Quick Take:

The City of Santa Cruz and SEIU-represented city workers had not returned to the bargaining table as of Friday, and workers continue to head toward a strike to begin Monday morning.

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UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the city workers strike was still on for Monday at 7 a.m. The union confirmed that the work stoppage would last more than one day, and could continue for longer. The union has not returned to the bargaining table with city management at this time.

Despite reaching a tentative agreement with the City of Santa Cruz on Oct. 2, just hours before a scheduled work stoppage, city workers represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU 521) had other ideas when it came to voting.

Monday evening, a majority of SEIU 521 members rejected the agreement and once again are heading toward a strike. The move is a culmination of ongoing, back-and-forth contract negotiations that have spanned months. The strike is set to begin Monday.

It would be the first strike in Santa Cruz city history, said SEIU 521 internal organizer Veronica Velazquez.

She added that the strike signifies something bigger than just the workers’ current dissatisfaction.

“This is for the next generation of workers. We’re showing them that they don’t have to put up with what we did. The time is now,” she said.

More than 30 SEIU members and supporters gathered around Santa Cruz City Hall on Tuesday evening, bullhorns on and signs in hand. The crowd cycled through various chants as it marched down Pacific Avenue, union members handing out informational flyers to anyone they passed.

Strike picket lines were planned five different locations around the city, those being city hall, the county building, the wastewater facility, the water plant and the wharf.

The union confirmed that members turned down the agreement because they do not believe it adequately addresses the staffing, workload and safety issues they are most worried about. Further, the members say city leadership is refusing to invest in public services. Approximately 80% of members voted to reject the deal.

Santa Cruz City Manager Matt Huffaker confirmed the union’s intention to strike, but said he hopes to reach an agreement before the strike commences.

“Unfortunately, SEIU Local 521 members did not support the negotiating team’s recommendation for approval of the agreement,” he said, adding that police, fire, water and sewer services will remain uninterrupted. “We remain committed to working with the SEIU bargaining team between now and then to reach an agreement at the negotiating table.”

All city services staffed by SEIU would be affected should a strike begin. Per the City of Santa Cruz, residents should expect:

  • police and fire to respond as usual;
  • no residential or commercial trash or recycling pickup;
  • all service and payment counters to be closed;
  • all libraries other than those in Capitola and Scotts Valley to be closed;
  • many parks to be closed and recreation programs to be canceled;
  • most service phones to not be attended;
  • most plan reviews, permit reviews and inspections to be unavailable.

The rejected tentative agreement included a 12% ongoing compensation increase over the next three years, a one-time $1,100 payment for each employee, and a commitment to not implement furloughs during the contract duration.

The union had previously authorized a strike, with 95% of its voting members rejecting the city’s last, best and final contract offer, in mid-September.

SEIU represents nearly 600 city workers in departments like road and maintenance, sanitation, public safety and more. Those workers perform services including trash collection, water treatment, parking enforcement and park maintenance.

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...