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City and union deadlocked over salary hikes

Original post made on Jan 16, 2014

Palo Alto and its largest labor union remain nearly $3 million apart on a new contract, with the biggest dispute centering on health care reforms and salary increases for roughly 570 employees, according to documents released Wednesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 16, 2014, 9:53 AM

Comments (23)

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

What we are about to witness here is another case of the City Council caving to the Unions. Just like they did when they provided 100% lifetime health benefits to part time workers, courtesy of LaDoris Cordell, et al. Unions pack council meetings at City Hall. Residents have their families and work to attend to, hoping that the officials they elected will represent the interests of the residents. Unions basically blackmail candidates who aren't in their corner by slamming them in election campaigns. And the candidates know it.

Next time you see the union supporting a candidate, simply vote against him/her. Vote for candidates who are the subject of the most virulent union attacks. They are the candidates who will best represent our interests.


Posted by Race to the Bottom!, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

For the posters that think that City employees have such a sweet deal - why don't you quit your private sector job and apply for a job with the City of Palo Alto? As another poster pointed out there are currently approximately 20 positions that are open and accepting applications. OH... none of those jobs pays enough for you! Instead of trying to beat down the little guy over your misguided jealousy why not be proactive and ask your private sector employer to pay you wages or benefits that are more in line with the "generous packages" that public employees receive? Fat chance! Right? You wouldn't stand a chance. Why not band together with some of your other private sector coworkers and see if you stand a better chance? Why does everything becoming a race to the bottom (wages/benefits) in this country? Nickel and diming the little guy to death is not what makes a country great. Also = Unions fight for the rights of all workers.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I predict that in the next few years we'll see a big resurgence in the union movement...hopefully one that will transform unions themselves in the fighting organizations they once were. In fact the "fad" nature of it will probably be a problem in it's own. There is a new generation and they already did the nation-wide Occupy Movement. As those people enter more the work force---one now driven down towards the bottom, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

We all know what we're talking about after all.


Posted by BarronParker, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm

BarronParker is a registered user.

Even if the city worker salaries weren't bloated (which they are), we still can't afford to pay them because of the unfunded pension and medical liabilities. For every dollar we pay a worker today, we saddle someone in the future with a debt of about $0.50 (assuming Calpers makes some money from their fund; more if they don't). That's not just crazy, it's also stupid and unfair to generations to come. The fraction of city expenses going to pensions has been rapidly increasing because this idiocy has been going on for a long time -- employees are retiring and can get up to 81% (non-public-safety) or 90% (public safety) of their final salary, for the rest of their lives, which can be 40 years post-retirement! It can only get worse, and when you're in a hole the only sane decision is to STOP DIGGING.

The city manager must end this now. No more unfunded defined benefits. Transfer everyone to 401K, starting immediately. Match 50% of employer contributions, as the best companies do in the private sector. That will cost us a maximum of $8500 each year, but that's a lot better than the current Ponzi Scheme where we generate a debt of $50K or more. This is the route that San Diego and San Jose are taking to avoid bankruptcy.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

ahh the standard ruse..."It's UNSUSTAINABLE" as they live so lavishly and cash in their chips ("your winnings sire" after "I'm shocked, shocked ...")

You starve the beast and then raise the hue and cry. There is TONS of money out there just waiting to be taxed and used to re-sustain a society resembling something remotely decent.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Highest paid public workers call Bay Area home
Web Link

This website allows you to create your own reports: Web Link


Posted by Tracy, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Pat, it goes well beyond "Highest paid public workers call Bay Area home". The highest compensated public workers in the nation work in the Bay Area. Think about this, the employees are making BART type demands while ignoring the increased taxpayer burden their own pension system is ABOUT to bestow on the unsuspecting public, costing tens of millions of dollars annually to pay for work already rendered.

Because the city council lacks the fortitude to say no, or owes these unions something for their political support which helped them get elected in the first place, the best this city council can come up with to solve their financial issues is to propose "Chamber blasts Palo Alto's proposed hotel-tax increase. A proposal by Palo Alto officials to raise the city's tax rate may be popular with potential voters, but it is already facing..."

This Hotel tax seems to be a favorite promoted by public employee unions, through their favored council members, because they believe taxpayers won't care if doesn't cost them. The problem with that logic is it IS costing them already more than they realize.

It appears to me that Palo Alto is part of the problem regarding escalating public employee costs. Palo Alto isn't doing any of their neighboring communities any favors based on their last offer, and they're actually doing harm. The notion they need to need to pay what going-broke Santa Clara is paying tells me they aren't representing their citizens. Maybe PA needs to demand more from their handsomely paid HR department and actually expect them to do some some recruiting.

And why is this city increasing compensation for people not at the top of one scale while not also considering lowering compensation for all the employees which are overcompensated.

Increasing wages and then raising fees and pushing for more taxes hardly sounds like representation in my book. How many hundreds of millions do taxpayers owe current & retired employees for work already rendered? And, given that, why are we even considering paying higher salaries?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm

@Tracy: I agree. Just a few weeks ago Menlo Park bumped up employee salaries saying that they had to keep up with surrounding cities. It's a never-ending game.


Posted by Icahn, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

What we need to do is get the City Council to have an Initial Public Offering of stock that we can buy so that we can truly own the city government. Then we can lower all the employees wages for those employees who are willing to continue working here, and then we can outource the rest of the work to India and China. Our stock value will increase, we can sell our stock, and buy a two million house in Palo Alto where we will get excellent service from the city's employees, assuming there are any remaining there.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

> For the posters that think that City employees have such a sweet deal –
> why don't you quit your private sector job and apply for a job with the
> City of Palo Alto?

What an absurd thing to say, or suggest. In the tech-heavy Silicon Valley, people routinely spend at least four years in college, effectively learning at least the basics of the technology that interests them. To suggest that someone with perhaps over $100K of specialized education would drop what they are doing to apply for an open job at City Hall—for which he/she would either be overqualified, or not-qualified based on the fact that a different skill set is required—demonstrates that this poster is more frustrated, than rational, or knowledgeable of the local job market.


Posted by MadamPresident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm

PA City Jobs - not hight enough compemsation??? Web Link

Assistant Manager - Water Quality Contro... Regular Full-Time $8,169.20 - $12,254.67 Monthly
Deputy City Clerk Regular Full-Time $4,818.67 - $7,226.27 Monthly Continuous
Emergency Medical Technician Limited Hourly $14.94 - $18.72 Hourly Continuous
Heavy Equipment Operator - WGW Regular Full-Time $27.36 - $33.60 Hourly Continuous
Human Services Program Assistant II Regular Full-Time $4,650.53 - $5,708.66 Monthly 01/23/14
Lineperson Cable Splicer Regular Full-Time $6,401.20 - $7,858.93 Monthly Continuous
Overhead Underground Troubleman Regular Full-Time $6,404.67 - $7,863.51 Monthly Continuous
Police Officer Regular Full-Time $6,610.93 - $8,117.20 Monthly Continuous
Public Safety Dispatcher I/II Regular Full-Time $5,099.47 - $6,591.87 Monthly Continuous
Recreation Leader III - SEIU Hourly SEIU Hourly $15.67 - $19.63 Hourly Continuous
Registered Veterinarian Technician Regular Full-Time $3,945.07 - $4,843.56 Monthly Continuous
Senior Human Resources Administrator Regular Full-Time $6,321.47 - $9,483.07 Monthly Continuous
Senior Management Analyst Regular Full-Time $7,399.60 - $11,100.27 Monthly 01/30/14
Senior Management Analyst Regular Full-Time $7,399.60 - $11,100.27 Monthly Continuous
Senior Planner Regular Full-Time $7,004.40 - $8,600.00 Monthly 01/24/14
Social Media Specialist Limited Hourly $30.00 - $40.00 Hourly 02/02/14
TECHNOLOGIST Regular Full-Time $7,072.00 - $8,682.81 Monthly
Utilities Project Engineer Regular Full-Time $7,260.93 - $8,912.80 Monthly Continuous
Utility Compliance Technician Regular Full-Time $6,175.87 - $7,582.96 Monthly Continuous
UTL System Operator Regular Full-Time $6,115.20 - $7,507.17 Monthly Continuous
Writer/Content Editor Limited Hourly $25.00 - $35.00 Hourly 02/02/14


Posted by member, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:21 pm

They rejected 7%? I am in a government sector and I got a 1% increase. I am not a union. Why are the PA city workers so much better than I am? The federal budget has been cut. It is dishonest to use the union leverage and blackmail the community. Honesty ... What am I talking about?

The salaries not competitive? [Portion removed.] Let them go look for something better.


Posted by To Madam President, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Those wage amounts do NOT come close to providing total compensation numbers. You can add 50-70 percent to those monthly figures and then multiply by twelve (months).


Posted by Midtown resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I don't know the salaries of Palo Alto workers but speaking of Union Workers in general, if the BART salaries are any indications - you guys are basically stealing other people's honest earning by holding the bay area hostage every few years, to fund your undeserved lifestyle - an option not available to most working folks.

A BART escalator mechanic makes a $125K base salary and $50K of overtime. I wont even go into the benefits. This for a guy with a high-school diploma, and not even 2 years of Beer Pong at Chico state? People with Master's rarely make that much even in the valley. And you guys have the temerity to tell us that the salaries are justified. I don't care what you're paid if its not coming from taxes on my very hard-earner money. If it is, fix it to be commensurate with private industry.


Posted by pa, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm

The city tries to put up a good show! Perhaps another bond measure is underway. This city is hiring....


Posted by Ex Employee, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2014 at 9:19 pm

I left employment from Palo Alto a few years ago and it was the best move I ever made. I worked with some great people in Utilities. Where I'm at now I am treated like an asset and not a liability. My move to another City with a much lower economic base was eye opening. I make much more money, have similar benefits, am treated with respect, and I don't feel like I always have a target on my back. I can just do my job.

MadamPresident-most of those jobs are not SEIU, don't try to confuse the issue.
Lineperson: Palo Alto is laughed at by other Utilities because of its pay.
Utility System Operator: Palo Alto has lost 4 out of 5 operators in the last year due to its ridiculous pay.
Troubleman- another joke, hired one from Florida, he lasted 5 months and left for much better pay
Utilities Compliance Tech- how long has the job been posted without being filled? What does that tell you?

Member- can't believe your comment wasn't deleted. But if you can say it I can too. F you, I did leave and I'm one of many.

Midtown Resident- your comments are arrogant, rude, supercilious, and egotistical. These remarks have no place in this conversation.

Joe, you make sense. Of course a software engineer isn't going to apply for the Deputy City Clerk job. What frustrated the previous poster is people that think all City workers are uneducated and under performers. There are many jobs which require engineering degrees, either electric or civil. The skilled labor jobs require 3-4 years of training, or apprenticeships. These journeyman level jobs require competitive pay with private and public sector pay. Palo Alto has lost many employees to both.

Midtown Resident, learn your City budget! The higher paying SEIU jobs on MadamPresidents list are Utilities positions. They are paid from the enterprise fund. None of your taxes pay for them. Your rant about your tax money is erroneous at best.


Posted by Good Grief!!, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Just get a safe tunnel,have lighting.
Would be nice lighten the tunnel with color!


Posted by Spouse, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

My husband is a federal govt worker. His pay was frozen for several years. This year, for the first time in several years, he got a pay raise: 1%. That's it. Not enough, granted. However, the city of PA is being very generous with its workers. The local unions are highway robbers.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Enough already. There should be no pay increases ever for anyone on a defined benefit pension. Pensions should be frozen at current levels and all future accruals should be 401K (Chuck Reed is trying to get a measure that would allow responsible cities to do just that without getting sued to death by the unions on the 2014 ballot -- I will be in wholehearted support).

The value of these pensions is so huge that they are completely unsustainable for the current and next generation.

And posters such as the one above complaining about underpaid utility workers are guilty of typical union doublespeak. "A few select positions are underpaid" is the argument, without stressing the union ask: "so we demand you raise everyone's pay, including the vast majority of our membership which is already vastly overpaid." If you want to be paid what you're worth, don't join a union. The problem, though, is that in the public sector, most people don't want to be paid what they're worth, however, since its much lower than what their unions are able to extort from their bought politicians.

Market rate for everyone. If that means 10% of the city workforce gets a nice raise and the other 90 gets a huge cut, then shame on the union for stealing public funds by interfering with that.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Can someone clarify for me: do all Palo Alto city workers get every other Friday off (paid)? How does that work.
From what I have read, it appears Palo Alto city employees at all levels are well compensated, but I am curious about work hours.
I guess they get Martin Luther King Day off - like all public employees - unlike private sector folks....


Posted by Ex employee, a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm

anonymous,

Yes most get every other Friday off but it's not pad. It's called 9/80 schedule. They work 9 hour days Monday through Thursday and an 8 hour day every other Friday. This totals 80hrs over 2 weeks. The advantages are the people who commute from as far away as Tracy daily commute one less day every two weeks and they work one more hour to serve residents.


Posted by Jon B, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2014 at 8:24 am

Member, the City is not offering a 7% raise for everyone. They are offering a 2% cost-of-living increase for the next two years. The remainder is to increase salaries of specific work groups. I recall that the last time there was a COLA increase it was 2007 or 2008. Yes, there have been generous packages granted by our City Council in the past, but it does not seem fair to me to try to balance the budget on the backs of current employees. You get what you pay for...

Council has already looked at shifting to a 401K system and apparently it is not (yet) legal to do so. If it does happen, be prepared to pay higher salaries to match the private sector. My niece works as a public-sector senior Civil Engineer in So Cal. My nephew has the same title/responsibilities at a private firm in the adjacent town. The nephew's salary is about 20% higher and he gets profit sharing- which in the long run is still likely a savings over pensions, but I don't think we'll shift to a 401k system without additional salary costs.


Posted by ISeeTheFuture, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2014 at 10:48 am

"I predict that in the next few years we'll see a big resurgence in the union movement...hopefully one that will transform unions themselves in the fighting organizations they once were."

Yes there will be a 'big resurgence' but it will not transform them as you wish. The union is not about worker's rights and safe work environments any longer, it is all about union due$ and how to get more. Once immigration reform passes, SEIU will have a new resource for funding - unionize immigrant workers. SEIU has already stopped representing its members with working environments are horrible with unknowledgeable leaders and unsafe working environments both in and out of the office.


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