SAN JOSE — Thousands of union workers in San Jose voted overwhelmingly for a three-day strike, union representatives confirmed at a press conference outside city hall on Monday.
Nearly 4,500 workers are willing to quit their jobs Aug. 15-17 after months of negotiations between the city and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 and the Municipal Employees’ Federation-American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 101, said the unions representing the striking city workers.
The vote, held last week, resulted in 99% of union members approving the strike.
Workers in departments across the city have complained of chronic understaffing and low wages, with workers often moving to other municipalities that offer more money. The employees have been without a contract since their contract expired at the end of June.
The unions represent city employees, including emergency responders, code enforcement, librarians, airport workers and engineers.
“I am disappointed that these unions voted to strike without returning to the negotiating table after walking away from mediation,” said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. “There is still hope for a solution that is fair to all, but the truth is that what the unions are asking for requires extremely painful cuts that I don’t think anyone is willing to make. In the meantime, the city is prepared to shut down the services preserve what our residents rely on.”
Workers have asked for a 7% raise for the 2023-24 fiscal year, to which the city responded with a counteroffer of a 5% wage increase.
Alex Lee, a member of the California Assembly representing northern San Jose, said he sometimes hears complaints from his constituents about the service’s response time in San Jose.
“How do you get more services? I think you need more people to do things. It’s just a matter of bureaucracy and a matter of personnel and personnel,” Lee said. “It doesn’t happen that often in cities with a lot of staff that I represent.”
John Tucker, a representative for MEF-AFSCME Local 101, said the strike could have a major impact on the functioning of the city, with potential delays at San Jose Mineta International Airport and disruptions to city facilities such as libraries or the zoo.
Michael Rovetto, a code enforcement inspector for the city of San Jose, says many city employees leave for opportunities elsewhere after gaining some experience in San Jose.
“It’s a great gateway city. You learn a lot about the profession, you learn a lot about what it takes to do a job successfully and efficiently,” said Rovetto. “But then many people move to another municipality where they get paid much more, the benefits are better and the workload is significantly lower.”