San Jose Council Considers Opening up Labor Negotiations

San Jose will consider opening up labor talks to give the public more oversight of public employee contracts, which take up half of the general fund budget.

The city has taken some steps in the past to make negotiations with public employee unions more transparent. In 2010, voters approved Measure V, which made arbitration hearings open to the public and required documents associated with those hearings to become public records.

“I believe we should follow that example and allow voters to do the same for union negotiations,” Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio wrote in a memo earlier this year calling for a ballot measure. He has made similar calls in past columns on San Jose Inside.

The City Council missed the deadline to place the city charter amendment on the November ballot. But the council on Tuesday will discuss the possibility of enacting open negotiations by way of a new ordinance.

After further consideration, the council directed staff to discuss public negotiations as part of the ground rules at the start of each bargaining process, Deputy City Manager Alex Gurza writes in a memo.

“This means a discussion with each particular bargaining unit regarding their interest in having negotiations open to the public,” he writes. “The issue of transparency is an issue that has been raised before and is one that the city takes very seriously.”

The city already provides “as much information to the public as possible” about labor talks, Gurza says. This includes correspondence between bargaining units and the city. Also, any proposals and tentative agreements are posted on the city’s website.

“These steps afford the opportunity for the public to be aware of proposals either the City or the bargaining units are making prior to any agreement being reached,” Gurza writes.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for Oct. 7, 2014:

  • Owners of a neoclassical Naglee Park home are asking for a historical landmark designation, which offers a tax break, to give them more money to renovate the place. The two-story yellow home on South 13th Street was built in 1919 by Walter Curtner, vice president of Home Union, a hardware story in San Jose.
  • San Jose expects to receive nearly $400,000 in federal grants to catch people sharing and downloading child pornography online. The money will go toward the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which trains law enforcement to track down predators. Some $177,565 will pay for personnel costs and overtime, $66,396 for travel, $21,000 for equipment, $15,940 for supplies and $119,904 for tools including a cellphone-hacker.
  • The city plans to spend another $100,000 this year on health and wellness coaching for firefighters. “Firefighters respond to emergency incidents that require extreme physical outpout and often fesult in physiological outcomes,” San Jose Fire Department Chief Ruben Torres writes in his memo. “Such situations, over time, affect the overall wellness of the fire fighting and emergency response system.” He says the program has reduced the number of workers comp claims over the years.
  • Councilman Don Rocha wants the city to pay a little extra for a sculptural fence around the Children’s Discovery Museum. The steel picket design, he says, is beautiful and could even be considered public art. Cost estimate for the fence is $300,000. “A basic fence might meet the project's needs, but in my opinion this museum deserves something more than the basics,” Rocha writes. The fence would look something like this:
    Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.41.33 AM

UPDATE: Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese sent a letter Tuesday supporting Councilmember Oliverio's proposal to make labor negotiations open to the public. Here is that letter.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > •Councilman Don Rocha wants the city to pay a little extra for a sculptural fence around the Children’s Discovery Museum. The steel picket design, he says, is beautiful and could even be considered public art. Cost estimate for the fence is $300,000.

    I’ll bet that for another lousy $300 grand, we could get the fence artists to throw in a life size equestrian statue of Councilman Rocha.

    What? Are you against public art?

  2. Open negotiations, right what a joke. City never has and never will. Just another political grab. 300,000 for a fence is not bad. How much did Sam waste on bike lanes. How much did the council spend on their free credit cards or spend on worthless trips. How much is Madison and Pete spending on trips before they both leave office. How much is the other idiot spending to go look at some bike lanes over sea? Damn a fence sounds better by the minute.

    • The bike lanes are definitely not a waste. A number of people use them, especially the ones on San Fernando that connection Diridon and Downtown. Traffic would be worse (and the parking lot at Diridon fuller) if they did not exist.

      • Narrowing Hedding into a 2 lane street has been an unmitigated disaster for traffic and commuter. Thanks Sam.

  3. Too bad the transparency rules work like one-way glass. The City is crooked as a dogs’ hind leg, and they want the Unions to trust that any “transparency” will not be to their benefit? What a bunch of garbage.
    Pierluigi, Lickardo, Reed, Constant, Herrera and Khamis are the biggest enemies these employees have. Any desire for “transparency” is meant to serve only their own purposes.

  4. This City has truely become a Pathetic joke . Under Reed and his Posse’s lack of leadership , this City went from being “the place to be ” to the place to be from”. This city will never really have transparency , they will have Reeds version of it . Basically the City’s dealing go on as usual , BUT everybody else’s business is put out there for everyone to see. Both the POA and local 230 offered to do “open negotiations” the city refused , simply because they didn’t want to expose all their cards. Truely can’t wait to leave this dump

  5. I wonder how long it will take this city’s two most corrupt publications to air out the “unexpected” $17 million dollar surplus the council had to debate about yesterday..

    Fiscal crisis ehh Chuck? Next Detroit.. Blah blah blah..

    NBC says there’s a $10 million dollar surplus set aside for recruiting new cops? Expect that to grow like weeds.. Unless the city starts offering “signing bonuses”, that money will be going nowhere productive faster than you can spell Tier 2..

  6. Why? Why does the Children’s Museum need a fence? To keep out the homeless! That seems to be the way to deal with keeping them off public and private property. Spraying them with hoses works, too. Is this really a solution to our homeless problem? It certainly is a response.

  7. Of course non of this will apply to closed door sessions where the shady back door deals occur. They would all be run out of office by now if the public could see what happens in closed session.

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