Local 21 Members at the Santa Clara Valley Water District continue to bargain for a new contract. Though contracts expired at the end of 2017 for the Engineers Society (ES) and Professional Management Association (PMA), the District asked for such jaw dropping concessions that more work needed to be done to bring the two sides together, including replacing the District’s chief negotiator.
Despite a healthy budget and more than healthy reserves, the District’s bargaining team is asking for concessions on pensions and health benefits without much of a balance on wages.
ES and PMA members are sticking together, though. On January 9, we partnered with the District’s other chapter – AFSCME Employees Association (EA) – to hold a lunchtime rally. Despite the drizzle, nearly 120 members from Local 21 and AFSCME rallied in a show of solidarity for a healthy, fair contract while the Board of Directors met inside. At another action on January 23, Members packed the Board of Directors meeting, with spillage into the hallway, and speakers made great points about affordability, employee value, and worker dedication and talent.
While the sides are close on many issues, they are far away on others. The ES and PMA Bargaining Teams are trying to balance fairness against political pressure from state and national concerns about increasing worker pension obligations. The Bay Area is such an expensive place to live that the District will not be able to recruit and retain employees without salary increases that keep pace with other employers. Our Teams are insisting on at least a 3-percent net gain in pay after changes to healthcare plan structures (such as co-pays, prescription costs and deductibles) and increases to the employees’ share of pension costs. Being asked to accept concessions has been tough on members, since the District is not in a budget deficit and continues to spend on massive capital projects, and because members have been paying more than legally required into their pension for quite some time.
Thanks to our Bargaining Teams for all their hard work: ES — George Cook, Tracy Hemmeter, Debra Butler and Marisela Benitez and Local 21’s Stanley Young, Michelle Hatfield and Kristen Shumacher; PMA – Gary Nagaoka, Jonathan Burgess and Cindy Kao and Local 21’s Stanley Young and Michelle Hatfield.