City doles out pink slips

The city of Sacramento sent out pink slips to about 90 employees Wednesday because city management and two unions have not yet found common ground in their contract negotiations.

However, Interim Assistant City Manager Patti Bisharat said city officials have not given up on efforts to resolve their differences with the unions.

In June, the city closed a $43 million budget gap for the 2011 fiscal year.

The two unions that have not made concessions are Stationary Engineers Local 39 and Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447. Local 39 represents employees in numerous city departments, including Utilities, Transportation and Community Development.

Bisharat said Tuesday that the city was still actively negotiating with the unions and “still hopeful” for an agreement to avoid layoffs. But the city sent out layoff notices in order “to pull the trigger if we need to,” Bisharat said.

If the negotiations end successfully, then city management will retract the pink slips, she said.

But if talks do not improve soon, the laying off of about 90 employees will go into effect Aug. 6, according to Bisharat.

Joan Bryant, director of public employees for Local 39, said it was “very disturbing” that the city sent out layoff notices Wednesday. The union has faced layoffs of more than 200 workers in the past two years, she said. The union represents about 1,500 workers locally.

“The city has an obligation to cut its spending and stop cutting workers at every turn,” Bryant said, “because pretty soon you’re going to have no one to cut.”

She claimed that the city is laying off workers to put pressure on the union to accept the city’s demands.

Local 39 is continuing to negotiate with the city, she said, but noted that the city’s specific requests are “not something that we will likely jump into.”

The city is asking Local 39 to sign off on a three-year contract that would end in June 2013, according to city spokeswoman Amy Williams. A 4 percent pay cut would go into effect now with the proposed contract, Williams wrote in an e-mail. Starting in June 2012, employees covered under the contract would receive a 5 percent raise.

Among other details, the contract would include a monthly furlough day throughout the three-year period, Wiliams wrote.

When the City Council balanced Sacramento’s budget on June 22, it extended negotiation talks with three unions for 30 days. One of the unions, the Auto, Marine and Specialty Painters Local 1176, made concessions to the city last week, Bisharat said.

The city had hoped to use savings from labor concessions to balance its budget. But when city managers didn’t gain concessions from unions by June 22, the City Council decided to allow an extra month for negotiations.

Since the city didn’t have the savings from concessions in June, the City Council moved $648,000 in other funds to help fill the budget hole.

The layoffs of about 90 employees would mark a second group of layoffs for the city this summer. About 50 employees worked their last day on July 16, Williams said.

Harry Rotz, the business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447, could not be reached because he was out of town Wednesday, according to the union’s office.

Photo by Brandon Darnell.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.


Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

July 22, 2010 | 12:44 AM

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447 is the same union that the Sacramento Bee recently exposed as having spent nearly $800,000 in campaign contributions to local candidates in just the past 3 years.

That total, $758,000 but probably closer to $800k with the recent June Primary elections, is “more than the region’s two largest law enforcement unions, the firefighters union and the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – combined”, said the Bee.

So the City spent nearly $650K to extend their contracts and not lay off workers, the unions did not budge and now Harry Rotz is not even in town to negotiate?

Read more:

July 25, 2010 | 3:04 PM

Wasn’t it Local 39 that literally ate its young when it refused to concessions with the city after firefighters and cops “took a bullet” for the budget? These unions are so inept and uncaring, they’d rather see members lose their jobs than give back a bit during hard times. It’s difficult to have any sympathy for these unions.

July 22, 2010 | 8:38 AM

I like the line from the local 39 that they have already lost 200 jobs among their 1500 person membership.

This is 13% lost jobs (assuming non of these guys got other jobs outside the union)… very similar to local unemployment rates.

But these 200 were not City of Sacramento workers. So now the labor mafia… errr union thinks that City of Sacramento should be held responsible to make sure that the Local 39 membership stays at a certian level.

The arrogance of these corrupt union bosses never ceases to amazes me.

July 22, 2010 | 8:55 AM

They wish to only rise in the tide of economic prosperity, and not participate in the recession.

July 22, 2010 | 11:28 AM

Isn’t that the line from Al Capone’s tombstone?

July 23, 2010 | 11:55 AM

Someone direct me to information about a Union taking a leadership role in reducing workers wages and benefits and to embrace a harder work ethic to support the economy in general and support the health of the business that pays them. I am sure it’s there…somewhere.

July 22, 2010 | 2:15 PM

How many of the non-union management will be laid off too? Fewer line workers, fewer sups are needed. But I’ll bet the bloated management staff remain nearly intact–that’s where many of the high salaries are and related city costs.

Before condemning union members, anti union folks need to do some research into the role unions played in the last two hundred years in this country to lift blue collar workers out of poverty and into the spending middle class. Our whole economy benefitted from those workers who sometimes lost their lives in the struggle to be heard.

July 22, 2010 | 4:14 PM

EXACTLY! KEY WORD – “benefited” (as used in past tense). Unions were created to protect employees from large corporations…and now employees and corporations are seeking protection from unions. Unions are totally out of control in California. This is not a “tea-party” rant…I am registered ind. and just ask you to look at the numbers – unions are going to bankrupt this state if things don’t change. Campaign finance reform and term limits.

July 22, 2010 | 4:02 PM

Yes unions had a great historical role. Certainly played a major role in providing some of my ancestors humane living and working conditions (copper miners in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula). I always wonder why the unions who are so proud of their history don’t go and unionize workers where they might actually make the same kind of difference again… for example Chinese factories and African mines.

But why bother to raise the human condition when you can so easily suck honey from the US taxpayer instead, right?

You should know your union history as well. The union legacy of the last 50 years is one of crappy products that no one wants to buy, unsustainable wages that puts the union member out of work in the end, and a cycle of corruption that leaves the taxpayer holding the bag.

So that leaves the US labor unons to suck dry the only enterprise that can’t run away screaming -. local, county and state & federal governments.

Way to go union guys… you took a proud union legacy and swerved it into the ditch!

July 22, 2010 | 5:09 PM

First, no union has ever been perfect. Neither are companies, corporations, you or I, so to generalize that all unions are corrupt is unfair and untrue. Do I agree with all union decisions–public or private? Absolutely not–too often some are short sighted and leaders too puffed up with their power.

No, Jimmy it is not past tense. The unions in the private sector have lost so many members that they are very weak as compared to the past. In spite of that, their battle for livable wages went on and still benefits the public in some sectors where their wages enable them to still live a middle class life.

Further, unions are still needed in this country. Check out what happened to the meat packing industry when management “busted” those unions. Wages went down to barely above minimum and only illegal immigrants would work under these filthy working conditions. CEO’s and top management wages went up and consumer prices NEVER went down. The miners’ and BP woking procedures and conditions killing their workers show that their is still a need for strong unions in this country. Work in both those industries for awhile and you will have a different view.

“The union legacy of the last 50 years is one of crappy products that no one wants to buy,” That started with the auto companies and spread to others was not due to unions. It was called “planned obsolescence” to get consumers to buy more products and enrich stockholders and management

Cogmyer–There are unions in the public sector and unions in the private sector. If management in both sectors treated their employees with respect and responded to their needs, there would be no reason for unions. Instead of management and workers being a team in this country working toward a common production goal, it is the arrogance and “class” attitude of management and ownership that creates the need for unions.

The craftsman unions of Europe (and later Japan) founded over 300 years ago fosters working cooperatively and while they do not always agree, the relationship has much less hostility between workers and management.

July 22, 2010 | 5:51 PM

Care to name any of these theoretical “non-corrupt” unions? Certainly the ones in this article should be ashamed of themselves.

Doling out money for politics instead training and taking care of their union members.

Throwing younger employees under the bus every time they are faced with 5% pay cut.

You ask a good question on how many city supes will be laid off if union workers are cut. But same question for the union, how big of a cut did the brass at Local 39 take when they went from 1500 members to 1300?

Planned obsolescence is the classic cop out. Its no coincidence that the reliable cars that Americans actually want to buy are built in American non-union factories, while crappy American marque vehicles are left for those with bad credit and Avis rent a car.

Yes there are good union models. BMW sets the standard for labor contracts where union management sits on the board of directors and is responsible for the success of the company. Members are protected, but are also expected to find ways to stay competitive and stay employeed.

Funny that in taking over 2 auto companies last year, the Obama administration didn’t say peep towards changing the labor model to something that is actually sustainable, like the BMW model. Obviously this is because the corrupt UAW wants the status quo no matter how much of a dead end it is, and Obama wants to keep that union money flowing in.

Funny you mention meat packing. My brother in law works at American in Green Bay (original sponsors of the GB Packers). Certainly not a glorious job by any means and there is definitely illegals out on the floor. But on the hand it is definitely low wage unskilled labor no matter who is doing it. But this is an immigration problem more than labor problem, as long as there is a ready supply of illegals willing to work for nothing, wages stay low, document the workforce and wages go up. You don’t need a union to enforce immigration law.

July 22, 2010 | 7:26 PM

Sad…real lifes impacted by gamesmanship.

July 22, 2010 | 9:37 PM

Cogmeyer, until the meat packing companies busted the unions in the 1970′s they were one of the highest paying jobs in the midwest. There were no illegals working there then. The packing company producing kosher meats, located in Iowa, hired all illegals and when the INS came in ruined the little town’s economy.

July 22, 2010 | 10:42 PM

Understood. And frankly it is a disservice to everyone when meat packers (or lug nut installers, or local 39) are overpaid. It hurts the company, the consumer, and eventually the overpaid worker too.

July 22, 2010 | 11:20 PM

Still interested to hear about some of these non-corrupt unions that you claim exist…

July 23, 2010 | 8:12 AM

You are not getting the point. I am not saying “get rid of them” as you implied I did. What I am saying is that unions have way too much influence in elections along with state, county, and local budgets. Nothing will change in CA politics until these influences are minimized. That goes for unions, corporations, non-profits….whatever.

No where do you touch on the “great role of unions” in elections? Still looking. Root of all that is wrong is special interest elections.

July 24, 2010 | 9:24 AM

The City is asking 4.6 Million in concisions and if you divide that by the number of Union employees you will see that the City is untruthful on how much concisions they are really demanding. If you divide the 4.6 million by the number of employees. That adds up to around $2,700.00 loss of income per-year of evey employee and the City is trying to make the Union look like the bad guy by saying they will give back 5% on the third year. Who is the mafia? Not the Unions!!!

July 26, 2010 | 9:54 AM

Certainly never a good thing, but quite a bit less than the general population or workers. One in eight businesses have failed in the past 3 years. I do not think that one in eight governmental departments have been closed. Of those still working, wages and benefits have been cut deeply. The bulk of our family and most of our friends are in retail. Wage cuts of 25% to 40% is the norm IF your company is still in business. Bothersome is that the smart private sector businesses saw the economic problems on the horizon, (all you had to do was read the WSJ and listen to the news, this was not a suprise), and started making cuts in 2006, (and they have gotten deeper), and much government has not made the cuts. If you have maintained anywhere near the same wage package as 2006. you have gotten a big raise in this recession. The price of nearly everything is lower today than 2006, and the big ticket items like cars and houses have been slashed. It is a recession, so every need to recede to stay even. You cannot get raises when times are good and not expect to get cuts when times are bad.

July 24, 2010 | 10:18 PM

The City of Sacramento has made big cuts; however, it was just the union employees and not management which is racking in the big bucks, “One manager for every six workers”. There is a big problem now because their is no one taking care of the parks and one dogcatcher covering the City’s 48 square mile radius. If you try and get some building plans approved, well good luck on that one for it may take months. After you get through the permit process you will have to wait for days on end for one inspection. Who is kidding who when they say Government has not made any cuts? It’s like teachers, for if you cut the teachers everyone cares but if you cut management no one cares. The City will be trying to get big tax money out of the citizens now if they wish to keep the parks, dogcatchers and building inspections and approvals running smoothly.

July 25, 2010 | 3:21 PM

Yes you’re right! The city can still afford to let go of quite a few more managers and that would certainly help the situation.

July 25, 2010 | 3:23 PM

Agreed that the union should work with the city to resolve the current impasse, however, the city is trying to create two classes of employees. In this case the city is clearly favoring the “public safety” employees, and therefore, treating the rest as something less important.

522 & SPOA deferred raises for 2-3 years, but received additional days off in return. in addition, they received a NO layoff guarantee. Now the city wants to take the following from other unions; 4% retro to 06/19/10 + 1 day furlough, which = 5%. If I add that right, that is a 9% cut. Also, the city wants employees to give up raises in healthcare, reduction in required certification pay, etc. The healthcare issue is a double wammy as in 2011 healthcare benefits become taxable under Obamacare.

So are employees outside of fire & police less important? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Ask SFD if they can put out a fire w/o water? Ask SPD if they can take care of neighborhood problems w/o code enforcement & building inspectors? The answer again is ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Therefore, the city needs to STOP treating employees differently. Yes, i know that PD & fire dodge bullets & run into burning buildings, but utility workers deal with spilling sewage, building inspectors deal with collapsing buildings & code enforcement folks tread on ground that SPD & SFD aren’t willing to tread on.

Furthermore, the city has approx. 3 million dollars identified in Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG), that was identified by Management consultants, a firm hired by the city to review the city’s system. These funds were identified as eligible for code enforcement. If these funds were to be used and not turned over to SHRA, the city’s general fund would have an additional 3M to spend in fixing the budget. City staff has pointed this issue out to the union & management, but no one is willing to address it. Why? Where is this money being spent now?

What appears to be going on between the city & the union appears to be a head butting contest and not any kind of negotiations. I see this issue heading straight for the courts with the residents of the city paying the price in many, many ways…….

July 26, 2010 | 4:00 AM

I would like to make a comment to SACRES when he/she wrote, “Furthermore, the city has approx. 3 million dollars identified in Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG) that was identified by Management consultants, a firm hired by the city to review the city’s system. These funds were identified as eligible for code enforcement”. These funds come from the Federal Government and earmarked for code or building to help asset in cleaning up the City. The City has again wrongfully redirected this money to the general fund and it’s another open book case like prop 218 This City criminals should be turned over to the Grand Jury and Jarvis Tax Payers Assn and then put in jail.

Leave a Reply