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Unionized county workers linger in front of the county admin bldg after an informational rally
photo credit: Marc Albert/KRCB
More than three hundred county workers briefly picketed and rallied in front of Sonoma County's administration building this morning, as contract talks continue. 
The rally occurred as county supervisors met inside, and a day ahead of the next bargaining session.
Amos Eaton, a county employee who provides help to the elderly, said many staffers have departed for better pay and benefits elsewhere, leaving those who remain overworked and stressed. 
"We are terribly short staffed, there are departments running twenty-five plus percent vacancy, just in our units."
Eaton said stagnant wages have turned Sonoma County into something of a farm team.
"They do two or three years, they get training, they go to another county that pays better, they go to another agency that pays better."
Jana Blunt, president of SEIU local 1021, and a senior specialist at the clerk recorder's office, said county leaders have acknowledged the issue, but haven't addressed it. 
"Despite stating that recruitment and retention is a primary priority for them, we're not seeing it come through."
She said salaries just aren't keeping pace.
"The cost of living has certainly exacerbated the issue, with all of the natural disasters we've encountered, not to mention inflation and the job market, things are starting to reach a crisis point."
Andrea Zanetti, a member of the union's bargaining team, said a substantial gulf remains between the sides.
"We are significantly far apart at this point. The union's priorities all have to do with staffing and staffing up and recruitment and retention and the employer, while they say those are their priorities, that doesn't seem to be reflected in their proposals."
SEIU members last walked off the job in 2015, Blunt says. That strike lasted three days.
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