Unions representing over half of the city’s workforce were planning on striking this week if a deal wasn’t made
What had the potential to be the largest San Jose city employee strike in decades fizzled on Tuesday after councilmembers approved a significant pay increase for about 4,500 of its employees, a major victory for South Bay labor organizers who claimed their members were being short-changed in one of America’s most expensive metropolitan areas.
The city’s two negotiating unions, MEF-AFSCME Local 101 and IFPTE Local 21, secured 14.5 to 15% wage increases over the next three years, about 3% more than the city’s final offer in June before talks broke down.
The two labor groups, which represent employees in libraries, parks, and the city’s airport, threatened to have their members walk off the job for three days beginning Aug. 15 if a deal was not reached, which would have disrupted key municipal services.
“It feels great,” MET-AFSCME negotiator John Tucker said. “I know our members are excited to get back to work.”
Tucker stated that union members will vote to ratify the contract next week, and that the agreement represents the largest wage increase in more than two decades. The city employs approximately 7,000 people in total.
The wage increases in San Jose come amid a flurry of labor activity across the state. This summer, over 12,000 Santa Clara County employees received historic pay raises. In addition, an ongoing Hollywood strike by writers and actors is beginning to affect Bay Area industry workers.
For months, the two San Jose unions have claimed that their employees are underpaid, resulting in overburdened city departments and low morale.
However, city officials such as Mayor Matt Mahan and budget director Jim Shannon have rebuffed those claims, warning that an increase in salary increases could lead to a difficult financial situation for San Jose, which has traditionally passed tight budgets.
“What San Jose needs is a profile of courage, and what they are seeing is politics as usual,” Mayor Matt Mahan said in a statement released on Tuesday.”While the vast majority of my colleagues support this agreement, I cannot.” I have always advocated for a generous pay raise for our employees. The City of San Jose has excellent employees who deserve a raise.”
Last week’s estimates predicted that labor’s salary request would cost $23.9 million more than what the city offered. According to the city manager’s office, the pay raise will necessitate a revision of this year’s budget, which was passed in June.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Mahan added that as a result of the pay raise, San Jose residents “will likely see” higher taxes and service cuts affecting library hours and 911 response times.
If a contract hadn’t been reached by Tuesday, the resulting strike would have been the largest since 1981, when city workers protested pay and working conditions for women. The only other recent strike took place in 2007, when a small group of building inspectors protested disciplinary rules.