City of Stockton operating engineers strike outside City of Stockton Water Recovery Center in Stockton, Calif., on Nov. 28, 2023. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Over 100 Workers Strike In Stockton Over Unfair Labor Practices

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Stockton, CA — More than 100 operations and maintenance workers in Stockton initiated a strike on Tuesday, citing allegations of unfair labor practices and seeking restoration of their pay and benefits. This workforce, essential to the city's infrastructure, includes departments like water, sewage, and trades and maintenance.

Union representative Mike De Anda highlighted the critical role these workers play, especially during emergencies such as last winter's flooding in Stockton. According to De Anda, these employees were instrumental in managing the city's crises, including street maintenance, signal lighting, tree removal, and wastewater management.

The strikers, who gathered outside city hall, are protesting against the sustained pay and benefit cuts that were implemented a decade ago when the city filed for bankruptcy. At that time, employees were asked to accept reductions to aid the city's financial recovery. Now, union leaders argue that the city has sufficiently recovered and should re-evaluate the compensation of these workers.

Union officials also pointed out that a stipulation was set during the city's stewardship by the courts, limiting annual pay increases for city employees to 2%. However, with the passage of time and the rise of inflation, union leaders, including Tim Neep, Local 3 director of Public Employees, believe it is time for a change. These long-serving employees, some with over 20 to 30 years of commitment to the city, deserve recognition and fair compensation, the union asserts.

Stockton City Manager Harry Black acknowledged the ongoing negotiations with several bargaining units. He mentioned that the city offered market adjustments and cost of living increases, aimed at bringing salaries within a competitive range.

However, workers have raised additional concerns over alleged unfair labor practices, including intimidation and the city's failure to provide requested information in the negotiation process. Black refuted these claims, suggesting that any delays in providing information were due to unavoidable circumstances and that no threats were made regarding job security.

The city confirmed that negotiations with two remaining unions are underway, with at least one scheduled for the following week. Meanwhile, the workers, steadfast in their resolve, plan to continue the strike over the next few days, signaling a significant standoff in Stockton's labor relations.

This strike not only underscores the challenges in balancing city budgets and employee compensation but also highlights the critical importance of these workers in maintaining the city's essential services.

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