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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

Union upset with the city Union upset with the city (July 02, 2004)

Raises, benefits among issues under negotiation

By Jon Wiener

More than 60 city employees appeared at a city council study session on Tuesday to voice their frustrations with labor negotiations.

"All we're looking for is dialogue," said Richard Ames, senior building inspector for the city and chapter chair for the union, local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 715. "You can't negotiate to a 'no.'"

Ames and several others told the city council they feel they are being treated without good faith. The union, which represents 170 non-management city employees in Mountain View, extended its previous contract last year without a cost-of-living increase, in order to help the city make ends meet in a tough economic time. Now that the city's budget picture has improved, union members said they would like more than the 1.5-percent wage increase the city is offering.

The city's contract with the union was set to expire Wednesday at midnight. As the Voice went to press, union and city negotiators were locked in talks to extend it, but prospects looked less than promising.

"I've been bargaining with cities here for 12 years, and it's never this bad," said SEIU organizing director Sascha Eisner. "We're going to keep escalating if we have to."

According to Eisner, the union decided to approach the council en masse after negotiations broke down on Friday. The main issues under debate, according to union members, include: binding arbitration, reductions in medical coverage, contribution to retirement plans, and overtime and extra duty pay.

If a new agreement is not reached, union members said they will continue working as long as talks with the city are moving forward. The union would have to declare an impasse before striking. Either side can declare an impasse, which brings in an outside mediator to attempt to form a compromise.

The last time the SEIU reached an impasse with Mountain View was in 2000. The contract agreement reached that year was set to expire last summer before the union agreed to continue nearly all of its provisions. This time the city is seeking a two-year deal. The union was originally seeking a two-year contract as well but now says that depends on the terms of the contract.

E-mail Jon Wiener at [email protected]


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