City Workers Prepare to Strike

Dwight McElroy (right with mike), Oakland Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021, speaks to union members Thursday in front of Oakland City Hall. Photo by Ken A. Epstein.

By Post StaffCity workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 and IFTPE Local 21 announced Thursday in front of Oakland City Hall that they are prepared to go on strike for the first time since 1946. Ninety-four percent of Local 21 workers were in favor of striking while 95 percent of SEIU 1021 members voted to authorize a strike. A strike authorization vote provides the unions’ bargaining teams with the discretion to call a strike if negotiations are not successful. “If we have to, we will strike,” said Dwight McElroy, Oakland Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021. The two unions, which together represent more than 3,00 city employees, say they have given back more than 25 percent of their take-home pay and as layoffs continue, public services continue to decline. Although Oakland is projected to have a surplus at the end of the budget year in June, employees say the city is asking them to accept further concessions. Negotiations are continuing, and the contracts will expire June 30. In response to questions from the Post, Mayor Jean Quan said she was willing to discuss worker wage increases. “To help us reach a fair contract, I am asking the council to keep some room in the budget that would allow the city the flexibility to seriously consider employee compensation issues at the bargaining table,” she said Thursday. The unions complain that the city continues to pit workers’ needs against increased funding to the Oakland Police Department. “We live here too, and see the great need for a police force that is accountable to the public,” said McElroy. “But we also know that it takes public services like Head Start, programs for at-risk youth and seniors as well as maintenance of our neighborhoods to make our community thrive again.” As the city is doing better financially, workers are looking for a no-concessions contract and a cost of living increase, which hasn’t happened for more than five years, McElroy said. “We believe there is room for both OPD and civilian employees to get the funding we both so badly need.” IFPTE Local 21 represents professional and managerial city workers: engineers, city attorneys, planners, accountants, managers and supervisors in many departments. Members of SEIU Local 1021 include street and parks maintenance workers, civilian employees in the Oakland Police Department, librarian assistants and housing inspectors. “The city has the money to fund public safety, service restoration and a small cost of living increase to get us back on our feet. Yet they are instead wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring expensive executive management consultants. This is not acceptable and shouldn’t be to any Oakland resident,” said Renee Sykes, Oakland vice president for Local 21.
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