For the first time ever, the City of Goleta is engaged in labor negotiations with a public-employee union.

In its 12-year history, none of Goleta’s roughly 55 employees has been represented by a bargaining unit — but that changed last fall.

Months of back-and-forth resulted in an Employer-Employee Relations Resolution approved by the City Council on Oct. 15. It establishes procedures for bargaining and was crafted with input by city employees, although some of them wanted more collaboration before a final form was approved, Goleta employee Maureen Gaasch said during that meeting’s public comment. 

If the council didn’t adopt a resolution, Goleta would still be bound by the statewide regulations of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. By adopting the document, the city has more tailored rules that still comply with the Public Employment Relations Board guidelines.

About 70 percent of employees initially submitted membership applications to the SEIU Local 620, which already represents thousands of employees within Santa Barbara County, according to the SEIU.

“We had the majority of folks who are 100-percent behind this,” said Bruce Corsaw, executive director of the Service Employees International Union Local 620.

“It’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s good to be represented and work together with the employer, and that’s our goal.”

Membership is a “moving target” but 40-45 of employees are now represented in the SEIU Local 620 miscellaneous and general units, Corsaw said. Management staff and confidential employees are unrepresented at this point.

Goleta is now conducting confidential negotiations with the SEIU, interim City Manager Michelle Greene said.

Neither side knows how long negotiations will take, since it’s the first attempt at a contract.

“There’s a learning curve on both sides,” Corsaw said. “We need to learn how the city does something and they need to learn how labor does certain things.”

Employees are currently offered health benefits, retirement benefits through the California Public Employees Retirement System, life insurance, vacation and sick leave.

According to the city’s two-year budget plan, Goleta has 53 full-time employees and four part-time employees. Goleta currently receives fire services from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and contracts out for a variety of other services, such as park maintenance work.

Instead of creating an independent police department, Goleta contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement. That yearly contract will cost $7.9 million of the city’s $21 million budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that started July 1.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.