Until a few days ago, the city of San Jose and its employee unions appeared to be a lot friendlier than they were at the beginning of the month—when City Manager Debra Figone and police union president George Beattie were squabbling about why the city punted on a federal grant. But this week, as the pension-reform plan inches forward, the unions are back to voicing outrage.
The proposed changes, meant to confront “staggering” declines in revenue and “alarming” increases in health-benefit costs, should have surprised no one. But the unions are challenging the data itself and demanding to know who is doing the city’s math. Negotiator Alex Gurza hasn’t revealed where he’s getting his numbers, and Christopher Platten, a lawyer for the firefighters and police unions, isn’t taking “no comment” for an answer. Platten wrote a letter to the city last week demanding that Gurza name names. Is an outside actuary supplying the city with its bleak forecast, or is there some shadowy CPA grinding away with a calculator in the depths of City Hall?
Meanwhile, the unions are comparing San Jose to Wisconsin—convinced that Mayor Chuck Reed and Figone are intent on making San Jose a legal guinea pig by taking the pension issue to voters. Even state Attorney General Kamala Harris has written a letter to Reed telling him to tread lightly in the face of litigation.
While most leaders of the city’s labor groups fume over proposed pension changes, Yolanda Cruz, president of AFSCME, has adopted a shockingly civil tone. The city’s biggest union has reversed course and looks headed back to the bargaining table. Cruz, who not long ago used the word “imaginary” to describe the city’s financial crisis, sits down with Gurza’s people Thursday.