San Jose Firefighters Union: New Leader Brings a Successful New Strategy

Things have come a long way for the San Jose firefighters union Local 230 in the past 12 months, and union president Jeff Welch’s role can’t be overstated. A year ago, Local 230 was the lone bargaining group unable to agree on compensation concessions with the city. Forty-nine firefighters were laid off as a result. A year later, the firefighters union may be at the vanguard, leading the way for the city’s 10 other unions.

The Firefight Isn’t Over

Some of the headlines in various local rags and websites over the past couple of weeks cast such a golden glow on San Jose’s firefighters union, it was as if Local 230 president Randy Sekany had written them himself: “San Jose Firefighters Quickly Quell Two Blazes.” “Firefighters Respond to Three Blazes in Less Than Two Hours.” “San Jose Firefighters to Expose Fatal Flaws in City’s ‘Dynamic Deployment’ Scheme.”

Coming as they did while the union was locking horns with the city over pay cuts and layoffs, the puff pieces no doubt pleased Sekany and his troops. But on Friday, every news source in town seemed to spin that story in the city’s favor: “San Jose Firefighters Reject City’s Concession Proposal.”

Unions Question City Hall Contracts

Union Leader Randy Sekany pounds the table and rails about the way the city spends money.

“I mean, $150,000 on ergonomic chairs? When you’re firing people? When you’ve cut back how many employees? There’s not a few spare chairs around? Really?”

Sekany circulated a document around City Hall headlined “City Spending Gone Wild,” which details more than $7 million worth of expenditures on a range of items and services, from hybrid Priuses to real estate assessments. The union assembled the numbers in response to City Manager Debra Figone’s request that they take a 10 percent pay cut, reduce the number of engine companies from 34 to 29 and lay off 80-plus sworn firefighters.