A key part of Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson’s 2011-12 budget proposal presented last month to the City Council hinged on a big assumption:
That, by the end of the year, the city would have ironed out contract agreements with its various employee bargaining units to resolve any outstanding pay restructuring issues and win labor’s agreement to across-the-board city wage freezes.
Anderson is relying on the savings from wage freezes, as well as eliminating 79 vacant city positions, to help him balance his $401 million budget — a spending plan some $40 million less than the one the council approved two years ago for the current biennium.
But that big budget “if” clearly had some council members worried from the get- go, when Anderson formally unveiled his plan.
“I’m concerned about the timing and whether we can count on those savings,” Councilman Jake Fey kvetched to Anderson at the time. “The budget is predicated on a lot of those assumptions.”
“We will proceed as fast as possible” with labor negotiations, Anderson assured him.
But with year’s end now fast approaching, it appears that at least one key union is nowhere near ratifying a new contract with the city.
In fact, Local 120 AFSCME – the union that represents more than 160 city technical workers – dismissed on Monday what the city called its “best and final offer.”
Now, John Ohlson, the union’s president, said Local 120 members are planning to rally next Tuesday at City Hall to call attention to what they’re blasting as the city’s unfair negotiating tactics (The local organized a similar protest at the municipal building during contract negotiations in 2006).
On Tuesday, Ohlson issued the press release below, clarifying later in the day that, despite the release’s claim that the union wouldn’t even dignify the city’s offer with a vote, its members did end up casting ballots on the offer, after all.
“The membership did unanimously reject the city’s offer on Monday night,” Ohlson told me late Tuesday.
City spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said today that city Human Resources officials familiar with the negotiations were not aware Local 120 had turned down the offer.
The contract proposal is meant to “bring (Local 120’s) contract to market,” McNair-Huff said, by implementing pay and classification adjustments based on the so-called “Class & Comp” study the city conducted in 2008 to examine prevailing market rates for city positions.
(While a number of city employees, including various non-represented workers and managers, already have received such Class & Comp adjustments — including some very generous ones at that — several bargaining units, including Local 120, have yet to come to agreement with the city on the issue. )
“The commitment that the City Council has made is that we will do whatever we can to bring the bargaining units to market first,” McNair-Huff explained. “Then, we’ll re-open the wage freeze issue” to help balance the budget.
I’ve previously asked Anderson and his finance chief, Bob Biles, how the budget would be impacted if contract deals can’t be worked out in time. Both told me they’d have to look for savings and potential trims elsewhere, but didn’t specify what, if any thing, they had in mind as a contingency plan.
“To my knowledge, nothing has changed,” McNair-Huff told me today, when I asked if the city is now examining any budget-planning alternatives, should any labor negotiations prove unfruitful.
“We’re currently in negotiations with a number of the (bargaining) units, but nothing’s been finalized yet,” he added. “… (But) we’re continuing to make every effort to negotiate the wage freezes.”
In the meantime, Local 120 is now preparing to “go tell it to City Hall,” with a good, old fashioned picket in the works. Here’s the union’s press release issued yesterday.
Local 120 City of Tacoma Unit Informational Picket Rally
Tuesday, November 9th @ 4:30 PM
Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market Street
Action on The City’s ‘Latest, Best and Final’ Offer
The members present at last night’s well-attended meeting were appalled at the city’s arrogance and failure to come to the table and bargain fairly, and after an informal poll, sent the message back to the city that “We won’t dignify the City’s offer with a vote”.
The next step is for our City of Tacoma Unit membership to get a fair contract is to get active! We are planning an “Informational Picket” rally at the November 9th City Council meeting, where we will march around City Hall, carry protest signs, and descend on the Council Chambers to protest the unfair bargaining the City is engaging in.
Key talking points:
- The City is bargaining unfairly – two ‘Last, Best and Final offers in a row, with no movement for seven months.
- The City has committed a contract violation and Unfair Labor Practice by attempting to rescind previously agreed-to retro pay provisions in our current contract.
- Use the same Milliman job matching report that was used for the Managers, as well as the rest of the City’s employees.
- The City has ‘broken the promise’ made before and during Class & Comp study; we agreed to the first Milliman salary study, and are happy with that outcome, but the City chose instead to ‘fix the faulty data’ for us, instead of using the same ‘unmodified’ data used to set their own double digit wage increases.
- The City has ‘gone back to the well‘ with Milliman two additional times during negotiations, in an effort to support their unfair wage proposals.
- What should have been a simple ‘wage re-opener’, ended up being an attempt to completely delete an entire Article of our contract, and delete the entire Applied Rate system.
- In ‘normal’ bargaining scenarios, the employer NEVER submits a “Last, Best and Final” offer as its FIRST comprehensive offer.
- The City is denying the Business Analysts their basic contractual rights, such as overtime, longevity pay, standby pay and seniority.
Bring your own picket signs, posters or banners! Handwritten signs are the most effective.