After Elections, Divide Between SJ City Hall and Unions Deepens

By Stephanie Chuang
|  Thursday, Nov 8, 2012  |  Updated 8:23 AM PDT
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There seems to be a deepening divide between San Jose City Hall and the unions that represent many of its government employees.

There seems to be a deepening divide between San Jose City Hall and the unions that represent many of its government employees.

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There seems to be a deepening divide between San Jose City Hall and the unions that represent many of its government employees. The effort to oust a big pension reform supporter failed at the polls Tuesday, as San Jose voters re-elected Rose Herrera for the District 8 seat. In the battle for District 10, the winner was Johnny Khamis, a believer of strict fiscal reform and guidelines. Both outcomes ensure that the city council power does not shift, with Mayor Chuck Reed retaining a favorable vote breakdown when it comes to issues like pension and fiscal reform.

Reed said that the government employee unions tried to knock out Herrera in order to gain control of the city council votes, “so they could reverse the work they’ve done on pension reform.” He added that more money was poured into this city council race than any other one on record. Reed described it as “one of the ugliest, meanest, most deceptive campaigns ever run against a council member.”

Cindy Chavez with the South Bay Labor Council said her members do not trust Herrera, because she hasn’t been open to discussions with them.

“We want them to be tenacious, honest brokers of the community’s interests and I don’t think we have that yet, and I certainly know we don’t have that with Council member Herrera,”said Chavez.

So far, the unions have filed half a dozen lawsuits against Measure B, the pension reform measure voted through in June by nearly 70 percent of voters. Meantime, union leaders insisted there needs to be more options, especially when it comes to bringing in revenue to the city. Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, added that voters are on their side.

“All the tax measures passed – the governor’s, the water board’s, the county’s, all of them passed,” offered Unland. “The mayor said we’re not even going to bring it to the voters, it’s not going to pass. Gee, every single one of them passed. Ours didn’t, because we didn’t have one!”

As the Fall 2012 election closes, these union leaders are already placing their hopes on the next one. They’re hoping 2014 elections will shift the momentum in their favor, especially as the city and the unions battle in court over pension reform.

“Four to six years from now, we expect the court battles to be done. Before that, there will be an opportunity in that the mayor and three of his votes will be termed out in two years.”

The city council has moved Measure B forward. On Tuesday, its members passed a couple ordinances related to the measure. Mayor Reed says one of them eliminates supplemental bonuses coming out of retirement plans, which is set to take effect January 1. Other parts of Measure B are slated to take effect later next year, but the other side guarantees there will be many attempts at injunctions to stop that from happening.

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