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February 17, 2010 > SEIU 1021 makes one last plea to council

SEIU 1021 makes one last plea to council

By Shavon Walker

SEIU 1021 presented their case for the final time to Union City Council on February 9 when there was an imposition hearing in accordance with the city's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) impasse procedures. There is disagreement over a proposed change to section 11.03 of the MOU that would allow the city to outsource work to contractors and, potentially, result in redundancies.

The MOU with SEIU expired on June 30, 2009. The negotiations on the new MOU started in April 2009 but the city declared an impasse on October 29, 2009. A final negotiation session occurred on November 20, 2009, but no agreement was reached. State mediation was conducted on January 13, 2010, when the city made an offer that SEIU members rejected on February 2. The impasse hearing is the final step in the process.

Section 11.03 states that "City agrees to notify the Union at least sixty (60) days prior to contracting out bargaining unit work which will result in the reduction of bargaining unit positions or lay off of bargaining unit members...the City will give the Union two (2) weeks notice prior to contracting out bargaining work which does not result in a reduction in force." The second paragraph states that "...for the duration of this Agreement, the City agrees not to contract out bargaining unit work in order to reduce costs if it will result in a reduction in force or lay off of bargaining unit positions."

The proposed changes to the section would be to specify the duration of the agreement (July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010), and to specify the expiration date of the second paragraph of 11.03 (July 1, 2010). The latter change would restore the original language in the MOU regarding contracting out, which would allow the city to do so regardless of whether or not it resulted in layoffs or a reduction in workforce.

In the rest of the city's "Last, Best and Final" offer, there would be no salary increase but bilingual pay would be increase to $50 a month. Medical insurance benefit amounts would be adjusted to a pay period basis and PEMCHA compliance language would be added. Life insurance would remain the same for both full-time and part-time sections of the MOU. The contract would last for one year, through June 30, 2010. The change would cost the city $4,200 per year for the bilingual pay adjustment.

The SEIU was given five minutes to make a counter proposal, and then public speakers were allowed to make statements. Six speakers from the union expressed their continued opposition to the removal of the second paragraph of section 11.03 in the MOU.

"I didn't come here tonight to make a counter-proposal," stated Sue Oszewski, SEIU representative. "We made them during negotiations... we've been flexible in everything we've tried to do. I think we've demonstrated that over and over again."

"My department is already spread thinly, yet we still provide good service to our community," said Johnny Guzman, noting the loyalty and dedication of SEIU workers. "Contracting out our jobs won't get the same quality, the same workmanship, because we know our facilities. We work with them every day. I ask you again to please reconsider your decision."

After the public forum, Vice Mayor Richard Valle made a strong statement in support of the union.

"I fully support SEIU and the people who work for Public Works," he said. "There's got to be a better option. We need to continue talking...look and see what's going to happen with our public utility tax in November, and look and see what the State of California is going to do."

Councilmember Carol Dutra-Vernaci described herself as "perplexed." She noted that through mediation, the city had offered to increase notice from 60 days to 90 days and that a Meet and Confer discussion had also been offered as a requirement. The union, however, had voted against it.

"The reason I'm perplexed," she said, "is because...a number of speakers [said} that they wanted to get together and talk about how to solve things. That's what this change...would do."

The Council retired to closed session, returned a few minutes later and voted 4 to 1 in favor of imposing the contract. Vice Mayor Richard Valle voted against the motion.

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