Hundreds of Oakland city workers on 1-day strike, plan to confront mayor

OAKLAND (BCN) City of Oakland officials that they are prepared for a one-day strike for Thursday that they said was called by nearly 2,000 workers on unusually short notice.

City officials said that Services Employees International Union Local 1021 informed them only on Wednesday that workers plan to strike at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The city also said late today that another union, Local 21 of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, requested that its members be allowed to attend a picket line that SEIU will hold late Thursday afternoon.

SEIU Local 1021 said in a news release that it has called the one-day strike to protest what it alleges are the city's unfair labor practices.

SEIU Local 1021 also said striking workers will picket outside Mayor Libby Schaaf's "State of the City" address at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California at 1433 Madison St.

Schaaf is scheduled to deliver her speech at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and city workers said they will begin picketing outside the facility at 5 p.m.

In a statement from the mayor's office, the administration said they respect workers' right to protest, but continued, "The city and its labor partners have been engaged in good faith bargaining for the last five months. Although we are disappointed workers will disrupt the Islamic Cultural Center on a night the center opened its doors as a gesture of goodwill to all Oaklanders, we will continue negotiations in good faith.”

SEIU Local 1021 said it has filed unfair labor practice charges against the city for allegedly changing conditions of employment without bargaining and failing to negotiate in good faith.

However, city officials rejected that allegation, saying they have been bargaining in good faith with its labor partners for six months and the negotiations are continuing.

The union said longtime residents and community activists will join city workers as they picket outside Schaaf's address.

Union leaders said striking workers and residents will present what they described as the "Real State of Oakland" outside Schaaf's address and community organizations will discuss the growing housing crisis and how they believe Oakland leaders need to put promises into action.

Union officials said city workers have been negotiating with the city for fair wages, worksite safety improvements and community welfare for almost six months and said workers will highlight how their understaffed city departments are relying on overworked employees to keep the city running.

Union leaders said the city workers who plan to go on strike include librarians, building inspectors, street cleaning crews, sewer workers, parking enforcement officers, Head Start instructors and others.

City officials said police, fire, 911 dispatch and emergency services personnel will not participate in the strike and police and fire emergency response, including traffic enforcement, will be operational.

But they said that due to staffing shortages, starting at 2 p.m. on Thursday the city will have to close all Head Start and Early Head Start centers, Parks & Recreation facilities and programs, including after school programs, all senior centers and all public libraries.

City officials also said that Schaaf's administration is working to minimize further service impacts that could result from limited and unpredictable staffing levels at other city facilities, programs and services on Thursday afternoon.

SEIU Local 1021 officials said that as Oakland's economy continues to prosper and grow, the city is operating at staffing levels that date back to 2008, with more than half of its workers only on the job part-time.

SEIU Local 1021 alleged in a statement, "The mayor and her administration are creating a health and safety crisis in Oakland."

But the city said in its statement, "The administration values its employees, and offers generous retirement and health benefits. We are seeking an agreement that honors the workforce and is fiscally prudent so we can continue to deliver vital services to our community sustainably into the 
future and address a significant backlog of deferred maintenance and other unfunded obligations."

The city said it has offered employees what it described as "reasonable wage and benefit enhancements," including a 4 percent cost-of-living wage increase over two years, plus a 2 percent one-time settlement incentive.

In addition, the city said it has reached more than 125 tentative agreements with collective bargaining groups that address substantive issues, including health and safety, employee compensation and disciplinary processes.

 

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