City workers strike still planned as negotiations to restart between San Jose, unions

Zach Fuentes Image
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Strike still planned as negotiations to restart between SJ, unions
The City of San Jose and two unions representing city workers will restart mediations in a last ditch effort to avoid a planned three-day strike.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In a last ditch effort to avoid a three-day strike planned to start Aug. 15, dozens of city workers addressed the city council Tuesday asking for their demands to be met.

After a closed session meeting, the two unions involved and the city will restart mediations.

"We are glad to see that in response to our historic strike vote, the City Council has given additional bargaining authority to the city. IFPTE Local 21 is planning to return to mediation with the city tomorrow, Wednesday, August 9 in the afternoon," said Jesse Perez, Chapter President for IFPTE Local 21 and a City of San Jose Public Works employee.

Perez adds though that for the time being, the union's strike plans is still in place.

"Until we have an agreement that protects services for the community, strike preparations are still very much underway," he said, "We are collecting a hardship fund, assembling picket signs, and organizing our membership to picket."

Workers say they don't want to strike but the wages and conditions they're working under are below the standards of other cities and jurisdictions.

RELATED: City workers vote to authorize San Jose's largest labor strike in over 4 decades

"I really want to work for the City of San Jose, I care about it deeply," said Sarah Abroff, an associate transportation specialist, "I happen to love the work that I do. I love my department and I don't want to leave."

But Tuesday, Abroff joined dozens of other city workers in the final effort to call on the council to meet their demands, before the council went into closed session to discuss the wage negotiations.

On Monday, the two unions involved, IFPTE Local 21 along with MEF-AFSCME Local 101 announced a 99% vote in favor of the strike.

The unions represent 4,500 workers including airport workers, housing department and city library employees.

The workers are calling for better wages, better working conditions and asking the city to address nearly 800 job vacancies.

For Abroff who is 27 weeks pregnant and many others, paid parental leave is also top of mind.

MORE: 4,500 SJ city employees begin vote on whether to strike. Here's a look at service impacts, demands

"The city offers one week of parental leave, which is absolutely crazy," Abroff said, "We have requested eight weeks of parental leave and that is simply not enough. I mean, our request alone is very low."

The unions say the city has offered four weeks, something they're not willing to accept.

"Four weeks," Abroff said, "That is just absurd. It is not enough time."

As for wages, the city has offered a 5% raise next year, then 4 and 3% each year after.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said that anything more could result in cuts to some city services and layoffs.

Mahan was not available for an interview ahead of the Tuesday city council meeting but addressed the workers following the public comment, before going into closed session.

"While it may not feel this way to everyone, I do want to assure you that city council is working very hard to balance the many needs we face as a city and do everything we can to make the right tradeoffs," Mahan said, "Also want to assure folks that the decisions are made by majority vote not, not unilaterally."

The South Bay Labor Council who represents the two unions striking sent a formal notification of the strike sanction to the city indicating that all 101 of its unions will be notified of the strike and encouraged to not cross picket lines.

IFPTE Local 21 begins mediation Wednesday, MEF-AFSCME Local 101 starts its mediation Thursday.

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