Union Workers on Strike in Oakland
By Kimberly Veklerov
Negotiators for Oakland's largest union and the city will head back to the bargaining table Monday, but the strike that's shut down major services for the past week will continue.
With the help of a mediator, the two sides are hoping to come to a resolution that will bring workers back to their jobs and reopen the libraries, senior centers and nonemergency services that have been shuttered since the strike began Tuesday.
Mayor Libby Schaaf said the walkout is "harming our most vulnerable residents."
"We cannot spend money we do not have, particularly as we know our pension costs are escalating at least 49 percent over the next five years," she said in a statement over the weekend. "Oaklanders deserve predictable city services now and into the future."
Union leaders say the city's revenue and cost projections are misleading, pointing to the greater-than-expected growth Oakland has seen in recent years. And they say workers who took cuts during the economic downturn were never fully brought up to scale or had their pay adjusted to the rapid cost-of-living increases in the East Bay city.
Rob Szykowny, the chief negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said the city has been bargaining in bad faith, forcing workers to continue their strike into the second week.
He pointed to comments Schaaf made Thursday night, in which she declared that the city would accept nothing less than a "yes" from the union after her negotiators proposed a final offer. When the union made a counteroffer, the city officially declared an impasse Friday.
"The union disputes the city's contention that we're at impasse," Szykowny said. "The city specifically wasn't trying and just delivered an ultimatum. That's not bargaining in good faith, and if you're not bargaining in good faith, you can't be at impasse."
The city's intransigence, he said, compelled the work stoppage, which is now "by far the longest strike in anyone's living memory in the Oakland chapter."
The dispute is focused on the second half of the two-year contract as well as noneconomic provisions, like working conditions and the city's use of temporary part-time employees. The two sides agree on first-year terms, which include giving workers a 4 percent wage increase, retroactive to July 1, when their last contract expired.
The city's final offer Thursday was a slight tweak from its earlier one. Previously, the city said it could offer up to a 2 percent raise in the second year of the contract contingent on revenue growth. Its latest proposed deal would guarantee half that and give an additional 1 percent on Jan. 1, 2019, if revenue targets are met.
The SEIU's counteroffer outlined a 4 percent increase in the second year of the contract, with wages increasing by 1 percent in each quarter.
In her letter announcing the impasse, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth said Oakland could not reasonably afford what the union was proposing. She said some of the union's demands were outside the scope of bargaining, and described the disagreement on wages as a "persistent gulf between the parties."
The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, which is also deep in negotiations, has been on a solidarity strike. Members of other unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, have been refusing to cross the picket line.
IFPTE Local 21's bargaining team was set to meet Sunday to determine whether or not to remain on strike Monday.
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