San Jose workers march to save jobs

May 4, 2010 6:58:53 PM PDT
In San Jose, there are almost daily closed door sessions between city officials and union leaders on the topics of cost cutting and jobs. Layoffs could reduce the number of city employees to levels not seen since 1989.

Dianne Williams-Conklin has 20 years of service with the city of San Jose and a pink slip that says she might not make it to 21 years.

"May mean I lose my house. It may mean I'll have to ultimately file bankruptcy because I won't have an income," says Williams-Conklin.

She says she was not a part of this union march on Tuesday, but she was represented on a banner. It illustrates some of the nearly 1,000 employees that could lose their jobs as San Jose tries to close a $116 million budget deficit.

Many unions say they would consider furloughs to get through this budget crisis which are in essence temporary pay cuts.

Furlough opponents say that action would only bring deeper cuts to services like senior centers, libraries and public safety and is not a permanent fix. City leaders have taken a 10 percent pay cut and want members of the 11 unions to do the same.

"If we keep approaching it as a one-time problem, we're going to kick the can down the road year by year, we're going to have the same issues and fights every single year," says San Jose City Councilmember Pete Constant.

Of the 6,600 city employees, some admit a significant pay cut may be inevitable.

When asked if it was even an option to try to save jobs, San Jose library clerk Pamala Taylor says, "There's always an option, so we're just going to stay behind the union and keep walking and keep pressing on."

The unions pushing back the hardest represent firefighters and police and since the city can't impose terms on those units, the battle lines are drawn.

"It's up to them. They'll either agree to concessions or there will be hundreds of layoffs," says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Whether walking alone or in a crowd, next month's budget deadline looms and there's just 29 days left to negotiate.


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