Revenue is Way Up in The Bay Area, But Employers Are Still Looking for Give-Backs from Public Employees

Local 21 is having a historic year at the bargaining table, with no less than 17 contracts in negotiations. But despite promising economic conditions in the vast majority of our jurisdictions, employers are still coming to the table looking for us to take losses.

For many of us, this is a wake-up call. When times were difficult during the great recession, Local 21 members gave back in the form of furloughs and increased contributions. But when times are good, we sometimes assume that employers will take steps to recover what was lost. That’s not the case.

Attacks against public sector workers have been steadily increasing across the country, and California is no exception. There is a concerted effort to create an image of public employees as greedy and un-deserving, particularly as it relates to benefits. Such anti-worker rhetoric is backed by millions of dollars from big money interests, who are focused on reducing public services and the taxes that go along with them.

Jurisdictions across the Bay Area are seeing proposals that would set us back. In Alameda County, bargaining tables have received proposals from the employer to increase employee healthcare contributions by another 10%, after we already took on 10% during the recession. The County remains unable to justify why such a cut is necessary, and instead is showing the Bargaining Teams calculations full of errors and poorly thought-out reasoning.

In Oakland, the City is proposing non-guaranteed raises of up to half of CPI based on “revenue-sharing,” despite a joint City/Local 21 compensation survey which found that Oakland professionals in Local 21 earn on average 9.7% less than other jurisdictions. The City has also chosen to calculate the cost of union proposals in a manner that could be described as misleading at best, dishonest at worst. Their analysis dramatically inflates the “cost” of our proposals by at least 15%.

In Solano County, a chapter of Executive and Senior Managers has been fighting off proposals like reinstating an additional cost-share for mandatory pension contributions, and elimination of the cap on what we pay towards tier one retirement benefits. Additionally, the wage increases on the table from the County fall short of CPI increases by 3%, thereby failing to even keep up with inflation. The Executive and Senior Managers chapter unionized in 2012 because the workers had no defense against the take-aways imposed by the employer. Now as Local 21 members, this chapter has been successfully negotiating for improvements in our contracts, instead of having no seat at the table and accepting take-aways as the employer saw fit.

Even in good economic times, employers are still trying to balance budgets on the backs of public workers. The defense against this is being union strong! Being a member of Local 21 means that we can bargain improvements and mitigate losses, through our collective power.

Local 21 salutes all the chapters standing up for fair contracts and public services across the Bay Area this year!