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December 6, 2017

Support Striking Oakland City Workers

Fund services, not tax breaks for developers

Oakland strikers The Freedom Socialist Party is represented on the line by striker Moisés Montoya (center). Photo: IFPTE Local 21

Oakland city workers from SEIU 1021 and IFPTE 21 are on strike because the city refuses to negotiate acceptable contracts. Their coworkers from IBEW 1245 stand in firm solidarity by refusing to cross picket lines. The gap between the rich and the rest of Oaklanders is widening. Now is the time for all those who prioritize the needs of the 99% to support city workers. Together we must fight for properly funded and staffed public services and wages that keep up with the cost of living.

The two unions represent over 3,000 city workers, nearly the entire workforce, who voted overwhelmingly to go on strike in the face of the city’s inadequate wage offer of 2% increase per year and its refusal to stop using part time temporary workers to fill career jobs.

City employees demand respect. City employees were asked to “share the pain” during the 2008 economic crisis and they gave up raises to preserve city services and jobs. Now that Oakland’s economy is booming for large land developers, corporations and landlords, there is absolutely no reason for the measly city offer.

The city’s low wage package is not only insulting, it impoverishes the very people who run city services. Even more offensive is the fact that the city’s own survey recognizes that IFPTE Local 21 workers are paid 10% less than their counterparts in other jurisdictions.

Public workers defend needed services. By striking, city workers are fighting sub-par working conditions that impact their ability to provide services. If jobs are left unfilled because of low wages, employees are forced into speed-up. Downgrading jobs to part-time and temporary status is union-busting. It pits career employees against temp workers and results in high turnover.

Settle the strike. Council members need to do more than honor a picket line. They need to pressure Mayor Libby Schaaf to stop the giveaways to land developers and to meet the unions’ demands.

The city could easily solve the problem of low wages. Taxing corporations and high-income residents to pay for the infrastructure they benefit from is a simple way to generate more income. Cutting city management salaries and consulting fees would actually result in more revenue for public services.

Hold the line.The two unions are striking together and this is where their power lies. The strikes should continue until both unions have reached agreements. With labor unions under attack, the Oakland City workers strike serves as a lightning rod for other Bay Area unions who are also in contract negotiations. Let’s build on this momentum!