Santa Clara workers reach tentative agreement, avoid strike
Santa Clara maintenance and operations workers James Dudley, Gary Ferraris, Cliff Myers and Pete Castro. Photo by Natalie Hanson.

Santa Clara field operations and maintenance workers say they’ve reached a payment agreement with the city to avoid a strike set for Monday.

Santa Clara officials proposed new contract terms in a special closed City Council meeting on Thursday. The contract, valid until Dec. 31, 2024, covers about 125 employees, according to Gary Ferraris, president of the union AFSCME Local 4911.

City spokesperson Lon Peterson said Unit 6—the group comprised of  operations and maintenance workers—ratified the tentative agreement. Once signed, it will be brought to a future City Council meeting in May for approval. Peterson could not comment on the details of the contract.

“I would also like to thank Interim City Manager Rajeev Batra as well as the mayor and councilmembers for facilitating this reasonable and responsible contract,” Ferraris said.

The union announced intentions to strike last week with a sanction from the South Bay Labor Council, unless an agreement could be reached. Workers asked for a general cost of living adjustment and “hero pay” for working through the pandemic, after the city said field operations and maintenance workers would not receive a pay raise.

The new contract stipulates each employee will receive a one-time payment of $5,000 for the first year of the new contract, according to Ferraris. In the second year, employees will see a 5% wage increase, and in the third year will receive a 4% increase.

Ferraris said the contract does not contain language to prevent employees from exercising their right to strike—something he said the city asked workers to do previously.

“I would applaud the city’s elected officials and management on their humility to recognize they made a bad decision,” Ferraris told San José Spotlight.

James Dudley, chairman of the United EMS Workers negotiating committee for the operations and maintenance workers, said he hopes members are happy with the terms.

“The city held out for far too long, I do not think we were treated fairly, nor were we approached with equity,” Dudley told San José Spotlight. He said he hopes in the future city leaders will approach these employees with payment proposals which reflect the essential services they provide to residents.

Interim City Manager Batra and Mayor Lisa Gillmor did not respond to requests for comment.

Santa Clara Councilmember Suds Jain said he’s glad the city can avoid a strike, as it would have taken place during the city’s neighborhood cleanup campaign starting next week.

“We listened to what the unit (members) wanted and I think we gave them something that we consider very generous,” Jain told San José Spotlight.

Contact Natalie Hanson at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.

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