Members of the C.O.R.E. filled council chambers on Tuesday night to protest the council’s wage offer. Photo by Alyssa Morin.
Tuesday night, Redondo Beach City Council voted 4-5 to impose a three percent raise on police officers and firefighters, despite protests from the labor unions.
Last November, the City Council presented their “last, best, final offer” to the employees, agreeing to raise wages by three percent. It was instantly rejected by the five unions in question, and negotiations moved to an impasse. The city skipped mediation and moved into fact finding.
“We won’t settle for anything less that the six percent we are owed,” Brad Sweatt, President of the Firefighters’ Association, said before the meeting.
Four years ago, city employees agreed to take a six percent cut in wages and benefits to help the ailing financial situation of their city. The Coalition of Redondo Beach Employees claims that they were promised restitution within two years.
City Manager Bill Workman was absent from the council meeting, with sources reporting that he has taken medical leave. Assistant City Manager Pete Grant presented the “last, best, final offer” in his place. The meeting then offered the podium to the public in attendance, most of whom were C.O.R.E. members holding signs and banners demanding fair pay.
Carlos Rubio, a labor union representative for the Teamsters, spoke first.
“I speak on behalf of those employed by the city,” said Rubio. “You are the stewards of the city and you delegate the hard-earned funds. You call these workers, they come. You need them, they’re there. They get dirty. They might get hurt. They won’t get wealthy as a civil servant but they do it diligently. They get the job done.”
Steve Nothern, Fire Captain at the Redondo Beach Fire Department, took to the podium next.
“Each labor group lined up to vote for voluntary concessions to make sure the services didn’t decline one iota,” he said. “In 2012, the city declared an end to the economic emergency. We expected good faith when we got back to the negotiating table. Now you’re asking us to be good employees and go away.”
Mayor Steve Aspel spoke somberly to the audience.
“Everything Carlos said is correct,” the Mayor said. “I agree, not getting everything back is not a raise. The employees, you’re right, but the council people have to make the decision here and it is a tough position to be in.”
“I did that job for 34 years and I am trying to continue what I learned then,” Councilmember Pat Aust said. “The situation is, if we had the money to give you what you fully wanted, we’d do it. We have tried to find a solution but it isn’t there with what you’ve proposed. It’s as much as we can do.”
Councilmember Matt Kilroy made a motion to accept the resolution and impose the three percent raise on the employees. Councilmember Jeff Ginsberg hesitantly seconded.
The resolution passed by a 4-5 vote, with Steve Sammarco the one member who opposed it. Bill Brand was absent from the meeting.
Carlos Rubio took to the podium again.
“It’s pretty sad,” he said. “I’m a second generation teamster. I was born in another country and came here to have a better life. You’re making a humongous mistake. Matt, Steve, Pat, Jeff, you are setting the pattern of labor relations of the city and that does not have a price. The act that is occurring tonight is historic and it is a huge mistake.”
Wayne Windman, a representative of the Police Officers Association, protested the council’s process.
“So you can drag out negotiations for two years,” he said. “And then months before the end of the contract, you impose a raise but you do not have it go back to the start of the contract. That is punishment, that is not fairness.”
Windman looked sternly at the older members of the council.