News

City workers accept benefit cuts in Palo Alto

SEIU pledges more collaboration with city, ratifies terms that were previously imposed

Palo Alto's largest labor union has agreed to a one-year contract with the city and vowed to seek a more collaborative tone in future labor negotiations, the union's chair told the City Council Monday night.

By ratifying the contract last Thursday, the Service Employees International Union, Local 521, has essentially accepted the conditions that the city imposed on it last October after months of bitter negotiations. Though the new contract would have very little bearing on the salaries and benefits of its members, it signifies the union's acceptance of the dismal economic climate and its new spirit of collaboration with the city, said Brian Ward, who in February replaced Lynne Krug as chair of Local 521.

"We want to be part of the discussions and, of course, part of the solutions," Ward said.

"We want a collaborative approach. Hopefully, we will continue this goodwill and move forward together."

Ward said 94 percent of the union members who voted Thursday supported ratifying the contract, which would take effect July 1.

The changes, which the union vehemently protested during the summer and fall of 2009, include reduced pensions for newly hired workers, elimination of two floating holidays and a new requirement that employees make contributions toward their health care. The council (which had four different members last year) voted 8-1 in October, with Yiaway Yeh dissenting, to impose the terms on the union.

The health-care provision, which under the imposed terms would have kicked in July 1, will now be delayed until Jan. 1, 2011, Human Resources Director Russ Carlsen said. He said the council is scheduled to consider the contract Aug. 2.

Ward said that after enduring months of criticism from city officials and the community during last year's lengthy labor negotiations, union members decided to take a different approach this year. Last year, the union staged a one-day strike (which they called a "self-imposed furlough"), organized a sick-out and held numerous demonstrations near City Hall.

Ultimately, these tactics proved futile and on Oct. 26 the council imposed its "last best and final offer" on union members. Ward said the union decided that the "old way wasn't working" and elected new leadership with a different philosophy.

On Monday night, City Manager James Keene and Councilwoman Gail Price both praised the union for their collaboration in the difficult budget year. Though the council voted to eliminate 56 positions, the move would result in only 10 actual layoffs. Keene attributed this partially to the "leadership" of the SEIU, which he said worked with the city to minimize the number of layoffs.

Price thanked the union for ratifying the contract and said she appreciates the collaboration that's taking place between the city and its workers.

"These are tough times, the recessionary period is difficult," Price said. "The more direct communication we have, the better."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 29, 2010 at 11:38 am

"Benefits" are costing Palo Alto taxpayers, and the users of public services and utilities an incredible amount of money. The link below points to a brief look at the estimated 20-year costs of major benefits, unless something serious is done:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by SEIU
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Good thing Lynn Krug is out of the picture now! Maybe now SEIU can restore some validity.


Like this comment
Posted by Annette Puskarich
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm

To: "Posted by SEIU, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, 28 minutes ago
Good thing Lynn Krug is out of the picture now! Maybe now SEIU can restore some validity."

Don't scapegoat Lynn Krug. If you are an SEIU member, you are ignorant of her contribution to the PA Chapter, all of which was done on a volunteer basis. Lynn has been involved in the PA
Chapter for years and stepped-up to Chair the PA Chapter when no one else would. She worked tirelessly to maintain employees benefits, make sure job descriptions matched work performed, headed-up the study for the clerical workers to be reclassified/realigned, attended Labor/Management meetings and kept on HR and other City Management/Departments to be accountable when employees were not being treated fairly or employee grievances were not dealt with promptly, and tried to get employees involved and actively participate in the Chapter. The list could go on and on.

She also did the work that paid employees of SEIU (i.e., a dedicated work site organizer paid through your dues) were supposed to do when they didn't do their job.

The "invalidity" you have experienced has come from the corporate
SEIU, not Lynn. SEIU was constantly putting out information (e.g., flyers, web site about the budget) without coordination with the PA Employee Chapter.

Every organization needs periodic leadership change. You should welcome the new leadership and support your Chapter by getting involved. And whether you like Lynn and her approach or not, you should thank her for her years of work behind the scene to preserve YOUR salary and benefits.


Like this comment
Posted by kokopelli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

SEIU has sold the Palo Alto Chapter and it's employees down the river. Members and feepayers are cash cows for a union that no longer serves them, but takes their money to promote their own national agendas. Confronting the policies of the city and defending wages and benefits and workers rights take resources that SEIU does not want to spend.
Brian Ward is a tool of this policy. He has tossed democracy and ethical leadership out the window. He says the contract was approved by 94- 6%. But he won't say how many employees voted. The union has always been willing to collaborate, and no matter what the city says they did not negotiate in good faith before they imposed terms. Jim Keene had this script written before he came to the City and he has been playing it out, and the union has been collaborating with him. No actually SEIU and the new chapter leadership just rolled over for the City and the rest of the employees have to bend over and take it. I don't want o hear anymore comments here about the strong unions bullying the City, that may be Police and Fire, but SEIU has been beat.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I have concerns about Yiawey Yeh - see above - this city has severe fiscal issues and PA taxpayers deserve some consideration not just the union. There are structural problems - I understand this is the case in almost every city in California - and they need to be dealt with, not looking for votes from certain membership groups.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Palo Alto needs to follow in the footsteps of Maywood, California. We as taxpayers are being robbed by unions and their defined benefit plans. If we do not follow in the steps of Maywoods, at the very least, taxpayers need to demand all public service employees in the city (i.e. county, state, and federal government), including fire fighters and police, to accept and participate in 401ks. We can no longer afford to pay for the unfunded liability of pensions and health care costs. This has gone on far to long and government needs to adapt to the realities of a modern global economy and operate in climate of financial restraint and responsibility. To live within ones own means and budget.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm

It's my understanding that Mr. Ward is a "Utility Account Representative" to the tune of over $95,000 a year. Is this true? What does a "Utility Account Representative" actually do?


Like this comment
Posted by Union Member
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I'm glad to see SEIU taking a different approach in leadership. I appreciate all the hard work that Lynn did, but I feel that the more balanced and calm approach that Brian takes is better for everyone. I don't feel that Lynn's tactics were a possitive face for our union.


Like this comment
Posted by Somewhere Over the
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 4:17 pm

"I'm glad to see SEIU taking a different approach in leadership." You will continue to pay for dues and get reduced services. How's that for value? Have you looked at SEIU's budget on their website lately? Their budget for allocated services does not match services received.

"I appreciate all the hard work that Lynn did" You negate the kudos given to her with that but. I appreciate all the hard work Ms. Krug provided.

"I don't feel that Lynn's tactics were a positive face for our union." Maybe you should talk to the people she did help and see if they disapproved of her tactics to fight for what is right. How dare she fight for what is right! The audacity!!

Yes the SEIU is taking a new direction. It is all about reducing what Palo Alto has in the bay area so those in the valley can come up to what PA has, and rightfully so. HOWEVER, A TRUE union would have the fortitude to fight for Palo Alto and fight even harder for the valley workers. SEIU has no fight. They just want dues to help get their budget back in the black.

I wonder why Mr. Plymale and Ms. Krug never took a vacation during negotiations, looked more healthy after negotiations than when they started. I guess Mr. Ward has the ability to do so at $95,000 as a Utility Account Representative. Sounds like a fancy name for very important paper pusher.


Like this comment
Posted by Sammy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Annette P., kokopelli, anonymous:

Your points are on target. All this bashing Lynn, Brian speaking like he's the best thing since sliced bread, pitting workers against workers within SEIU even, is about distractions.

Both the City of Palo Alto and SEIU have been fiscally irresponsible. Both entities should be held accountable. This is all a game mastered by those who have played it for so long and gotten away with it.


Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

"I have concerns about Yiawey Yeh"

I think a lot of us do at this point. He is also for ABAG housing demands. He came in under the radar, but he is exposed now. Not only is he a tool of the labor unions, but he has an agenda for increased urban density, even if it means a huge cost to the rest of us. He is an ideolouge of the left, and he reflects a previous era in Palo Alto. He, and his reactionary policies, need to go!

It is time that he be taken to task.


Like this comment
Posted by cityworker
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Lynn Krug out of the picture is a good start, but Brian Ward replacing her is not much of an improvement. We need new blood, not the same old people running the show with their outdated ideals and methods.

On the day of the strike, he was especially vicious to those workers who decided to come to work. I understand the whole point of unity and that the union needs to encourage everyone to stay together, but some of the vile things coming out of this man's mouth were truly reprehensible.




Like this comment
Posted by Moana
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I could of sworn Lynn Krug was one of the ladies that was at a city sponsored earth day event promoting healthy, green, etc. while wearing a SEIU shirt. She was so positive at the booth and it was decorated so nicely. Even her friends/colleagues were having a good time and wearing SEIU shirts too. She and the others seemed like very nice people. The article above just does not match the earth-loving, happy, funny, intelligent person I met that day. Is this Brian guy biased for some reason? She was in the community doing positive stuff for us. I never seen this Brian chair person in the commumity or be at any events.


Like this comment
Posted by anunamise
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Hey cityworker, so much for professionalism and transparency from Mr. Ward. He has a double dose of "the drink" and likes doing the dog and pony show. Nice multitasking.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Never in my life time have I seen more money waisted than when I worked in Palo Alto. Of course there is a budget deficit. You the tax payer bought a house $2,000,000 for Jim Keene, paid for his car, paid to have his house renovated, paid for his closing costs, and a $5000 a month apartment while that house was being renovated. Lalo Perez also has a fee house courtesy of you the Palo Alto tax payer, along with Glen Roberts, and Rus Calrleson, or rather 75% free. You even pay for Jim Keenes oil changes, yes he gets his oil changed and then gets reimbursed for it.

Then there is the Roth Building purchased for $1,975,000 with $7,000,000 in renovations. Your wise city council failed to replace the roof, or seal the basement properly. So you the tax payer are paying up to $1,500,00 annually for mold abatement. Then there's the airfield that is rented to the county of Santa Clara for $.50 a year, yes, fifty cents. They are smart enough to lease it to the people who run the airport for a profit, then the people who run that airport also make a profit. The wise city council leases studios for $1.00 a year at the cubberly center. Do you think that even with outside contractory those studios only cost one dollar a year to maintain? NO


Yes SEUI employees salaries, and benefits are a part of the defecit, it's a part of the over head, but 1 person last year was responsible for more than $2,000,000 OF LAST YEAR DEFECIT for his house which came directly out of the general fund. Jim Keene took a "voulantary" 5% pay cut which should have brought his $240,000 salary to $228,000, but he made just a hair under $260,000. Not that's my kind of pay cut.

Last year our negotaiators brought many ideas and ways to cut the defecit, but with the leadership if Jim Keene all were rejected. Mind you that Yoriko Kishimots, and Jack Morton who voted to force us to pay into your medical, both have LIFE TIME HEALTH CARE courtesty of the tax payers of Palo Alto. That seems to me to be hypocrisy.

There are so many things that are wrong with how this city is run. The little guys who work for the city are being made scape goats. If the heads of the city are so concerned with the budget defecit, why don't they pay for their own houses and cars like the rest of us do?

They city council also consistantly run out revenue. Costco tried comeing in, council said no. They went to the Mountainview border. Palo Altans shope there, and give Mountainview their tax dollars. Home Depot tried to come in. Council said no. Home Depot went to East Palo Alto. Palo Altans shop there, and give EPA their tax dollars. A former city manager, and mayor approached Stanford to expand their shopping mall. Stanford agreed. Last years city council had so many outrageous damands before they would approve it, Stanford walked away from a $2,000,000 plan investment, and said "forget it". One demand was from Kishimoto for a "bike path" to be built to the mall. I know that when I go to buy a big screen television I certainly will ride my 10 speed to pick it up.

Don't look at the employees who are working to make this city a better place to live. We want to make the quality of life wonderful in this great city. BUT. We are not the reason for this defecit. It's poor management, and politics. Why isn't there a performance audit done by an outside firm done for each and every department? If things were run properly there would be no defecit to contend with in the first place.


Like this comment
Posted by Veritas
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 6:01 am

Richard's account above has the ring of truth. Unbelievable! Keene and Carlson and the others have been fleecing the gullible Palo Alto taxpayer while posturing like tough guy budget hawks.


Like this comment
Posted by living in the past
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 30, 2010 at 8:44 am

"I certainly will ride my 10 speed to pick it up."

Ah, now I realize it's all made up.


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2010 at 10:23 am

Maybe Palo Alto fire will 'buy a conciliatory clue' from the SEIU and replace its divisive leadership.

Firemen putting the self-serving fire initiative on the November Palo Alto ballot will cost $190,000 the city can ill afford. The fire initiative deserves the scorn it is universally receiving. Palo Alto voters will make clear, once and for all, that selfish union objectives like this will not be supported by even a small fraction of the community.

Many will be boycotting the Palo Alto Fire Chili Cook-off booth July 4 to demonstrate our complete disdain for their political tactics. All Palo Alto voters are encouraged to join the boycott.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2010 at 10:23 am

What does a "Utility Account Representative" actually do?


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm

>"Then there is the Roth Building purchased for $1,975,000..."

The City did buy the Roth building, but the renovation costs are not at City expense; a non-profit will be providing that work.

There is no $1,500,000 annual cost for mold abatement or anything else related to the building.


Like this comment
Posted by Knows how to research
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm

What does a "Utility Account Representative" actually do?

A lot: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Its clear from the chatter above that some in the unions still have a way to go to get grounded with the new reality of a bad economy.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Yes there is up to $1,500,000 annually for mold abatement. There are documents to prove it. It's a matter of PUBLIC RECORD, as were all the statements I made. All documented. As for the renovation costs. The city did foot the bill, and the "historical society" was supposed to reimburse the city. This has NOT happened yet. There are also documents to prove this as well. Everything is a matter of public record.

Dont' forget there is a sluch fund the city council has for catered meals and other things. They increased that fund by more than $40,000, and the city manager as well has a similar fund, and that was increased by more than $40,000. This to is a matter of public record.

Then there is going to be ANOTHER renovation of the Roth Building. Maybe this is what you're referring to (pat). But if the job was done correctly in the first place a second multimillion dollar renovation would never had to have taken place. But then again, when you get the CHEAPEST bid. You get cheap work.


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Richard, if all the statements you made are matters of public record, could you please provide links to the documents?


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 4:07 am

You're right about one thing. I was wrong it's up to $150,000 annually. Sory for that error.


Like this comment
Posted by Georgia
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 1, 2010 at 8:03 am

The Mercury is reporting that the police union-backed petition in San Carlos is being dropped because everyone there realized the proposed initiate (similar to the Palo Alto fire initiative) "has no chance, with the sophisticated citizens' base."
Web Link

Yet Palo Alto fire continues to blindly charge into a burning building with their initiative. Very poor judgment is on display here. A divisive and unwise initiative like this, which voters will soundly defeat in November, has consequences.

The likely outcome of the defeated fire initiative will be the consolidation of fire efforts by a number of cities, and the outsourcing of paramedic services, all to make Palo Alto emergency services more efficient and cost-effective.

Standing up to the fire union is long overdue. Taxpayers can save millions of dollars per year by doing so.


Like this comment
Posted by opus
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 8:04 am

$4.7 million still missing and unaccounted for in the 2009-2010 budget. I guess it'll all work out somewhere. it is truly amazing that city management praises city employees for their "collaboration" in accepting layoffs and lower wages while they drive home to their city-paid-for-homes not to mention that their property taxes are proportionably also covered by city taxpayers. And then there is the city council whose offer of "collaboration" was to refuse a temporary 10% cut in their pay as a show of good faith that we're all in this together. What a top-notch city management and city council leadership team we have. What a pity.


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 9:13 am

Richard, you've made a lot of claims, which you say are matters of public record, yet you resist providing documentation. Why?

Here’s what I was able to find on the Roth building:
Web Link

ORDINANCE NO. 4790, May 12, 2003
D. In the 2002-03 Adopted Budget, the City Council approved the
creation of CIP PE-03004 (formerly CIP 10304), Roth Building Wings
Demolition and appropriated $930,000 for the Project. Subsequently,
during the fiscal year 2003-04, the City Council, through Budget
Amendment Ordinance Numbers 4790 and 4785, appropriated additional
amounts of $275,000 and $30,350, respectively, bringing the total
appropriation to $1,235,350;

I. The estimated cost of the improvements is $415,000 and a new
CIP project will need to be created for the Roth Building
maintenance;

Web Link
1-9-08 Last summer, Palo Alto History Museum organizers signed a lease option with the City of Palo Alto on the historic downtown Roth building.

Estimated restoration costs have climbed from $5.5 million to $7.2 million.

Under the option agreement, the museum group has two years to raise the money, at which point the city will grant them the right to lease the building for $1 a year, said Staiger, who is also the city historian.

The city offered the building as-is, but the group claimed the city should help pay for water damage it hadn't sufficiently prevented.

After two years of negotiations, the City Council allotted $415,000 for repairs in spring 2006.


Like this comment
Posted by Retired Staffer
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 10:42 am

And this is why the City is in financial difficulty---"Things," not people.


Like this comment
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Brian Ward ran unapposed as chair of SEIU. What I'd like to know is how many union members even voted.

Also, since the City imposed a new contract on the union months ago, the members have already been paying toward pension and health care costs and losing tuition benefits. Several members have told me their monthly take home pay had been cut by $400 or more.

The article is not well researched or written. It seems to take its facts solely from what the City administration says, without speaking to the union members who are not officials.


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm

>”Really? Charging kids to go to school?”

Why not? Why shouldn’t people pay for services, especially those who can afford it? Lots of kids take public transit to get to school, and that’s not free.


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 1:20 pm

> ‘And this is why the City is in financial difficulty---"Things," not people.’

It takes people to do the “things.” And people eat up about 70% of the budget in salaries, benefits, pensions.


Like this comment
Posted by Wha?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2010 at 2:21 pm

It does take people to run a government and provide service. With Prop 13, many people pay the same property tax they did in the 1970s with only modest increases, but expect to pay for services (i.e. people's salaries) in 2010 with that amount of money. It will not, does not add up. We will continue cutting services or paying hidden taxes as long as property taxes don't reflect the true value of property.

Lets see if my remarks are thread killers. They often seem to be. Maybe too much logic?


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm

What would the housing market be like without Prop 13? How many people – especially in this economy – would dare to buy a house if they couldn’t predict what their taxes would be next year or in 5 years, 10 years?

Imagine how much the government would take if there was no limit to property tax increases. Imagine how many more employees would be hired (at unlimited salaries & benefits) if the government just kept on spending our money. Instead of trying to balance a budget, they’d just keep demanding more from us in taxes and not cut anything.


Like this comment
Posted by opus
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I get it now. We need to pay more taxes as suggested by "Wha?" If you didn't like prop 13 and probably chose not to vote for this measure than I guess you were out voted by the majority of property owners who were able to vision a government who would be able to adjust to spending limits. If your vision is for city management employees to have their house paid for with city taxes along with six figure incomes then I guess you are in the minority. "thread killers" or "logic", probably more on the end of nonsense. God Bless America!


Like this comment
Posted by Charlie
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Opus, If you report the missing money to the police department, they will not be able to find a body to work on the case. I suspect there are CASH machines hidden inside the city building...


Like this comment
Posted by Reminder
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 1, 2010 at 11:04 pm

To Bob farther above:

Federal employees have had a 401K since the 80s.Only those hired since before then have a full defined benefit plan for retirement like all of our city employees. Federal employees hired since the 1980s have a retirement system that is close to what people have in the private sector.


Like this comment
Posted by Retired Staffer
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 9:36 am

Here's another example of "things" rather than "people" causing Palo Alto's financial difficulties:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Wha?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Wow, some response! Now Prop 13 is why the City decided to pay for the City Manager's house. Pretty powerful! And why is Prop 13 the only answer? Can't we enact legistlation that allows for inflation and for people to make a decent salary without being called out like they are here?

Maybe there wouldn't be so many people in CA if property taxes reflected property value. And that would be a bad thing because why?


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Spratt
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Performance audits. What a concept. If that were to actually happen, and
not done from within, the truth about the failed projects, and coverups
might actually come out. But of course the City would not want any more
egg on their faces than they already have. Check out the department heads under Glenn Robers for example. And where is he now? If everyone only knew the details.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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