Quick Take:

Both the City of Santa Cruz and its SEIU-represented members expect the strike to begin Monday with immediate impacts on city services. The negotiating impasse is largely about wages, job security and staffing, with the city pointing to a strained budget and the union to what it calls below-market wages.

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Following months of contract negotiations between the City of Santa Cruz and city workers represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU 521), the union announced its intention to strike starting Monday.

All city services staffed by SEIU employees will be affected. 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, and all libraries to be closed Oct. 8;
  • 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 union initially authorized a strike, with 95% of its voting members rejecting the city’s last, best and final contract offer, earlier this month.

SEIU represents nearly 600 city workers in departments such as road and maintenance, sanitation, public safety and more. These workers perform services including trash collection, water treatment, parking enforcement and park maintenance. The union confirmed Friday that strike picket lines will go up at Santa Cruz City Hall at 7 a.m. Monday, followed by a news conference hosted by the striking workers and community allies.

“Santa Cruz residents are facing a strike because the city council has enabled management to engage in unfair labor practices while trying to force its lowest paid to accept raises far below what it has offered top executives,” Santa Cruz SEIU chapter president and bargaining team member Ken Bare said in a news release.

The strike will continue until the city and the workers reach a deal, said Bare.

City Manager Matt Huffaker told Lookout late Friday afternoon that there was no progress to report and no meetings scheduled with SEIU. He previously told Lookout he was hopeful an agreement would be reached in the near future.

“We still have a need for additional ongoing revenue streams for the city’s fiscal health over the long term, but the city’s improving financial position in the near term allows us to address some of the immediate challenges we’re facing, including employee compensation, retention and attraction,” he said, adding that the city has reached agreements with four labor groups including fire local, fire management, middle managers, and department heads.

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...