Atherton employees may strike over layoff plan

Town negotiators, union representatives fail to reach agreement after 10 hours of talks

Members of a union representing 16 Atherton employees authorized a strike Tuesday (July 5) after town negotiators, union representatives and a state mediator failed to reach an agreement after about 10 hours of talks regarding the town's plan to lay off 13 employees and outsource public works and building department services.

Peter Finn of Teamsters Union Local 856 said he was meeting with the employees at noon Wednesday (July 6) to decide "where to go from here." He said 92 percent of the membership gave the union the green light to call a strike.

Interim City Manager John Danielson said he is respecting the state mediator's request that details of the talks remain confidential, but acknowledged that the mediator found the two parties at an impasse.

The town handed out pink slips to 13 employees in late May, to be effective June 30. But after the union offered employee concessions to help eliminate the budget's estimated $856,000 structural deficit, the town delayed the effective date of the layoffs until July 15.

Soon after the town announced the layoff and outsourcing plan, employees offered about 12 percent in concessions, which represented about $167,000 in savings to the town, but on June 9 increased proposed concessions to about $300,000 in savings, according to Finn.

Danielson said Wednesday morning that the union must give notice before a strike begins, and that he hadn't received such a notice. Employees have shown up for work, although "the staffing for the building department has been really spotty the past couple of weeks," he said.

Although he wouldn't characterize the absences as a slowdown -- a strategy used at times by represented employees dissatisfied with the progress of labor talks -- he noted that yesterday morning before negotiations began, "no one showed up in the building department" to staff the front counter. The town had to call in substitute help from the private firm that employs the current interim building official, Danielson said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Ernesto
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Its pretty telling that its difficult for management to tell if they're effecting a slowdown, or just working at their usual leisurely public sector pace.

Good for Atherton.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Let them.
Public employees are going to regret their attitude and response to the issue of public employee compensation. They have had it, do have it, and will have it very good. It should be clear to anyone who pays attention, most public employees are as greedy and selfish as those evil corporations. The average SF Muni driver makes $100K per yeat. That is the top 7 percent of all American workers. Instead of thanking their lucky stars, they act like they are beng oppressed. Nonsense!

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Those local government employee unions who have wise leadership are making significant concessions. Those who have have poor leadership continue to demand unreasonable wage and benefits.

As a result more and more local governments will wisely decide to outsource as much as is possible.

Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

PC said "As a result more and more local governments will wisely decide to outsource as much as is possible."

That needs to go beyond the low level positions. All major decisions are driven by outside consultants so let's get rid of the layers of management.

Like this comment
Posted by Can't believe what I'm hearing
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 7, 2011 at 10:54 am

The men and women in the building and public works department have dedicated years of their hard working time to the Town of Atherton. They over exceed what is asked of them. Only those who have had the opportunity to know the workers in question can honestly comment on their stand point. They aren't management and have nothing to gain or loose by striking. They've already lost their jobs.

Like this comment
Posted by Sheri S Shenk
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

On 4th of July weekend, we took our grandson to play at Holbrook-Palmer Park. What we found there was disturbing. Restrooms were locked - no entry. Portable toilets were disgustingly full and unclean. Dangerous trash (eg: small plastic bottle caps) was found in tiny tots sandbox and all around their play yard.

I'm not saying that the adults who use these facilities should not be held accountable for the garbage they drop there, but I did turn to my husband to say, "Are the Town employees on strike? Or are they just trying to let us know what it will be like here if they are fired?"

Regardless, it is a very sad day for the Town of Atherton when, at the beginning of a three day National Holiday weekend, our children's park is in such deplorable condition.

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Posted by Justice for all
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 7, 2011 at 11:29 am

As long as the public [the customer] is FORCED to use the specific public service, and employees are NOT forced to work at these jobs, they should not be allowed to strike and hold citizens hostage.

While treating employees well is the right way, allowing them to hold a gun to our heads is intolerable. I'd say any one who did that should never be allowed to work for the public again. That is what happened to the air traffic controllers, and for the exact same reasons.

Like this comment
Posted by math whiz
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

If it's a 16 member union, and 92% of membership favors strike, how many said yea?

Like this comment
Posted by fractional character
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2011 at 9:03 pm

If 16 voted and only one voted not to strike, then 93.75% of the membership would have said yea, not 92% as the article stated. So maybe not all the members voted?? To get 92% allowing rounding either direction, only 12 or 13 members of the union voted. That is unless the person who did the initial calculation was incorrect or the union allows fractional voting or somebody typo'd the number.... or........ have a nice day....

Like this comment
Posted by Andy
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 8, 2011 at 9:26 am

Let these people strike. Fire them all and outsource. It has been far too long that these public employees have steadily sucked dry the publics resources. They have little monitoring and work very slow. I am sure if they are pushed too much, they will strike or pull some other union tricks. The veil has been pulled back and the public is growing sick and tired of seeing their hard earned money go to pay less qualified, less educated people (In most cases) more money than they make in their own jobs. The jigg is up and each city is going to do the same thing. So many layers of government can be eliminated and will save us all a lot of money.

The Town of Atherton has been scammed out of so much money from some of these employees. Troy Henderson is one of the biggest crooks the town ever had. With virtually no supervision, he wasted countless hours driving around town and even hiding out and sleeping while on the clock. The things that he did are numerous. Getting rid of this type pf element and replacing it with a private company that can be fired at any time would be a welcome change.

Like this comment
Posted by Marg
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

People who voice their opinions should really get the facts straight. Public employees are not the ones bankrupting the system. Look at the large corporations that don't pay one penny towards taxes. We pay our taxes whether it be 15%, 28% or 33%; so why shouldn't they? In fact, they get tax credits! If they paid their fair share of taxes, the Country wouldn't be in the fiscal crisis that it is in. Take at look at corporate heads salaries and bonus'. Millions and millions of dollars a year. How much does one really need??? Look at the bigger picture. Make adjustments from the top - those are the savings that will have a bigger impact!

Like this comment
Posted by Ernesto
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The average public sector worker makes more than the same private sector worker doing the same job (and doing it more productively because there is no public union defending him is he is working slowly or even downright lazy). Then, on top of this, the private sector taxpayer is paying for gold plated retirement benefits and early bloated pensions for his public counterpart.

Singling out corporations (who employ the majority of the tax paying public) or the few CEO's that make up .001% of the private sector workforce is deceptive and inaccurate. The private sector taxpaying public seems to have woken up to the generational theft that is being perpetuated on us by our public employee union special interests. Lets fix the waste this time before we go looking for new tax revenue.

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