A Conversation about Public Negotiations

During my tenure on the City Council, I have viewed the labor negotiation process between city staff and labor representatives, who meet behind closed doors, as simply maddening. Due to the closed door nature of the meetings, it is clear that not enough information is shared with the public, employees, retirees and council members.

Although the City does a good job posting documents on its website regarding proposals and correspondence from both sides, I believe many others would rather see the interaction of union officials and city staff in real time. Thus, on Wednesday, I am asking the Rules Committee to support my recommendation to have the city and unions talk about this issue with the hope that both parties will agree to move forward and allow these meetings to be public.

The current process contributes to misinformation, which then results in ill will and hurt feelings all around. Why continue with the same process that drives people nuts? Public negotiations would open up the process so that we could avoid posturing, brinkmanship and emotional pain. This would help restore trust for those who have become disillusioned.

Last year, the City Attorney union (ALP) allowed councilmembers and the public the opportunity to attend their negotiations. As a result,  I attended all but one of the numerous public negotiation meetings involving this union, and I was the only councilmember to do so. After listening to both sides, I could not disagree with many points raised by the union. Attending these meetings allowed me to receive unfiltered information.

I believe open negotiations would do a lot to help the low public approval rating of unions. It would allow others to see what I saw while attending the attorney union negotiations. The model used by ALP in my view was a good one.

I have high respect for the City of San Jose labor relations team, but I still desire a more open process to actually end labor conflict(s). This would not affect the mediation process, which is a confidential proceeding. However, mediation is just a fraction of the entire labor negotiation process.

The public already spoke once in November 2010 by voting for arbitration to be held as public meetings. This would simply be an extension of that desire for a visible process. Ideally, it is done by mutual consent, but if not we should allow the public to decide in a future election.


  1. Put it on the ballot PLO. Take a stand and demand it.
    But don’t stop there. Illuminate all the cities negotiations, especially any involving finances. Because as we’ve seen time and time again that money is the motivating factor behind everything. From Reed and Liccardo’s real estate dealings and the RDA mismanagement to how much the city generates in parking fines from the poorest neighborhoods.

    Shine the light but be prepared for, and embrace, the prosecutions that should follow.

  2. Wow,

    since the change by SJI, seems we get the same 1/2 dozen bloggers, don’t say I did not warn you.  Although I did under estimated the numbers.  But I do like the comments for the most part.

  3. The City’s never ending complaint of having no money will finally be vetted… from Fiscal Emergency just a few months back to $10 million now.

    Finally! A public record of what the City wanted in negotiations, so that years later they can’t complain about “Cadillac pensions” when it was, in fact, their offer instead of pay raises.  Complaints about sick leave payout when, in fact, it was the City who wanted it to kick the can of under-staffing down the road.

    Won’t it be cute when Gurza says, “We can’t afford it!” and the Unions say in unison, “What about Hayes Mansion? Golf Courses? Airport upgrades, free downtown wi-fi… oh, and what about that $40,000 Chuck Reed had to pay back too?”

    Bring it on…

  4. “After listening to both sides, I could not disagree with many points raised by the union.”

    Too late PLO, you have shown your colors and will never get the unions to sign onto ANYTHING you want… I believe your buddy, the disability collecting cause I can’t do meaningful work Constant, said it best.. “No, Hell No.”

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