Measure B battle not over in San Jose

March 12, 2013 10:05:46 PM PDT
The battle over public employee pension reform isn't over in San Jose. Even though voters approved Measure B last June, a state agency is taking on the city for not bargaining with employees before taking the issue to voters.

The first battle was at the ballot box. Should San Jose impose pension reform on its workers? It passed by 70 percent of the vote last June. But now, the Public Employment Relations Board has issued a complaint against the city that it didn't bargain in good faith with employees before putting the issue on the ballot.

"There will be a trial, there will be, as in any other trial, witnesses under oath, documents, exhibits, arguments; the administrative law judge will then issue a decision," employee bargaining unit attorney Christopher Platten said.

The employee bargaining units are happy. The state agency has issued four complaints supporting the firefighters, two engineering units, and support staff.

The mayor thinks the complaints have no merit.

"We met and conferred endlessly for months on end, so we've done a great deal of negotiations, so I think when the facts are looked at by FERB, they'll conclude that we met and did that in good faith," Mayor Chuck Reed said.

The city has seen its pension obligations grow, reaching almost $250 million and rising. Budget deficits grew, too, triggering cutbacks in services and staff. The unions argue they tried to help. Instead, they say San Jose residents have paid a price.

"We are suffering longer response times, our citizens are getting less services, crime rates are skyrocketing, homicide rates are rising," San Jose Firefighters Union President Robert Sapien said.

The process does call for the two sides to attempt a settlement.

"The labor unions in the city remain absolutely available to sit down at any point in time with the city's negotiators to meet and confer and bargain over real, lawful pension reform," Platten said.

The resolution of this case may not happen until the end of the year after an administrative law judge listens to both sides in this dispute.


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