San Diego County workers have a somewhat unusual demand during this round of labor negotiations: significant policy changes.

Typically, public employee unions limit their bargaining to pay, benefits and working conditions. And to be sure, the 11,000 county workers represented by the local Service Employees International Union is looking for a raise. They’re asking for about a 20 percent raise phased in over three years, while the county is offering 14 percent raises over five years.

But as Ry Rivard covers in a new story, SEIU is also trying to implement major policy changes through its labor negotiations. It’s asking to expand the county’s welfare program, make criminal justice reforms and adopt a “sanctuary” policy for immigrants.

Pushing for the changes along with SEIU is a new umbrella group including progressive groups like the ACLU and the Center for Policy Initiatives.

“We’re not about just us, we’re about our community, and we are the community and we are the taxpayers,” said Gerrell Howard, a county worker who is part of the negotiations.

The county is not fond of the approach. Labor negotiations aren’t the place for policy discussions, a county spokesman said.

“Attempting to bargain a policy decision during labor negotiations, which are not open to the public, deprives citizens of their right to participate in important public policy decisions and circumvents the intent of open meeting laws,” wrote county spokesman Michael Workman in a statement.

VOSD Podcast: The Week in Labor Turmoil

Early this week, a big piece of news dropped: the national labor organization AFL-CIO booted Mickey Kasparian as the leader of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, a regional union of unions, and put the organization in receivership. The move came after months of allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment against Kasparian.

In response, other unions left with Kasparian and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union he runs and created a new, separate organization. Doing so formalized a significant split in the local labor movement that had been unofficial but widely known for more than a year.

Unite Here, the local union for hotel workers, had left the Labor Council in 2014 in part because of that split.

Unite Here is heading back to the Labor Council now that Kasparian is gone, as its leader, Brigette Browning, told us on this week’s episode of the podcast.

She told us why she left in the first place and how the split in labor has been affecting local policy discussions. Plus, she told us why she’d like to see the city eliminate Civic San Diego, why she opposes Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to raise hotel taxes and said the minimum wage increase is hurting local hotel workers.

Also on the podcast, we also broke down the emails from city staff in which they said the Climate Action Plan’s goals for bike commuters aren’t based on anything, and dismissed the idea that the city could ever meet them.

Sacramento Report: The State’s Big Changes for County Elections

Assemblyman Todd Gloria has been pushing a bill in Sacramento that would force all county supervisor races to be decided in November elections, not primaries.

This week, the bill went through some changes: It now applies to every countywide office (district attorney, county assessor, sheriff, etc.). The bill would make Democrats more competitive in those races.

Our weekly dispatch from the Capitol covers the changes to that bill and the county’s lobbying against it, plus yet another unsuccessful attempt by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher to subsidize diapers for low-income residents.

Plus, it turns out Sempra, parent to San Diego Gas & Electric, is among the 10 biggest-spending lobbyists in the state and there’s a spate of bills moving through the Capitol aimed at combating NIMBYism.

In Other News

One by one, North County cities are switching from citywide to district elections. Three cities (Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista) have made the change in the last month, joining Escondido and San Marcos, which had done it already. The cities are doing it under duress, though: an attorney is threatening lawsuits to any city that doesn’t make the change, alleging citywide elections violate the California Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority voters. (KPBS)

The city of San Diego, the airport and local Chamber of Commerce have joined a program that helps certain immigrant workers become citizens. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Surfers are still surfing even though there are sharks in the ocean, which also happens to be the place that sharks live. (NBC San Diego)

San Diego is one of the worst markets in the country for first-time home-buyers. I just bought a home for the first time, and I can attest that it was not fun. (U-T)

CalTrans is studying new projects that could prevent suicides off of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. (NBC San Diego)

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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