Update: Atherton council backs staff layoffs; union files lawsuit, seeks restraining order

Twelve staff members to lose jobs this Friday

In a closed-session meeting this afternoon (July 12), the Atherton City Council "affirmed the actions of the City Manager in effecting layoffs of personnel," according to a statement issued by Deputy City Clerk Theresa DellaSanta.

No formal vote was taken, she said.

The council support frustrates the hopes for a negotiated agreement between the town and the union trying to save the jobs of 12 employees in the town's Building and Public Works departments. The employees are scheduled for layoff this Friday.

But the union representing the staff promises a fight. Peter Finn, a Teamsters Union Local 856 representative, said the union has filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court, basing it on a section of the state government code that, according to the union, makes it illegal for the town to outsource the jobs it has targeted.

Mr. Finn did not provide the section of the government code in question.

The union, he said, is planning to ask the court for a restraining order that would prevent the layoffs and the contracting out of services.

The town has received bids from private firms to provide the services that traditionally have been provided by town staff. The council may be asked to approve contracts for the outsourced services as early as July 20 during its regular meeting, Interim City Manager John Danielson said.

Union representatives continue to press the town to reconsider the move toward outsourcing services, and employees have offered concessions in compensation that would save the town at least $300,000, according to union representative Peter Finn.

Mr. Danielson said his decision to eliminate the in-house jobs and hire private firms to provide the services stems from the need to erase an $857,000 structural budget deficit.

See earlier article at Labor council steps into Atherton staff layoff fray

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Like this comment
Posted by DumbBell Calif 94027
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Way to go Council
Another million and a half dollar Police Chief's pension commitment (the third in three years), and a big fat law suit from the union.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Congratulations Council and Danielson - you are doing the right thing and not being intimidated by threats of a law suit which would have little chance of success.

It is time to move on.

Like this comment
Posted by Ernesto
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Don't give these entitled union bureaucrats an inch. Atherton will save a bunch of money that it can use to do what it was intended to do (provide for the public good). The net job loss will be 0, and the private sector replacements to the laid off workers will be fairly compensated and more productive. The private sector has proven time and again its productivity per worker far exceeds their public counterparts.

Next, consolidate the police. Inefficient use of public money must no longer be tolerated. Good start, Atherton.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerome Leugers
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

City Council Members,
It's not easy or popular to do the right thing. Good job.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 13, 2011 at 9:44 am

GREAT post, Jerome!

This will be very difficult, the union will come at the town with guns blazing. Your Town Council needs your support and encouragement!

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Great post Jerome,

For the first time, Atherton has a City Manager who understands what his job is and who he works for......You the property owners of Atherton. Also you have a Council who is supporting his efforts. Tell as many of you neighbors about this. Very few are aware.

Time to send a message to Shelley Kessler

Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Good job town council. You did what was best for the town.

"Mr. Finn did not provide the section of the government code in question" because he is blowing smoke.

Hey union folks, how's that strike threat working out for you?
Your greed resulted in no job.

Bye bye local 856 and do not come back.

Like this comment
Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Can we get the Atherton Council to counsel the Menlo Park Council on how to deal with Teamsters and Public employee unions? Sounds as if Atherton is on the right track.

Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm


Next time the MP counsel needs to go on a "fact finding mission" trip, to learn better how to manage the town, they can literally walk next door to Atherton to learn how they manage in the best interests of their represented taxpayers.

Way to GO Atherton!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Interested bystander
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

See Calif Govt Code 19130 as possible source of union's legal argument

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm

As a point of background, I'm working as a researcher for SEIU International at present. In my capacity as a researcher, I consult with SEIU's locals on state and local government finance. I have also served as an expert witness in grievance arbitration proceedings.

My recent experience in these respects tells me that the readers of this forum and the Atherton Town Government should guard against being overconfident.
There are a number of facts that would appear to support the Teamster's petition for a TRO. These include the extraordinarily favorable financial condition of Atherton, despite trying economic times combined with costly mistakes of management in recent years.

I would also expect Mr. Finn who is representing the teamsters to argue that public employees have a liberty interest in their jobs. I would expect him to argue that there were some irregularities in the Town's consideration of cotnracting and laying off of employees which constituted a denial of due process as well a breach of a covenant of good faith.

How this case is adjudicated (if at all) is anybody's guess. All I am saying here is that the path the Town has embarked upon is fraught with peril.

I would also like to offer a word of support for my former colleagues. I am saddened that they have effectively been shown the door after so many years of faithful service.

Contrary to what seems to be the prevailing opinion here, these employees aren't overpaid, nor are the services they provide unaffordable. It is for that reason I feel as though Mr. Danielson's outsourcing of public works and building was a mistake.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Calif Govt Code 19130 applies to State agencies; I can find no language therein that it also applies to local government.

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

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