HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL//LABOR | A three-day strike by Hayward city employees last month did nothing to persuade city officials to return to the bargaining table, while union negotiators accused the city of threatening layoffs if their demands for wage cuts were not met.
“We’re at a stalemate,” Gilbert Hesia, a Hayward city employee directly involved in negotiations with the city. “We’re just asking for them to come back to the table.” Hesia, a member of the Service Employees Union International Local 1021, who has been employed by the city for the last 24 years, says negotiators from the city have not responded since Aug. 15 to their calls to resume labor talks. SEIU represents 350 city workers in Hayward.
The city’s decision to declare an impasse last July 26 is also bogging down the bargaining process, says Ariana Casanova, the union’s political coordinator for the East Bay. There has been no movement whatsoever from city officials demanding employees take another five percent pay cut, said Casanova, although both sides agreed to appoint a fact-finder to investigate recent collective bargaining talks following the city’s decision to declare an impasse. “Unless the city removes the impasse, we’re all very limited with what can and can’t be done,” Casanova said before Tuesday night’s council meeting in Hayward. Like nearly every other city in Alameda County, the last recession greatly affected Hayward’s revenues. Since 2010, city employee have agreed to cuts in salary and benefits, but they say another round of givebacks will decimate its members.
Members of SEIU Local 1021, the same union currently in contentious negotiations with BART, packed the city council chambers and charged elected officials with failing to take a leadership role in the labor dispute slowly burning since February. In particular, union leaders have reserved ire for Hayward City Manager Fran David, who has exhibited a stern stance against labor over the past two years. When asked whether David has been an impediment in negotiations, Hesia agreed. “She is a hurdle,” he said before the council meeting. “I don’t know her intentions.”
During public comments, Steve Sommers, SEIU’s lead negotiator, accused David of threatening workers with layoffs if the union did not accept management’s position. In a statement on the city’s Website, David denied the claim, which Sommers labeled a falsehood. Sommers also said the city is deliberately painting a far worse economic forecast than truly exists. It’s a allegation that Sommers and other union leaders have lodged in the past against David and the city.
The Hayward City Council, however, has been virtually silent when it comes to the labor dispute despite the city’s strong labor presence. SEIU officials say four of the six members have agreed to speak with labor in the past month, but Mayor Michael Sweeney has refused. In the meantime, many council members remain coy on the subject of the city’s hardball negotiating tactics. The issue is particularly treacherous for two council members, and likely a third, who have eyes on the mayoral seat left open last month when Sweeney announced he would not seek re-election next June. “This is a union town,” said Tony Guerra during public comment, “and for the council members running for mayor, we are watching.”
According to Hesia, Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno, Mark Salinas (both have declared intentions to run for mayor. Councilmember Barbara Halliday says she will make an announcement at the end of this month) and Al Mendall appeared amendable to the workers’ situation. “They seem to listen, but it’s hard to say,” Hesia said in an interview. “They might be listening and showing concerns, but who knows what they’re really saying in closed session?” Minutes later, Zermeno was seen glad-handing and hugging union members before the start of the meeting. Mendall acknowledged meeting with the union and said, “I’m willing to talk to anyone.”