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Council Approves Moving Forward with ‘Worker Retention’ Ordinance

Security guards, janitors and food service workers will likely get job security, protecting them from being laid off should their employer change contractors.

The Santa Clara City Council unanimously approved giving direction to City employees regarding what the Council labels a “worker retention” ordinance at its Tuesday night meeting.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit new contractors from immediately laying off employees. Instead, the contractor is required to keep the employee on for three months, during which the contractor must conduct an evaluation of the employee’s performance. If that evaluation shows that the employee is competent, the contractor must keep the worker employed.

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Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta said if it were a matter of people losing their jobs because of incompetence, the ordinance wouldn’t be necessary. Companies like Intel and NVIDIA simply change contractors to get the lowest bid, and those contractors come in and replace many of the workers.

“This is about greed,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Employers who do not use contractors will be unaffected by the ordinance. It will apply to any institution that employs more than 10 food service workers or any security guards or janitors, including the City, Kaiser Permanente, Santa Clara University and the Santa Clara Unified School District.

Caserta said the ordinance “does not violate the self-interest of small businesses,” calling it “economic justice for people who are vulnerable.” He added that he is confident that Chris Horton, president of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, will support the ordinance because he is “a progressive leader” and because it is “the right thing to do.”

If passed, Santa Clara would be the first city in Silicon Valley to pass such an ordinance. No one spoke against the proposal.

Many members of the public spoke, some sporting dayglow yellow stickers reading “Job Security Yes!”

“That is all we are asking for: an opportunity to show we are worthy of keeping our jobs,” said James Kerkstra, a bartender at Centerplate at Levi’s Stadium.

Ronald Brown, an NVIDIA cafeteria worker, said he and his co-workers can finally “breath again.”

One of the only concerns in drafting the ordinance, said Interim City Attorney Brian Doyle, is that there is some ambiguity as to whether the ordinance will bump up against the National Labor Relations Act, federal legislation passed in 1935 which governs collective bargaining.

Several union delegates turned out to show support of the ordinance.

Sarah McDermott, a research analyst with Unite Here Local 19, said the ordinance does not create economic burden with the successor company and that she is confident the language in the ordinance is “legally sound.”.

Dianna Zamora-Marroquin, with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said the ordinance will bring “economic stability” to the region.

“It is hard work, and I think you deserve a reward for your hard work,” said Councilmember Patricia Mahan.

The Council bounced the ordinance back to City employees to do community outreach–something Caserta noted City employees have done a “piss-poor” job of in the past–and add an industrial designations to the ordinance so it would include companies such as Intel and NVIDIA.

Councilmember Teresa O’Neill said she would like to see City employees reach out to Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The Council will see a draft of the ordinance for a vote at its March 21 meeting. Councilmember Kathy Watanabe did not attend the meeting.

The Council members also discussed two stadium items relating to its ongoing legal struggle with the San Francisco 49ers.

During the Stadium Authority Board portion of the Council meeting, the Stadium Authority voted unanimously to pay $500,000 to Hanson Bridgett, the law firm representing the city in its arbitration with the 49ers over whether the City falsely accused the team of not upholding its end of the contract agreement.

With the retainer, the Stadium Authority will have paid the firm $750,000 for its services on this matter. Embedded in the action item was the transference of that money from Stadium Authority fund to the “other expenditures” account.

The Stadium Authority had no discussion on the item. There were no public comments.

Practice facility noise also came up. The Stadium Authority also voted unanimously to pay $99,840 to hire Wilson, Ihrig & Associate to conduct noise monitoring.

The firm “will prepare a Noise Monitoring Plan that will identify locations for the installation of four noise monitors, establish threshold noise levels which would trigger an alert to City staff, provide real time monitoring of noise levels through an internet site, and provide written reports to the City on a regular basis,” according to the memo to the Stadium Authority.

Andrew Crabtree, director of community development, told the Stadium Authority that the contract was for one year. The program also established a website where noise complaints can be filed. Crabtree said one complaint has been logged on that site since August. Once the monitors are installed, the data from them will be available in real time.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the amount “seemed like a lot for only a year.”

Crabtree said the firm’s bid “fell somewhere in the middle” of what the five City employees considered and that the firm has a “solid reputation” in the field. The firm would be preparing monthly reports, he added.

Kirk Vartan suggested the Council look into installing permanent noise monitors on light poles as long-term infrastructure solution, so it doesn’t have to regularly pay a consultant.

“The policy is the most important thing, not the equipment,” he said.

Although he called the monitoring a “very welcomed thing,”

Hosam Haggag questioned why the Stadium Authority was footing the bill for the consultant. Since noise was laid out in the environmental impact report, Haggag also questioned why the monitoring wouldn’t be considered part of the construction costs of the stadium.

Haggag also requested that the real-time data on noise levels be available to the public.

“It shouldn’t just be limited to city-authorized users. We are all authorized residents,” he said.

Gillmor said the monitoring will likely last more than a year and be “more of a fixture than not.” The Stadium Authority also requested that the City Manager’s office look into the specifics of where the money is coming from and whether that cost falls under parameters that could be bore by the team.

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