Mediation efforts have stalled, the city of San Jose is holding firm to its “last, best and final” offer and up to 4,500 workers are poised to strike if there is no agreement on a new 2023-24 employee contract.
Members of the city’s biggest union, Municipal Employees Federation AFSCME Local 101, were to begin voting Tuesday on whether to stage a three-day strike, putting the pressure on the city to sweeten its 12% three-year offer.
Mayor Matt Mahan said the city budget approved last month has little wiggle room to pay any more than the city’s June 14 offer of a 5% boost in 2023-24, followed by 4%, then 3% in the following two years.
The city also offered to increase its paid parental leave program to 160 hours and allow workers to use up to 160 hours of sick leave.
The unions are seeking a 7% raise in 2023-24.
In an invitation-only meeting with City Hall reporters on Friday, Mahan said the city’s offer compares to other municipalities in the Bay Area.
But a settlement announced Friday between Santa Clara County and a union representing 12,000 of its employees increased the pressure on the city to dig deeper into its pockets. The county workers will get 5% in the fiscal year that began July 1, followed by 4% increases in each of the two following years, plus a one-time $1,200 bonus.
In addition to the approximately 2,430 members of the Municipal Employees Union – one-third of all city workers – the contracts with another 560 workers in four unions representing building inspectors, engineers, maintenance supervisors and managers all expired June 30.
The unions are asking members this week to approve a three-day strike in August to press their case, if no agreement is reached on new contracts.
“Your negotiating team is unanimous in recommending a "YES" vote to authorize a three-day strike,” union leaders said on their website.
Mahan told reporters Friday that union negotiators walked out of the first and only mediation session without an explanation. He said no date has been set for the next mediation sessions, but hopes they can resume.
While Mahan said he believes workers should be fairly compensated and stressed that, “We are committed to continuing to negotiate a deal that’s fair to everyone – our workers and our residents who rely on the essential services our city provides,” he said prospects of lower tax revenues limit the city’s ability to meet union demands.
“I am confident that the city has done a good job in extending ourselves,” Mahan said. “We are making a very fair offer to our employees. We want to pay our employees as well as we possibly can, without setting up service cuts or future deficits.”
“I don’t see how the city goes much farther without having to go through a very painful process, to reopen the budget we just passed and put real city services on the chopping block,” Mahan warned. “I don’t personally want to see us go there.”
The mayor said the city’s vacancy rates are down and new employees are being hired at faster rates.
Mahan said the unions need to face the reality of city finances.
“Our ability to increase wages is largely constrained by our revenues,” he told reporters. “The only sustainable way to raise wages is to grow the tax base.”
Mahan said a strike “would be a bad thing for our city and unnecessary.”
“I would certainly hope that is not a decision our bargaining units choose to make. That would be an unreasonable step to take and unfair to our residents.”