After months of unfruitful negotiations with the City, Santa Clara Unit 6 — Field Operations and Maintenance Staff — has voted 93-6 to strike. No date is set for the labor action, however, the union and the City are still talking, said Unit 6 president Gary Ferraris.
“City Manager Rajeev Batra has reached out to us to try to get this to a place where we can avoid a strike,” Ferraris said. “We still have an opportunity to prevent this.”
In February, Unit 6 reached an impasse in negotiations with the City’s negotiating team, led by dismissed City Manager Deanna Santana, over the City’s “steadfast refusal” to grant Unit 6 salary increases, said Ferraris. Unit 6 was the only employee group that was asked to accept another year of zero increases — Unit 9, Miscellaneous Management, received a 4.5% increase.*
The acrimony reached its peak in Unit 6’s no-confidence vote against Santana in March. At a City Council meeting, Ferraris told the Council that Santana’s ”hand-picked executive leadership team has played a primary role in systematically quashing our morale.” Ferraris was referring to the group of former Santana colleagues that she brought to Santa Clara City Hall in 2018 and 2019, who replaced most of Santa Clara’s top management, including that of Human Resources.
The union has a second grievance. In the negotiations, Ferraris said, the City wanted Unit 6 to agree to relinquish members’ legal right to refuse to cross a picket line.
“We see it as a union-busting move,” said Ferraris.
Although Ferraris didn’t mention other issues.
“It’s the people in Unit 6 mowing the lawns at City Hall, keeping our parks clean and safe, keeping the water running to your house and the sewage running out, keeping the storm drains working so the streets don’t flood,” said Ferraris. “Public facilities like the libraries, the Community Recreation Center, the International Swim Center, the cemetery — they are all maintained by Unit 6.”
“We are going to the Council on Tuesday to see what can and cannot be done and how we can avoid strike,” said City Manager Rajeev Batra. “We are working with the Council and with Unit 6. These are important people who provide important services to our residents.”
Santana’s 2017 departure from previous jobs has also been under labor disputes and threatened strikes.
*Santana, both the City’s negotiator and a member of Unit 9, received a $20,000 raise in 2021.