A group of 25 Contra Costa County union workers marched around Todos Santos Plaza Saturday in a rally in support of their contract negotiations and against attempts locally and nationally to privatize public services.
“Public employees support your communities,” said Cheryll Grover of Martinez, a member of the board of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 2700, in Contra Costa County. “Public employees keep your communities clean. Public employees keep your communities safe … these are not the kind of jobs that can be privatized.”
The unionists expressed their support for public employee colleagues in Wisconsin, which earlier this year was the center of a political firestorm with the attempt to limit collective bargaining rights. “What happened in Wisconsin was only three months from happening here,” said Grover.
The rally was led by AFSCME and Local 1 of the Public Employees Union, with solidarity appearances from other unions and the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County. The marchers chanted “We are one!” and “Ho ho, Hey hey, Wall Street has got to pay!”
Grover said the unions were taking their message “to the streets” about the unfairness of the county’s bargaining stance for a contract that expires at the end of this month. County negotiators have sought a 6 percent pay cut that, combined with benefit reductions sought, would mean county employees would lose 12 to 23 percent of their income, Grover said.
“For people making $28,000 to $45,000, that puts us into a poverty scenario,” she said.
In the last year, county employees have had 14 unpaid furlough days, Grover said. The salary cut sought by management would save the county a similar amount of money while staff would be back at work on those 14 days.
County representatives have publicly stressed pension reform in this round of negotiations with county employees.
County representatives have set an objective to meet the county’s budget needs, and have said publicly they want labor to make concessions, according to the most recent account (June 16) of bargaining updates on the website of the Public Employees Union.
The current contract with AFSCME Local 2700 is available here.
The unionists received support from two Concord city councilmembers who spoke to the Saturday rally at Todos Santos Plaza.
“I am gratified by your dedication to the working class,” said Councilmember Ron Leone, who remembered that his father had once led a postal strike.
Councilmember Tim Grayson said he came from a union family in Indianapolis. “It’s time for the working class to stand up for the right to be heard,” he said.