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

Amanda del Castillo Image
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
4,500 San Jose city employees start voting on whether to strike
Two unions representing 4,500 workers in San Jose are voting on whether to authorize a strike.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Monday could mark a breaking point in labor negotiations between the City of San Jose and its employees. Two unions, representing 4,500 workers are voting on whether to authorize a strike.

Under the voting tent set up outside San Jose Police headquarters, signs that read, "Ready to strike for our services."

Between two unions - MEF-AFSCME Local 101 and IFPTE Local 21 - city employees are marking day one of a monumental strike vote. If authorized, the looming three-day strike would be the largest San Jose has seen in 40 years.

"We're losing valuable employees," Nick Rovetto told ABC7 News. "Employees that really bring years, if not decades, of institutional knowledge to the city- to other municipalities, because they can go and they can find better wages, better benefits, a better work life balance and lower workload."

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Two unions representing 4,500 San Jose city workers are on the verge of voting for a strike that could drastically impact services.

Rovetto has spent eight years with the city. First as a Community Service Officer with SJPD, and now as an inspector with the city's Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Division. He's also the Vice President of Municipal Employee's Federation, Local 101.

He said earlier this summer, the city struggled with more than 1,000 vacancies across the board.

"There are about 800 approximate vacancies currently in the city," he added. "And that, again, is citywide throughout various departments."

A big part of the push from those working at the airport, within the housing department, city libraries and elsewhere are livable wages.

The city is offering a 5-percent raise next year, then a 4-percent and 3-percent raise in the years following. However, Rovetto and others explained that's simply not enough to survive in San Jose.

"I know City of San Jose employees that are homeless. I know City of San Jose employees that are living in their cars. I know others that choose to commute to San Jose, live in their car overnight for a couple of days because they can't afford to commute back and forth," Rovetto said.

MORE: SFO restaurant workers win raises, guaranteed health care in strike; back on the job Thursday

ABC7 News spoke with Mayor Matt Mahan ahead of the strike vote. He said city council is expected to have a closed-session later Tuesday to discuss any movement possible.

"I do not want the city to be in position where we overextend ourselves and have to do lay-offs or cut services later," Mayor Mahan said. "It's not fair to workers and it's not fair to residents."

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Rovetto said San Jose residents would be sure to feel the impact if 4,500 city workers decided to strike.

"Changes and disruptions to current schedules for libraries, the parks," he mentioned. "It could mean disruptions to city services. It could mean delays within various aspects such as the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Division, housing could be affected. There are just a wide variety of different areas that are going to be impacted."

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Members will vote from Monday, through Friday, August 4. Union representatives say they plan to announce results next Monday morning at City Hall.