Some San Jose public workers to see wage increase
City employees rally outside San Jose City Hall on June 28 to raise awareness about wage increases. Photo by Stephanie Lam.

After months of negotiations with San Jose, some city employees are one step closer to receiving higher wages for the upcoming year.

Municipal Employee’s Federation (MEF) 101 President Steven Solorio told San José Spotlight that union leaders and the city recently agreed to a 3.25% wage increase for the first year of a two-year contract. The union, which is the largest in the city, negotiated through a state mediator.

Since March, San Jose union leaders have asked the city manager’s office to include a wage increase of at least 3.5% in the contract with the city.

Employees will receive the 3.25% increase starting retroactively from July 1, when their new contract was supposed to start. Employees are guaranteed only a 3% increase for the remainder of the contract, but union leaders can meet again with city officials to discuss a higher percentage.

“When we go back to the table in a couple of years we’ll be able to start from a different ground zero than we were before,” Solorio said. “That’s going to make us stronger and make the city more functional for all.”

Roughly 3,400 employees will receive the pay increase. San Jose employs approximately 6,243 workers represented by 11 different bargaining units.

Solorio said several bargaining units formed a coalition to push for higher wage increases, as opposed to negotiating contracts individually. The units include MEF as well as those under the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) union including the Association of Engineers and Architects, Association of Maintenance Supervisory Personnel and City Association of Management Personnel.

If the agreements are accepted by the San Jose City Council today, coalition members will then vote to ratify the agreement and send it back to the council for adoption.

Trevor Gould, senior executive analyst for the city, told San José Spotlight the city has no updated comments regarding the tentative agreement.

Frustrated with the city for having employees work during the pandemic with little to no monetary incentives, Solorio said city workers became more adamant about including the wage increase in the contract negotiations.

“This is one of the first times in years we’ve been able to push for more instead of taking the status quo,” Solorio told San José Spotlight.

In June, MEF 101 and IFPTE hosted a rally outside City Hall to raise awareness about the need for more pay and recruitment. Emergency dispatchers, who felt the city overlooked their concerns about low pay and staffing shortages, attended the rally.

Cindy Harlin, chief steward of MEF 101 and an employee in police department, told San José Spotlight after the rally it’s unfortunate that dispatchers and other city workers had to work harder than others, such as police officers, to get their wage increases. Police officers and firefighters are represented by different unions than other city employees.

Earlier this year, an updated contract gave full-time SJPD officers a 7.7% wage increase for the year, on top of a $2,000 bonus for each officer because they didn’t receive a raise in 2020.

“It’s kind of disheartening for a lot of us,” Harlin told San José Spotlight. “We all are just as essential as police, we are equally valuable and it should be reflected in our increases as well.”

Harlin said employees got the recognition they deserve from the city only by joining together.

“We were on the same page, it was all or nothing,” Harlin said. “We were bound to win.”

Contact Stephanie Lam at [email protected] or follow @StephCLam on Twitter.

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