At Tuesday night’s Santa Clara City Council meeting, the Council heard from representatives of Unit 6, the union on the verge of strike, if a new contract is not worked out. Council members also heard from Reclaiming Our Downtown, members of the public asking that the Council offer assurances that the BMX track would stay open and approved funding for this year’s Parade of Champions.
Union workers have laid a looming strike at the feet of the former city manager, saying she created a toxic work environment that marginalized City employees.
At its first in-person meeting since the pandemic struck, the Santa Clara City Council heard from members of its Unit 6 Field Operations and Maintenance Workers during public presentations. Contract negotiations with the bargaining unit, which has 125 employees, began under former City Manager Deanna Santana last fall.
Since then, the Council has fired Santana and hired Rajeev Batra, former public works director and interim city manager, but negotiations have sputtered. The group now plans to strike on International Workers Day, May 1, if an amenable agreement is not reached before then.
Among Unit 6’s complaints are that the City refused to approve cost-of-living pay increases despite soaring inflation and denied its members “hero pay” issued by the federal government.
“While surrounding agencies rewarded their employees for their dedication, Santa Clara refused to do the right thing,” said Gary Ferraris, president of AFSCME Local 4911. “To be clear, in exchange for no cost-of-living adjustment, the City is demanding we give up our beliefs and values regarding honoring a picket line.”
He called the City’s position “unreasonable, unnecessary and unacceptable.”
Charles Allen, executive director of AFSCME, said Santana’s attitude demonstrated its lack of appreciation for City employees.
“Seek a new vision. Go a different direction. Treat your workforce the way they need to be treated,” he said.
Unit 6 cleans storm drains, maintains streets and public buildings and does the Cleanup Campaign.
Because the showing came during public presentations, the Council was unable to discuss the issue or address the commenters. However, Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she was “confident” the two groups would be able to find a solution before the strike.
“We do value what you do for our city. Our residents value you. Our city would not be what it is today without your good work,” she said.
Public Petitions to be on Future Agendas
The Council also voted to put several public petitions on a future agenda.
The first, presented by Mary Grizzle of Reclaiming Our Downtown, was to consider allowing the City’s downtown urban planning firm, WRT, to study the financial feasibility of placing City Hall downtown.
“The demise of downtown, and the moving of City Hall from the central business district, were done in ignorance, and the decisions made have impacted the downtown until today — 65 years later,” Grizzle said.
The Council also approved funding the Parade of Champions to the tune of $60,000.
As in previous meetings, many public members turned out to show support for ensuring that the BMX track remains open. A petition from recently fired track operator Nick Valencia implored the Council to consider working out another agreement between his team of volunteers and the City, saying they have “outgrown” the Police Athletic League (PAL) that manages the track.
Strife between the volunteer track operators has left the track closed until PAL can reach an agreement with USA BMX, which sanctions the track. Many public members criticized PAL’s leadership.
Teresa Perez, a parent of BMX riders, pointed at PAL members seated in the front row of the Council Chambers.
“These three men have accomplished one mission: being a disgrace to nonprofits organizations and should be released from their positions on the grounds of tolerating bullying, assuming guilt of a crime without just cause, creating a hostile, non-inclusive environment,” she said.
The Council voted unanimously to have City employees bring back information regarding the status of the BMX track, putting it on the May 24 agenda for discussion.
Also, the Council approved a resolution to establish new average per-acre land values in order to establish park in-lieu fees and approved the municipal fee schedule.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A one-year $301,000 agreement with Revel Environmental Manufacturing, Inc. for the purchase and installation of 470 full trash capture catch basin inserts;
- A $275,472 amendment to an agreement for design professional services with Gates and Associates Landscape Architecture, Inc. for the Westwood Oaks Playground Rehabilitation Project;
- $132,940 from the Stadium Authority Capital Expense Reserve: Rope Rescue Gear Project ($27,054), Personal Protective Equipment Project ($18,886) and Public Safety Command Post Dispatch System Project ($85,000);
- $7,700 for registration fees, travel expenses, and potential client entertainment for City employees to attend two conferences in May and June.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, May 10 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara. Councilmember Kathy Watanabe was absent from the meeting.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.