City Delays Union Wage Cuts … for Now

It’s getting to be like a game of chicken. On Tuesday evening, City Council decided to delay its vote on the 10 percent wage cut for city employees after five unions provided a counter-offer that would be the equivalent of the proposed cut. They are now ready to study the offer, and to meet again on Thursday or Friday to decide whether to accept it.

“I think we have made more movement today then we’ve made in months,” said Nora Campos of the proposal, but not everyone on City Council agreed.

Pete Constant and Pierluigi Oliverio said that the proposal came too late, and that if it is not accepted, the city’s budget could be thrown off schedule. Oliverio claimed to be speaking for all the residents who “want to see some hard decisions made,” add that the city “needs to move forward.” This was echoed by some city staffers, who feared that the offer could be open to legal challenges even if it is accepted.

On the other hand, Brian Doyle, a city attorney representing the Association of Legal Professionals, defended the proposal, calling it “a difficult choice.” He also bemoaned the fact that city employees are being portrayed by some people as part of the problem. His Association is one member of the coalition of seven unions that offered the proposal.
Read More at KCBS.
Read More at the Mercury News.

34 Comments

  1. So, P. Oliverio says some hard decisions need to be made. What about starting at the top—do we really need a full-time Council? Switch to a part-time Council and you will save $$. Really lead by example. Let the City Manager do the job they are hired to do without 11 micromanagers. Is binding arbitration going to be put on the ballot? Why do we subsidize businesses destined to fail, like the recently closed supermarkets? The list goes on but politics always raises its ugly head and prevails.
    Then you have Pete Constant who has made city employees the enemy of the people. This is the same guy who not only gets his police pension/disability but also collects his Council salary but he blames the city’s financial problems on city employees. We should all be in this together, but “leaders” like Constant get more mileage out of grandstanding and placing blame on scapegoats.
    Hard decisions do need to be made but they involve more than just blaming city employees.
    FYI – No, I am not nor ever have been a city employee.

    • I agree with your comments. Isn’t it also ironic that Pete Constant is currently on a paid leave from the city so he can be enrolled in a full time weight loss program which is costing the taxpayers $10,000….what a hypocrite. The city does not need 11 fulltime councilmembers receiving full benefits and salary, plus a $700 a month car allowance. Their full time staffs should be cut way down. Pier works full time at a high tech company, probably with full benefits. We shouldn’t be on the hook for paying him or other council members for another full time salary unless this is their only job. Pier and Constant have demoralized much of the cities workforce who are decent are hard working folks. Pier’s weekly rant against city workers has done a great job of misdirection and making them the scapegoats for the millions that have been wasted on ridiculous programs and purchases over the years, and continuing still. After another year of waste, this will be replayed in a year from now.

      • Frank said, ” Isn’t it also ironic that Pete Constant is currently on a paid leave from the city so he can be enrolled in a full time weight loss program which is costing the taxpayers $10,000….what a hypocrite.” I couldn’t agree with you more!

        Given the fact that on duty Officers have to fight for medical care due to job related injuries, and the bad economic times we’re in, it is even more mind boggling! He not only chooses to do this now, but to have such a huge ego about it that he had to run to the Metro to do a story just makes you wonder how he got re-elected!

        Eric, I wish the Metro would post that article on SJI so everyone can see and read it for him or herself. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this.

      • Cheap shot!

        Trashing a guy because he is dealing with his personal health issues shows just how morally bankrupt the unions have become. Constant’s health has nothing to do with the bloated union pensions that are draining the city budget.

        Don’t worry Frank, when it comes time to IMPOSE terms you can be sure that Constant will be at the meeting, although you will probably wish he was not!

        • Go back and see how many council meetings he has missed; it speaks for itself. I do think it is hypocritical for him to trash the unions and at the same time collect a union pension. I also think it is ironic that he could get time off to lose weight at the taxpayer’s expense while he complains of wasteful spending. I also feel sorry for police officers that never get the medical attention they should because the city constantly denies officers claims for many on the job injuries and illnesses that have ravaged the officers health; forcing them to continue working sometimes in agony, while Pete gets time off to lose weight. I guarantee that same benefit would not be given to an officer who deserves it a whole lot more. Lasty, I could care less if Constant was at the meeting; at least that meant that he was at one to vote.

  2. Good. So tired of the media-generated vilification of the working class, especially those who have organized into bargaining groups to guard their labor rights against management abuses.

    I agree with the above comments whole-heartedly.

  3. Even a recent Mercury editorial stated, “We continue to hope for compromise from the unions. The police officers’ union — to its credit — is still engaged in serious negotiations.”

    Last year, the police officers union voted to take an additional 5% of their wages and put it towards retirement. This year, they have publicly offered to give another 5% out of their paycheck to be put towards their pension. That is a 10% reduction in how much the city has to contribute and the figure the Mayor asked for. The officers were already paying about 15% of their gross salary towards their pension before all of this. They will be paying well over 20% of their gross salary to fund their own pension plan, when officers in surrounding cities do not have to contribute anything towards their pensions. The San Jose Police department is over 500 officers short, go out on patrol each day and night extremely short of officers, work out of one building that is falling apart and is 60 years old, and have now offered to give up 10% of their salary and decrease the cities contribution towards the pension. I think Pier and Constant can’t stand that the city workers are trying to work out a 10% reduction because they have made their cause vilifying city workers, while doing very little worthwhile to deal with crime or bringing additional businesses into our city, with the exception of Pier’s cannabis clubs. I also agree that any council person who works a full time job outside of the city should not be receiving a full time salary from the city.

    • All I hear is that our safety officers are not compensated properly. Yet, for each position that opens, a gazillion candidates apply.  How bizarre is that?!

      • Greg,
        Go out and do the job of a police officer and report back and let us know if you don’t think you earn your money. You are also absolutely dead wrong if you think a gazillion candidates are applying to be police officers. Fire persons yes, police officers no. Call the recruiting office at the SJPD if you don’t believe it. Not only do they not get a lot of applications, only 10% successfully make it through the testing process.

        • It’s hard for me to take the “Shortage Of Policemen” argument seriously when I continue to see SJPD officers all over town who evidently have nothing more important to do than “stand guard” at road repair sites.
          And I’m sorry, but on a 100K+/yr. pension a guy ought to be expected to buy his own health insurance- I don’t care how dangerous and physically debilitating his incredibly heroic job was.

        • Those officers are hired by the construction companies to direct traffic. The city is not paying for them and they are off-duty when they are at road repair sites, therefore could not respond to calls for service. Also, San Jose officers do pay for a large portion of their medical insurance, depending on what coverage they have. This is unlike many of the other local departments that pay for 100% of the medical premiums for their officers.

    • “I also agree that any council person who works a full time job outside of the city should not be receiving a full time salary from the city.”

      Yeah, I’ll go along with that.  There should be an ordinance requiring them to take a leave of absence from any such position during their term on the City Council.  Talk about a conflict of interest!

      • Especially since Pier’s employer, Arena Solutions, has close ties to Oracle, which does much of the cities software. A leave of absence would seem appropriate.

  4. Pete Constant is currently on a paid leave from the city so he can be enrolled in a full time weight loss program which is costing the taxpayers $10,000

    Is this true?  I will provide a free weight loss program.

    Eat less!!!!  Exercise more.

    • You’re nuts. How can you say Constant’s on paid leave, when he is obviously working and is at the meetings? If he goes to the doctor once and a while, how’s that bad? You have the county wasting time on happy meals so they can feel good about the obesity problem and that’s ok – but here’s someone who’s actually doing something about it. He’s addressing his health concerns. How he got fat is irrelevant, he should be praised for making the effort. And he’s getting results.

      I suggest all of you folks out there who are bashing him for trying to get healthy, while praising others for preaching but not doing, go home, get on the scale, and see if you’re over weight. With all the lard coming out of your mouths, I bet you are!

      • You’re nuts,
        I guess you haven’t read the Metro article. He is and has been missing work and getting paid for it, and he is quoted as saying so in the article in the Metro. I think you’re missing the point and that is his hypocrisy, but as one of his friends or employees, I applaud your loyalty.

        BTW-No one is bashing him for trying to improve his health. I know he has a medical disability that caused his weight gain. I support him 100% in doing what he is doing. He looks great.

        I too am overweight due to serious health issues, and am working with my doctor, eating more healthy, working out, and losing weight. The difference is, I don’t do it on the taxpayer’s dime, or time.

        • You’re nuts,
          The taxpayers are paying for it. You might want to ask Pete yourself and read this article posted by Eric: Eric Johnson Wed, Jun 16, 2010 – 4:52 pm .The article about Pete Constant’s weight loss is here: http://www.sanjose.com/constant-cuts-the-fat-a29671, before making comments.

          I was injured at work after taking a bad fall. No, I’m not a Police Officer, and never claimed to be one. I have worked with victims of violent crime, and am very active in my community.

          Pete’s having been a former Police Officer has nothing to do with this issue. It is his use of taxpayer money and time that is. Like I said, I’m glad he is getting the medical care he is. I’m sure active Police Officers injured in the line of duty wished they could get care as easily as Pete is for his “weight loss.” They have to fight to get covered for care. I guess it pays to be a Council member after all.

  5. I saw Pierluigi defen his vote yesterday by saying voters shouldn’t have to wait for the city to work out a compromise. The date for budget vote was set six months ago an we need to stick to that date.

    The vote has been delayed by two days. Two days. As a resident of San Jose, I can say I definately would rather wait two whole days to find an agreement with the employees who provide my family and I with services.

    Pete and Pierluigi only proved yesterday that they are more interested on inflciting pain upon public employees than they are in finding the best way to serve the taxpayers. They should be embarrased.

  6. I have watched with great dismay the way this whole situation has been handled by the Mayor, the Council, and the press. I’ve been a mediator for 27 years now, and I can tell you that when one party starts out from an unbending position of 10% or else, (with zero guarantee of NO lay offs), who refuses to look at cutting the fat in other departments, and expenditures made that aren’t a priority, shows the other party in the press/public in a demeaning light, then there is no such thing as “good faith” negotiation happening, hence the reason I support binding arbitration.

    Secondly, to use a Civil Grand Jury finding that did not include investigations into the excessive spending done our electeds, or where other areas could be cut is at best misleading, and spreads misinformation to the public. It creates a false impression of employees and gives electeds a strong and unfair hold over negotiations. It also garners public support based on misinformation and creates unfair treatment towards employees by the public, as evidenced in Tuesday’s Council meeting.

    Also, the pitting of one Union against another, non-Union City employees against Union employees, the Police and Fire Fighters Unions against one another, the public against City employees, and unemployed private sector citizens is just unacceptable to me. Non-City employees do not understand a lot of things. Just to name a few:

    The actual contributions made by City employees to both medial and retirement.
    The fact that these City employees do not get Social Security when they retire.
    The actual wages of these differing positions, and the risks involved in certain jobs, that should be viewed individually, such as Police, and Fire Fighters.
    Binding arbitration has only been used by Police TWICE in 30 years!
    Binding arbitration avoids striking.
    The arbitrator in arbitration looks at facts and figures not seen by the public.

    The list of why I feel the City has not acted in “good faith” negotiation is endless.  I feel the City should be really ashamed of how they have behaved during these negotiations.

    We are in dire economic times everywhere both in the private and public sector. We should be helping one another not demonizing people trying to support their families, nor should our electeds use these workers to scapegoat their irresponsible spending habits. There is enough blame to go around, we should pull together before things get out of hand any further.

  7. Union’s are making an honest effort now to be part of the solution.  It’s worth having some extra meetings (special sessions) to take this chance at a collaborative rather than authoritarian solution.

    Full-time council has benefited the city over the years with more vocal local representation.  It has also turned into a problem with the mini-mayor practice of deferring to individual council members on development in their district.  We could revisit the system but not in a mean-spirited way.

    What about the unions without expired contracts?  I don’t think its fair for 4 or 5 bargaining units to make major concessions and let other units slide through with no take backs or concessions.

    HR metrics should be undertaken to re-evaluate positions and compensation in terms of local labor market.  Defined benefit pensions are also too expensive to fully subsidize, so we either need a new system for new hires or increase the employee contributions toward there biggest benefit higher than the current 15%.  Charter amendment required for this.

    • “Defined benefit pensions are also too expensive to fully subsidize”. Do you consider Social Security to be a form of a defined beneifit? I get statements from Social Security letting me know how much I will be able to collect someday. Are you willing to give this up? I wonder how many people that decry a defined pension would cry foul if their own social security was tampered with. Did you also know that police officers and fire people are not entitled to collect Social Security for their work at those jobs?

      • Members of pension systems do not pay into Social Security, so they can’t draw.  You do have the option of voluntarily contributing pre-tax dollars to SS for an extra pension.  Same is true of Railroad workers and others covered by specific pensions.

        The SS report I receive shows the benefit amount based upon wages and contributions.  I fully expect to get screwed by the feds who will jack up the retirement age again and again to subsidize the baby boomers with my wages and force me to work longer and get less at the back end.

  8. Finally, someone like Kathleen has the fortitude and intelligence to call out our elected officials.  If you notice what has been taking place, the focus is solely on employees.  There isn’t a discussion on waste at the city (and you know there is).  The public is made to believe that $118M is the final deficit.  Either close libraries or cut wages.  It can’t be that simple and one sided.  the budget is so loaded with waste, i’m surprised the merc is all over it.  It’s a shame that such a false choice is being presented as this is a disservice to the hard working cops and firefighters that save lives everyday.

    • Finally,
      Last night, a friend of mine made a very interesting statement. He said, “Long after this Mayor and Council are gone, the same dedicated employees that are getting the shaft today, will be dusting off old photos of the Mayor, and Council in the lobby.”

        I found that to be a very telling statement. It reminded me how much we take these folks and their service to us for granted.  It also made me think about how many loyal employees everywhere are now jobless. Their dedication to their employers, and their hard work are long forgotten. It really speaks to how little SOME to MOST employers remember who brought them to the prosperous place they’re in.

      Many may hate Unions but the truth is, without them we’d be a lot worse off.

  9. Oliverio and Constant seem to be on the ball here.  I would simply add that instead of an across the board ten percent cut, how about a ten percent cut for those making less than $100K per anum, a 15 percent cut for those making more than $100K yet less than $150K, and a 20 percent cut for those making more than $150K per anum?

  10. Well I’ll tell you right now, Oliverio doesn’t speak for this WG resident.  This scapegoating of the working class is exactly why we have and need unions. 

    It is interesting (to say the least) how the Executive Loan Program is alive and well, yet Oliverio has no problem dismissing the janitors who clean his ivory tower.

    I wonder if he sits in this tower and looks down on the decrepit shopping center below his feet and wonders where half a million dollars went to.  Or is he pleased that the RDA fund balance increased by $13.1 million to $131.1 million so that they can move forward with purchasing more land for a ballpark that I’m sure everyone in his district wants. 

    Or perhaps he is happy that no one really mentioned that more than $8million worth of surplus construction funds were recently found and disbursed back into the General Fund. 

    Kathleen, Tom, Peter and WG Resident: Thanks for bring forth the facts and sticking up for the working class.  The scapegoating needs to stop.

    • Wow…pro-labor, pro-worker comments on SJInside, the voice of the Chamber! Refreshing…and perhaps, if they care to read these comments, a message for the Mayor’s clique on the council: not everyone feels that your “my way or the highway” stance was fair, appropriate or good for the city. As Kathleen said, there’s no better way to kill the spirit of compromise than to say “take it or leave it.”
      Also, despite marvelous spinning from his press staff, I’m not sure that Chuck Reed handily beating Bill Chew qualifies as a “mandate for (his) positions.”
      I’m pretty sure the wage concessions will be imposed, just as I’m sure the silly ego-trip baseball park will be built—and that said park will, indeed, cost the taxpayers of San Jose considerable money. But it’s nice to know that not everyone is lock-step with the program.

    • I agree that Oliverio’s idea of out-sourcing the janitorial services to a private firm is a terrible idea.  It wouldn’t save much money, but it would reduce the number of decent, living wage jobs here in the Santa Clara Valley (at a time when they are in woefully short supply, with unemployment running rampant), and would replace those workers with illegal aliens from Latin America, making minimum wage.  Great success!

      The kind of people we have on the San Jose City Council really only care about people who went to graduate school, pulling down six-figure salaries.  The rest of us are mere peasants.

      Interestingly, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, the former Assistant Secretary of Treasury under Ronald Reagan (who’s gone rogue against the GOP, and was one of the Bush/Cheney administration’s harshest critics, before moving on to become one of the Obama administration’s most vociferous critics), claims that the way of calculating the unemployment rate has been altered a great deal over the last three decades.  According to him, the 9.7 percent national unemployment rate would have been listed as 21.6 percent, if they were still using the criteria the Reagan administration used in 1982.  So the actual unemployment rate in Santa Clara Valley is somewhere in the 20-25 percent range, which frankly sounds about right to me, based on the people I know.