When will unions get real?

The Port of Oakland’s contract with Service Employees International Local 1021 expired last year at this time, and it appeared that a tentative agreement had been reached last March

By ·

With stalled new job growth and stagnant increases in worker compensation, one might assume that organized labor would welcome contract extensions at one of our nation’s largest seaports. But we are talking about Oakland.

The Port of Oakland’s contract with Service Employees International Local 1021 expired last year at this time, and it appeared that a tentative agreement had been reached last March. But the union – representing 250 employees in the areas of janitorial, maintenance and security – refused to compromise. Here is what the port had put on the table:

• Maintenance of current employee wages
• Continued 100 percent employer-paid healthcare
• No changes to retiree healthcare for current employees
• Current employees would pay 5 percent of employee share of CalPERS retirement plan with the Port paying 3 percent of the employee contribution and the full 23.6 percent member share
• New employees would pay 8 percent share of CalPERS retirement plan with the Port paying the full 23.6 percent member share
• No Cost of Living Adjustment increases but added a COLA re-opener on July 1, 2014
• Port continues reimbursement of SDI payment for employees

After the union membership’s rejection of the tentative agreement that protected their salaries and benefits, the Port and SEIU remain far apart in resolving a new contract.
Given the increasing likelihood that an agreement would not be reached at the bargaining table, the Board of Port Commissioners overwhelmingly authorized the Port Bargaining Negotiating Team to pursue “impasse” proceedings.

The Board action was consistent with its guiding framework of sustainability and parity for new labor contracts: long-term sustainability so that the port can get back on a strong financial footing, and parity with like institutions so that the port is not at a competitive disadvantage offering unsustainable pay and benefits.

Impasse action has several stages, including mediation, and could take several months to advance toward a new contract.

Meanwhile, union workers can thank their leadership for passing up a sweet deal.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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