Man speaking to Santa Barbara City Council while union members, wearing purple shirts, listen.
More than 50 members of the Service Employees Internation Union Local 620 converged on Santa Barbara City Hall Tuesday to demand a pay wage increase. the city says it has made its best offer. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

More than 50 members of the Service Employees Internation Union Local 620 converged on Santa Barbara City Hall Tuesday to demand a pay wage increase.

The union is asking for a 2 percent increase in 2018 and a 2 percent increase in 2019.

The city called the union’s demands “unreasonable,” and has offered 1.5 percent in 2018 and .5 percent in 2019.

The average salary for an SEIU 620 worker is about $65,000, according to the city.

“We’re not asking for a handout,” said SEIU representative Thomas Welche during the council’s public comment period. “We’re asking for a fair wage for an honest day’s work.”

The employees wore purple SEIU shirts to the City Council meeting, and stood up while each one of their representatives spoke.

Kathleen Goo, who has worked at the city for more than 20 years, urged the council to give the union employes a pay increase.

With so many rising costs, it’s stressful to live in Santa Barbara under her salary, she said.

“I have to actually reduce the amount of groceries I purchase each month,” Goo said. 

The two sides first had a negotiation meeting on Jan. 25, and have had 15 bargaining meetings, and one mediation meeting, since. The current city contract expired six months ago. 

In a letter to the union dated Aug. 21, Kristy Schmidt, the city’s administrative services director, said that “it isn’t possible to consider employee compensation without discussing pensions.”

By 2025, for every dollar the city pays an employee in salary, it will need to set aside another 41 cents into the employee’s pension plan. 

The two sides are also at odds over certification pay.

The union has asked that its employees receive a 2.5 increase anytime they are required to get certification that was not required on the day the person was hired.

“This is simply not reasonable or practical,” Schmidt wrote in the letter.

SEIU is also asking for the ability for union members to cash out their vacation.

Schmidt said the the union gave up its right to a cash-out when it accepted a .5 salary increase several years ago. 

Schmidt wrote in the letter that the city offered other concessions, such as a day with pay in the event that the freeways close, and discounted personal parking costs for employees who work at the waterfront. 

“The city values its employees and believes that its last, best and final offer is reasonable,” Schmidt wrote. “Given current revenue challenges and escalating pension costs, about which we presented evidence in bargaining, we believe that we have made the best offer we can under the circumstances.”

Welche said he is frustrated with the city, and that he won’t be attending the city’s upcoming employee appreciation day because he doesn’t feel appreciated.

The lack of a contract, he said, “is a failure of management to work with its staff. I don’t think it’s a failure of the people behind me,” referring to the people in the council chamber. 

Mayor Cathy Murillo said, “I hope we do come to an agreement soon.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.