Union Prepares for 2012 Bargaining

*Visit the SF Bargaining Section on our website for detailed updates*

As we head into 2012, our Union is ramping up for contract bargaining. Our last two battles have been at the ballot box, with successful attempts to defeat Proposition B in 2010, and pass Prop. C and defeat D earlier this year. Now, we are shifting gears to face our next big challenge, at the bargaining table.

Our last MOU was negotiated in 2006 and was set to expire in 2009. At that time, our members voted overwhelmingly to extend the contract for one year, and then in 2010, extend it again for another two years because of the economy and the need to preserve many contract provisions already in place. Our last extension is set to expire June 30, 2012.

A major provision in our last multi-year extension was that there would be no economic improvements, and a temporary wage reduction of 4.62% in exchange for 12 furlough days per year for two years, totaling 24 days off.

With no other agreements in place, we will see our pay increase by 4.62% on July 1, 2012, as the furlough day plan ends. However, assuming Prop. C is not challenged in court and is implemented on schedule, it will require us to pay approximately 3% to 3.5% more for our pension benefits at the same time, resulting in a modest net wage increase of roughly 1.12% to 1.62%.

Over the course of the last two years, the City saved $250 million from our willingness to accept temporary furlough days and help save jobs and services. Because of this, very few city workers were laid off, and critical services were kept in place.

To Extend or Bargain?

At this point in time, it’s difficult to anticipate how the economy will change in the coming years. If we believe the economy will improve by 2013, another extension would make sense because we’d wait to bargain in better times (if the City was willing to roll our contract over). However, if we believe the economy will decline further or remain in the same slump, now is the time to bargain.

After much careful consideration among Local 21’s leadership in San Francisco, we believe the best strategy is to pursue a dual track by preparing for bargaining, while simultaneously discussing an extension. So far the City has not expressed interest in bargaining over extending our agreement. More so, we are deeply disappointed in the Mayor’s repeated public comments that he expects more concessions from city workers, despite all we have done to help the city through the last few years. As a result, we’ve prioritized bargaining preparations so we can be in the best possible position to negotiate a successor agreement.

Preparing to Bargain

Local 21’s leadership and staff are preparing extensive research, in addition to laying the groundwork for hiring an economist to review the City’s budget. We are also in the process of refining our bargaining structure to increase our effectiveness at and away from the table, developing a survey of the membership to better understand our members’ bargaining priorities, and holding ongoing leadership meetings to discuss and hone our strategy.

One of the challenges we face in San Francisco is that bargaining in the traditional sense does not occur here, per the City Charter. San Francisco is one of the only cities that requires all unsettled bargaining issues to go to binding arbitration, also known as interest arbitration, where a third party makes an effort to mediate and if no agreement can be reached, makes a binding decision neither party can appeal.

Check out the SF Bargaining Section on our website for additional updates.