Four years later, and the City of San Jose is no closer to achieving pension savings. Four years later, the City struggles to keep skilled workers from retiring early or leaving for other agencies. Four years later, the City has made minor progress on fixing its long-standing, structural financial deficiencies. Four years later, the City can not hire and retain workers. Four years later, the City has a new Council and still can not implement a plan to boost employee morale.
It’s been four years since the City’s ill-conceived, illegal pension reform Measure B passed by voters who were sold a story of half-truths about worker retirement costs. The fallout continues, with the City Council voting last week to declare an emergency in police staffing. Some call the move politically motivated 62 days out from the November election. These are the people who voted for or who support the same policies that caused the mess in San Jose. Let’s use police staffing as an example. From a news item about the shortages: San Jose has 1 officer per 1,261 residents. SF? The ratio is 1:409. In Oakland, it’s 1:540. That’s alarming.
Many San Jose workers have not recovered from concessions negotiated to help the City through the Great Recession. Some are earning what they made in 2008. Others work in departments with staffing levels from a decade ago, even though the population continues to grow. It’s time to bring morale back to San Jose, so the City can retain and hire qualified employees to improve and expand services.
Though San Jose struggles to repair the City post-Measure B, the attacks on worker benefits continue. Unlike Measure B, the City and its employees negotiated reforms to pensions late last year. However, former San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant is working with a few Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association members and local billionaire Charles Munger Jr. to undo the negotiated, fair, sustainable settlement. They claim the framework can not override “voter will.” They forget that the Public Employment Relations Board agreed with Unions and found that placing Measure B on the June 2012 ballot was illegal.
Another recent attack is located in Marin County. The First Appellate District Court of Appeal is attempting to rewrite California law that requires any changes to active employees’ pensions must be counterbalanced by a comparable new benefit. The case most likely will be appealed to the California Supreme Court. This could further fuel former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s efforts in November 2018 to rollback retirement security for workers across the state. All because the average public worker pension in California is $36,000 a year.
The battle is not over.
The wrangling over San Jose workers’ pensions is an illustration of the importance of not just being an informed voter, but participating in the election. We need to help elect politicians who are decent, hard-working people like us; who understand the value of public service and the value workers provide. We need to elect leaders who will not divide the middle class, but strengthen it. Please join Local 21 Members Tuesday nights starting September 13 calling voters and informing them of the important choices they have on the November ballot.