Public works, libraries, city offices closed as Oakland workers strike

Image 1 of 3

Oakland city workers began striking at 7 a.m. on Tuesday after talks with city leaders over their contract broke down. 

Early in the morning, about 20 members of SEIU Local 1021, which represents about 1,000 engineers and professional workers with the city of Oakland came out to support the public works employees, who called this strike. By afternoon, there were nearly 2,700 Oakland city workers on strike, which means public works services, library services and all city offices will be closed. Parking enforcement workers were also on strike.

The strike will not affect police and fire emergency services.

Mayor Libby Schaaf came out to the boathouse at Lake Merritt, publicly apologizing for the interruption caused by the strike. She said that pension costs are expected to soar in the coming years and the city must make decisions based not "just on today but on tomorrow." A city attorney also said that the union shouldn't have even authorized a strike because the two sides were still at the negotiating table.

One of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations between these unions and the city  is over wage increases.

The public works union says it wants the city to give workers a 4 percent pay increase for one year and keep talking about an agreement for another two years with a mediator.

The city said no to that - and instead says its best and final offer is wage increases of up to 6 percent over the next three years. 

The city is also willing to provide fully-paid family health care benefits and pension costs...

But a city of Oakland employee said what workers need the most  are higher wages for their daily living expenses.

“A lot of our members have had to leave Oakland because we can't afford to live there,” said Renee Sykes, an Oakland neighborhood services coordinator. “It’s hard on folks... Wages haven’t kept up.”

In a statement, Schaaf said the city cannot spend more than it can afford.

"We are disappointed the union leadership decided to strike because we are not at an impasse," she said. "We view this strike as unlawful, and will file an unfair labor practice charge. We will also continue to work in good faith to reach an agreement. "

The city council will meet Wednesday to consider the union's latest proposal.