Menlo Park: Union just wants to say hi

SEIU organizer asks to meet with individual council members

When an organizer from the Service Employees International Union Local 521(SEIU) sent an e-mail on Feb. 12 to the Menlo Park City Council asking to meet with each council member individually "to discuss various concerns and issues affecting all concerned parties," the obvious question was whether the council members would agree.

"I won't be and imagine no one else will either," said Mayor Rich Cline. "I have met with them before one on one and did not see any issue with it, but given where we are in the negotiations, I cannot see it happening."

The organizer, Lee Alvis, directed all questions to the union's communications director, Khanah Weinberg. She told the Almanac that as an organizer new to the area, Mr. Alvis wanted to personally introduce himself to each council member.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki, drawing upon his experience with negotiations as a member of the governing board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, said he'd be willing to meet, but only after the SEIU negotiator and his team met with the city manager.

"There's a time and place where it's appropriate, where it wouldn't distract from the formal negotiation process," Mr. Ohtaki said. "It's inappropriate to meet with them until they've met with the city manager. And certainly you do not want to talk about negotiation topics."

He said that such meetings provide an opportunity to get to know the personalities of the bargaining team, as long as the conversation avoided any issue under negotiation.

Council members Kelly Fergusson and Andy Cohen didn't respond to the Almanac before deadline.

Last May, the council imposed pension benefit limitations on SEIU employees that raised the retirement age for new non-police city employees from 55 to 60, and decreased pension benefits from a maximum of four-fifths of annual salary to three-fifths.

The changes take effect only if the city negotiates the same deal with the city's middle management employees when their contract expires this year.

The union, along with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), threatened to sue the city again now that Measure L, which set similar pension limitations but also requires a public vote to raise benefits, passed in the November elections with 72 percent voter approval.

But now SEIU wants to return to the bargaining table. The council created a labor negotiation subcommittee in December, composed of Mayor Cline and Vice Mayor Keith, to increase the transparency of the city's bargaining process.

"The best course is as much transparency as possible," Vice Mayor Keith said regarding SEIU's request for individual meetings. "The council should discuss this issue at our next meeting in March, when the labor subcommittee reports to the council, and formulate a consensus on this."

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm

IF the union were to meet with three or more council members AND told each of them about any position that another council member had ariculated to the union then a serial meeting would have occurred - in violation of the Brown Act.

The best advice is to leave negotiations to the negotiators and for the council to meet with the union in public.

Like this comment
Posted by btkmenlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I am having real trouble with UNION workers, period. Who is in power these days. What happen to people that want a good paying job? If you are not good at your job you are either, put on probation, demoted, or fired. With UNION's there are procedures. How do we get back to basic integrity. Our public services people in the law enforcement are giving traffic tickets to unsuspecting people of all ages with outrageous and excessive fines. Example, $519 for Red Light violation. That was me making a turn at El Camino onto Glenwood. Video shows the car driving NB at 23mph, slowing to the double white lines to make a stop, I make a slight stop, drift a few feet forward to take one last look, then proceed to make a right turn. At this time pictures go off and fined $519.00. Palo Alto (Santa Clara Co.) $281 for red LIght Violation. My question is, "Why?" why are our police department trying to raise these fees. Aren't our taxes paying for their salaries? Or are they chasing $$ for their pensions that we will never be able to pay. It was shameful to see, policemen, Judge's (Professional people) fining old people for very minor infractions, poor people, who can't afford to make ends meet and sucking the the life out of their daily bread to finance the the UNION power. It makes me so mad!!! I personally pleaded guilty, I could have made a longer, complete stop, and I can afford the fine, but, 95% of the people there had relatively innocent infractions. Most of the victim's should have been given a warning. It is shameful to see our civil services stealing the money from the citizen's to pay for pensions or other department expenses. It is shameful and I would be embarrassed if I were part of an organization this. If you think I might be a little crazy go to the Redwood City Superior Court and talk and listen to the infractions and the fines.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Unions are bad because of you did not come to a complete stop.

That's a new one. I don't think even Glen Beck has been on that rant.

Your fines did not go to someone's pension.

Like this comment
Posted by patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm

The union does not act on behalf the of citizens of Menlo Park. Nor does management necessarily represent the citizens of Menlo Park. No independent meetings with council members. Do not trust management who is layered deeply with personnel to do the citizens bidding.
It is the council who is solely responsible for negotiating the best deal for the citizens. Even they do not have a clear vision of the future financial liablities.
A citizen committee must observe all negotiations and perhaps evaluate the performance of the personnel. All you must do is watch maintenance crews sit in their trucks or lean on a rake and do nothing.
Perhaps their manager should quite playing the game of hearts on his computer and get out in the field to assure work is being perfomed.
Was Rubin appropiately appointed to his position to assure good performance or provide a lucrative retirement?
Three City Managers when one worked in the past. Jan Dolan did the work of three.
All employees appeared to be self serving.

Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm

What is "hearts"? Is that a card game from like 1974?

Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 24, 2011 at 5:21 am

Wow..Nice..I wish I got to retire at 55 with four fifths of my salary. Geez...I'll be working at least until 65 with no guareentee whatsoever. Personally, I'm sick of unions...

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 6:01 am

Sooner or later the public service employee union leaders will finally wake up to the fact that they must bring serious reform proposals to the table or their unions will be subjected to 'imposed last best offers' or cease to exist. Denial is no longer an option and anger will fall on deaf and economically suffering ears.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:04 am

Hearts is an awesome game, tho not as a solitary computer game. Best played when you can actually look across the table and have to decide "is he/she really shooting the moon, or not?"

Lots of union bashing on these boards. One thing is probably agreed: this current crop of republican governors have overstepped and really given labor a shot in the arm.

The unions in Wisconsin agreed to all the concessions last week, but instead of ending it then, the governor allows them to stay on the streets, getting the message out, flexing their muscles and getting protests going in other states.

When's the last time we've seen Americans out on the streets in numbers like this? In the dead of a northern winter?

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

Anonymous -

Governor Walker shouldn't overplay his hand, but neither should the unions or the legislators: Web Link

The Wisconsin House is expected to pass the bill today (with Democrats in attendance) and it will be sent to their state Senate thereafter... where it will also pass.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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