ActivismSan Francisco

Oakland Strike Update: Unions reject Oakland’s “last, best, and final offer”

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It’s been a grueling week for Oakland city workers and a dysfunctional shit storm for the city itself. As Day 4 of the strike dwindled down, the dispute over the two-year contract was still far from resolved.

Approximately 400 union workers and allies raised picket signs and carried bullhorns at Frank Ogawa Plaza Friday, briefly taking to the streets around noon, charged up by DJ Snake and Lil Jon bumping through portable speakers. “Turn down for what?” “Turn down for contract!” Representatives and activists took turns at the mic near the City Hall entrance, flanked by gigantic inflatable rat. In a show of support, Teamsters stood defiantly next to the big rig they parked adjacent to the group. Picketers were joined by various other unions and elected officials like Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle. The group repeatedly chanted: “Stand up! Sit down! Oakland is a union town!”

Inside, Mayor Libby Schaaf and her team of negotiators struggled with their next move in a standoff with 3,000 Oakland city workers and the two unions representing them, SEIU Local 1021 and IFPTE Local 21. And no doubt, staff was busy fielding calls about overflowing garbage, shuttered after school programs and injured animals left roadside – among the thousands of other functions normally seen to by city employees. A comprehensive list of impacted services is available through the City of Oakland website.

Tom Manley and Preston Pinkney would rather be back on the job. Manley, a city account clerk and active IFPTE Local 21 member, staffed a table Friday to take attendance and hand out talking points. “I think members should take responsibility for themselves,” said Manley, “and that’s what they’re doing.” He believes in standing up to employers when needed, pointing out how Oakland workers have already suffered through the years under periods of monthly furloughs.

However, his participation won’t pay the bills. “This is my longest strike,” Manley said. “It’s hurting my family tremendously.” As the primary source of income in his household, four days without pay “is a lot of money.” He explained that the next paycheck, issued Dec. 21, will be painfully short for striking workers.

“The holidays are going to be a hard time,” Manley said.

Both wages and working conditions have been sources of contention during negotiations, which began over seven months ago. Oakland employees have seen raises in recent years, but cost of living in Oakland has risen dramatically and many are feeling priced out of the city they work in and for. The two sides did agree to a 4 percent wage increase for the first year, retroactive to July 1, but differ on the amount and contingencies for the second.

The “Last, Best, and Final Offer” presented by the city – 4 percent in first year, 1 percent in January 2019 and up to an additional 1 percent if revenue projections are met –  was rejected Friday afternoon, according to a “Labor Negotiations” statement published on their website.

Pinkney said it’s unfortunate that everybody has to suffer for what he sees as “selfishness” on the mayor’s part. The 50 “less-advantaged” Oakland youth enrolled in the Ace Kids Golf Program have been without services for the week, and work they do with juvenile offenders has been impacted. As the program’s director, Pinkney never wanted to go on strike, but the 18-year Oakland employee can’t even afford to live where he works. He commutes in from Pittsburg five days a week – the gas alone is a daily grind.

“There’s a lot of people at stake out here,” Pinkney said. “We all want to go to work. We all want to do the right thing.”

IFPTE Local 21 has conducted its own research of “Oakland’s Budget and Economic condition” and accuses the mayor of “cherry picking numbers to support her position,” according to a statement published Friday. Further, both unions say the city has failed to address concerns like homelessness and illegal dumping, which create unsafe working conditions. As of Friday evening, the City of Oakland declared an impasse and requested mediation services.

It was originally unknown whether workers would continue to strike through the impasse process, but SEIU Local 1021’s Twitter feed cleared up any confusion Saturday morning: “OAKLAND unfair labor practice STRIKE CONTINUES.”

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.