http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/2014/01/14/palo-alto-calls-impasse-in-union-talks


Town Square

Palo Alto calls impasse in union talks

Original post made on Jan 14, 2014

After months of contentious and ultimately fruitless negotiations, Palo Alto officials have declared an impasse in their talks with the city's largest labor union, setting the stage for the city's fiercest labor battle in nearly five years.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 12:47 AM

Comments

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:13 am

Great. Not only is this Council destroying Palo Alto's physical environment, it's losing us our best workers.

This is a serious suggestion. The way my church can afford to pay the minister like $25,000, is that it has it's own parsonage without a mortgage, and that's part of the pay.

We keep talking about having City workers live here, and they should. Getting a chance to send their kids to local schools is an intangible and valuable benefit. Maybe City Planners might then have some shame if they had to face other residents every day at school in the PTA.

I'm not suggesting we offer anyone such low pay. However, Palo Alto only ever gets to be a less affordable place. It should consider buying up property for its own "parsonages", or more analogously, it's own Stanford housing. Because the investment will pay back in many ways over time, and not just in being able to offer it as part of compensation packages. Owning the housng is a far better way to create the benefit in a cost effective way over time.

But it should be regular housing, not substandard crammed together housing. People wouldn't want to leave that so easily. Unless the El Camino tunnel project made Palo Alto so pleasant to live it wasnt worth it. Sorry, I meant the "Chunnel" -the chump tunnel for residents.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:15 am

We'd need a bond. This CCcould get it if they promised to stop selling off the furniture.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:18 am

Interesting autocorrection - I meant, unless the el Camino Chunnel project makes palo alto so UNpleasant...


Posted by Overpaid, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

The city needs to hold firm. These public unions love to cry poor, while ignoring the outrageous pensions that the taxpayers kids and grand kids are expected to pay them when they retire 7-17 years before their private sector counterparts with a six figure annual benefit.


Posted by anon2, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:36 am

"our best workers"

Where are they? Perpetual construction on Alma. Mitchell Library at least two years late. No code enforcement. Gargantuan ugly overheight buildings going up all over.

Seriously, what best workers?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

The article says the SEIU was "the first to suffer benefit cuts in the aftermath of the economic downturn."

Actually that's not true. The first to suffer benefit cuts were all the rest of us who work in the real world, not in the cosseted, sheltered alternate reality of City jobs, which both pay better and have vastly larger pension and health benefits. Which, as it happens, are paid for by us, that first group above.

The SEIU need to go on 401k's, Social Security and Obamacare/Medicare like the rest of us.

The SEIU doesn't like that of course, because they've always got a sweeter deal from the City by lobbying. So they have 10,000 excuses why they're special people. But that's where this needs to go.

Which brings us to the one area of true alignment. The SEIU whine that what they've got all these years is now outrageous and unfair. And we agree.


Posted by Blue Collar, a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:40 am

"Overpaid" from College Terrace; As a resident of College Terrace, you, more than most, have reason to be supportive of the SEIU workers. The particular neighborhood you live in has been completely rehabilitated in the last decade. New water pipelines, gas pipelines and waste water pipelines were all installed, tested and connected by the very "public unicorns" you describe. Along with many contractors working for years on end, city laborers transformed this neighborhood of glorified shacks with rampant waster water overflow and natural gas leak problems. The neighborhood is now healthier and safer to live in than ever thanks to the men and women of SEIU. Think about that the next time you flush your toilet, turn on your heater, or take a sip of water from the tap. Yes, SEIU workers are directly responsible for the quality of the water you drink. Its a good thing the best and brightest are leaving for more competitive salaries. Let the dullards who stay behind run the show...


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:45 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:51 am

Hear hear. What this really is, is JEALOUSY over the union protections that more workers USED to have (think 50s-60s when I remember my management Dad grumping over the union "demands" at his company) and that FEW employees in the private sector still have. Or should we offshore our municipal worker jobs as well as those lost in the private sector? It's all about our economy which ain't gonna get better until employment and job security increases so that the "99%" can buy the stuff that the big corporations want us to buy.

Why do you think most of the Obamacare signups are those from ages 55-64? Because they are the laid off without affordable health coverage who need it the most, as they have NO job prospects in the current state of affairs.

Not saying all union demands are valid and should be granted. But it does make us envious, doesn't it? Maybe the rest of us should have a piece of that pie as well. There was a time when many more did.


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:04 am

The planners want a big raise? Is that for their performance re the traffic gridlock and the library boondoggles?

They should be paying us.

Who shuts the second library when they already know the construction of the first is already HUGELY problematic?

Re the Utility Dept., didn't they create enough useless mailings telling us to conserve energy and then raising our rates because we didn't use enough energy?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:05 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:29 am

Those of us who have worked in the private sector, but not as upper management, in this area would consider themselves lucky to get the pay and perks that many city employees do.
After the 1980s there were no more Defined Benefit Pension Plans; it was all 401ks. We did not loose what had accumulated under the DB pensions, but all subsequent employment went to a 401k. We did not have a guaranteed lifetime job. For many of us 45 was a magical date. We were downsized so that companies could hire younger workers, often from India and China. Once you were of a certain age, it became early impossible to find a decent job in ones field. While some jobs no longer exist, science and engineering still hire people, if they are young.
We always contributed to both the pension/401k and our healthcare benefit. But once retired, our healthcare costs skyrocketed as we received a far lower assist from the employer.
So, I say to the City: Let them go. Let them strike. There are plenty of others out there who would be happy to work in a nice office for what the current ones make. Take a hint from the Mayor of San Jose. He managed to convince the workers to convert to a 401k plan to continue their pension and for all new hires.
Do NOT give into the silly demands of city staff. They currently make far more than anyone in the private sector in a similar job.
You should also forget about any ideas of floating a bond or increasing local taxes to pay for future benefits.


Posted by Overpaid, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

"Blue Collar" is repeating a common misrepresentation that government workers like to assert: that if no government worker did a job, nobody would do it. IE, if the governed didn't send six figure garbagemen to haul our trash away, it would simply accumulate until we were buried. In real life the private sector could accomplish the service at a much lower rate ( market rate instead of bloated government union entitlement rate)


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2014 at 12:07 pm

The union wants an 11% "adjustment" (raise). To me, that's way too much. We are held hostage by public unions and they should be abolished. If the city's pool of public employees lowers owing to attrition, fine with me. We have too many overpaid chiefs, in particular.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm

@BlueCollar said:

"The neighborhood [College Terrace] is now healthier and safer to live in than ever thanks to the men and women of SEIU."

As written, BC would have us believe that good men and women of the SIEU local paid for all of the infrastructure work in the College Terrace area. They did all of this work on their own, without any management input/guidance, and without any taxpayer dollars. It's not clear who this fellow believes pays his salary—but certainly he seems to be discounting taxpayers as having any significant contribution. Moreover, much of the infrastructure work is being outsourced to the private sector these days, because the SIEU/public sector is just too expensive.

BC, and all of his SIEU "brothers" are all well-paid, and all also have a very hefty pension waiting for them, when they decide to retire—easily ten to twenty years before the ordinary private sector worker.

Comments in the Weekly's article about retention, and recruitment, are not buttressed with any data, so one has to consider these as the typical "fog of war" that descends on these kinds of situations. There is nothing in the law that requires labor union organizers to tell the truth to anyone—other than perhaps a court, should the organizer end up testifying before the court.

An 11% COLA increase is nuts! This has significant impact on pensions—which will be an increasing drag on the general fund in the coming years.

It's long past time for the city to rethink its whole approach to delivering services—and look at outsourcing as many of the current SIEU jobs as possible.


Posted by Jerry Badhald, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I agree with most of these folks. I believe Palo Alto should embrace modern capitalism. It is not necessary for the public to provide all of the services they currently do. One person suggested PG&E and I say put it out to public bid and water could go to a company like Utility Services. Secretarial staff could move through Kelly Girls or some other temp firm. For parks and janitorial services we could easily employ folks from the Millionaires Club or some other down on your luck agency, after all we are talking about lawn mowing and weeding.These are employees that can be replaced by goats and they are making demands? Painters, there are guys willing to paint at the Home Depot for $50 a day why not use them.

Not one person posting on this site even the Union supporters would hire a Union person to do anything on their own home as they are to expensive so why should we as residents be tied to these old notions of social justice.The only reason there is even a Union contract is due to the strength they once had, and they don't have it any more. It's time for working folks to remember their place and they need to either get on the team or split.

All I want is services at the best price. I don't care if they can afford to live here and I don't think anyone cares if secretaries, school nurses, lawn men, painters, carpenters, and City administrators truly wants these folks living here in the first place. There are enough people willing to do these jobs for less and we should take them up on the deal. We can also use inmates to accomplish many of these task. Why should they get three hots and a cot and not have to work? That sounds like a blue collar vacation to me. I just wouldn't limit it to blue collar folks I'd replace a lot of people starting with the negotiators. Our negotiators are receiving fat pay checks for what? They just talk for days on end instead of just presenting a list of our demands and leaving. It takes about five minutes and there is nothing that requires us to sit and talk about each others feelings for months on end. Just say no to the Union and they have two choices. Choice 1 get back to work and shut up, choice 2 is to strike and then they can be replaced by people willing to serve our needs and it is the end of the Union.


Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Thank you Jerry Badhald....Your last sentence sums up the feelings and frustrations of MOST Palo Altans I have spoken to. Let them strike. Then, they can be replaced by a multitude of qualified job applicants willing to work for less.

I'm REALLY TIRED of hearing that the only way to keep city employees is to match or exceed what other towns pay their hires. I'm tired of the city manager and his administration,and including some members of the city council carping about the "attraction crisis" the city faces in hiring and retaining good workers. Bullcrap.....

If a city employee wants to leave for greener pastures, let them go. I can't imagine a city shutdown if the union doesn't get their way.

Better yet, let voters decide if the city should continue to keep a relationship with SEIU. My guess would be an overwhelming NO.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:51 pm

The current workers may well deserve more pay, but unfortunately, their greedy corrupt predecessors took all the money for their pensions, and their isn't any left for salary now. Your retiring boss will get $75k a year while you have to live on $60k for actually working. Kind of like the baby boomers and social security.


Posted by Blue Collar, a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

There is a common misconception that all city union workers are "lawn mowers" and "weed pullers". Many perform highly specialized tasks such as welding on live natural gas lines, manipulating overhead power lines or turning raw sewage into potable water. Mistakes for these guys can mean serious injury or death, and not just for themselves. Do they not deserve compensation that is comparable with other employers? PG&E and other utility companies offer a healthy paycheck, great benefits and a very attractive 401K. The message the city is sending is "all men and women with marketable skills should go elsewhere, or take what we are offering." Is that the kind of succession planning that Palo Alto deserves? Should men and women with decades of experience, that know the city inside and out, be coached out the door so the city can save a buck?

Keep in mind, SEUI members have taken cuts the last two contracts! Don't let media COLA headlines fool you. As part of the contract Union members also had to pay considerably more towards their medical benefits. Even with the COLA adjustments, union members made considerably less due to the increased medical contribution! The contract WAS A PAY CUT, NOT A RAISE!

I often hear residents holler about their tax dollars paying for everything under the sun. That is not always the case. The City of Palo Alto's Utilities department gross sales revenue was somewhere in the neighborhood of $180,000,000 in the fiscal year of 2012. That is a staggering number. What other community can you say your utility bill gets pumped directly back into the city you live in? Over $15,000,000 gets transferred to the general fund each year to help the city pay for things not even related to the utility system. Does PG&E offer that kind of return to your community?

I'm not so entrenched in my pro labor stance that I can't see the elephant in the room. Anyone that can use their ability to reason can see that some union jobs, simply do not deserve full benefits and a pension. Compensation should be directly related to the amount of skill and training that the job requires. Reform? For the sake of the city, the state, our countries future?...YES. A blanket decree thrown over the entire workforce? For the good of the community and the worker alike, no thank you.


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I'm sorry, could you please inform me as to what other name I was using?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I understand that Palo Alto employs skilled workers and not just "weed pullers."

But should residents be paying $71,113/year (plus benefits) for a costume designer at the Children's Theatre? Why is a costume designer – or the Children's Theatre for that matter – in the city budget?

When PGE lures away workers with higher pay, does it also offer them health benefits and pensions? What's the TOTAL compensation package comparison?

"Over $15,000,000 gets transferred to the general fund each year to help the city pay for things not even related to the utility system."

And you're saying this is a GOOD thing – that the utility department can keep jacking up prices to feed money into the general fund?


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Shall I assume I'm also supposed to be one of the other users on this forum? If so, will you kindly tell me which name I'm should be posting under? Because it is silly that my comments were removed due to the simple fact that your website erroneously is thinking I am someone else.


Posted by Pot au feu, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I have noticed a lot of immigrant laborers, unknown if they are legal or not working for the city on the gas line project going on in the neighborhood.

Can 't believe the city would hire non-English speakers, don't think they belong to any union.

Is this scab labor working on city projects?


Posted by Eric F, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm

"Over $15,000,000 gets transferred to the general fund each year to help the city pay for things not even related to the utility system."


Think I saw somewhere that Palo Alto's water rates are 28% higher than neighboring cities.

Hetch Hetchy vs groundwater must account for some of that. But maybe this accounts for some of it as well.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

@sunshine,
Think about this for a second. What if we could offer people a compensation package which was less salary, but included a house they could rent (not sublet, they have to move if they stop working for the City) or even BMR unit they could own for a much smaller mortgage (but had to sell back into that system as at Stanford when done)? If the City owned the properties, in the long run, it would save a HEAP of money, ensure people who worked in key positions also lived in the City and cared about it, and be a kind of rainy day asset just in case. People in all kinds of jobs for the City could afford to live here in dignity and send their kids to the local schools. Again, they'd be part of the community and have to face their neighbors in the PTA and other aspects of life. It provides intrinsic motivation to do a good job you can't put a price on.

If the City were to put up a bond for such a purpose, and begin buying up undesirable properties around town and rehabilitating them, could this satisfy our low-income/ BMR mandate while also having a profoundly beneficial future impact on City finances? Maybe if they lived here, City workers would start caring more about quality of life here than bending over for developers. It works for Stanford, why not us? If we gave it a try and it didn't work, we could always sell the properties and reduce everyone's taxes.

The school bond raised about a half billion dollars. We could actually put around 500 decent homes and condos into such a program for that amount of money. We could instantly offer much lower compensation packages where the housing was part of it. In the future, this would continue to save us money long after the bond was paid off.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm

"What if we could offer people a compensation package which was less salary, but included a house they could rent "

Sounds just like the coal barons who owned the town and charged rent to miners before the unions. Company towns like Eckley in Pennsylvania. Web Link

" begin buying up undesirable properties around town "

Undesirable like the 6600 square foot lot that sold for $1.9 M on Moreno?


Posted by Anti-Union Democrat, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm


"I'm not so entrenched in my pro labor stance that I can't see the elephant in the room. Anyone that can use their ability to reason can see that some union jobs, simply do not deserve full benefits and a pension. Compensation should be directly related to the amount of skill and training that the job requires. Reform?"

Blue Collar's quote shows the problem with unions. He wants the best performing individuals to make more, and the lower performers less, but this is exactly the distinction that gets removed in collective bargaining. Getting rid of the union will solve the problem. There should not be public unions in the first place due to the rampant conflicts of interest and subsequent waste and bloat that is created.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm

@pat,
Could be. If you want to mention Pennsylvania, why not Hershey, which was once a model for the nation? It's just strange to bring that up, if we do something like this, we choose how we do it.

Or more appropriately, could be like the BMR program the City already contracts with PAHC to administer, only the City would own the properties as assets that would allow it to pay less in salaries. Or could be like STANFORD. Know anyone who lives there? They have their own real estate and housing so they can attract talent who can afford to live more in keeping with the standard in less expensive parts of the country.

BMR units can be developed - condos - on the order of $500,000/unit under existing zoning. Homes could be developed in some areas for $1.5M/unit. It's not going to be cheap, but it would be an investment. Renewal of some areas, and more sane development of others. If such a program were to satisfy the BMR new housing requirement, it could be a way to make it align with many other civic needs.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm

@Anti-union Democrat: Yes, the main problem with unions is that they ignore merit. Everyone gets the same increase and advancement is based on seniority. Employment should be "at will."


Posted by city worker, a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Pot au feu

those workers are hired contractors that the city pays to work on our gas system. these workers are private contractors that come and work in our city with no background checks they're just here to get the job done and make money.

I am a city worker for Palo Alto and I am here to invest 30 years of my life to make this city a better place


in regards to PG&E's total compensation they roughly make about 2000 dollars more a month then us city workers

I do work in the city of Palo Alto's utility department not only can we work on gas but we also do water and sewer . this is something PG&E or any other city can't say that they do but Palo Alto utility workers can!


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm

> There is a common misconception that all city union workers
> are "lawn mowers" and "weed pullers".

Not necessarily.

> Mistakes for these guys can mean serious injury or death,
> and not just for themselves.

How many linemen have been killed on the job, over the past one hundred years of Utility operaton?

Is working for the PAU any more dangerous than other electric companies?

Here's the latest BLS Mortality Data. Why not check out the Electrical trades.

Web Link


> PG&E offers a very attractive 401K.

The pension package for the PAU is also very attractive—offering 82% of the computed exit salary, with a yearly minimum 2% COLA. You should look at the how much money this pension will pay you in your retirement years. It's an awful lot of money!

> The contract WAS A PAY CUT, NOT A RAISE!

When companies in the private sector are not profitable—people see pay cuts, and often lose their jobs. Got any idea how many people in the public sector have been laid off since 2008? And you expect those people to be concerned because you have to pay a little more for your so-called benefits?

> Does PG&E offer that kind of return to your community?

PG&E pays a dividend to its stock holders. That money goes into every community where the stock holders live. In many cases, it goes into CalPERS coffers—that pay the lavish pensions that you will enjoy when you retire. That money pay not go directly into each community's general fund directly, but it ends up being taxed, and spent, in local California communities. PG&E also is required by law to support a goodly number of "public purpose" programs that enhance communities in one way, or another.

> Should men and women with decades of experience, that know the city inside
> and out, be coached out the door so the city can save a buck?

As unfair as this might seem, it happens in the real world all the time. What makes you believe you should be treated any differently?


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

> in regards to PG&E's total compensation they roughly make about
> 2000 dollars more a month then us city workers

Please provide some proof.

By the way, unless the post-retirement money paid PG&E and PAU employees is compared--any comparisons of compensation are not accurate and should be ignored.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Perhaps we could have the developers, City Council, and PAHC pay the salaries of the planning department staff, since they clearly don't think they work for the citizens of Palo Alto.


Posted by Max, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Utilities may need to have a separate bargaining table and representation than the "weed pullers" and painters. I fear we may be generalizing all city workers as useless drones.


Posted by Kathy S, a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:31 pm

The majority of City employees have been working with the City during the economic downturn. Most of these employees are represented by SEIU. During this time The City found ways to increase the salaries at Executive Manager level by reclassifying positions and creating new executive level classifications. Just look at how many times the Management Compensation Study was revised. SEIU employees are asking for equity. They deserve the ability to bargain fairly and not have the City proclaim impasse.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:07 am

There is more to the downward spiral of competence in city employment than just the wage competition that SEIU has indicated.

If you were seeking a job, would you tolerate the constant criticism, the second guessing, and the deliberate actions to take you down to the level of illegal immigrants (i.e. 21st century slaves).

Of course you wouldn't. No one in their right mind would.

The citizens of Palo Alto, by their hostile actions, are much more responsible for the low quality of City employees, than are reductions in wages, pensions, health care or any other factor.


Posted by oh well, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:07 am

The best and brightest city employees have long since exited the city. Local municipalities and private companies recruited and successfully emptied the city employee pool of the most educated and professional employees. Residents are now left with a bargain(?) basement city employee pool and untrained contract workers to maintain what's left of the city infrastructure. Meanwhile, the city manager hires his unemployed friends to senior management positions with six figure salaries. It doesn't seem to bother him that if there is no position that his friends are qualified to fill, as he simply creates a position for them to occupy. Combined with a dysfunctional city council and inept senior management staff, it is no wonder the city is unable to recruit new employees to fill positions left unfilled by the exodus of qualified employees. Impasse indeed! Impasse is ignorantly used by the city council and city manager in an effort to hide their lack of educated decision making abilities. What a pity!


Posted by Sad for PA, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:08 am

The residents of Palo Alto should think about this.

Those "Painters" and "Weed Pullers" don't just do their job title. Those painters who paint the roads also make your new street signs, install the new street signs, paint the curbs, do graphiti removal, paint the stripes in the parking garages, etc.

Workers do a lot more then you think they do. Most wokrers do more then one job in their position.

PG&E compensation...PAU you said get 82% and 2% COLA, PG&E is 90% and 3% COLA, plus more pay per month. If you want proof go to PG&E's website and research it, check out job postings their and compare the salaries to PA's job postings. I.E. Intern/hourly worker at PA is paid $15/hr, PG&E is $22/hr.

Most of your utility workers drive more then an hour each way to work (why would they do that for a job they have no passion about?), they work long hours because the ranks are empty so few do more which becomes dangerous depending on what your working on (i.e. Live electrical wires). If you want Home Depot workers doing your electrical work by all means hire them, support illegal immigrants and draw more across the borders. I have worked as an electrician in Palo Alto for more then 10 years and do you know how many houses I have been called out to to repair and fix wiring that was done by HD workers wrong? If you want your house and neighborhood to burn down then hire them. You get what you pay for.

Your utilities went up because rates went up everywhere, Electricity is bought in bulk from PG&E and you get a bulk discount on your utility bill in the way of cheaper rates then everyone around you, rates go up only when it has too to keep things running. Maybe you should compare your rates to other cities around you.

If your willing to take people who will accept lower pay then why is it there are job openings in the utility departments that can't get filled? PAU can't find people to come take these jobs? Some of those jobs have been posted for more then 6 months and still no one has applied. Half that are hired, have to be trained, then they go off to a higher paying job elsewhere after tehir training...your loss PA. PA is known outside of it as "Train and Go!" It amazes me that you you want to pay the hard workers less yet more work is done by each of them as city ranks dwindle. So your saying work more get less....yup that is going to keep talent here.

And to say that all the real talent has left and the city is left with the unwanted's or untalented....wow, everyone who is working at PA trying to make it a better place just got slapped in the face with that one. May all the workers go find better jobs after that comment...how do you recruit people with attitude's like that.

"I want everything but at cheapest rate". Next time you buy something "Made in China" and it breaks in two days of use don't complain about having to buy another one because it is made out of cheap material...remember you wanted it, but at cheapest price.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 7:27 am

The Costume Designers do not make $73.000 per year, that was a poorly written paragraph. Lane Pianta is not a Costume Designer. I am. I make $17,026 per year.
Right now, I don't have the energy to explain to 'Pat' why the venerable Children's Theatre is a vital cultural institution that serves the children of Palo Alto. I've got to get to work.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:33 am

In this discussion please do not lose sight of the fact that the basic problem in Palo Alto and it is overwhelming is with the policies
and decision-making at the top - in the staff, the Council, and ARB, not
with the work force below. But the whole atmosphere is so poisoned by the
destructive policies over the last years it is affecting everything in this
downward spiral of the City.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:17 am

If city utility workers are paid $20 less per hour than PG&E workers but our utility rates are 28% higher, management is looting the utility department. When paying my mother's utility bill in another city, it does appear that our utility rates are much higher ... and out utility department is being looted.

Looking at the steady number of large commercial projects being built with inadequate parking (by city guidelines which are probably already too low) our infrastructure is being given away to developers.

Did we hire the best and brightest from Bell, CA?


Posted by Concerned About My City, a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:09 am

I work in the software industry and took a 10% paycut and lousy healthcare coverage last year. Why does city workers union get guaranteed benefits regardless of the economy? It costs a lot to live in Palo Alto and many of us work really hard to make enough to stay here! Why should others get to live here for less or for free???


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

Most private-sector workers think a "pension" is a small hotel in Europe since most of the regular pensions have long been replaced by 401K's which then get destroyed by market manipulation.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:47 am

> Those painters who paint the roads also make your new street signs,
> install the new street signs, paint the curbs, do graphiti removal,
> paint the stripes in the parking garages, etc.

And your point is?

> PG&E [pension] is 90% and 3% COLA, plus more pay per month.

Pension calculations are very difficult, except on a case-by-case basis. PG&E's web-site does provide a hypothetical case for our edification--

Web Link

This test case seems to suggest that the PG&E pension is about 45% at 30 years. PG&E employees also are in the Social Security system, which increases their monthly revenue stream--but this complicates the picture since the employees were expected to contribute about 7.5% of their salaries (perhaps less in decades past) and PG&E contributed about 7.5% of their salaries--which requires another look at the cost-of-compensation for PG&E employees. PG&E also offers a 401K program, where the company matches contributions. This increases the effective compensation without our being able to track that money easily.

At any rate--the 90% at 30 years does not seem to be true--based on this web-page. If there are other web-pages that offer other evidence--please post those links.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 11:24 am

Those of you who think worker's pay and benefits in Palo Alto are higher in than in the private sector may want to apply for one of the city's twenty current job openings. Since your posts on this thread indicate you are all capable of writing and editing, you may be particularly interested in applying for the job of "writer/content editor" where you can report to the Chief Communications Officer: Web Link



Posted by Wha?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I find the comments by Jerry Badhald to be offensive and elitest. I hope he represents only a small part of the community. He states that most people here in PA don't want working class folks to live here - like school nurses, secretaries and carpenters. Wow, what an elitist blankity blank! And yet, no out cry from others here about that kind of statement?
I hope he gets what he wants - prisoners pulling weeds in front of his house and contract folks without any loyalty to the city working on the gas lines beneath his street.
[Portion removed.]


Posted by Tracy, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

City of Palo Alto Faces Strike – $139,907 Average Total Compensation Not Enough

From the article:

"Although the city is recovering, we are and will continue to have difficulty attracting and retaining experienced and skilled employees if we don't achieve a solution now."
Palo Alto City Employee and SEIU Local 521 Chapter Chair, Palo Alto Online, January 14, 2014

This refrain has been heard for over 20 years. It plays out in every city and county in California, whereby unionized workforces claim that if their employers don't pay as much as the neighboring city, all the good employees will leave, and nobody will want to work for them.

The problem with this, of course, is that as soon as one city raised their wages and benefits to make their jobs more attractive than the neighboring city, then the neighboring city had to endure the clamor from their unions to keep pace. The result? We have workers in Palo Alto, whose average pay and benefits were $139,907 during 2012, claiming they don't make enough money "

It would be nice to see Palo Alto commission a salary survey comparing total compensation of city employees to like private jobs. If that were to happen maybe the employees would realize just how good they have it. Adding even 4 percent to compensation, which increases pension costs, seems generous when one considers CalPERS pension costs will soon increase by as much as fifty percent of payroll.

Web Link


Posted by oh well, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Thank-you Tracy for continuing to spread misinformation into an already contentious negotiation. It is no secret that the Palo Alto senior management organization continues to use this site to post their misinformation using anonymous nomenclatures to state their position. It is unfortunate that they choose to use this site to contaminate employee contract negotiations. I agree with those posting that management and council policies have led to a downward spiral of the city. What a pity!


Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Maybe the reporters need to actually do some research. There is no employee in the city that has a sweeter deal than the City Manager. He makes $250,000 a year, plus a $600 per month car allowance, full health benefits for less than $100 per month, a $2million housing no interest loan, $150k housing renovation bonus and drum roll.....$52,000 per year from the city added into his 401 account every year until he retires IN ADDITION TO a CalPERS pension. He makes so much money he bought a second home in Washington. I think the city is overdue on paying the union employees if it has enough money to provide such a lucrative deal to City Manager Keene. The focus is on the wrong employee if you ask me.


Posted by To midtown, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:30 pm

If what you say is true I would agree the City Managers compensation is off the charts, and Palo Alto is setting a very bad precedent regarding compensation. I don't know that your comments are true, and even if they are, that doesn't mean the SEIU bargaining groups compensation isn't also off the charts. Two wrongs do not make a right.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:30 pm

@oh well: What makes you say Tracy is spreading misinformation? Is the CA State Controller lying when his website says the following about Palo Alto in 2012:
- 43 residents per city employee
- $1,478 amount spent on total wages per resident
- $558 amount spent on total ret. & health cost per resident
- $62,838 average wages for this city's employees
- $23,729 average retirement & health cost for this city's employees
- $98,090,078 total wages paid by this city
- $37,040,594 total retirement & health cost paid by this city

I don't doubt that there are a lot of outstanding, hard-working employees in the city. And there's a lot of dysfunction at City Hall. But most employees in the private sector don't have anywhere near the benefits that government workers get. And they operate in a meritocracy.

@Jennifer.
Yes, the paragraph suggesting that Lane Pianta is a costume designer was poorly written. I've contacted the POST about it. Sorry for spreading that misinformation.

I looked at the 2014 budget at Web Link

Community Services salaries are on page 143. I don't see a "costume designer" -- or a production designer. I do see a "Theatre Specialist" earning $82,649!

The CT may be a "cultural institution that serves the children of Palo Alto," but it's hardly "vital" or essential. The city doesn't subsidize children's sports or any other activities, so why the CT?


Posted by Race to the Bottom!, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

For the posters that think that City employees have such a sweet deal - why don't you quit your private sector job and apply for a job with the City of Palo Alto? As another poster pointed out there are currently approximately 20 positions that are open and accepting applications. OH... none of those jobs pays enough for you! Instead of trying to beat down the little guy over your misguided jealousy why not be proactive and ask your private sector employer to pay you wages or benefits that are more in line with the "generous packages" that public employees receive? Fat chance! Right? You wouldn't stand a chance. Why not band together with some of your other private sector coworkers and see if you stand a better chance? Why does everything becoming a race to the bottom (wages/benefits) in this country? Nickel and diming the little guy to death is not what makes a country great. Also = Unions fight for the rights of all workers.


Posted by Chris, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Race to the Bottom - THANK YOU! Well said! Everybody is so quick to hate unions and to argue over anyone getting anything that they don't have. We are missing the point. We are losing the middle class, and if we replace union jobs with people who will work for less, then we are all eventually going to be paid minimum wage while cost of living continues to rise. This includes those in the private sector. Private or public we all deserve a fair compensation that is NOT determined by who will work for the least.