Frustrated union employees rally at city meeting

Just across Highway 92 from where teachers have been protesting about stalled labor negotiations, more than 50 city employees banded together in their own show of union support.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, 56 of Foster City’s 88 employees, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union, flooded council chambers in jade-green shirts.

The employees — including employees from Public Works and Parks and Recreation as well as police and fire department dispatchers and maintenance workers — are upset after negotiations stalled between the union and the city for the contracts slated to start July 1.

After eight meetings, the two groups have not reached common ground, and the union’s business agent Jocelyn Won said that if an agreement is not reached by the end of June, the next step may be to declare impasse and bring in a state mediator, as the San Mateo-Foster City School District did recently.

“We feel that at the bargaining table, the city representatives are being disrespectful, not listening to our concerns,” Won said.

The employees are asking for a cost-of-living raise of up to 5 percent for the next three years, something they have not received in recent years.

“During the last contract period, because the city was in tough financial straits, the union decided to forego a COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] increase to try to help the city out, so they’ve been without a COLA increase for almost four years,” Won said.

Won said the city has offered increases in the second and third year of the three-year contract being discussed, but nothing for this coming year. City Manager Jim Hardy said that he would not comment on the city’s offers to the union.

At the council meeting, several councilmembers, including Rick Wykoff and Pam Frisella, said they took issue with the accusations of disrespect towards the employees. Won said she believes the council is well-intentioned, but those intentions are not shared by the labor negotiation team.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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