Work Begins on Implementing Legal, Sensible Retirement Reform in San Jose

In approving a recently negotiated settlement to San Jose's illegal Measure B, City Councilman Ash Kalra exclaimed, "San Jose's long civic nightmare is over."  In tweaking a famous quote from former President Gerald Ford, Kalra summed up labor's years-long fight with the City of San Jose over worker benefits.  Since pension-cutting Measure B's passage in June 2012, City employee unions and the city have been sparring in superior court and at the state’s Public Employment Relations Board.  Due to the hard work of Local 21 members and others, recently-elected San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was forced to settle. Part of former Mayor Chuck Reed’s attempt to eliminate vested rights and gut the pension benefits of San Jose city employees, the drastic cuts Measure B imposed led to high employee turnover, undermined new employee recruitment efforts, and forced severe cutbacks in community services.  

These dire consequences, combined with favorable rulings for the labor in the courts and at the state Public Employee Relations Board – led to a much improved settlement framework on Measure B.  After last-minute wrangling over the city's reimbursement of labor’s legal expenses, the non-public safety unions, which includes Local 21, signed a tentative agreement in late November. Local 21 members in our AEA, AMSP and CAMP chapters approved the agreement in early December, and on Dec. 15, the San Joe City Council signed off on the deal.  Negotiators of the settlement agreement acknowledged the need to reduce city expenses while maintaining benefits for employees so that San Jose remains a competitive employer in talent-rich Silicon Valley.  The settlement framework creates a competitive Tier 2 retirement package for newer hires. It also protects Tier 1 retiree healthcare benefits and creates a lower-cost healthcare benefit for Tier 2 workers, which Tier 1 employees can opt into if they choose.  With this settlement in place, the hard work of improving employee compensation, recruiting and retaining talented public employees, and restoring city services moves to center stage.