At the Dec. 20 City Council meeting, city employees spoke up in fear that approval of their new contract would be postponed and perhaps renegotiated. They chastised the council into not "throwing out the rules of collective bargaining." But what they didn't speak to was how the city can negotiate and agree to a contract when it does not even have a financial plan in place to cover that time period. In light of a severe financial crisis with no reserves to draw upon any longer, the city made a significant financial commitment with no certainty about how to pay for it.
It was a tense situation, heated arguments on both sides, but in the end it was all pointless. Only after public comments did City Attorney Jayne Williams make it clear that the city is legally bound to accept the contract, and any attempt to renegotiate would leave the city open to major legal challenges. With all contract negotiations done behind closed doors, we San Leandrans never had any forum for educated input.
Those who spoke to postpone a vote on the contracts were not trying to throw out the rules of collective bargaining. Neither were they cynical of city employees; in fact they spoke with pride and respect for their hard work. This city did not create the world financial crisis, but it must live with it. And San Leandro is in a financial crisis, with extreme uncertainty over its budget for many years to come.
Negotiating these labor contracts in this manner ties the hands of the new City Council and exhibits severe fiscal irresponsibility and insensitivity to the residents of this city, folks who overwhelmingly demonstrated a desire for fiscal change.
At least the new mayor now has two years to implement long-term budgetary planning for the next contract negotiations.