OAKLAND -- Hundreds of city workers face potential layoffs in the coming weeks, and dozens of local union members let their anger be known as they stormed a City Hall meeting Tuesday afternoon, interrupting discussions about the city's contracting.
Three civilian unions representing a total of more than 3,400 city employees have been negotiating with the city since April. Their contracts have expired and Mayor Jean Quan has called on them to make contributions to help solve the $56 million projected deficit Oakland is facing in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
About 100 members of these unions -- SEIU Local 1021, IFPTE Local 21 and IBEW Local 1245 -- rallied outside before marching through City Hall chanting, "Fair share, fair deal, City Council, make it real!"
The protesters' chief demand was that the city stop contracting work that has been done in the past by its own employees. Their timing for that demand was fitting: As the crowd marched in, the Finance and Management Committee, made up of four City Council members, was discussing ways to smooth Oakland's clunky contracting process.
"No justice, no peace," the crowd chanted as it stormed into the room. "We all vote!"
Committee chairman Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) halted the meeting and asked the union leaders to explain their concerns.
"As we've said all along," said Local 21 Vice President Jeff Levin, "we are not unwilling to step forward one more time
"But that requires first of all that this be a true fair share," he added, "with everybody paying their fair share, taking into account who's been paying all along and who hasn't."
Quan is not just asking the civilian unions to pitch in. She says that "everybody" needs to help make this troubled budget work. Her team is meeting with the fire and police unions, as well, though their contracts are up. She's also called on the council to approve a special election asking voters to pass a five-year, $80 parcel tax that would generate $11 million per year.
But Levin has been hinting for months that police and fire unions are not making contributions that balance what his own union's sacrifices have been. Levin and others said they're being asked to make decisions that have huge effects on their members' lives without knowing what the impact will be or how many jobs can be saved by concessions.
"We're also looking for a commitment from the city that those who are laid off will be first considered for rehiring when those jobs open back up," Levin said.
City Administrator Lamont Ewell, who heads the city's bargaining team, declined to comment on specific details of the negotiations.
"We are disappointed in the comments made today by the unions," Ewell said. "We are at the table now with the intention of coming to an agreement that meets all parties' needs."
All three unions have bargaining meetings scheduled next week; the city council had a closed session update from Ewell late Tuesday night.
The council is legally required to pass a budget by the time the fiscal year ends on June 30.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.