Laid-off Oakland Museum workers set to share in settlement with City

Oakland City Council approved a $3.1 million settlement that covers 21 former city workers, members of Local 21, who lost their jobs after the City turned over the operations of the Oakland Museum of California to a nonprofit three years ago.

Local 21 member Carolyn Rissanen (pictured) was one of 44 employees at the museum who lost their jobs. Some were members of Local 21 and others members of SEIU Local 1021. Those workers who were hired back returned to less pay and worse benefits.

Unions went into action, as the move by the City constituted an outsourcing—prohibited in employees’ contracts as well as the city charter.

The settlement reached covers the 21 members of Local 21; no settlement has been reached with the SEIU members. None of the workers who were awarded in the settlement has the right to return to their jobs with the City.
“I was a City employee at the museum for over 20 years,” Carolyn said recently. Her involvement with Local 21 led to her serving as a witness in the arbitration. She also helped in reaching out to other affected employees.

“I was very happy with the results,” Carolyn added. “We knew the City had acted against our contract, and I am glad the arbitrator understood that and found in our favor.”

Carolyn cites her union’s work on behalf of the affected employees as key to the recent win.

“Without Local 21, we would not have gotten any restitution from the City for wrongfully firing the City museum staff,” Carolyn says.  “It was only through the union and the union attorney that we were heard and reached a result that recognized the fault and gave the Local 21 employees some restitution.”

See story covered in Inside Bay Area.