Town Square

Post a New Topic

SEIU plans to stay on the job -- for now

Original post made on Oct 27, 2009

Palo Alto's largest labor union voted Tuesday night to oppose city-imposed benefit reduction and vowed to take "strong actions" in coming weeks to demonstrate its displeasure with the city's negotiation tactics. But officials from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) also said Tuesday night that the union workers are willing to remain on the job -- for now. ==B Related story:==
■ [Web Link Palo Alto imposes 'last, best and final' terms]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 10:41 PM

Comments (104)

Posted by RT, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Keate says "This City Council does not reflect the values of Palo Altans."

Well, the City Council certainly reflects the values of this Palo Altan on this issue.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 27, 2009 at 11:36 pm

...And the city still wants to pay $270k for new art work at the library.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Abolish all city unions and reduce the number of city council members!


Posted by George Vizvary, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:06 am

Congratulations to the City Council and the the City Manager!

SIEU is a great union but in this case its hardball negotiations are not appropriate.
The economic situation is unfortunate but its effects have to be shared on an equitable basis.
It is a real asset just to have a job today (especially a high paying job with the City of Palo Alto; many of us residents have been trying to get a job with the City for many years).
Some of the "fringe benefits" current employees receive are totally out of the ball park and many others in the public sector who recognize this have come up to the plate (or have had to come up to the plate by forced furloughs and other means) but not our city workers. Why?

I hope they come to realize that they have to!


Posted by Henry, a resident of University South
on Oct 28, 2009 at 6:18 am

THANK YOU City Employees!!


Posted by Disconnect, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 7:01 am

The city employees are "willing to stay on the job"??? Mighty big of them, ain't it?

Geez. What a disconnect with the rest of the population...


Posted by Brian, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2009 at 8:42 am

Thank you city council for not letting this union bully you around. "willing to stay on the job" Are you serious? If you don't like the job quit but don't go around acting all high and mighty just because you decided to show up for work today! High schoolers are "willing" to go to school every day.
City Council represents me. Thank you SIEU but no thanks.


Posted by cc, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 28, 2009 at 8:44 am

George:
"Fringe benefits" are shady, off the cuff, off the books type stuff.
Promised, contracted Benefits are what the Union has. Keep your stuff straight. If you worked at an adult entertainment facility, what do you think your fringe benefits would be? Ummm hmmm.


Posted by Voter, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 28, 2009 at 8:52 am

"Keate said. "This City Council does not reflect the values of Palo Altans."

Wrong, the reason the City Council was able to draw the line and request savings from the SEIU was because the residents and voters of Palo Alto are fed up with their ever increasing salary demands and benefit packages. This may well be demonstrated when it comes time to vote on Measure A which, if it is defeated, will become a referendum on how Palo Altans feel about the Unions ever increasing wage demands.

The SEIU seems to ignore the fact that commercial industries are cutting back and laying off workers.


Posted by deafening silence, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] I was hoping they would live up to their bluster and go on strike. Nothing better than watching the over paid demanding more money from the over taxed taxpayer.


Posted by Scrooge, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:04 am

Bah Humbug! Ship most of the City jobs overseas. Slash labor costs to the bone! Run a tight ship! But give us first class services.


Posted by Liberty, a resident of University South
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:08 am

The City Council should take note. Only 200 union members (out of 617) showed up to vote on a strike. How many of that 200 were even willing to strike? 90 percent said they didn't like the contract, but they didn't release the number of how many voted to go on strike Nov 23rd.

Turns out SEIU is just very good at bluffing. The members must know that even the new contract is way better than anything any of us private sector employees get.

The city could have pushed harder and done much better. I'm still concerned that paying retired people 80% of their salary for the rest of their lives will eventually bankrupt the city.


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:16 am

Voter:

Once again could you refresh my memory on what the Unions "ever increasing salary demands and benefit packages"?

How about the Union's last proposal asked for no raises, gave up holidays, offered furlough, gave up educational assistance benefits, offered a lower wage scale for new hires and more. These sure don't sound like "ever increasing salary demands and benefit packages" to me.

How's this for an analogy: You go into a store to buy something and the clerk tells you it's $20. You hand the clerk 4 five dollar bills. The clerk refuses to take the $5's and insists on only taking the $20 in your wallet. You explain that you worked very hard to earn that $20 bill and you won't give it up, but you'll be glad to pay with 4 $5 bills. The clerk says screw you and reaches into your wallet and takes your last $20 bill. How would you feel?

Here's a rumor from a very reliable source:
James Keene is kicking H.R. and the I.T. department out of the mezzanine at city hall. He plans on building a state of the art conference room and offices befitting the City of Palo Alto. This will include huge video walls and luxury furniture. They plan on tearing out all the walls and rebuilding from the floor up. Does this sound like a City that's strapped for cash? I estimate this will be a half a million dollar project by the time the I.T. and H.R. people are built new work spaces.

Can someone connected confirm this?


Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:36 am

People should also read how this was reported in the Mercury News website:

Web Link

Summary:
* The union is going to man their San Carlos phone banks to try to get Corey Levens, Gail Price and Nancy Shepherd elected.
* Then, after the elections, we'll see if they decide to strike.

I think they know that if they go on strike before the elections, people will vote against their candidates. But if they can sneak their candidates in while the majority of people aren't really paying attention ...


Posted by Spendthrift, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:43 am

On October 20, 2009 11 new SEIU employees werer hired for the month of October 2009 which equals 1.25 MILLION COST PER YEAR ONGOING ...what has city manager saved?


Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

Lineman and "4 $5 bills vs 1 $20 bill":

Continuing with you analogy for a second ...
* I might be offended/demeaned if this happened. But I wouldn't feel like I'd been cheated or robbed or deprived of anything important.
* I'm guessing that the City thinks one your $5 bills was printed by an inkjet printer.

======
Re: health insurance.
* As a matter of public policy, it is generally considered important that all employees have some "skin in the game".
* The feeling of entitlement to having the employer pay 100% regardless of cost increases is a toxic religious delusion.

On the flip side, though, say you wanted to save $X dollars by either:
(a) Cut salaries by $X
(b) Have employees pay $X towards health insurance

... because of our current income tax laws, going with the lower salary approach is going to be financially the same for the City, but financially better for the employees. So the union has a valid point there. (Unless new hires focus more on "salary" than on "whole compensation package", causing hiring market dynamics to push the wages back up??)

======
Giant future pension promises tend to get underfunded and tend to be financial time bombs. They are easy for weak/lazy/selfish employers to agree to, because they will be retired/dead when the brown stuff hits the fan. It is good to see our City trying to avoid this trap.


Posted by Scrooge, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 10:08 am

This is a Darwinian economic world. In order to compete in today's global economy our workforce must accept wages at or near those paid to our global competitors operating in India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Haiti and other nations without unions, benefits, government regulation, or other obstables to economic efficiency.

Keep costs down! That is the only way we will thrive in today's world.

Outsource most City jobs to the Third World. If City workers still want them, then they will just have to move overseas.


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 10:10 am

R:

Are you new to the United States of America? Do you think SEIU is the first group to support a candidate? Any group or organization has the right to support whomever they choose. You can support whichever candidate you like. You can go someplace and make phone calls to support them.

Have you looked into any other endorsements given to candidates? Check and see which lawns have signs on them. Are those homeowners real estate agents, developers, artists, or have any interest in City business? They should remove their signs and be vilified by random posters here.


Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 10:31 am

Lineman:

* I was mainly trying to point out to people that the decision not to strike is a temporary tactical decision.

* Please point out anything you think I said that was "vilification". I don't think I'm guilty.

* Some people are eligible to vote in this election and other aren't. In general, I dislike it when people who aren't eligible to vote try to influence the election. This is true if say money from Iran or China tried to influence our Presidential elections. This is true if money from New York tried to influence our Senatorial elections. These things happen. That doesn't mean they are right or good. I welcome the opinions on the candidates from those employees who can vote in this election.
=> But at the end of the day, I'm going to just read over the PAN questionnaire and responses and vote based on that:
Web Link

Personally, when voting, I don't give a rat's ass about endorsements.


Posted by Scrooge, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 10:46 am

Let's get real here.

Almost all jobs in the US can be outsourced for maximum economic efficiency. All we need here onshore are CEOs, MBAs, bankers, and lawyers, or any combination of the aforementioned, along with the maids, nannies, landscapers, and hairdressers needed to service their needs. Every other onshore job is a frill not needed in today's world.

City jobs are frills. They need to be shipped offshore. More economic rigor is needed. Bleeding hearts do not help.


Posted by CC, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 28, 2009 at 10:59 am

R:
You mean like when UTAH caused prop8 to pass?
Like That...


Posted by Bill, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:14 am

> This is true if say money from Iran or China
> tried to influence our Presidential elections

You mean like the $250,000 that the People's Liberation Army (China) gave to the 1996 Clinton Re-Election Campaign?


Posted by CHinCider, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:17 am

To "Lineman for the City" -

re: your rumor about City Hall remodeling - I thnk that has been blown way out of proportion. My understanding is that was simply a question that was brainstormed in very preliminary and conceptual nature, and was quickly dropped once the costs and impacts were understood. No such project or budget exists as far as I know.

Bad rumors like this do not help make the situation any better.


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:38 am

Liberty-

You wrote "The City Council should take note. Only 200 union members (out of 617) showed up to vote on a strike."

Lets not get ahead of ourselves here. At the time the meeting took places there were hundreds of employees still at work. I wouldn't read too much into the attendance meaning there is a lack of support.


Posted by jimmy, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:49 am

let them strike
then take a page from Reagan's playbook and fire all of them

we pay two and a half times what menlo park and mt. view (per person) pay for services


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:49 am

CHinCide

Thanks for the clarification.


Posted by cc, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:52 am

Really!? Obama is coming HERE to fire all of the City employees? Cool, so f'ing COOL!


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

"Outsource most City jobs to the Third World. If City workers still want them, then they will just have to move overseas."

OK, so we outsource firefighters, cops, medics, street and utility maintenance, garbage collection, and park upkeep. Sure. Just send that clogged sewer to India.

I think these city workers earn every penny, and more, considering the whiny spoiled brats they cater to. Nobody who grew up in Outsourcestan would have the patience to put up with them.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I am proud of our City Council for being strong. It's about time. Benefits have been growing at an alarming rate, and are impossible to keep up.

How about these workers looking around them at all the jobless people? We're grateful for their services, but they should be grateful for the pay and the benefits they have, which are very generous.


Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Yes, it's amazing what the city workers will put up with. Getting another job with the sort of benefits they get from Palo Alto just isn't that easy.


Posted by Scrooge, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Fire em all! Go "The Gipper" one better however.

Bring in a boatlad of Cambodians to replace 'em. Pay 'em Cambodian wage levels with no benefits. Teach'em English on board ship and have 'em ready for work the same day they dock in Oakland. No bleeding heart Mollycoddling, please.

Let's keep it real. Trim costs to the bone at City Hall!


Posted by SEIU serving only hires before 2005, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Thanks to the Weekly for pointing out that only 200 of the 617 city employees "represented by SEIU" showed up at last night's meeting. I would also bet that most of these employees were hired before 2005 when the last contract went into effect. This group received full pension and full retiree+family medical benefits after only 5 years of employment! They feel entitled to what is clearly going to bankrupt our city a few years from now.

One thing that the union leaders never mention to those of us hired after July 2005 is that none of us are entitled to these Cadillac benefits that they are defending so loudly. Their negotiators did not agree to any cost sharing affecting then-current employees in the last contract (even though requiring employees to contribute to health care premiums has been standard practice for decades in the real world, and no one has defined pensions anymore). But they had no problems with agreeing that all new hires after July 2005 would be very much second class citizens in the SEIU bargaining unit. We would have to work for the City for 20 years to qualify for such unsustainable entitlements.

Why doesn't the Weekly find out how many employees in the SEIU bargaining unit were hired after the last contract went into effect? Or ask what the hire dates of those on the negotiating team are? Or the union stewards?

In my experience, the leadership in this union is all about "I got mine and I'm going to defend it regardless". Anyone who dares to ask questions about the astonishing union assertions or even suggest that in this current climate their demands are not going to win community support is angrily attacked or ostracized.

The other dirty little secret that should get more sunlight is that for more than a decade the union leadership has silently assented to a local version of outsourcing: Every time there are budget reductions which mean that departments must reduce the number of full-time employees, the result is that more and more "reductions" are replaced by hourly employees who have __no benefits at all__. No health benefits. No pension benefits. No free parking under City Hall.

There are now more than 350 of these employees. Some of them are legitimate temporary or seasonal workers. But many of these jobs have been created when a retiring SEIU employee's position is "cut" and the organizational chart in that person's department is "reorganized". Keep this in mind when you read union arguments against the City filling vacant (and often urgently needed) positions.

Never since I started to work for the City have I heard a single word of concern from union members or leaders about the glaring inequality between the Cadillac benefits that pre-2005 bargaining unit members get, vs. the second class citizens hired after 2005, vs. the "third world" hourlies who get nothing.


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2009 at 1:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by PA Worker, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Plese remember that we are people, with families and bills just like you. All this talk of "greedy workers" sounds so two dimensional. I only know 2 people in my work group that make over $70 thousand. Most of us make money in the $40 to $50 range. We are streched thin as it is. We are paid BELOW MEDIAN. Now we will be paid even less. I am gratefull for this job, but I have mouths to feed just like you.


Posted by m, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 28, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I cant believe how small minded some people really are who live in the wonderful City. Outsource the work to overseas? Fire them all?

Remember this, when a tree falls during a winter storm, which then breaks a power line, and then the tree falls on to a road that is washing a way and hits a gas main or water pipe which then breaks and you have no heat, electricity, and no water and you have to wait a week or more for services you definately will be very sad.

Then at that time you will miss and beg for your city workers who work very hard to provide you with some of the best customer service
by coming out and working in these awful conditions that NO ONE ELSE who lives here would want to do. Many of these workers have had very special schooling and training to do these jobs and even risk their safety.

Many of you who have moved out of the area that I have spoken with
are not happy with the other cities they move to for the lack of programs and services that are given to them and who drive back here for them.

It is always the very rich who do not want to pay for the services that they so desire and expect them to be executed immediately. They forget that there are real people who do these jobs who need to feed their families, pay the rent, send their children to college,pay for speech therapy, or occupational therapy.

If you are so upset about the difference between private sector and city workers is ridiculous. I have so many friends that work for the private sector and their salaries are two to three times better than the cities.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 2:36 pm

"Most of us make money in the $40 to $50 range. ..."

This is laughably inaccurate. Here is the 2006 Database for City Salaries. Web Link

Pay in the city has increased considerably since then. Even without that, you will see that - as had been reported in the papers - the average SEIU pay package is in excess of $114,000/year.

"I only know 2 people in my work group that make over $70 thousand. " As a perusal of the database shows, $70,000 per year is not an unusual pay scale for Palo Alto workers - even those in somewhat menial jobs. We have cement finishers earning over $100,000 for example.

SEIU members are paid far more than their private sector counterparts. And the idea that they are starving their families on slave wages, which is the gist of the poster's comment is ridiculous.

Time to stop the whining, get to work and be grateful you have any sort of job - let alone one with the pay and benefits you have. Otherwise the "greedy worker" talk is vividly accurate.


Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Dear m:

"Scrooge" is a "troll", defined by Wikipedia as:

"In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."

Web Link)

Everyone else is ignoring him/her. You should too...


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Darwin

There's some truth to what "SEIU serving only hires before 2005" said. These are some of the main reasons this years negotiation team wouldn't agree to a two tier retirement plan. It breeds too much resentment between coworkers. The current SEIU proposals that would affect new hires lasted just five years. They would pay for their PERS contribution for the first five years, but they would still be under the same 2.7@55 formula. This would be an ongoing savings for the City. With the 7% turnover rate there would constantly be people coming in paying their share.

I know three 30+ year employees who retired this year that are now working as consultants, doing their old jobs. Great job city council and James Keene. Force people to retire earlier than they planned and hire them right back. The reason they are hired back is because they have the knowledge and skills to make them worth the consultant dollars. Too bad they weren't valuable enough for Council to accept the savings SEIU offered that didn't effect the long planned for retirement of these valuable employees.

There was also the new lower wage scale. This would have been a great tool for the City. As posters have stated here it should be easy filling the jobs. When the economy picks up the City could hire at whichever step they need to recruit someone. Right now most jobs have a 5 step wage scale. SEIU proposed a 6 step with a new first step 5% lower. But after a few years new employees would be at the top step the same as their coworkers.


Posted by peninsula commuter, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm

To those who think Palo Alto "greedy workers" are overpaid and have excessive benefits, take a look at the salary ranges on other cities' websites - cities that provide comparable utility services to Palo Alto and have a high tech customer base. Santa Clara is a good example.

If a majority of Palo Alto voters really want workers' pay and health benefits cut, so be it. But the pay and benefits package is not out of line with other comparable cities in Northern California.


Posted by Scrooge, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm

R,

This is a "teachable moment" for using "reducio ad absurdum" sarcasm to reach those hard core, stone cold posters out there. Those who delight in scapegoating the City workers but never apply the courage of their convictions to, say, run for public office and take some responsibility.


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Anna, Anna, Anna,

Still posting the same old lies.

"This is laughably inaccurate. Here is the 2006 Database for City Salaries" Take out the first four pages from that study, 98% of them are management, police, or fire.

"We have cement finishers earning over $100,000 for example." As you were told before the cement finisher on the list retired that year. When he retired his sick and vacation were paid out. That's the only reason he made the $100k club.

"Pay in the city has increased considerably since then" Another vague statement. What do you consider "considerably"? In '07 SEIU got a 2 1/5% raise and in '08 a 3% raise. In December of '09 we get a 6% pay cut. This will be reduced to a 3.75% cut in July of '10.

"SEIU members are paid far more than their private sector counterparts." Absolutely not true for most jobs, mine for example.

"And the idea that they are starving their families on slave wages, which is the gist of the poster's comment is ridiculous." It's pretty rude to assume you know anything about someones personal situation.

"Time to stop the whining, get to work and be grateful you have any sort of job - let alone one with the pay and benefits you have. Otherwise the "greedy worker" talk is vividly accurate."

Yessa master, we be good workers, we shut up and take your written abuse.


Posted by m, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Many of my friends are City Workers for the City of Palo Alto and in their work group, one who has worked there for 11 years, barely makes over $52,000 a year and is a single parent. Most of my friends don't even break $55,000 a year. Very few folks make $40 to $50 an hour. Why isn't anyone asking about how much mangers make and the benefits that they get. The City Manager has a housing allowance and a car allowance, Why? What about benefits over and above what SEIU workers get. No one is very concerned with the mismanagement of funds. What about spending $270,000 for an ugly sculpture that people call art? Does that seem reasonable during these hard times? I think not.


Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm

"I know three 30+ year employees who retired this year that are now working as consultants"

7% turnover on 617 employees and the city only needs to hire 3 back (your numbers). It would seem that many of your retirees are overstating their worth to the city.


"It's pretty rude to assume you know anything about someones personal situation."

When you put your supposed personal situation into the public realm, it will be commented on. Crying poor on average salary is $74k with total benefits of $114k?


Posted by Perplexed, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I heard that managers get a VMC which is actually a bonus. Is it appropriate to take taxpayer dollars and give management employess bonuses with it? I find it wrong when they are asking the SEIU employees give up so much and then managers take our tax dollars and give themselves bonuses? City workers or labor attorneys of Palo Alto, can they do that with public funds?


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:31 pm

"7% turnover on 617 employees and the city only needs to hire 3 back (your numbers). It would seem that many of your retirees are overstating their worth to the city."

I know of three personally. There are many others. You can call H.R. and request a list of all the consultants working for the City. Then, ask them for a list of retirees in the past two years. I've been told of people in every department who have been hired back. It's a sweet deal for them.


Posted by CHinCider, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm

To 'perplexed" -

Well, I think I understand why you are perplexed; it's because you don't have the story correct. First of all, it wasn't a bonus - it was a pay for performance plan where the pay was subject to the accomplishment of some specific goals beyond the regular job. Secondly, it's all a moot point anymore, as management "gave" it up as part of their pay cut to help balance the budget - an average of 4% per management employee.


Posted by anon2, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

It would be interesting to find out the average pay of management and professional staff (with and without benefits).

Management gets a ridiculous amount of benefits. They get $1,500 professional development/tuition reimbursement (vs SEIU's $1000 which is now $0). Management also get another $2,500 in excess benefits that can be used for a medical flexible benefits spending account, dependent care flexible spending account, or for professional development purposes.

Web Link

Page 16.

They also get paid management leave and other bonuses.

To be fair, VMCs have been eliminated for 1 year, and their professional development has been reduced to $500 (down from $1500).

However, add up all these benefits + the average management salary, and you'll get a number that makes the "$114k compensation package" a joke.


Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm

"I've been told of people in every department who have been hired back. It's a sweet deal for them."

Like you've been told of "James Keene is kicking H.R. and the I.T. department out of the mezzanine at city hall"? You seem to run on rumors.

Leaving a company and returning as a consultant is standard practice even outside of Palo Alto city workers. If you know your worth to the company and can swing it. Yet you can only name 3 out of an annual turnover of 7% for 617 employees that manage to return as consultants. Hmmmmmmmm.......


Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm

It's getting quite tiresome seeing city workers engaged in such over-the-top poor-mouthing when the data show most of them get fabulous wages and benefits compared to what they'd receive in the private sector. (Lineman, if you are so undervalued here, perhaps you should spend some time snatching up one of those higher paying private sector jobs you're always writing about instead of complaining that residents don't appreciate you. Based on your behavior, one might reasonably question whether the alternative jobs you imagine really exist. Similarly, why don't those of you touting higher paying jobs in other cities trundle yourselves down to Santa Clara and snatch one of them?)

You will find very little argument from posters here that city managers also are overpaid, or that the city wastes a lot of money. Neither of these facts justifies paying other city workers more than they are worth, or more than the city can afford.

Finally, all the so called hidden funds and hypothetical future revenues that city workers imagine should be going into increased wages and benefits for them are mostly chimerical. They don't exist. And even if they did exist...they aren't a part of your slush fund.

The bottom line fact is that the city just can't afford numbers of workers earning what they now do. We have a budget deficit and it's real - not made up by city management. SEIU members have a choice: accept lower benefits (mostly for future hires) or see your ranks thinned by layoffs. Time to face up to that simple reality: unpleasant facts won't disappear if you ignore them long enough.




Posted by Professional Worker, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm

"Neither of these facts justifies paying other city workers more than they are worth"
Anna, how would you determine the "worth" of somebody, say, with a masters in their field, but not in one of the management positions?


Posted by Todd, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Let's see- we give the police a 30% raise (10% per year)in their last contract, to keep them from using Palo Alto as a "stepping stone" and going where the pay and benifits were better. Even Fire Dept Personnel left to go to San Jose for the same reason.
Looks like down the road, most Palo Alto workers will be trained by Palo Alto and then leave for better pay and benifits.
This city is a joke- $270,000 for "art" at the library, City Manager that lives in town ,but has a city car that we pay for. No shopping in Palo Alto...our tax base gets smaller every year. Yes, this city is a JOKE!


Posted by lazlo, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm

anna, time to get a breath of fresh air. keep the anger to a minimum.


Posted by d.b. cooper, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2009 at 5:53 pm

FREE THE PALO ALTO 87!


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I just had a conversation with a Utility System Operator who works for Palo Alto. They monitor the electric system. They're supposed to have five operators who cover a 24 hour operation. They work 12 hour shifts. Palo Alto has been running with three operators for months. It's not uncommon for them to work 60 hour weeks to cover the shifts. He's even worked a couple of 72 hour weeks.

Why are they so short handed?
70 people applied for the position.
2 people are qualified out of the 70.
One lives half way across the country and most likely won't move here.
The other has a questionable job history.

Reality check. And City council has just reduced our benefits?

Maybe someone in India can answer the phones.


Posted by Former Manager, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 6:27 pm


I am getting tremendous enjoyment over the comments about this year's SEIU negotiations. The irony of the situation is huge. I was on the management negotiating team twice during the early part of this decade; the best thing I can say about the experience is that it was a frustrating waste of time. The management team spent extensive time looking at the working rules and proposing changes that would have helped streamline the processes and help manage the work, looking for ways to save the city money. SEIU always rejected these changes. They focused exclusively on more pay and more benefits. When the negotiations got tough, when the management team wanted concessions for more $$ and bennies, then the union went public. They started marching, demonstrating and attending Council meetings. The overwhelming public bleeding heart reaction was "Oh my God, these poor city workers, we should treat them better" or "What will happen if there's a strike? I can't be inconvenienced." The message would quickly get to the Council, the Council would direct the city manager and the management team to find a way the keep "Labor Peace" and we would then quickly settle with no concessions to better working rules and always more money and bennies.

Now when times are tough the overwhelming public reaction is "Oh my God what a bunch of greedy lazy malcontents, they should voluntarily give up money and benefits". Why would the SEIU give up now when the history is that if they put a little pressure on the citizens and Council they'll get what they want? Remember who taught them that this tactic works. The adage about "Reaping what you sow" is appropriate here. For years the citizens supported and fed the SEIU Garden of Eden and now you don't like the apples?

Don't blame the managers and don't blame the union, ---- look in the mirror.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm

> Why are they so short handed?
> 2 people are qualified out of the 70.

Hmmm .. and what ever happened to "training"? Most vendors of the complicated systems control equipment provide training classes for their customers. If staffing is really a big problem, the the City should be hiring the people they need--and sending them off to a training course. After that, then the employees would be "qualified". That's what a private sector operation would do.

BTW, it's kind of interesting that "a lineman for the city" has time to monitor this blog all day long. You'd think a lineman would be up a pole .. doing "lineman" sorts of things .. not hunkered down on a PC all day long.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm

> The management team spent extensive time looking at the working
> rules and proposing changes that would have helped streamline
> the processes and help manage the work, looking for ways to
> save the city money.

> SEIU always rejected these changes

This is what Unions do. That is their main purpose in life. They are not in business to provide effective labor at competitive costs--they are their to increase the cost of labor and reduce the effectiveness of their members.

Union absenteeism runs excessively high. The following video is from the President of the IBEW on IBEW absenteeism:

Web Link

And then there is the issue of public sector employee absenteeism. The following article (from Bloomberg) is now about three years old, but the 30% absenteeism rate for Detroit City employees is documented:

---
Web Link

Worker absenteeism has been a concern. On March 14, Kilpatrick complained that on any given day, 30 percent of workers in the police and public works departments are absent, including those calling in sick.

At the water department, daily absenteeism is 19 percent, including vacations and jury duty, Riehl says. People miss work in the fire department because of injuries resulting from job cuts, says Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association. Since 1960, staffing has been cut by 40 percent to 1,150 even though the city's physical size is unchanged, McNamara says

(The whole article is worth reading.)
----

The Unions have always aided and abetted these kinds of behaviors--often claiming that more people needed to be hired so that there would be enough around to get the job down when the absentee rates got to be as high as 30% (or more).

This 30% absentee rate can also be found when investigating problems with the auto manufacturers.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Former Manager,

Your's is the best post on this subject that I have seen. However, I think you will continue to ve frustrated, because the utility cash cow is still willing to give milk.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Well said former City Manager!


Posted by tidbit, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 7:26 pm

12 City retirees have been hired back by the City this year.


Posted by Brian Wilson, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm

How sad for city workers that they have a deficient and uneffective Union in SEIU. First the Union puts a deadline of Sept. 15 as the drop dead final date that they will settle with the city, then they continue on with their nonsense until the city calls their card on Oct 26. Now the Union says November 23 will definitely be the final date or for sure a strike maybe will happen. Good grief! Yeah, I'm sure all the employees will rally behind a holiday strike when city services are already at minimum staffing.Imagine how effective that strike will be! As much money as SEIU receives from city employees every month you would think that they could hire someone with a brain or common sense. It would seem the chapter chairperson and union organizers couldn't have screwed this up more than they have since day one of the negotiations. If Palo Alto employees are smart they will dump SEIU and form a competitive independent employee union. Good luck!


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Bill,

The City has been looking into a training program. They started looking into it a long time ago. Management tried to get an O.I.T. (operator in training) position. Unfortunately the City has strict rules on how many FTE positions available. The manager couldn't just create a position, hire someone, and do on the job training. The operators work by themselves most of their shifts. This makes it difficult to hire and train a new operator. All of our current operators are former PG&E employees. We have better benefits than PG&E but the lower pay isn't enough to lure them away anymore. Getting to the heart of this problem the City running a utility like a government entity. This is causing the utility side to fall behind it's competitors. There, I said it.

Oh, I contributed to the absenteeism statistic today. I woke up at 4:00am in a cold sweat with a migraine.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2009 at 2:27 am

I wonder if the city workers and SEIU will even have to strike. It might be that the legal challenge as regards the city refusing to negotiate in good faith, the evidence of area-wide price fixing via the Grand Jury Report might mean a "cease and desist" as regards the city's decision. In essence keep everything the same and go back to true negotiations.

Why strike if that is an option?


Posted by Billie, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Oct 29, 2009 at 6:48 am

The front page photo of the SEIU Tuesday night meeting published by the Daily News shows more than half the auditorium seating area with less than 50 people in the seats. That would indicate to me there were less than 100 Palo Alto employees present, not 200.

Given all the other overstatements by SEIU management, I question the attendence figure given or that '90% voted to strike.' Both are self-serving statements on behalf of SEIU management, who have dug themselves a giant 'no credibility' pit.

SEIU management knows by now they have little support among their members for their over-reaching demands. A Palo Alto strike will quickly reveal that SEIU management is 'a king with no clothes.'



Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2009 at 8:09 am

I don't claim to know exactly how many people were in attendance. It was reported as 200.

As regards the picture...Gee given the slant of the editorials, blogs, and headlines of local "news", given that one side might have had more people sitting, what photo spin would have been chosen?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 8:45 am

I wonder if the city workers and SEIU will even have to strike. It might be that they could just play the lottery. In essence keep their fingers crossed that someone will give them money.

Why strike if that is an option?


Nah, not going to happen. They would have to play responsibly.


Posted by cityworker, a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:28 am

As someone who was there, there was around 200 people. The pictures from the media were mostly taken from before the meeting (before everyone got there), and after the meeting (most people left already).

Also, many City workers were still at work and could not make the meeting. In the KTVU videos I saw, they showed empty seats, but it appeared it was before the meeting started.

When I got there, it was packed.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

A few other things.....many of the city workers probably live in distant communities and were in agreement with a decision already. So 200 out of 600 may not be the cardinal sign as postulated above.

The other thing is that the ones who concocted this whole scheme may have been planning for a strike and made expensive preparations. By not striking now, perhaps later, perhaps maybe later and then not, etc., they can force the city to keep ramping up preparations. I know, just as one local example, the recent CHW hospital nurses strike was put on hold as the parties are returning to the table. But they had to hire a whole stable of scabs for a certain amount of committed shifts---as (per personal reports) $1,200---yes one thousand two hundred dollars----per shift).

The other possibility here is that the ultimate plan was to not just wrest the concessions but rather bring on a strike in order to then try and break the whole union. If some backroom winking agreement was made with PG&E in the wings, etc.

In any event...

Web Link


Posted by taxpayer & resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:35 am

Wait, the city is hiring them back after they retire? So we are paying them twice, right? We pay them a pension with medical ; then pay them an hourly wage so they can do the same job we are paying them a pension for not doing?

Pensions are part of the employment contract. OK.

However, as a Palo Alto resident I am NOT willing to pay city staff to retire at the same time we are paying them to work at their old jobs. City Council: pass a resolution to make this stop immediately.

Anyone who wants to be a council member take notice: issues like this matter to the residents of Palo Alto. Thank you.


Posted by CHinCider, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:47 am

To "taxpayer and resident" -

While I understand your concern over the hiring back issue, you would do well to consider all aspects of the issue. It is difficult to hire for many of the retirees' old positions in a timely fashion given the specific job requirements. Leaving the positions vacant for months until a permanant replacement can be found means that things will be delayed or not get done. Hiring back the retiree in the interim means that work continues uninterrupted while the recruitment process takes place - AND, the City actually saves money in the process since the retirees are only paid an hourly rate without the expense of benefits that the new hire will have.

So - there are two sides to the issue. Would you rather leave the positions vacant in the interim and have work be delayed and productivity drop?


Posted by CHinCider, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:53 am

To "Tim" -

Uh, I don't think that prson was a former City Manager per se. Take another look at their post - it was under the screen name of "Former Manager", not former City Manager. Further, it said they sat as a member of the negotiating team - no City Manager in Palo Alto has done that in the timeframe described. Thus, I believe it was posted by a former management employee, not a former City Manager.


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:59 am

Retirees work after their retirement date because the HR department can't fill the positions fast enough. After the position is filled and the replacement trained, the retiree goes fishing.


Posted by I hate PA, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:00 am

I hope SEIU stikes on the next big storm...please ...for my amusement :)
I hope that the whiners on this forum do not represent the rest of the people in PA; what a backwards town for being in the BA.

Both side are wrong...how come you all can't see that? BUT if you have to single out the blame it should go to the CM and HR departments. Most surrounding cities have been preparing for this for a while...PA took a kneejerk reaction that only affects one(lowest paid) labor group. What about Fire, PD, management and others? They are City employees also.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:27 am

IHPA: Shoulder, meet Chip.


Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Sure enough, today in the mail I got an ad urging us to vote for Price, Sheperd and Levens, and it bears a small character mention that says "South-Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council COPE"... So they are indeed the union candidates. I am not voting for them.


Posted by lazlo, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 6:56 pm

and now we find out the city recently paid for a building inspector to attend a conference in Hawaii for a full week including hotel room and meals. good grief! so much for cost cutting measures the city manager and city council promised!


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Regarding...

"I hope that the whiners on this forum do not represent the rest of the people in PA; what a backwards town for being in the BA."

I think the default mode, human nature being what it unfortunately is, is that people immediately react straight from a narrow parochial viewpoint of perceived self interest. "why should they blah blah blah when blah blah blah". Not everybody but clearly some. Then you have a fair amount of outright right wingers congregating here. I mean where else would they go around here to get "support"?

If this turns into a long drawn out affair, imagine the issues being investigated and presented by two different researchers/reporters---the initial kick off Grand Jury Report, the real financial situation, what the union has offered so far, the legality of the city refusing to negotiate in anything resembling good faith, the underlying agendas which might begin to explain all this.

One from The Nation magazine and....

One from ....Fox News, Cato Institute, etc. (pick from the gamut of Fox News and the birther/deather/oather/truther crowd to some moderate Republican journal if such exists anymore).

Which side would tend to be more persuasive to the majority of Palo Altans? Which side would eventually be highlighted and discussed should this dispute go more prime time?

I suspect things will wait and see as regards the City Council elections and Measure A.


Posted by Merrill Linmon Roe, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I hope this proves to be a on-going spur for cities and towns to privatize services.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Unions have no place in local, state or national government activities.
Government work offers very generous benefits and security that you never see in the private sector, government agencies do not go out of business like those in the private sector do.
In addition, government unions create a serious conflict of interest for federal, state and local politicians, as we see right now in the Palo Alto elections.


Posted by bob, a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Yes thst's right. Retirees, that's management retirees, that come back to work and make $60 to $80 or more an hour. We heard more supervisers are going to retire and come back to double dip as well. Looks like a pretty good package for retiring managment and engineers,all the while SEIU members get less benefits and less money. Thanks for your many years of service from the litte guys. If you don't believe me, ask the city manager what they are getting paid when they return to work. Something to think about.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:55 pm

I'd hope they were getting more than $70 an hour to come back as a consultant or they would be earning less than when they worked here.


Posted by outside observer, a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:59 pm


A Noun Ea Mus,

Please don't tar all conservatives as against the City workers.

My views make Hitler look like a bleeding heart, but I'm with you and the SEIUers on this one.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:07 pm


Union members would be better off demonstrating how they create value for Palo Alto residents, in which they have failed, rather than arguing with management.
The SEIU campaign has been a disaster since their flyer and their claims that they have friends in DC, hubris before the fall

SEIU is now in serious trouble given its links to ACORN, they will loose the issue in PA and many other areas come Tuesday, humility would be wise.




Alto

p


Posted by P, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2009 at 2:01 am

Sharon,

"Union members would be better off demonstrating how they create value for Palo Alto residents, in which they have failed, rather than arguing with management."

Are you saying the workers failed at bringing value to the City? I thought that was the City Manager's job. His salary is quite lucrative and he should be able to handle it - that is bringing value to Palo Alto, and not as in the failed plaza farmer's market project. Any how, I digress......

To make a point clear, the SEIU staff do the work in the office or field as directed by some person of management status. This group is known as middle management. They in turn report to up a level to department heads, who in turn report to the city manager, who reports to City Council who is directed to run the City based on its' citizens input. Well in a real democratic city at least.

City of Palo Alto SEIU employees add a TREMENDOUS VALUE to your city by caring and taking pride for communites they do not even live in.

If you ever heard of the Parks employee who successfully helped search for a lost child, or about the employee who helped senior citizens out of a smoke-filled building, the many employee-sponsored charity drives for community groups, and many more wonderful stories like that, you would realize that the current SEIU staff at City of Palo Alto ABSOLUTELY DO ADD VALUE to residents and the community.

It is extremely unfortunate that the current worker bees are taking hard hits from everyone when we all know it is true.....when times were good for us in private sector, did we really give a darn about government workers salaries or miniscule cost of living raises? I did not.

P


Posted by R, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 30, 2009 at 2:19 am

"Retirees work after their retirement date because the HR department can't fill the positions fast enough......"

Now that Palo Alto is deteriorating it's retirement plan, it's medical plans, and already having the lower than average hourly salary compared to surrounding cities, how the heck is the challenged HR staff ever going to entice anyone to come work here?

Way to go Jim Keene. You and your City Council have really set us citizens up for low value services. I wonder how he looks in the mirror each morning to shave? He recently was seen with a full beard growing in. Hmmmm, I wonder if that means he is not looking at himself in the mirror.

R


Posted by Dazed, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

As a 20-year resident of this community and a 15-year non-managment employee of it, I find this time in our City's history to be very sadly divisive. As an avid Union member I have never said we shouldn't pay our fair share of health & retirement costs, but where I differ with the City Council is in the definition of what they think is fair. Every day on the job I have given at least 120% effort to contribute to a city that I have always been proud to be a part of and live in. Now I am told by City Council and the more vocal residents that it's only expected of me, that I should be grateful I have a job, and the reward of all my efforts is the Council taking away what amounts to 4 months of my rent from my annual salary (and I don't live in glamour or luxury). A moral dilemma presents itself: do I maintain my personal ethics and take the higher road and continue my 100+% efforts (which represent hours and hours of unpaid work, including not reporting time worked on weekends and holidays), or do I take the lower path where I give the City exactly the level of service that they and the more vocal minority citizens accuse me of? It's a lot easier to do the latter, and when a person is demoralized there is no energy left for effort. It is particularly frustrating that from day one of negotiations, the City was not willing to consider meeting in the middle somewhere. It was never offered. Now, no matter what happens, the Council will have disgruntled employees for years to come. As to the Union backing Council candidates, nothing has been done in secret, nothing dishonest. What we're hoping to see is a Council that remembers that a community is not just the people who live there, but also the people that work there and contribute back portions of their salary to the City's economy through sales tax, which in turn provides revenue for essential services.
Everyone in the country is bitter right now because of the economy. We need to stop taking it out on each other and work together.


Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 30, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Dazed, who's taking it out on whom? We just can't afford the current level of benefits. You're making this personal, it really isn't.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 31, 2009 at 5:13 pm

"We just can't afford the current level of benefits."

WRONG.

Some are using the recession to make permanent changes to employees benefits and wages. I think the original plan was to force a strike and go even further. A temporary fix to the current crisis wasn't sought. Let's at least be honest, as some of the more rabid right wingers at least are.

I doubt it's over and however it comes down CPA will pay one way or the other....from one end of the sprectrum a very demoralized, bitter, and un-enthusiastic workforce, at the other end a long drawn out legal and PR battle, perhaps eventually a strike. I can only hope Palo Alto gets the PR black eye it so sorely deserves.

Meanwhile, everyone enjoy the new expensive city statue.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2009 at 5:31 pm

A Noun Ea Mus: You seem to be a little upset. Sour grapes? You should just relax a little bit. Yes, there will be a demonstration strike, and a few symbolic givebacks by SEIU, but the union will end up with what it wants, more or less. It will be paid for by an increase in the utility bill.

Why are you so defensive? A 2-4 week strike is not too much, to accomplish your goals. You seem to want to get it all for free.


Posted by Fairplay, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Last Monday our Palo Alto city council lead by Larry Klein, Pat Burt, Yoriko Kishimoto, Peter Drekmeier,Jack Morton, John Barton, and Greg Schmidt voted to IMPOSE A CONTRACT on the SEIU employees on the basis that there had been "no movement" in negotiations by SEIU. Yet SEIU offered up the monies the city needed...The lack of transparency by the city managemnt team and city council is not in the spirit of transparency, or democratic process.

The City Council throughout negotiations and into the very night of the "impose contract vote" was not honest with the citizens of Palo Alto about their employee staffing, budget issues, or the conduct of SEIU. Klein, Burt and Morton insisted that SEIU made no movement in negotiations and that they, city council, had to impose. Drekemeier corrected only Morton, after their were cries out from employees, that it was a lie, and SEIU had made movement in negotiations...Note that Drekmeier never said what SEIU's concessions were. The employees were not fairly represented by council.

I am very troubled by this...not only because of the money but this deems our democratic politicians to be dictators. After years of not being defended by the council and attacked by newsmedia run by developers and real estate interests....The hostility and attack by of this city council is unwarranted. The imposiotion of the SEIU contract is unconscionable.

Over the past few years, as a union, we have gone to the council asking for city reorganization, accountability, audits and persononnel reviews. What other union group does that? The city has been barely responsive to our requests for these cost savings measures and accountability for spending. Instead of doing the real work the council chose to gouge the lowest paid employees.

When asked why the city negotiating team and council was behaving this way during negotiations, the city negotiating team has openly said per the city negotiator, Darrell Murray, that, "It's political".

This city council has used 9-11 fear tactics to enrage the public...openly in negotiations the city negotiator has said..well just "like 9-11" we don't know what is going to happen.

The detriment that this is causing employees financially, the demolition of morale of the workplace, and the angry public assaults verbally and by media. This is a class issue, or else why is this about the lowest paid employees? And not across the board (managers, police, fire)demands by citizens?

Since when do you impose and in ANY negotiation situation and expect a good outcome?







Posted by pleb, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:44 am

"The imposition of the SEIU contract is unconscionable."

WRONG. You need to read up on negotiation impasse.

You are also wrong about the affordability of benefits. Read the audit reports.


Posted by Fairplay, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2009 at 10:42 am

Employees are not blind to the city needs. Read the list below and explain city management accountability.
For many of the city needs the city has ignored the requests of employees to address issues for city financial accountability:

The current 30 frozen UNFILLED (paid for) funded positions = 3.0 million dollars. Rather than reduce employee positions the city rakes the employees for pay - keeps same positions,services and budget. Then threatens employee lay offs.
Reorganization of manager/professional:employee ratio. Currently 1:3
22 million that 4.9 cannot be accounted for (.."a cushion").
The city hired 1.25 million dollarsper year of employees last month (11).
Libraries operated on Sundays on library employee overtime.
Managers taking a far lesser financial hit than SEIU employees so they will not unionize.

Employees offered the monies the city needed. The city refused.
Employees offered to mediate. The city refused to mediate.




Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 1, 2009 at 11:25 am

Fairplay, apart from the items that are just plain lies, all others have been asked and answered. Look at the city's website for the details on the negotiations.


Posted by paloaltomarino, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I'm sorry but, the last comment was just crazy. "look at the city's website for the details". Oh, of course, because the "city" always tells the citizens the truth.

Ok, a couple of quick items about me so you'll know motivation. I'm a city employee in the SEIU, I make less then $64K a year, I don't need the money (I got lucky in marriage and in life), I did come here for two reasons over a decade ago, benefits and I thought it would be cool to do something in public service in the community I live. If I was single or had a family and trying to make ends meet on $64K, I certainly wouldn't be living in Palo Alto. And remember this, when I was hired at city hall, if you could fog a mirror, you were hired (yes, I understand that means that I was the "star" of a very small interviewee group), NO ONE wanted to be in the public sector.

I believe SEIU and the city could've solved the budget issue and I also believe that it didn't matter because Manager Keene wanted benefits to be adjusted and nothing short of that was going to satisfy him. Take a look around you people at other cities, not one of them has had this kind of "agreement" imposed on them. Not one.

Mediation was the right thing to do, but, both sides should've had to agree it would be binding. Even if that meant that the mediator agreed benefits needed adjusting.

I read these comments and I keep reminding myself that the majority of the residents love this city and are satisfied with the level of services we provide. The people who like the way things are rarely speak out, it's the ones who don't who do, so, of course the negative comments will far outweigh the positive. Still, reading these makes me wonder and yes, it's a little demoralizing.

I don't know what the answer is. We're in an awful economic time, people are struggling and afraid, and government is an easy target (sometimes, because we're idiots and make ourselves an easy target). But, it's almost like the citizens are blaming the employees for wanting to keep their benefits, and for a lot of them, the benefits are really all that matters. And yet, one of the big reasons their benefits cost so much is because the cost of health care has gone up enormously in the last decade. When I was hired here I beieve we had 9 HMO plans, 2 PPO plans, and 1 other. Now, I believe we have 1 HMO and 1 other because they are the only plans we can "afford". It isn't the employees fault any more than it's the citizens fault that those benefits cost more, that's why I said that I don't have the answer.

I do know that this could've been handled much better. I know that 6 or 7 weeks ago this city manager held a series of meetings asking "what does your ideal organization look like?". I also know that "communication" and "honesty" were high on that list. And I know that both of them seem to also be in recession around here. It's too bad, this used to be a more fun place to work.

Now, what would be great, real transparency, talking about how we just spent six figures on a consultant to come up with a business license tax, and then we shredded it and told staff to spend many, many, many hours coming up with our own. And then, 17 people spoke at a city council meeting so, we shredded that too. Now, countless dollars in actual salary and time have been spent, and we've sent out our third best choice for a business license tax at the exact wrong time. Where is all the concerned public outrage about that?

And what's going to happen with the city manager and the other managers? They are in quiet negotiations on their contracts now. These are the people whose average salary (including benefits) is over $200K, although I'm guessing with housing and car, Keene's is closer to $400K. If we think morale is low here now, just wait to see what it's like if they don't take big salary and benefit cuts.

Again, I'm not saying that I have the answers, I'm saying that this way of doing business will kill an organization but, in all reality, I also know that the citizens of Palo Alto, for the most part, don't really care about that.


Posted by barron park resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I'm a citizen, I live in Palo Alto and I care. We can't afford the current deal city workers have: medical coverage for life + a guaranteed pension. The reality is that we never could, and could not afford to budget for it (or all the deferred work around town). Now that the math has caught up, We can't afford all the current programs we have either.

Read the papers, union workers, it's time to get realistic. All workers have to bear some of the cost of the health insurance for themselves and their families. The lucky ones (like you) have had a free ride for a long time, and now will bear only a small share. Talk to one of the over 50% who work for family-owned business: they have no healthcare and no pension! Talk to all the folks who have had their pensions cut in half or more because companies have failed. Welcome to the 21st century.

Do we want to cut salaries in Palo Alto: NO. Do we want to lay off our workers so more programs must close in Palo Alto: NO. Will we have to do both if these city workers don't get with the program: YES!

Think about it - keep your job, and a terrific benefit deal. Even if its not everything you wanted, you are still better off than anyone else who retires doing the same job in private sector... assuming they don't just get fired because of the bad economy. You should be much more concerned about job security in these difficult times.

How about getting back to work, without threats of strikes and more pretend-strike-with-picketing. Maybe we citizens can slowly begin trusting you enough to consider a wage increase once the economy recovers. Drag this out, and forget about it. You will have used up all our trust. Tick..tick..tick. Time to do the right thing.


Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 1, 2009 at 8:57 pm

"I'm sorry but, the last comment was just crazy. "look at the city's website for the details". Oh, of course, because the "city" always tells the citizens the truth."

You still believe the union after posting fraudulent flyers, organizing a 25% sick out and a one-day wild-cat strike? SEIU hasn't done you any favors in how they've handled negotiations and PR.


Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2009 at 9:25 pm

You still believe the union after posting fraudulent flyers, organizing a 25% sick out and a one-day wild-cat strike?
The flier was a mistake.
It would be illegal for SEIU to organize a sick-out.
The Union notified the City that they would not be at work that day. You don't give your employer notice for a wild-cat.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 2, 2009 at 8:30 am

Look at SJ Mercury News today.....city managers in both SM and SC counties engaged in price fixing as regards negotiations.

If a group of employers got together and decided to all draw a line in the sand as regards wages and benefits I believe that would be illegal price fixing. I've actually attended meetings where salary surveys had to be handled very carefully because, as one participant said, "I don't look pretty in an orange jump suit".

Why is this any different?

How can one pretend to enter into anything resembling negotiations if profound evidence exists that a pre-existing area wide price fixing scheme was already concocted and agreed upon? This explains the intransigence and lack of transparency. It wouldn't matter if suddenly the city of Palo Alto was awash in some new revenue, a pre-ordained deal is a deal is a deal. Measure A, no matter. New revenue from Stanford taxes, no matter. Economy on the rebound, no matter.

I am not an SEIU member, nor a city worker. But I imagine that SEIU has legal options to pursue before any strike is sanctioned.


Posted by pleb, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 2, 2009 at 8:34 am

"The flier was a mistake."

Exactly! Though it wasn't just a mistake, it was an out-right lie.

"It would be illegal for SEIU to organize a sick-out."

Again, exactly! SEIU should have been prosecuted for it.

"The Union notified the City that they would not be at work that day. You don't give your employer notice for a wild-cat."

Yes you can, you just do it before declaring an impasse and it's illegal as well.

You're admitting to SEIU's illegal behavior and lies, yet you still believe everything they say?


Posted by Pro Bono, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2009 at 8:36 am

"I am not an SEIU member, nor a city worker. But I imagine that SEIU has legal options to pursue before any strike is sanctioned."

It's pretty clear that you're not a lawyer either. Municipalities are immune from antitrust and other price-fixing laws.


Posted by paloaltomarino, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2009 at 8:50 am

Pleb: Oh I'm sorry, please don't take my comment as to mean that I'm happy with the way SEIU handled this situation. Everyone spins my friend, everyone. SEIU is more than a bit disorganized.

All I was saying was that I came here for the benefits, not the salary (not by a long shot). The benefits were excellent and even with the new "imposed" agreement, they're not bad (for me, for new hires, they're not great and won't compete against other cities, that part SEIU has right, but, then, when the economy gets better and the city realizes that they can't compete they'll change the benefit package to something more attractive again, the city is rarely proactive, hell, almost never, they'll react when they have to and not before).

What I was also saying is that morale here is the lowest I've ever seen it. And being told that you should be grateful to have a job, while true, really doesn't help. Here's another observation, the city manager has made no effort to connect with the employees. He even called himself the "new" guy in a recent series of meetings. He's been here a year, that's hardly new. He's new because he's made no effort to find out who his staff is. That, unfortunately, is working against him. When he started people were very positive about him, especially management, now, even management is talking about unionizing because they don't like what he's doing. The last city manager, for all his good and his faults, knew how to do one thing really well, he knew how to connect, he knew how to make you feel like "we" were in this together, and "we" would find a solution. And he communicated, often. The "new" guy, not so much. He's done the exact opposite of what I thought he would do after imposing the new agreement, instead of sending out an e-mail or calling an all hands meeting to say "I felt this is something that was needed, you're still valued, we still have work to get done and we still need to be proud of our service, maybe in the future...", he's said nothing, not one word, and he's kept an incredibly low profile here at city hall. Bunker mentality, it's the exact wrong thing to do, it just distances him further.

Why should morale matter to you? Because these people do a hell of a lot of stuff that's not accounted for. Some do it because they love their jobs, some do it because they hope to get ahead, but, they do it. When morale crashes like this, the desire to "do more" vanishes. When we rolled out this SAP project (and you want to talk about a colossal waste of money, say hello to SAP, how's that utility bill paying online thing going for you all?) there were tons of staff staying until 10pm, 11pm, and some in IT would be over in the basement of 300 Hamilton until 1a.m., some got overtime, some got comp time, some got nothing because they were "management". I wonder if that project were started today how it would go because so many of the people on the project were doing it as a special assignment (you had people from all departments in there, not just IT).

So, in conclusion, all I'm saying is that while I agree in principle that we should all be grateful for our jobs and benefit package, I also know that feeling respected in that job by both your boss and by the people you work for (the citizens) is important and the employees (rightly or not) are not feeling respected right now. I still don't know how it will play out, people stay in bad marriages after all, you just really don't want to visit their house.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

"It's pretty clear that you're not a lawyer either. Municipalities are immune from antitrust and other price-fixing laws."

But price fixing it still is. A putrid rose is a putrid rose even if legally allowed to be placed proudly in an atrium.

Then one can hope the reciprocal will work as regards municipal workers acting together to address this.


Posted by ex Palo Alto Employee, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I left my job at the city of Palo Alto because the pay was way lower than other Utilities. My benefits at my current job are also equal to Palo Alto's so called "great benefits". I found as a young engineer the cost of living in the bay area was way to high and Palo Alto didn't pay more than other Utilities to compensate for that. My current employeer pays 30% more than Palo Alto for the same position and we are always hiring. How are you going to keep good workers in your city when you under pay them and treat them bad. It didn't take me long to see the writing on the wall when I was there. If the city continues to treat its employees this way you might lose a lot of good workers and have to pay a lot more money to outside consults and contractors.


Posted by Another Ex Employee, a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I let Palo Alto too. I left because I felt it was an Un heathly place to be. I accepted a small cut in pay but I am trully happy with my new Position. During my Tenure with the City I was astounded by what witnessed Managers who are Incompotent and only concerned in bettering themselves, rewarding those who cannot think on there own, and Punishing those who do there jobs above and beyond.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Veggie Grill coming soon to Mountain View's San Antonio Center
By Elena Kadvany | 24 comments | 3,556 views

Is HBO's Silicon Valley Any Good?
By Anita Felicelli | 23 comments | 2,349 views

Finding mentors in would-be bosses
By Jessica T | 0 comments | 2,017 views

A memorable Paly prom
By Sally Torbey | 7 comments | 1,179 views

Passover Joke
By Paul Losch | 6 comments | 403 views