On Friday, multiple state law enforcement and public safety unions reached an agreement with Governor Gavin Newsom, ensuring the workers receive a one-time $1,500 COVID-19 pandemic bonus.
According to the agreement, members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association are to receive the bonus. All eligible workers for the bonus must have been employed in January and must also still be employed by July 15th of this year. All bonuses given will also not count for retirement compensation and will go to workers who worked both in-person and remotely.
While an agreement has been reached, work still needs to be done to finalize and approve details. The total number of employees who are to receive bonuses still has not been finalized by the departments, with final figures likely not going to be ready until next month due to the July deadline. The total costs of the pandemic bonus plan to the state are also unknown, as figures are still needed from all three unions to properly get a figure. And, despite Newsom and the unions coming to an agreement, the state legislature will still need to approve the plan as well, due to the bonuses being paid from state funds.
All three unions approved of the bonus plan on Friday, seeing little in the way of public or governmental opposition due to the role of law enforcement and working longer hours during the pandemic.
“Once again, I am pleased to see that this administration understands the value of the services all of the classifications in Unit 7 provide,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association President Alan Barcelona in a press release. “This expands upon the benefits we were able to negotiate during the pandemic.”
Pandemic bonuses in California
Previous pandemic-related bonuses have seen mixed results across California since the pandemic began in March 2020. Some pandemic and “hazard” payments were approved and paid to those in fields that were seen as non-controversial, such as healthcare workers getting additional pay from local decisions. Others, such as a bill last year that would have given all healthcare workers $10,000 through a $7 billion state program, faced massive opposition in Sacramento and were quickly voted down. Some even caused massive disruptions, such as the Los Angeles $5 an hour “Hero Pay” increase for food and drug employees that the LA City Council approved last year inadvertently being the straw that broke the camels back for many stores, resulting in many stores having to close due to not being able to pay employees that much.
The amount given to law enforcement workers on Friday reflects the several years of trial and error on how to give and approve of pandemic bonuses so that they aren’t rejected or overly scrutinized by the public.
“The amount given there was about right,” explained Sarah Rawlings, a researcher of pandemic-related pay increases and bonuses, to the Globe on Friday. “Ever since 2020, states, counties, cities, and individual entities like companies and non-profits have been figuring out a “sweet spot” of emergency compensation or bonuses. The successful ones tended to be around how much we got in stimulus payments.”
“A lot of long term ‘per hour’ payments were rejected, because a lot of people worried if that pay raise would be permanent. Some bonuses, like those reaching above $3,000, were seen as too much, even for healthcare workers. But California for their law enforcement deal made today, that is about the right amount. Not too much to stir up the public, not too little to be an insult, and not an hourly raise that would, again, stir up the public. It’s a figure between $1,000 and $2,000 that those in favor can point to what we got for stimulus payments as a comparison.
“You can throw all these figures on cost of living or consumer price index, but what people really look for is fairness, and to many, that’s the fair range. It’s been tried and true during the pandemic, and more and more places offering bonuses to healthcare workers or law enforcement officers or whoever, have been circling more and more around this range because it works.”
Should the legislature approve the pandemic bonuses for the three unions, those eligible are to receive the payments in either their July or August pay period.