Update 6/18/2019: This article has been updated to include information from a SEIU 1021 press release released Monday.
Oakland’s Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Local 1021 and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, or IFPTE, Local 21 filed unfair practice charges against the city of Oakland on June 11 and June 10, respectively, according to a SEIU Local 1021 press release released June 11.
Both unions, which represent more than 3,000 Oakland workers cumulatively, according to the press release, alleged that workers have received threats to their jobs because of their support of an alternative to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s budget. The press release said SEIU Local 1021 and IFPTE Local 21 members have been active in a group called the ReFund Oakland Coalition, building support for a city budget proposal from City Councilmember At Large Rebecca Kaplan, which was first proposed May 31.
“Let me be clear, the Administration’s actions are nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to silence city workers,” said Anthony Reese, Oakland vice president of IFPTE Local 21 and a real estate agent with the city of Oakland, in the press release. “Despite these unlawful threats, we will continue to speak up and advocate for a fair budget that invests in the services Oakland residents are demanding.”
The charges filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, allege that Oakland administrators “unlawfully attempted to intimidate city workers, who are currently in contract negotiations with the city,” the press release said.
According to the press release, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth sent an email to city workers saying that if Kaplan’s alternative city budget, also known as the “People’s Budget,” was adopted, then “layoffs would result.”
PERB General Counsel Felix De La Torre said PERB assigns an attorney to each case to investigate whether the charges filed indicate enough evidence to move forward. According to De La Torre, it is too early in the investigation to tell whether PERB will be moving forward with the charges against the city of Oakland.
“(Schaaf’s budget) funds the wrong things, and it does so in a shady way,” said SEIU Local 1021 President Felipe Cuevas in a June 10 press release from IFPTE Local 21. “We have had a number of years of Mayor Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth’s budget. We know what those budgets mean for Oakland, which is more cranes in the sky and more trash in the streets.”
According to the June 11 press release, Kaplan’s budget involves investments in “vital public services” and in the “workforce responsible for providing them.” IFPTE Local 21 members have also expressed frustration with the city budget’s consistently low revenue projections and the city’s inability to help workers keep up with the cost of living, the June 10 press release said.
On Friday SEIU 1021 and on Monday IFPTE Local 21 filed new unfair practice charges against the City of Oakland, according to a SEIU 1021 press release released Monday. This second set of charges allege that the City of Oakland “unlawfully” and in the midst of “productive bargaining sessions” announced that the labor unions and the city were at an “impasse” and chose to halt bargaining.
According to Cuevas, union members have exchanged two counter-offers and were still considering proposals that the City of Oakland had shared earlier in the week. He described the nearly 20 meetings each union has had since bargaining began in March as “active, engaged, and productive” in the Monday press release. In the press release, Cuevas expressed concern that the City chose to stop bargaining because SEIU 1021 and IFPTE Local 21 members’ contracts end June 30.
City Council will next discuss the budget at its meeting Tuesday, according to the June 11 press release, and city workers plan on making their opinions heard at the meeting.
“It’s going to take all of us to make sure that Oakland is a place we can all be proud to call home and where we can raise our children,” said street maintenance leader Dwight McElroy in the June 11 press release. “We won’t allow city executives to intimidate us or keep us from speaking out for Oakland’s future.”