Approximately 30 members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 620 packed the Morro Bay Veterans Memorial Building on Sept. 13 to protest the City Council plan to adopt a new labor contract.
The imposed contract contains an unprecedented alteration to retirement benefits and employees’ contributions, which will make it harder for 45 of the city’s represented employees to afford to live in Morro Bay, said Mike Woods, field representative for the SEIU Local 620.
The city’s resolution created a tiered plan that would reduce benefits for new hires, impacting a number of technical and public safety positions, from administrative technicians to harbor patrol officers to water systems operators.
Council members expressed remorse at having to make the “extremely difficult” decision, but said it was preferable to having to eliminate positions.
Negotiations between the city and SEIU began in February; the existing contract expired in June. Since they were unable to reach an agreement, a state mediator got involved. City staffers ultimately requested the unilateral adoption of the city’s “last, best, and final offer.” As of this printing, the union has no contract with the city, Woods said.
“The city’s original proposal has not changed since day one,” he said. “We feel the city was not willing to negotiate fairly.”
Union members argued that the city’s top administrators make six-figure salaries while the union represents some of the city’s lowest-paid employees.
Eight people—some not affiliated with SEIU—asked the council to “be fair.”
But in the end, the resolution passed the council on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Bill Yates and Councilman George Leage dissenting. Yates said he recognized the need for the two-tier retirement plan, but disagreed with a 2 percent decrease in the city’s employer portion of retirement contributions.
Immediately following the vote, the employees angrily filed out of the room, chairs slamming loudly on the hardwood floors of the Vets Building.
The two parties are expected to begin renegotiations in February 2012.