OAKLAND, Calif.—More than 3,000 Oakland city workers remained on strike for a third day Dec. 7, as the City Council failed to
reach a deal to settle it. Two unions, SEIU Local 1021 and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, which have been working without a contract since July, walked out Dec. 5, shutting down most public services except for police and firefighting. The city and the unions have agreed on a 4% raise in the first year of a new contract, but the city says it can’t afford to guarantee a raise beyond that without either new revenues or layoffs. Local 1021 chief negotiator Rob Szykowny told the San Francisco Chronicle that the city has about 300 vacant positions that are already budgeted for, and that it will be collecting taxes on marijuana when recreational use becomes legal in 2018. The unions also say workers need a raise to keep up with the Bay Area’s skyrocketing housing costs. “It’s been too long that we can’t even afford to live in our own city,” said Wendell Taylor, who has worked as a city plumber for 23 years, told the East Bay Times Dec. 6.
Mayor Libby Schaaf said the strike was illegal “because we are not at an impasse.” Rob Szykowny responded that it was “a protected unfair-labor-practice strike.” He told the Real News Network Dec. 5 that the city was bargaining in bad faith, had rejected the union’s offer to have former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown mediate informally, and had been relying excessively on temporary and part-time workers. The city is “saying I’m good enough to be part time, but I’m not good enough to be permanent,” Michael Pandolofo, a part-time worker for 18 years, told the Associated Press Dec. 5.