San Francisco

Oakland Workers Strike, Closing Offices, Stopping Services

Thousands of city workers in Oakland went on strike Tuesday, shutting down street cleaning, library and other public services after union leaders and city officials couldn't agree on a new labor contract.

Police and fire services were not affected, but city offices were closed, and parking regulations will not be enforced.

Like the rest of the Bay Area, the city of 400,000 people is seeing housing costs skyrocket, and employees say their salaries are not enough to keep up with rising costs.

The city and union have agreed to a 4 percent salary increase in the first year but are stuck on increases for the second year. The city has offered a 2 percent increase if certain revenue conditions are met, but the union wants the city to commit to another 4 percent increase.

Talks broke down Monday after the city refused a union proposal to bring in an informal mediator.

About 3,000 workers in senior centers, libraries, City Hall and other city-run departments began their strike at 7 a.m.

"The city continues to believe you are not deserving of health care benefits, retirement, and you're an at-will employee, so you can be fired at any moment," said Lina Hernandez, a bargaining team member representing one of three unions. 

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have worked without a contract since June 30. Members of an engineers union also joined the walkout.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said the city would file a labor complaint because the strike is unlawful. In earlier discussions, Schaaf guaranteed a four 4 percent pay increase for the first year, but it failed when they couldn't secure money for the second year.

Many union leaders say Oakland has the money, they just need to learn to prioritize. 

Schaaf said she wants a fair contract that is fiscally prudent. While she deeply values city workers, she said, "we cannot spend more than we can afford."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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