Rohnert Park public works employees showed up en masse at Tuesday’s City Council meeting in a last-minute attempt to win public support as five months of contract negotiations come to a contentious close. Union leaders say they’re being asked to shoulder an unfair burden in the city’s attempt to close its budget deficit while administrators escape the same level of pain.
UPDATE 7:35 PM: The Santa Rosa City Council accepted concessions from its largest public employee union Tuesday that saves the city $1.2 million this fiscal year. The deal with the 440-member Santa Rosa Employees Association brings to $3.3 million the total the city will save through employee concessions this year, which began July 1.
Two Rohnert Park employee unions have rejected contract offers from the city. The votes came days after the city’s public safety employees, under pressure from a proposal to outsource their functions, agreed to a similar, concession-laden contract offer.
As Petaluma city officials look for ways to cut $4 million from the $32.5 million general fund budget, the city’s unionized employees are offering their own ideas for saving money — and maybe save their jobs. The unions representing police, middle managers and more than 110 other employees want the city to actively seek revenues sources while identifying ways to cut about 12 percent cut from the general fund.
Eighty-four percent of the nearly 6,000 city and county employees in Sonoma County are represented by unions or associations that bargain for wages and benefits, a process at the crux of a national debate. With school employees added to the mix, the share of the nearly 27,000 public workers in the county who are covered by collective bargaining agreements is about 90 percent.
A shift in the way interpreters are deployed in Sonoma County’s juvenile court has touched off a dispute between the unionized translators and cost-cutting administrators over how best to serve the growing number of people who don’t speak English.
Lots of pundits and politicians have implied that the retirement benefits of public employees are responsible for the current budget crisis and cuts in government services. But retired SSU professors Philip Beard and Tony White say the anger expressed toward public employees is misdirected and distracts from focusing on the real causes of the nation’s budget woes. What do you think about their take on the issue?
Petaluma Mayor David Glass is apologizing for angrily confronting Assistant City Clerk Deborah Padovan last fall over her union’s role in the Nov. 2 election. Padovan filed a harassment complaint with the city, saying she feared that Glass would eliminate her job or retaliate in other ways for her union’s support of rival Jeff Mayne. In an interview Tuesday with the Argus-Courier, Glass apologized for the incident. “I am human and I make mistakes and I am not perfect,” he said.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission has determined that Petaluma police and firefighter unions did not violate the Political Reform Act by using city phone numbers on election paperwork. Incoming mayor David Glass had suggested the unions, which opposed him and his political allies, may have conducted political activity while on duty and on the public payroll.