Members of the city of Oakland's two biggest employee unions have voted by overwhelming margins to authorize a strike.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents more than 1,000 full-time workers and 1,500 part-time workers, including street and parks maintenance workers, civilian police employees, librarian assistants and housing inspectors, voted 95 percent in favor of authorizing a strike.
Members of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, which represents engineers, attorneys, planners and other professionals, voted 94 percent in favor. The results of both votes were announced late Thursday.
The city's contracts with the two unions expire on June 30. But the city's contracts with police officers and firefighters don't expire this year.
The two unions' dispute with city leaders is connected with city budget negotiations, as the City Council must adopt a new two-year budget by June 30, the same day the union contracts expire. SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Cecille Isidro said today that the unions "want a resolution as soon as possible" and haven't set a strike date yet.
But she said the votes authorize the bargaining teams for the two unions to call a strike if they deem it to be necessary.
The last time city of Oakland employees went on strike was in 1946. Union leaders said city workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 and IFTPE Local 21 are seeking pay increases because they have lost 25 percent of their wages in the last few years.
Dwight McElroy, the president of the Oakland chapter of SEIU Local 1021, said in a statement, "With a 95 percent vote from our membership, the message couldn't be any clearer. We're ready to strike."