Labor Fight Brewing at City Hall

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

At tonight’s council meeting, city officials will propose massive budget cuts for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.  They’re also pressuring the city’s employee unions to agree to concessions that could cut those reductions nearly in half.

In all, nearly 300 employees would be laid off to balance a $50 million deficit, affecting every single thing the city does.  Unless … well …
Hanneman: “If we did get some concessions from the unions, and it’s in time enough for this fiscal year, we’ll certainly incorporate those.” 
That’s Assistant City Manager Marty Hanneman inserting that not-so-little asterisk.  He says if the three unions will give up their cost-of-living increases and agree to other savings, Sacramento’s deficit would be cut by nearly half.
Hanneman: “So the city could restore many more services and programs than currently we have outlined here.” 
The city has formally asked the unions that represent police officers, fire fighters and non-public safety employees to sit down and talk.  But so far, only the police union has shown any sign it’s willing to negotiate.  They believe unions that work with the city will be spared layoffs – and others won’t.  The fire union, on the other hand, has sharply criticized the city’s spending habits – and it’s furious about being asked for concessions when the department is already understaffed.
Meanwhile, the city is playing hardball.  Here’s Marty Hanneman:
Hanneman: “If one or more unions agree and maybe one or two or whatever don’t, it’s gonna put – yeah, they’re gonna look like – there’s gonna be more pressure on them, I would think.” 
But the fire union plans to push back – starting with a speech at tonight’s council meeting, where the worst-case scenario cuts will be announced.  As spokesman Chris Harvey says, “the gloves are coming off."