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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 10:34 am | Fair 60º


SEIU Members Ask Santa Maria Council for ‘Fair’ Wage Hike

Santa Maria workers who keep city vehicles running, operate the water plant, maintain city streets and fill assorted other jobs are urging the City Council to give them “a fair and equitable contract” as salary negotiations continue.

The workers, who are represented by SEIU Local 620, showed up in force at Tuesday night's council meeting to plead their case.

Union representatives referred to what they say was a “wildly inaccurate” salary survey conducted by city negotiators.

“We will continue our relentless pursuit of the truth as far as we need to ensure our members receive a fair and equitable contract,” said Darryl Scheck, SEIU Local 620 field representative. “In the meantime, I encourage you to look within and ask yourself, 'Is it fair that one group should be so disparately treated compared to other labor groups in the city?'”

The union action came before the City Council's scheduled discussion in closed session about negotiations. The council didn’t take any reportable action during those conversations, City Manager Rick Haydon said. 

Both sides were to talk again this week.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll come to terms of agreement with them,” Haydon told Noozhawk.

Employees reportedly are seeking a 3.5 percent salary hike, akin to the 3.6 percent public safety groups received. 

“We are hopeful that we can secure better terms in our negotiations with the city since Tuesday night's action,” Scheck said Thursday.

The union’s “last, best and final offer” is still less than other labor groups accepted, Scheck added. 

Sporting purple shirts with the words “Stronger Together,” Local 620 members rallied in front of City Hall and then flooded into the council chambers Tuesday night.

Doug Shearer, a union member and landfill employee, noted that the city offers free day-passes that allow utility customers to dump items for no cost, adding up to approximately $240,000 in lost revenue for coffers.

“But you guys don’t even blink an eye to that,” Shearer said. “And, why? Because it’s good politics. It’s sexy. It’s got good meat for your constituents.

“I know this bargaining unit isn’t sexy, and we’re probably not as popular as some of the other organizations in the city, but all we ask is a fair shake for our families and our friends."

SEIU Local 620 represents approximately 264 employees, officials said.

The city has about half the number of miscellaneous employees per capita as either the cities of Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo, union officials contend.

The union members agreed to unpaid furloughs in recent years to help the city through bad financial times, and worked for the passage of a measure to boost sales taxes to fund public safety.

“We’re the jack-of-all-trades, the worker bees,” said Michelle Ruiz, a city employee and union member. “We’re a collective group of different individuals with different responsibilities who keep the city functioning.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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