San Jose’s Bitter Pension Battle Finally Ends In a Victory for Workers

Measure F’s victory in San Jose on November 8 was one of the biggest triumphs for working families in the Bay Area.

Measure F nullifies and replaces an illegal pension reform initiative, the infamous Measure B that passed in 2012.

Measure B was part of anti-union former Mayor and Chuck Reed’s attempt to eliminate vested rights and gut the pension benefits of San Jose City employees. Measure B stripped away many pension protections, drastically reduced retirement benefits, increased the retirement age, and eroded employees’ access to disability retirement if they were injured on the job.

Instead of fully bargaining with San Jose workers over the pension and retiree healthcare cuts, former Mayor Chuck Reed went around Local 21 and other city unions and pushed his drastic pension-gutting measure on the ballot four years ago.

Despite reform proposals from City Unions offering solutions to the City’s retirement costs, the San Jose City Council, following the Mayor’s lead, placed Measure B on the June 2012 ballot, where itpassed. Because the pension reform initiative was not properly bargained with employee groups, the unions joined together and sued.

”We offered bargaining proposals in 2011-2012 that would have achieved the savings the City sought.  Unfortunately former Mayor Reed had his sights firmly set on gutting our hard-earned and vested pension benefits by ballot box,” said Kara Capaldo, CAMP (City Association of Management Personnel) President and senior analyst at the Police Department. “Now, more than four years later, we have achieved a negotiated compromise with Measure F and its passage will go a long way toward fixing the damage that Reed’s 2012 Measure B caused.”

The drastic cuts Measure B imposed led to high employee turnover, undermined new employee recruitment efforts, and forced severe cutbacks in community services. The San Jose police force alone saw 265 officers resign and 167 retire since the Measure B vote.

After heavily promoting and forcing through Measure B, Mayor Reed has conveniently moved on and left the city with a huge legal liability and hundreds of city personnel – especially police officers — looking for the exit.

Measure F is the culmination of exhaustive efforts over the past four years by IFPTE Local 21 and our three San Jose chapters: the Association of Engineers and Architects, the Association of Maintenance Supervisory Personnel and the City Association of Management Personnel.

“Engineers and architects know that anything built to last needs a solid foundation. San Jose needs to rebuild essential City services for our residents.  Measure F provides the foundation we need to get started,” said Steven Pagan, AEA President and senior engineer in Public Works.

The City’s Budget Director and outside experts confirm that Measure F will produce $493 million more in savings for San Jose taxpayers than any prior pension reform plan.Measure F would provide a more competitive retirement benefit to new hires.Itcreates a competitive Tier 2 pension benefit for newer hires, responsibly protects Tier 1 retiree healthcare benefits, and creates a sensible retiree healthcare alternative for Tier 2 employees, with an opportunity for Tier 1 Members to opt-in to it. Measure F responsibly locks-in savings and cements the compromise deal negotiated between the City of San Jose and its employee unions, including Local 21, Police, and Fire. 

Throughout the fallout from Measure B, Local 21 remained committed to our fight to protect workers’ pensions, which included victories at the Superior Court level and at the state Public Employee Relations Board. The passage of Measure F means San Jose can now move beyond years of acrimonious and harmful pension reform battles. Now that the Measure F settlement has been approved by voters, the hard work of improving employee compensation, recruiting and retaining talented public employees, and restoring city services moves to center stage.