Opening Statement -2013 MOU Negotiations – City of Oakland

“We Are Oakland” Video presentation

Local 21 members are a fundamental, integral part of this City.  Many of our members not only work for the City, but live here, shop here, worship here, send their kids to schools here and all that comes with it, including, paying taxes.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about public safety.

To us, public safety is more than police and fire.  Public safety means the trash is picked up, senior centers, libraries and recreation centers are open full time so youth have a safe place to go, day care centers are operating, graffiti is cleaned up, illegal dumping is addressed quickly, infrastructure is maintained and improved and OAKLAND IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS FULL TIME.  It also means pursuing economic development – and our members are central to that work.

Our members have made tremendous sacrifices because we care so deeply about this City.  Over the last five years we have given the City furlough days, made additional pension contributions and given up step increases to keep the City running.  Not to mention – working harder, longer and often outside our job descriptions to do the jobs of the over 200 bargaining unit jobs that no longer exist.

In the last six years we have made concessions that reduced our income by 14%, rolling wages back to 2003 levels.

But the situation is even worse because we haven’t had a COLA since 2007.  When we take into account the effects of inflation, our members’ real incomes have plummeted by 25 percent.  That means that today our members have only three-fourths of the purchasing power they had six years ago.

Our members have struggled.  Some have lost their homes, some have had to stop paying for their kids to go to college and the financial hardship stories go on and on.  Some talented people we represent have chosen to leave or retire early because they couldn’t stand to see the changes in the City they were once so proud to work for.  Many more are actively looking for other jobs.  Oakland is becoming increasingly hostile to its workforce and non-competitive compared to other jurisdictions.

Local 21 has been studying the City’s financial reports and the 5-year Financial Projection.  You know we have serious concerns about the basis of the numbers and the political spin that has been placed on this projection by including certain policy proposals in what was represented as a baseline projection.

In addition to our own internal research, we have hired Dr. Robert Fairlie, an economist from UC Santa Cruz, who has done a study of the post-recessionary economic trends in the Bay Area, the East Bay and Oakland and forecasts a much more robust recovery than the City’s overly conservative projections.

We have also watched the City spend over a million dollars hiring more Department Heads, senior management staff, and an army of consultants to tell the department heads how to do their jobs.

We have been preparing for these negotiations for months.  We were ready to come to the table six weeks ago.

Make no mistake; we are here to bargain, to reach an agreement and NOT to come to impasse.  We hope the City comes to the bargaining table with the same expectation – to bargain in good faith until a fair agreement is reached, just as we have done in the five previous rounds of bargaining.

We know what happened in San Jose.  We watched when that City declared impasse in 2010 after only a few bargaining sessions with its City unions.  We don’t want to see that happen here.  Oakland is a city with a long and proud labor history.   This City has never declared impasse in negotiations with City workers, and we’re not about to start now.  The Labor community in this town won’t stand for it.

We can not continue to bear the brunt of cuts in the General Fund, particularly when non-sworn workers account for less than one-fourth of all General Fund expenditures. 

Our members have sent this team to the table with a clear message, and that message is ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!