by Jon Melegrito | May 21, 2012
Faced by a hostile mayor and City Council bent on taking more away from middle- class families, city workers of AFSCME Local 127 defiantly stood their ground and beat back attempts to cut overtime hours and ban compensatory time. Workers, who provide around-the-clock service keeping San Diego’s streets, parks and beaches safe and clean, also secured two extra days of paid leave, tighter time limits on management regarding discipline procedures and written assurances that Local 127 members get comparable wage increases should another group of city workers gain something better.
By an overwhelming margin of 98.6 percent, the bargaining unit – which represents approximately 1,800 blue-collar workers in the City of San Diego – ratified a one-year tentative agreement on May 7 and 8. The unit will return to the bargaining table at the end of the year and negotiate a multi-year contract with increases in compensation.
“Negotiations were tough because anti-worker politicians continue to demonize us and the City Council refused to put any money on the table,” says sanitation driver and Local 127 Pres. Joan Raymond. “But the great news is we gave no concessions for the first time in six years.”
Workers have already given major concessions, notably the 6 percent pay cuts in 2009. AFSCME 127 members haven’s had raises in years, and cost savings from the sacrifices of these employees have contributed significantly to the city’s fiscal turnaround.
Moreover, San Diego has been ground zero for the battle to save pensions and retirement security. In 2000, the city systematically underfunded the worker’s pension plan, which created severe underfunding. In 2005, the unit reached a three-year agreement to “fix” the pension plan, and took a temporary 1.9 percent cut in exchange for the city’s promise to achieve $600 million worth of pension reducing mechanisms. In 2009, workers agreed to lower guaranteed pensions for new hires.
Despite all of these sacrifices, politicians taking advantage of the economic downturn and misconceptions about pensions pushed for a June ballot measure that would gut city worker retirement security to unacceptable levels. These same politicians have refused to ask for any sacrifices from the wealthy. The city’s fiscal woes also hasn’t stopped Mayor Sanders from giving hefty raises to his top aides.
Meanwhile, AFSCME members are gearing up for the November mayoral and City Council elections and vote out corporate-backed politicians, including a well-funded, right wing extremist who has personally made millions off government contracts and has vowed to privatize city jobs. “We’re hitting the campaign trail harder than ever,” says Raymond. “But first, we’ll pull all stops to defeat Proposition B, the ballot initiative that will eliminate pensions for new city workers and will not even give them Social Security. Then we’ll get out the vote to make sure candidates who don’t stand with working people will no longer be with us.”
“We’ve worked closely with our International Union throughout these difficult negotiations and campaigns,” adds Raymond. “We have been provided with valuable resources that enabled us not only to win this contract fight but will also help us with other upcoming battles.”
Previous: Expecting a Baby, Not a Lay-Off