Thousands of unionized city employees in San Jose voted overwhelmingly in favor of a three-day strike, representatives of the union confirmed at a press conference in front of City Hall on Monday.
Nearly 4,500 workers are prepared to walk off the job from Aug. 15 to 17 after months of negotiations between the city and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 and the Municipal Employees’ Federation – American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 101, the unions representing the striking city workers said.
The vote, held last week, resulted in 99 percent of unionized workers approving the strike.
“…what the unions are asking for would require extremely painful cuts that I don’t believe anyone is willing to make.”San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan
Workers in departments throughout the city have complained of chronic understaffing and low pay, with employees often moving to other municipalities that offer more money.
The workers have been without a contract since theirs expired in late June.
The unions represent city employees including emergency dispatch, code enforcement, librarians, airport staff and engineers.
“I’m disappointed that these unions have voted to strike without coming back to the negotiation table after walking away from mediation,” said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan.
“There is still hope for a solution that is fair to everyone, but the truth is, what the unions are asking for would require extremely painful cuts that I don’t believe anyone is willing to make. In the meantime, the city is prepared to maintain the services our residents rely on.”
Workers have asked for a 7 percent raise for the 2023-24 fiscal year, to which the city responded with a counter offer of a 5 percent pay increase.
‘A matter of bureaucracy, personnel and staffing’
California Assemblymember Alex Lee, who represents northern San Jose, said that he sometimes hears complaints from his constituents about the service response time in San Jose.
“How do you get more services? I think you need more people to do things. It’s just a matter of bureaucracy and a matter of personnel and staffing,” said Lee. “It doesn’t happen so much in cities that are very well-staffed that I represent.”
John Tucker, a representative of MEF-AFSCME Local 101, said that the strike could have a major impact on the functioning of the city, with potential delays at San Jose Mineta International Airport and disruptions at city facilities like libraries or the zoo.
“But then a lot of people will jump to another municipality where they get paid a lot more, the benefits are better, and the workload is significantly lower.”Michael Rovetto, code enforcement inspector
Michael Rovetto, a code enforcement inspector for the city of San Jose, says that many city employees leave for opportunities elsewhere after getting some experience in San Jose.
“It’s a great gateway city, you learn a lot about the profession, you learn a lot about what it takes to do a role successfully and efficiently,” said Rovetto. “But then a lot of people will jump to another municipality where they get paid a lot more, the benefits are better, and the workload is significantly lower.”