San Jose's building inspectors knew the layoffs were coming, and so the union came up with a plan to save money and jobs by proposing to take one unpaid day off every other Friday.
"We were going to have to have 18 inspectors laid off on August 1, and because of what we did collectively, all of our union members agreed to do that furlough and it saved five of our 18 inspectors from being laid off. That's five people we personally know that we work with all the time," said Tom Brim, ABMEI union president.
The City Council gave the union high praise Tuesday as it made its own moves to help close San Jose's $84 million budget deficit.
"I don't think what I am asking for is anything unreasonable," said councilmember Pete Constant. "Maybe we won't be going to be able to go to Starbucks twice a week -- we'll have to cut it down to once -- but we need to make the concessions."
Council members Constant and Sam Liccardo wanted a two-year 3.75 percent cut in their $90,000 a year salary and a significant reduction in the monthly car allowance. The overall result would have been a 6.6 percent hit in compensation.
The proposal was quickly challenged.
"That's it. I'd basically like to just amend it so that the vehicle allowance change to a voluntary reduction and keep the other in place," said councilmember Nancy Pyle.
The pay cut was supported, but not before many council members pointed out that the unions are only being asked to forego raises and that Constant is a former San Jose police officer who was injured on the job and collects a pension.
"All council members here have different situations financially. My family is depending on one salary – mine," said councilmember Rose Herrera.
In the end, the mandatory 3.75 percent pay cut was unanimously approved, but the $600 car allowance stays.
"Symbolically, it really shows that we are willing to work collectively with the workforce to try and bridge this trust," said councilmember Madison Nguyen.
The mayor's paycheck will not be affected because he already takes a voluntary 20 percent cut in salary.