case with the petition drive) if (you?) the Board was doing the RIGHT THING. If you can’t give US the 33% behind that WE are after YEARS of freezes and take aways, It isn’t right for you to give it to yourselves!

        James Marchetti you are on the right track! They use these kinds of “figures” as SCARE tactics! Ask them how much they paid their NEGOTIATORS and for county time off for union members who fought for a LONG year (without a raise for an additional year of bargaining without a contract) for a 4% that covers this year only. NOTHING for the last MANY years of “sacrifices”? But they want THIERS caught up all at once??

        This “Anon” is certainly skipping the highlights!

  4. Maybe they are behind what other cities make, but what civil service job gets an instant raise that big. The DAD only gets .5%, 1% raises yearly, spread over several years, when they even get them in their contact.

    • Actually James the “law” gives them the issue to review but the referendum vote holds the ultimate power. If they were truly representing constituents they would have listened to what 100% of the many speakers said to them before they passed this.

      Orange County Board of Sups did the same thing and a grand jury found against them, that it is not sufficient to believe that the voters KNOW about this in time to speak against it at a board meeting, which should have overturned the subject on it’s own. Claiming “we are FORCED to do this” is just plain ballsy language coming from them with sanctioning from county legal expert who finds all the loop holes in the law.

  5. James, actually it is the law that says the BOS is responsible for setting their pay. In this case they were following the law and trying to institute an accepted alternative which sets their future increases with that of state workers. The unions have tried to use this in a bargaining chip as leverage. Not sure where they got their advice, but it certainly will backfire on them. You can bet on it.

  6. It was not a raise per se. The unions spun it as a raise to anger the public. It was an adjustment created by a lack of an adjustment for over 8 years. This is why the percentage appeared so dramatic. Additionally the board is made up of 5 supervisors, who are classified as managers.

    There are many factors which were lost in the exchange of information. Unfortunately everyone will suffer as a result. Expect the unions to suffer the biggest fallout. Game over.

  7. I support the unions on this and the petition. I have been a non-union person all my life and so has everyone in my family. The Supervisors think they are entitled to do this and they are not. WE should have the final say in this.

    • Really Julio? You really think we should have the “final say” every year, of the salaries of just 5 people, knowing it comes at a cost of over 2 million dollars each time? I’m a union person and even I think that’s crazy. While the unions have won the battle, they lost the war and each and every citizen in contra costa county has become a casualty.

      While YOU typically believe you should have the say in their salaries, the LAW provides differently. It is just not cost effective which is why the law provides the ability for the supervisors to set their pay. This was an attempt to tie it to state workers since that is how Judges salaries are adjusted each year, but all of that got lost in the unions shuffle play. They won, we lost.

      Unfortunately many have lost sight of the bigger picture over petty talking points based on jealousy and mis-information. The unions relied on that and many fell for it. Believe me when I say, its going to get a lot worse. Regretfully for all of us, that is a fact.

      • You are either really scared of them or one of them, either way I feel sorry for you. I can tell you if you are a union person; retaliation is illegal.

        Are you afraid of retaliation because they use such bad tactics that they really WOULD continue to hurt employees over doing the right thing for them? Abuse the taxpayers $ by hiding them from the people slitting their own VEINS to keep services running??

        Are you certain that not ONE of them is interested in seeing employees returned to decent wages for their families??

        This economy will Never recover without us. Are you willing to support a group of people who would reward themselves before ANYBODY ELSE IN THIS COUNTY?

        As a member of your union, you have become something other than interested in fairness. That is fine for you. But it is not fine for the rest of us. I TRULY wish it were. We would have been fine with some increase that made sense. EVEN THEY HAVE SAID IT ISN’T GOOD METHODOLOGY AND THEY SHOULD LOOK AT SOMETHING ELSE. After all they are not judges and tying wages to them would forever hold the taxpayer silent from this event.

        Why aren’t you trying to come up with good solutions instead of all these fear mongering threats??

    • Julio, thank you for understanding that this is a lot less about money than it is about principle.

      These employees have AGONIZED over their losses. Their families have suffered and many families actually make less than $30,000 a year.

      The comment about it being a “spin” is also one of their ideas. The spin is that they gave David Twa a huge raise mid bargaining when we were being offered 2% after 8 years! Now they (Karen included) says they have to raise themselves so they are able to make more than the people below them that they just gave big raises too.

      THAT is complicity! Keep ‘yacking’ Anon…

  8. Anon, I personally see bankruptcy filings all over the country in years to come. These salaries and pensions and so on are just not sustainable, Time to get a handle on it or suffer the consequences.

    How do you feel about what the Supes did on the bailout of Doctors Hospital? That was an irresponsible action made at a terrible cost over and over again. For that they deserve this huge raise? No way.

    • Julio, Apples and oranges. First, our county is not even close to bankruptcy. Actually it is quite the opposite. The biggest fault I find is that the BOS/county has done a poor job of communicating (PR). We have just survived one of the biggest economical downturns in US history and yet the county as improved their bond (credit) rating to one of the best in the nation. That is no small feat! Additionally, the counties debt has been cut by 1/2, from over 2.5 billion dollars to now under 900 million. The BOS and administrator have performed nothing short of a miracle over the last decade. There are more than few reports (news articles) floating around out there, which substantiate this. Like I said, the county seriously lacks in its ability to tout its accomplishments.

      Funny thing about politics, sometimes it isn’t popular to do the right thing. No good deed goes unpunished.

      On the other hand you have a very limited media, where publications like the cctimes (and small local newsprint) promotes bad information. If you met their editorial boards you would be shocked. I seriously doubt you would trust them to park your car. I’m not kidding. Most if not all of the good writers and employees have cleaned out their desks a long time ago. I have personal experience and references.

      Regarding the bailout of Doctors Hospital, I agree with you completely. It is nothing more than a money pit which will continue to bleed. (I think Anderson and Piepho voted against it?) Unfortunately its in Gioia’s district and is his pet project. It is my understanding that the county must provide a hospital (which it already does) but the issue is the people that live in west county want better access and convenience. I don’t blame them, however the cost it too high, and more importantly they have proved through their own votes that they don’t want to pay for it. And lets not forget the bigger issue is that it is an independent district-not part of the county. The county shouldn’t be in the business of bailing out outside agencies. It is bad policy.

      If I am following your frustration, then I believe you might be judging the entire board of supervisors merits based on one issue (Doctors hospital) which incidentally was a 3 to 2 split vote. I watched it myself. I have sat through many board meetings and usually their agendas a filled with hundreds of decisions (votes) which affect every citizen in the county. It would be impossible for anyone to agree with everything they do, yet it is human nature to focus on that which we disagree.

      Remember Julio, your comments about the salaries and pensions and fiscal impact (bankruptcy)? They apply 100 percent to the unions (9,000 employees) and are controlled by the 5 supervisors. The record shows that the 5 supervisors have cut the pension liabilities by over a billion dollars-yet you just supported an effort by those same unions to undermine the 5 people that are doing the difficult work you refer to. Don’t lose sight of this underlying issue and who plays which roles. The unions have done a bang up job of playing a shell game and the public just got played. Think about it, do you really think the unions were looking out for you, the taxpayer? We are talking about the salaries of the top five positions being brought to a median level for their responsibilities. Might make you think why the unions spent so much of their own money and effort to protect you, the taxpayer. News flash; they didn’t. Greed? You bet. Just not from the 5 supervisors. 5 versus 9,000. You do the math. The unions are hoping you don’t.

  9. It does’t matter the cost. People of this country spend billions of dollars every day for justice no matter the cost of the injustice. Taking this money and the 60% increase a few years ago is just wrong. How many of us have had nearly a 100% increase in salaries in the last 8 years. Just plain wrong, and they know better. Shame on them no matter the out come. The BOS needs to rescind this and walk away with their tails between their legs…….

  10. Oh great and Powerful “Anon”…Please prognosticate further. I eagerly await your next prediction.

    • Captain,

      Wait no longer. Based on your opinionated posts here, I predict you are an idiot.

      How’s that working out for you?

        • So Captain, tell us, how does it feel to be wrong 100 percent of the time? What’s wrong “Cappy” facts got you down?

          Thanks for the laughs Captain Obvious!

          What a tool.

          • You’re the tool, Board of sups clerical staff assitant. Too bad taxpayer $$ are paying you a salary to slander us. But that’s how they roll.

        • Sounds like elitest Mary Peipho to me! How bout’ we trade jobs and salaries for a month Mary?!?

          • I wish Mary Piepho would debate on this site with our readers… would be great for viewership. Unfortunately, based on the IP address, it doesn’t match with her previous comment which was under her “real name”. Yes, I know when she posts 🙂

          • Sorry to disappoint you slugger, but as East County Today succinctly pointed out, I’m not Mary. I personally don’t think I could do her job nor would I want to. Perhaps you could use another of your many screen names to make the accusation again? Or better yet explain to everyone here, why it’s so important to you to attack the messenger instead of the message. What’s wrong sport, short on facts? As for being direct or “elitist” as you say, l I don’t initiate the insults, but when you ask for them, you also shall receive. Fair enough? Now put on your “Big boy pants”.

            The greater issue here is your inability to process fact and reason. Your replies are little more than shallow attempts at self constructed opinions. They do not and never will hold water. It’s no wonder the debate rapidly degrades into insults which you perceive as elitist.

            The best you could come up with was your offer and desire to trade jobs with the Supervisor? You are aware that a several Supervisors positions available every other year, yet largely go unchallenged. I don’t see anything stopping you from running for any of them or challenging a sitting supervisor for their position. You see in the real world you earn that position. Based on the lack of actual contests, it would appear it is extremely difficult to earn that position. I gather from your posts you actually believe you have the attributes skills, support and institutional knowledge to pull it off? I put your odds at about a million to one. Good luck with that.

            On the other hand….If you cannot handle it, then online debate is certainly not for you.

            Now would be a good time for you to post something relevant to the discussion.

  11. Any raise voted by the board should not be applied to sitting board members, unless and until they are re-elected.

    Anyone who asserts certainty that the Unions have undercut their membership must also believe she is smarter than the Unions. Where does such a high level of confidence come from? And why doesn’t such an all knowing woman share her identity?

    I’ll be the first person to admit I don’t know how this will affect future negotiations. But I believe it has every chance of helping the Unions as they have taken up a highly popular issue on behalf of the voters.

    I see Mary Piepho refused comment to the press this week. Perhaps she is contemplating a change in her position. If she were to join Andersen and Mitchoff the boys would likely follow. Leadership comes in many forms….

  12. Do any of you actually have any knowledge of what has happened in the last six years. The Supervisors gave themselves a 60% RAISE LAST TIME AND A 2% ANNUAL COST OF LIVING INCREASE.

    So for the dumb and blind, another 33% is taking advantage. I think they don’t need any raise at all because with the last 60% raise they gave themselves a permanent 2% annual increase !

    If anything a recall should be started for the Supervisor who started this. Get educated of what politicians are doing to the public tax payer. Heck, the average household in contra costa is $ 60,000. These are the same people who cough up taxes for 200K politicians, police, and fire. Get real people.

  13. Definitely not Piepho, but sounds like the arrogant Gioia or his puppy dog Mitchoff. Federal, he’s dissappeared somewhere, kind of like Waldo. Also, to say that it would cost 2M annually to set BOS salaries is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You change the law to whatever you want it to say, hmmm maybe tie it to employee COLA’s? Anon must think we’re a county of idiots, well maybe we are. We keep voting them back into office. SMH

    • “County worker”,

      Another screen name? Keep guessing because you are not even close.

      Yes, the cost to put the supervisor’s salaries to an annual vote costs at least 2 million in election costs. Even the union driving this ridiculous effort stated it yesterday. 2.3 million to be exact! “If they don’t do this, the voters will get a chance to address it,” said Nguyen, who estimated that a special election would cost $2.3 million.”

      Perhaps you need to get out a little more often.

      Oh, and for the record, the ordinance that the supervisors put forward did tie their salaries to employees. Actually State workers to be exact. It was labeled as 70 percent of superior court judges, because the judges pay is directly linked to that of “state workers”, also known as “employees”.

      Thanks for proving we very well may be a county of idiots. In your case you drove that point home.

    • You hit the nail right on the HEAD! They should get the same thing everybody else gets! Then you wouldn’t have to spend HUG amounts fighting the employees over wages.

      Every year COLA! DONE! Then the rest of us wouldn’t be 33% underwater right now ourselves!

      WE NEED adjustments to our comparable wages but they force us to use the LOWEST paid counties, not the highest that THEY used, and we STILL fall to the BOTTOM of every county!!

      TALK ABOUT SHELL GAMES Anon… yes there is only GUESSING who you are, but who you work for-are married to- or ARE is OBVIOUS.

  14. Anon, forget the cost. This BOS did wrong, period!! We pay plenty in this country for injustice and the cost should not be a reason to let injustice prevail. If this BOS feels they are so under paid maybe they need to look for other work

    • That’s a thumbs up, For Why! This is what they tell us when we try to show them facts and figures on how underpaid our positions have been for YEARS! they tell us to get another job, just go somewhere else. Same here. Take your own medicine board and staffers.

  15. While some like to pretend an election has any real chance of being held for this, the Unions, Supervisors, and a large part of the public have known from the start that a strong showing of support for this petition would lead the Supervisors to do the right thing. The election cost was a red herring, as time will show.

    I don’t think anyone was misled by this petition. While there a always a few people (greedy supervisors, their friends and family) who will put forth arguments that serve their purposes, it looks like people just didn’t buy their stuff.

    Kudos to the Unions, public, And Supervisor Andersen. I am glad to see the pensions of these Sups will not be unjustly enriched for decades to come.

  16. Unions, just stop the bickering! It is getting old. Enough is enough…..how about you protest the six figure pensions of public union employees. Unions screwed it all up for my generation. Unions are selfish….you have retired public safety officials who are making more than the new generation. My generation suffered the loss! All because of the shellfish group before mine. BRAVO!

    • Edward Smith: Did you notice that nearly 100% of the comments were anti union at the onset? and coming from “Anon”, the county board plant? The union PEOPLE start responding and you call it “bickering”. No it’s a response and a point of view that isn’t dripping with antagonism against public employees.

      If we are selfish it’s because we have to fight so hard for the crumbs that get dropped on the ground for us and our families. You would be selfish too under these horrific conditions. Public safety officials aside. They can speak for themselves. But the media has spoon fed you a load of bs about how much the majority of them (or any of us) make. If you want to talk about admin of public safety that is yet another conversation. If there are 6 figure pensions why don’t you tell me how many there are?? There are 9000 employees total so how many are getting 6 figures? Are they eligible for social security too? The answer to that is no. But they gave up wages for those benefits so trying to reset the clock should result in a pay day/pay off for those hours and lost retirement pay and you can’t afford that either.

      We don’t all make the same thing and we don’t all get the same benefits. But we don’t do the same JOB either! So try to put down that flaming cookie cutter. Learn what it is you are talking about. Maybe stop bickering.

  17. Dumb voter sheep allowing the practices of Supervisors Piepho and Glover is insane. They got elected and soon after they gave themselves a 60% raise. Along with that raise was an additional annual 2% increase every year for cost of living. That must not have been greedy enough so now they go for another 33% on top. This gives these two supervisors an average of over 10% raises each year since they were elected. When you add the 2% automatic annual increase greed and insanity set in. Can you imagine what a loaf of bread would cost if everyone got ten percent annual raises and the benefit costs to match. When will the voters realize they have been groomed like sheep. The average income in Contra Costa is $50,000. The quarter of a million dollar annual overpaid political high school graduate salary is nonsense for a public servant job. Just like fire and police they have and continue to bury our children with mounds of debt. This greed must stop.

    Recall these self-serving politicians. We can do much better.

Comments are closed.