Quick Take:

The first strike in Santa Cruz city history began as early as 4 a.m. Monday, with hundreds at picket lines around the city by 9 a.m. Representatives of SEIU and the city were scheduled to meet again later Monday morning, this time with a state mediator.

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There was a big turnout Monday for the first strike in Santa Cruz city history.

Picket lines went up as early as 4 a.m. at the corporation yard on River Street, home to the city’s maintenance division, followed by 6 a.m. demonstrations at the water plant on Graham Hill Road and the wastewater plant on California Street, and 7 a.m. picket lines at city hall and the municipal wharf.

Before 9 a.m., more than 100 city workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU 521) had gathered around all sides of city hall. A sea of picket signs and purple SEIU hats spilled out into the street as members took turns shouting chants into a bullhorn.

Many cars passed by with drivers blaring their horns in support. Other workers gave nods to the union members, too, as a Costco truck driver vigorously honked his horn and waved to the crowd.

Per the City of Santa Cruz, residents should expect:

  • no waste or food scrap pickup, and both the landfill and recycling center to be closed;
  • all library facilities except the Capitola and Scotts Valley branches to be closed until Saturday;
  • many city parks to be closed, and many recreation programs to be canceled;
  • most city service counters to be closed, and phone lines to go to automated messages, except for planning and community development.

The striking workers were joined by a number of notable community members including Santa Cruz mayoral candidates Fred Keeley and Joy Schendledecker, Starbucks union organizer Joe Thompson, Santa Cruz City Councilmember Sandy Brown and Santa Cruz City Council District 4 and 6 candidates Hector Marin and Sean Maxwell.

The president and executive director of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council — Daniel Dodge and Cesar Lara, respectively — were also in attendance.

Brenda Whitley, an administrative assistant with the City of Santa Cruz, speaks to a crowd of striking city workers
Brenda Whitley, an administrative assistant with the City of Santa Cruz, speaks to a crowd of striking city workers in front of city hall. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

City parking division worker Gabriela Salinas-Holz addressed the crowd and implored the city to take their concerns seriously.

“City management has continuously ignored our problems. The foundation is crumbling, and you cannot fix it with patches here and there, it has to be made strong again,” she said. “There has to be an honest effort made on the city’s part.”

Over the weekend, Santa Cruz City Manager Matt Huffaker told Lookout that the city and SEIU had a meeting scheduled for Monday, and that each party had agreed to use a state mediator or a neutral third party that works to find common ground between the negotiating parties. City Human Resources Director Lisa Murphy confirmed that the meeting was set for 11 a.m.

Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...