OAKLAND -- Picket lines will wrap around Oakland City Hall for the first time in more than a half century Monday when 3,500 workers plan to stage a one-day strike -- on the same day BART employees also plan to walk off their jobs.
Oakland's two biggest civilian unions are calling for the strike, which won't include city police officers or firefighters who are still under contract.
The unions, which represent employees ranging from graffiti removers to managers and secretaries, say the city is stalling at the bargaining table and underestimating revenue projections to justify seeking a fresh round of concessions, even as the economy rebounds.
"It's time for the truth to be told. It's time for the employees to be treated fairly. And I'm sorry it's going to take a strike to get it done," said Dwight McElroy, a city worker and chapter president for SEIU, Local 1021.
City officials have not yet announced how they will deal with the strike, which is scheduled to begin with picket lines at 7 a.m.
Union members, whose contracts expire Sunday, said they will consider additional work stoppages if negotiations continue to stagnate.
Oakland workers last picketed in 1946 as part of a citywide general strike.
The city has historically been a generous employer. As recently as 2006, Oakland ranked first among 75 major U.S. cities in average employee pay, although it has dropped several spots below San Francisco and San Jose in recent years, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports.
The past decade has been a roller-coaster ride for the city workers about to strike. After signing a long-term deal in 2003 that provided for 20 percent raises and a 35 percent pension boost, they have endured five years of givebacks as the city shed hundreds of jobs and struggled to stay solvent during the financial crisis.
Union members say they have lost one-quarter of their purchasing power since 2008. They accuse city administrators of underestimating about $45 million in anticipated tax revenue over the next to years and seeking additional cuts even though the city's budget would be balanced without them.
City leaders have maintained that although revenues are up, employee pension and health care costs are also rising and workers need to pay more so Oakland can continue rebuilding its workforce.
On Thursday, the council approved a budget that set aside $6 million for an employee pay boost, which would amount to about a 1.5 percent raise over two years.
Mayor Jean Quan, who has counted on labor support in prior elections, said during Thursday's City Council meeting that the city will be able to make new officers now that the budget has been finalized. "I think everyone here is committed to having a fair budget and a fair contract," she said.
Not everyone on the council trusts the administration's accounting. "I'm with ya'll," Councilmember Larry Reid told union leaders during the meeting. "Don't roll over. Don't buy into the BS. Hold firm."
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