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Palo Alto approves new deal with largest union

Original post made on Mar 18, 2014

The Palo Alto City Council swiftly and unanimously approved on Monday night a new contract with the city's largest labor union -- a deal that stabilizes the city's contribution toward health care costs and gives about 580 workers their first raise since 2008.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 12:27 AM

Comments (23)

Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:53 am

I would like to know what measure Larry Klein uses to determine how hard someone works for the city. Does he rely on what the SEIU tells him is hard work? Does he get reports from the overabundance of managers the city employs? Just how does he know?

Posted by Tim, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Is this $688 per person in each household? So a family of four would be paid $688 x 4.

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Well, Klein himself is feeding on the public trough. (The City Council gets 100% free lifetime health benefits and goodness only knows what else.) Cutting the city employee benefits puts his own lucrative deal at risk.

So what did you expect?

Posted by Rose, a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Is that true? Does every city council member receive lifetime healthcare benefits?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The City Council used to get that, but they don't anymore.

The big shh-don't-talk-about-it piece of this, of course, is that the comparisons are made only to other cities, which in turn compare themselves only to other cities, and so on. As a result, the public compensation structure, especially including pension and retirement benefits, has become a bubble far above the comparable structure in the private sector -- which is where most of us work, and which is a much larger pool than the public one.

As a first step, all the comparisons should be to all workers, not just the cosseted public sector, and should cover all compensation, including pension commitments (including the impact of retirement age).

But the political clout of the SEIU, and possibly a couple of other factors, dissuade the City from talking about this. So instead we get a hotel tax and much hand-wringing about how nobody wants to vote for a bond issue.

Posted by Concerned Californian, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:58 pm

"Resident" has made a comment that says it all. These unionized city workers negotiate based on what other unionized city workers make, instead of what people who work similar hours and have similar skills make in the real world. Take a look at this list of salaries, by name, for Palo Alto in 2012 and ask yourself if these people are underpaid. Be sure to look at the amount for employer paid benefits - and don't forget they get for better vacation benefits that don't show up here:
Web Link

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm

WOW it sounds like you all want the city workers to not be unionized. That would require them to vote out their union. Or for the city to use some pretext to force a strike and then drag that out.

The reason things are so bad in the private sector for working people is that unions have been dealt a setback over the years in terms of membership levels. That is the problem---not that the public sector employees still are unionized.

Funny how Palo Alto thinks of itself as so liberal---yet if it will save a Palo Alto liberal 5 cents on their taxes they'll throw their local "lessers" (how they view non-corporate workers) under the bus.

But, as Marlo said in The Wire...."you want it one way, but it's the other way"

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm

@A Noun

Yes of course everybody deserves to get everything.

The difference is, the private sector employees don't get their perks out of the pockets of the public sector ones.

Posted by Peninsula Commuter, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Kudos to the City Council for finally doing something positive to bring Palo Alto Utilities pay more in line with competing agencies. Hopefully this will reduce the loss of experienced employees to Santa Clara & PG&E (private sector), both of which had a total compensation package of salary + benefits which was better than Palo Alto's.

I no longer work for Palo Alto Utilities, but I recognize that Utilities has a long history of offering lower electric rates, and higher gas & electric reliability than surrounding cities. The low electric rates and high reliability help attract and retain business customers which provide tax revenue for the city.

Posted by SUP, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:30 am

Stop complaining. City jobs aren't that great. If they were, we would all be trying to get one. I'm not, my kids are not. Most of us have better jobs than that. A city job is something you get if you don't get a good job here in the valley. City jobs provide a kind of lower middle class in the area which is good for all. They spend money not just save which help city tax revenue. Looks like Palo alto wants to just have an ultra rich upper class and no miidle class.

Posted by Henry, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2014 at 11:28 am

To SUP, if city jobs are not that great, then why do hundreds appiied for only a few openings in the Fire Dept?

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 19, 2014 at 11:35 am

Yes Resident we are all the moochers and takers, the complainers about the union contract here are all the "Creators" and the Masters of the Universe. Our failing is not to recognize your greatness. This is the ALEC agenda to target public sector unions, for both political and economic reasons. Capitalism is always looking for new ways to make a buck. Now that way is to drive down the lower classes into abject 3rd World poverty under the guise of market forces and comparing to the sordid state all your "Creators" have pulled off in the private sector. But the dogs driven into the woods soon return as wolves, wolves like in 1400 what big teeth we'll have.

Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm

We need to either fix the ridiculous out of market pensions that go along with these already high union salaries or start outsourcing. Sooner rather than later the math will force us to do so anyway.

Posted by Peninsula Commuter, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I somewhat agree with A Noun Ea Mus that there is an agenda against public sector unions. Fortunately for at least the public sector unions involved in Utility gas and electric work, there is a private sector counterbalance.
Because of the shortage of qualified Utility workers, private sector employers like PG&E and electric contractors are forced to offer good salaries and benefits in order to compete for this limited pool of workers.

If public sector unions are eliminated, or the pay/benefits are not competitive, qualified employees will move to the private sector utilities as recent Palo Alto experience demonstrates. Hopefully the new SEIU contract with higher pay will reduce this.

Posted by SUP, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm

To Ridiculous.

Sure, lets bring in cheap labor from 3rd world country's to do the work. Then, you will be complaining about the 3rd world labor force taking these jobs. This type of Union work is critical in our economy. Stop Complaining.

Posted by Me, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Irrespective of the place of unions in the private economy, their place in the public sphere is dubious. Until the 1950s, it was the commonsensical view of even labor-friendly politicians like FDR and union organizers like George Meany that public workers ought not enjoy collective bargaining. A 1943 New York Supreme Court stated the reasoning succintly:

"To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous."

In the 1960s, this common sense was overturned by politicians from the left who came to enjoy/appreciate having a permanent donor/voter base in the form of unionized civil servants. After 50 or so years of living with this corrupted system, it's reaching its ineffable end in places like Detroit, Illinois, New Jersey and elsewhere where the costs of unionized public workforces are forcing municipalties into bankruptcy, just as unionized workforces bankrupted so many private enterprises before.

Posted by Pro Union, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:57 am

Unions fight for the rights of all workers. End the race to the bottom with wages and benefits in America. Support your local union and unionized workers.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm

> Unions fight for the rights of all workers

Good lord! What a crock!

This NYT article reports on mass corruption of some city programs by Iron Workers Local 508, back in the late '80s and '90s:
Web Link

Anyone who does not know about the corrosive influence of the Communist Park back in the 30s/40s/50s and the Mafia from the 1930s until today is either unschooled about 20th Century American history, or a Union Troll!

Posted by Pro Union, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Joe - What rock did you crawl out from under? That article is from 1991...

Posted by Oh well, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Always have to laugh about those posting who claim that SEIU is so politically astute and that they have unlimited political clout. If that were the case, then why and how did they convince city union workers to take a cost of living increase that won't even begin to cover the current Bay Area cost of living index. On top of that, the politically savvy SEIU team managed to convince dues paying members to accept a "cafeteria style" health care plan that in the 1st year alone will cost city workers an average salary reduction of almost $1000 per year to cover current health care benefits. City Councilmember Larry Klein states, "Let them leave if we're not paying them enough". And so explains the exodus of qualified, educated, and committed employees. The best and brightest employees have long since left The City of Palo Alto. Thanks to inept city senior management and a dysfunctional city council, residents are now left with a city workforce of transient private contract workers, part time employees, and disgruntled full-time employees. Best of luck!

Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Oh Well,
I might agree with your general opinions on how much to pay our city workers, but I suggest you apologize for your remark about Larry Klein. He didn't say "Let them leave....". He criticized other people for saying that. Please read the article.

Posted by Wha?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2014 at 10:56 am

This is not Detroit. This is the heart of Silicon Valley and one of the most affluent communities in the United States.
Question -
You want quality employees paid what they are worth and dedicated to serving the community that values them
do you want to outsource your services to companies that pay minimum wages for under skilled staff that have no connection to you or your city?
I believe most PA citizens want the first and that those on this page are promoting the second to save a buck.
Idea - move to Detroit with your money, get a bigger house, pay fewer taxes and enjoy your life there.

Posted by Oh well, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm


City Councilmember Larry Klein and City Manager Keene have initiated a campaign of stripping city employees of salary and benefits contractually afforded and agreed on by past councilmembers (including Klein himself) and now has chosen to ignore past signed contracts. Offering city employees a 2% cost of living adjustment after 8 years of no raises and stripping employees of compensation benefits by declaring a "city-imposed impasse" at every SEIU negotiation since 2008 and after spending multiple six figure salaries to paid professional contract negotiators speaks volumes about Mr. Klein's and Mr. Keene's integrity. Thanks to an inept city senior management team and a dysfunctional city council, residents are left with a workforce of transient contract workers, part-time employees, and a disgruntled full-time employee base. What a great accomplishment by Mr. Klein and Mr. Keene. How unfortunate for city residents.

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