Oakland Members Ratify Contract and Unite for Bigger Fight

 

After a ten month long collective bargaining fight—and just hours before conducting a strike vote—we reached a tentative agreement with the City of Oakland Administration. On Thursday, October 31st we voted 80% in favor to ratify our contract, and over two meetings on November 5th and 19th the Oakland City Council approved it. The whole contract as well as a summary of the contract can be found on our website.

Through unity and direct action, we made significant strides in our contract and built power for a bigger fight on the horizon. Together, we:

  • Protected our healthcare and retirement benefits
  • Defeated the City Administration’s attempts to remove civil service protections
  • Preserved our overtime, premium and call-back pay
  • Moved the City Administration from an initial wage offer of 4% over two years to 6%

Our campaign focused on three core issues: the high cost of living in the Bay Area, the chronic understaffing crisis that endangers vital public services, and the protection of key benefits and civil service rights.

The vacancy rate remains the biggest problem for city workers and the public. We are facing a housing crisis, yet our Housing and Community Development Department is nearly 23% understaffed. Our streets need fixing, but our Transportation Department is 24% understaffed. Our roads are riddled with potholes, yet our Public Works Department is almost 19% understaffed. Oakland city workers are constantly doing the jobs of two or three people, and our colleagues are constantly leaving for other jurisdictions with better pay and more reasonable workloads. Oakland deserves a well-run government that retains and attracts skilled and experienced public workers

Al Lujan, a public works supervisor who has been with the City for 18 years, observed a shift in atmosphere. “In the last couple years, I’ve noticed the anger at the way the City has been treating us. Our rallies have been larger, fun, and very passionate. That members are having a very strong voice is exciting. I think this is a steppingstone at the start of a bigger and better negotiation process next round.”

Those actions included a massive informational picket in September that drew hundreds of Local 21 members, union allies, and community members. Our picket garnered national attention when Senator Bernie Sanders sent us a message of solidarity: “I stand with the 3,000 SEIU 1021 and IFPTE 21 public servants fighting to provide quality city services to the residents of Oakland. It's unacceptable that 600 positions are currently unfilled.”

Alexi Wordell, a city planner, saw these actions grow our unity. “Unity is the big thing—and having it done in the public sphere. It shows not just amongst ourselves, but publicly, that we’re strong, and that we care about the future of what happens with the union and the residents. That’s been a strong push and it’s brought people closer together.”

Our work is far from done. We need to continue our fight to fully staff Oakland’s public services. One way we’re doing that is by campaigning for Schools & Communities First. We can make corporations pay their fair share and reinvest an estimated $553 million a year into our county.