San Jose Reaches Deal with Fire, Police Unions on Pension Reform

San Jose's nastiest political battle is no more.

On Wednesday, the city reached a pension reform settlement agreement with its police and fire unions, ending a three-year court battle after voters passed Measure B in June 2012. Details of the deal have yet to be released, but sources confirmed that the agreement is in place and city officials will hold a press conference Wednesday evening.

Union officials for police and firefighters had set Wednesday as a "deadline" to reach a deal or court challenges would resume. That's obviously no longer an issue.

A press conference has been scheduled for 6:45pm in the mayor's conference room. Police and fire union officials will join Mayor Sam Liccardo and City Manager Norberto Dueñas.

UPDATE III: Liccardo sent out the following statement after the meeting:

We’ve reached a tentative agreement on longstanding litigation with our police and fire unions over pension, retiree healthcare, and disability benefits.

This is a moment for all of us to exhale. It’s also a moment to celebrate our collective commitment to move beyond the contentiousness of the past, and forge a new path for San Jose’s rebirth. Today’s agreement will be a catalyst for the rebuilding of our public safety services, to restore San Jose’s police and fire departments to their rightful and longstanding status as our nation’s finest. 

I want to begin by thanking the over 1,600 hard-working police officers and firefighters who continue to serve our residents, day in and day out, with honor and courage. They have ignored the buzz of the naysayers who tell them they should chase dollars to work in some other city. Years from now, they will be remembered for their selfless role in the pioneering the rebuilding our police and fire departments to national prominence.  

I want to thank Paul Kelly, James Gonzales of the POA, and Joel Phelan and Sean Kaldor of the IAFF, for their strong leadership through a challenging minefield of negotiations. They have dramatically altered the tone of the conversation between public safety unions and City Hall, a change which has gone a long way toward building bridges.

I look forward to working with them and our police and fire chiefs to recruit the best and brightest police officers and fire fighters with an unequivocally consistent message: San Jose is back.

We still have much work to do in negotiation in the weeks ahead—to reach agreement with nine other unions on retirement benefits reforms, to reach agreement on wages with our police union, and other issues.

But we have come a long way, all in the last month, reaching wage agreements with 10 of our unions, reaching a tentative agreement on settlement of the Measure B litigation with our police and fire union, and forging a path for future collaboration. For that, I can thank the hardest-working, most competent negotiating team in the country. I want to thank City Manager Norberto Duenas and his team, led by our lead negotiator, Jennifer Schembri and her team, Charles Sakai,  deputy city manager Jennifer Maguire, Assistant Police Chief Eddie Garcia, and City Attorney Rick Doyle. They worked tirelessly and professionally to reach settlement against both considerable odds, aided only by excessive levels of caffeine consumption.   

I’d like to thank each of my colleagues for their unanimous support of this step forward. Many of them interrupted vacations to be present for the vote—Margie Matthews hopped on a train to get down here in time for the vote; other councilmembers changed flight plans, with several of them calling in from airports in different states. This Council was committed to turning the page on this dark chapter, and drafting a new narrative that will herald San Jose’s renaissance.

Our residents tell me clearly that they want to restore police and fire departments, but to do so within our means. I won’t discuss the details of the tentative agreement until we’ve given the membership of their unions an opportunity to review and vote, but this tentative agreement does so, by establishing:

  • pension and disability benefits competitive with that of our neighboring cities
  • protecting those officers and firefighters who are harmed in the like of duty with robust disability benefits, but with strong limitations to curb abuse
  • share the costs for benefits fairly between our taxpayers and employees
  • and avoiding the imposition of any new unfunded liabilities on future generations. 

UPDATE II: Paul Kelly, president of the Police Officers Association, provided the following statement to San Jose Inside:

"We are deeply appreciative of Mayor Liccardo’s leadership and the leadership of City Manager Dueñas and his entire team for working with us to resolve our differences over Measure B and move our city forward.

"Mayor Liccardo told San Jose that he wanted to negotiate a resolution to Measure B and he kept his word and now it is our job to end the rancor and rebuild our police department and provide the residents of San Jose the services they expect and deserve.

"It was a long and difficult effort, but when two sides work collaboratively and collectively…a positive outcome can be had. This is a historic day for San Jose and we are committed to using this collaborative process to resolve any differences in the future. Again, thank you Mayor Liccardo for your leadership."

Sean Kaldor, executive vice president for the firefighters union, echoed those sentiments in a statement, complimenting the city's negotiators:

"Mayor Liccardo should be commended for taking a hands on approach to bring us together and come to an agreement that will put our city in a strong position to recruit and retain a city workforce that can deliver quality services to our residents.

"This historic agreement will end the divisiveness that has gripped our city and turns a new page in the relationship between public safety workers and city hall.  Thank you, Mayor Liccardo, the City Council and City Manager Norberto Dueñas and your entire negotiating team for your hard work and long hours to make this possible."

UPDATE: Below is a collection of tweets Mayor Liccardo sent out during Wednesday night's press conference.

Not everyone was so ebullient. Councilman Ash Kalra had a different take on what this day means.

Here's video of Liccardo's statement:

A video posted by Sam Liccardo (@samliccardo) on

33 Comments

  1. No one “threatened” to go back to court.. It was the date the litigation was scheduled to resume. Atleast report the facts and not your opinions.

  2. This took far too long. Measure B was passed on faulty numbers and Liccardo was one of it’s biggest cheerleaders. He cannot be seen as a hero for reaching this settlement, the heroes are councilmembers Kalra, Peralez, Rocha and Carrasco who have been speaking loudly to represent those most affected. Liccardo was merely cornered by a court date, animus from outside and within, ever dwindling police ranks, and so much more.

  3. Hazel is correct. It was council members Kalra, Peralez, Rocha and Carrasco, working together with the SJ Police Officers Association, who deserve the credit for applying the defibrillator panels of common sense to the side of Liccardo’s and his herd of dullards heads and jump starting their brains to finally arrive (likely grudgingly) at what might (presumably) be a reasonable contract settlement.

    Unfortunately, the cancerous mistrust that Liccardo and his Mengelesque predecessor, former mayor Reed, injected and allowed to metastasize has probably damaged the SJPD to the point that it will likely be a decade or more before it recovers. I would be surprised if the staffing crisis at SJPD doesn’t continue for at least another few years, if not longer.

    It saddens me that City Hall stabbed a once great police department, scarring, and crippling it to the point that it may never be the same. The contract settlement may do something to help mitigate the damage done from lost wages but it can do nothing to recover all the lost talent and experience that bled away and obviously City Hall doesn’t understand that one cannot buy back trust with a contract. Without that trust and the mutual respect it engenders, there can be no loyalty and retention will become a greater problem than recruiting. SJPD will likely just become a training phase for police officers who will soak up training, gain experience then leave for other jurisdictions.

      • It is long past the time that Godwin should have added a charge of “racism” to his law.

      • I will plead guilty to a violation of Godwin’s Law if someone can come up with a better term than “Mengalesque” to describe someone who conducts experiments that inflict needless damage and suffering on others to no good purpose and/or with an ignominious result ,and for either his own self-interest, self-aggrandizement, or selfish purpose (common among politicians).

  4. The citizens of San Jose were duped several years ago by then mayor Reed who was not honest about measure B. They believed him and voted in favor of the measure but now that they have seen the dark side and figured out the truth for themselves, I’m sure a vote taken today would be vastly different! The damage done to the City of San Jose under Mayor Greed will take many, many years to reverse! And those of us retirees who gave so many years of our lives to the citizens of San Jose will never live long enough to recoup our losses caused by this measure.

    • Stay informed , Mr Burns (Reed) is still pushing a state ballot initiative that will essentially do away with current and future pensions , again based off of absolute lies and exaggerations

    • What exactly are those losses, Jean Leonard? Please quantify them for us. How many SJ retirees are there—5,000, 10,000? Current SJ employees took a hit during the Great Recession, as did loads of folks in the private sector. The 1 million citizens/taxpayers of SJ have been taking a hit for years paying your unsustainable Cadillac pensions and health benefits. Pretty much everyone took a hit, but you insist that you get ALL yours first, and screw everyone else. That is why a clearly flawed Measure B passed so overwhelmingly—because you and your ilk refused to share the pain; a pain, I might add, that was to a very great extent caused by your unsustainable contract “rights” which you insisted upon despite the clear lack of funds. The primary reason measure B passed so overwhelmingly was not Chuck’s mistaken numbers, but by the GREED and SELFISHNESS of you and your fellow unionistas who refused to share the pain of the Great Recession. To put it bluntly, you and your ilk pissed off the people who paid for your salary and overly generous benefits. That’s why the backlash of a poorly drafted measure B. You are SO out of touch with the people who pay your salary and benefits. Perhaps Measure B would not pass now; just like after a year of heavy rains most folks will forget their water saving habits and will quickly return to over-watering the way they did before The Great California Drought. Most folks are terribly forgiving. Clearly you are not among them.

      • “Overwhelmingly?” Im sorry how many of the 1 million citizens voted? 70% of a small minority is not “overwhelmingly”

        • Wake up it was 70 percent of people who voted…not 1 million residents….only about 100,000 people vote …that would 70,000 people of a city that has 1 milliom persons…that is there friends ,colegues and people who are ignorant to the State of California Consitution….

  5. I think the only real hero is Kalra. Kalra and former Council member Campos were strong supporters against Reed’s pension reform knowing what it would do to this city and its employees. Rocha at the time while expressing sympathy for the workers voted with Reed and Liccardo. Carrasco supported Reed and Liccardo’s actions.

    I attended many of the public meetings regarding Measure B and heard what was said then. Please look at voting records and media comments and it will clearly show Kalra’s record.

    I voted for Peralez and I am sure he has helped in settling this issue but again if we are talking about heros Kalra deserves the title.

  6. This long, unnecessary, and destructive episode, one in which one side tenaciously continued to do its job protecting the public while the other chose to play politics and throw the public to the wolves, is reminiscent of the Oscar-winning movie, Kramer vs. Kramer. In that film, Ted, the family breadwinner, saw his wife walk out the door, leaving him to find a way to keep his job and take care of their young child. Eventually, Joanna, the wife who has allowed her personal whims to trump her parental responsibilities, returns, convinced that the sanctity of motherhood — the very role she disgraced, will win her the custody she seeks.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that either Chuck Reed or Sam Liccardo bear any physical resemblance to Joanna (played by Meryl Streep), but I do think that, based on their behavior during this scandalous ordeal, they both have come away from it looking like irresponsible mothers.

    • The police union actively works to tell cops to leave SJPD, including hosting job fairs for competing agencies in their union hall. Who is throwing the public to the wolves? The reformers who were forced to rectify the financial mistakes of their predecessors (AKA Dave Cortese, Cindy Chavez, Ron Gonzales, etc.) and have been blamed for the resulting staffing crisis, or the union which worked to exacerbate that staffing crisis for political purposes? Measure B was a hard dose of medicine, but there was little choice after previous Councils made promises to the unions that they didn’t understand — it wasn’t until 2007 that the scope of the City’s unfunded liabilities were even known, because past Councilmembers didn’t even care how much public money they had promised their employees. Who REALLY threw the public to the wolves? Certainly not Liccardo.

      • You do realize that San Jose was the absolute Biggest “Poacher” of any City , when things were good. It is only because the shoe is on the other foot that San Jose is crying about it . Please , don’t get it twisted , No one in Public Safety had to be talked into leaving San Jose. Lets see , stay in San Jose and continue to be bad mouthed by the Mayor , residents (who were too lazy to do there own research), and the Merc or go somewhere else earn better Pay , better Benes, and work in a grateful community. also make no mistake that all “enhancements ” were brought up by and pushed by the city in lieu of wage increases , and lets not forget the multi year “holiday” the city took , from making its portion of the pension payments .Yes , Liccardo helped push all the lies and exaggerations

        • Carthy is just a Reed/Liccardo lapdog. He will hold the position that Measure B was necessary “medicine ” to the very end. I love reading comments from people who think they have the inside track on things but have ZERO clue of how it was really playing out and what officers and their families have gone through over the last 5 years. The SAM bromance is sickening. Yes Reed and LIccardo threw the citizens to the wolves. Anyone who thinks this train is going to turn around within the next 5 years is delusional. We are in store for several more years of mandatory overtime as well as the inability to respond to many crimes. Thanks Reed oh and your rah rah lap dog cheerleaders. Please dont cry now over the mess you have created. Measure B stand for bye bye

      • No Cathagus, your puppet master Vic Ajlouny tried to substsntiate this claim with the incompetent female recruit who washed out of the academy. Turned out to be a lie… but feel free to repeat it as many times as you like.

  7. “They have ignored the buzz of the naysayers who tell them they should chase dollars to work in some other city” ??????? Nice dig Mayor Sam….Those that left decided for themselves to leave, forced by YOUR FAILED illegal ballot measure and constant unprofessional attitude towards those employees willing to sacrifice their life for your city….why not do it for a city that is actually professional/respectful and willing to offer better pay/benefits….WE ARE SAN JOSE!!!!

  8. Not only have city employees paid dearly, but the citizens of San Jose have paid dearly for the monumental lapse of leadership and outright deception put forth by former Mayor Reed and Council that supported his ill-fated and illegal Measure B agenda. Reed, and the Council he manipulated, are solely responsible for the last 7-8 years (referred to here forth as the Lost Years) in which he dismantled this City to nothing more than a shell of its former self, barely surviving to provide only the most minimal of services to its citizens, thereby becoming a laughingstock to the County, the Bay Area, the State and the Nation. San Jose had become nothing more than an irrelevant backwater under Reed’s watch.

    Handcuffed by the very controls he implemented with Measure B, Reed could do nothing to undo the damage he inflicted on the City with his ill conceived and disastrous Measure B. Reed’s lasting legacy will be remembered for his pathetically desperate attempt in late 2014 to publicly discredit the now-former head of the POA, by claiming that the POA was somehow brain-washing its members and recruits to leave the City for better paying positions everywhere else. It was the lowest one could go, and he and his supporters (including the Mercury News) deliberately chose to single out and publicly discredit one single employee, as being the cause of this City’s public safety problems.

    Even though Mayor Liccardo played a supporting role in the Measure B debacle, and along with the other four Council candidates for mayor, even proclaimed that the City would take Measure B to the Supreme Court, it is refreshing that he has finally decided to exercise some real leadership and put City resident’s interest first by closing this issue. The Measure B case had become a monstrous distraction, and a hindrance that prevented nearly everything destroyed by Reed, from ever being repaired. Finally we can move forward and start to repair some bridges, rebuild some trust, have honest and respectful conversations, and deliver services to our citizens.

  9. I agree 100% with the comment “The lowest one could go” regarding Reed, Liccardo, and certain City Council member’s dirty campaigning to make the previous POA president a scapegoat for all the turmoil and destruction that THEY created. Shame on them and if karma really exists…good.

    I also agree that Ash Karla is a hero as he demonstrated much courage by not wavering in his commitment to fairness and The Truth.

    I also feel that in the spirit of good faith and in attempts to mend bridges, that too much is credit is given to Liccardo for finally fixing some of these issues that HE help create. I don’t believe Liccardo has done anything from the goodness of his heart or for the greater good of San Jose’s citizens. He is doing what he has to do because everything else he has done, has failed.

  10. “– it wasn’t until 2007 that the scope of the City’s unfunded liabilities were even known.” — Carthagus

    It also wasn’t until 2007 that millions of Americans realized their houses were underwater — AND FOR THE SAME REASON: the subprime mortgage collapse of that same year. As for the City’s unfunded liabilities, when Chuck Reed joined the council the unfunded liabilities of the police/fire pension stood at ZERO (where it had been on many years previous). Anyone who suggests the fund went from fully-funded to crisis stage in a few short years because of promised benefits is either an idiot or a liar.

    As for the POA holding job fairs, you might as well criticize it for offering its members wifi access, as far more of its members did their job hunting online than during any of the publicity stunts held at the POA hall (desperate stunts in order to publicize the desperation of the circumstances). Of course, the existence of more lucrative jobs elsewhere was nothing new; what was new was that SJPD officers were grabbing at them after decades of showing minimal interest. The reason for the big change: Chuck Reed, the worst SJ mayor in history, and Sam Liccardo, his servile, blinded-by-ambition sidekick.

    • He won’t respond to reality. He’s probably out trying to console Mahood over the Measure B debacle…..

  11. Police get way too much benefits. Way too much! My neighbor is one and when he retires, he will get almost 100% of his last yearly salary for life! Sweet for them, a gross burden for the taxpayers.
    An average soldier in the military who is sent to harms way in Iraq Afghanistan where there is 100% more threat of life loss than the cops here in the Bay Area, only get half their military pay after 20 years. No comparison against what most of the cops here get. Some of them at desk jobs and overweight waiting for the time they cashhhhh out…whooohoo! Makes me ill. I’m just an average taxpayer in San Jose.

  12. The problem that boiled over in the past decade was five decades in the making. Administrations dating back to the 1950s designed a car-based suburban city with expensive infrastructure sprawl. Building houses was easy; building jobs was tougher. So city managers and elected representatives took the easy way out and sacrificed the city on the altar of expediency.

    Until we get our housing vs. jobs numbers in line with neighboring cities, something that will take additional decades, budgets will teeter on the edge of solvency. Generous public employee benefits packages that continued into the 1990s when times were good only exacerbated the existing problem.

    What we’ve suffered through as a city over the past decade has many owners dating back decades. To pin it on Reed, Liccardo, and others is unfair. Likewise, there are no heroes to be lauded. The city has a new trajectory courtesy of the latest cast of players, both city and union. Let’s see where they lead us.

  13. And here we are ready to vote on the “trestle” and there still is no agreement finalized. Although Jen is tooting that horn.