Union Leaders Accuse Richmond City Manager of Unfair Labor

Unions representing Richmond city workers on Tuesday accused the new city manager Carlos Martinez of union busting and unfair labor practices in a demonstration outside City Hall.

City workers are seeking a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, to keep up with the Bay Area's rising cost of living. They say that in response to that effort, the city has targeted union leaders for retaliatory layoffs.

Union leaders accused Martinez of moving the goal posts on the city's cash reserve, from 8 percent to 15 percent, creating a deficit that would not otherwise exist.

Dee Karnes, of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, demanded an end to retaliatory layoffs and accused the city of misrepresenting its financial situation.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 President Gregory Everetts said they haven't had a COLA in four years, during a period in which comparable Bay Area cities have given their workers an average of 3 percent per year.

"To put it simply, Richmond is falling behind," Everetts said.

"We are dealing with a city manager who is an outsider to us, who doesn't know how to deal with labor or any kind of labor situation," Everetts said.

"His agenda is to bust the unions, raise the reserves to 15 percent overnight, pad his resume and do what most outsiders who come here to work do, and that is leave for a better job and leave us in shambles."

Police, firefighters and paramedics were also at the rally, saying an attack on one is an attack on all.

"Labor relations and financial transparency in the last year have been adverse at best and malicious at worst," said President Ben Therriault of the Richmond Police Officers Association.

"We won't sit back and let the city manager lead us into a manufactured crisis," Therriault said.

This afternoon's rally took place in advance of the Richmond City Council meeting, which began at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at 440 Civic Center Plaza.

Richmond City Manager Carlos Martinez, who was sworn-in last year, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the rally. At the beginning of the meeting, however, he did indicate a willingness to discuss the matter at a later date.

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