Deal negotiated with city employees continues investment in workforce to enhance city services
SAN DIEGO – Furthering his commitment to invest in the city’s workforce, fill vacancies, and enhance services to residents, Mayor Todd Gloria on April 28 announced that the city has reached a three-year tentative agreement with the labor unions representing 62 percent of its workforce: the San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA), which represents the City’s white-collar workers, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 127 (Local 127), representing blue-collar workers.
“Much like decades of deferred maintenance left our streets in terrible shape, years of no pay increases, low wages and benefit cuts took their toll on the City of San Diego’s workforce,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “This agreement is another step to reverse years of underinvestment in our employees that resulted in unfilled positions and delayed or diminished services for our residents. Fair and competitive pay will ensure we have the workers to provide the level of service San Diegans expect and deserve.”
Under the tentative agreements, all members of both unions will receive a series of pay increases over the next three years, starting with a 5 percent increase on July 1, 2023, and another 5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2024. The employees will receive subsequent pay increases of 4 percent starting July 1, 2024; 2 percent on Jan. 1, 2025; and finally, an additional 5 percent starting July 1, 2025. In addition, the agreements provide equity adjustments, special assignment pays and certification pays for specialized skills and training.
“Our city workers are the city’s most important resource,” said Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. “After years of being overburdened, underappreciated, and scapegoated for many city leaders’ failures, San Diego’s city employees are finally being provided the dignity and respect of a contract consistent with their contributions. I am proud of the work the Council has done in partnership with the mayor to make San Diego a city that provides the world-class careers that will result in world-class services for our residents.”
The agreements further bolster Mayor Gloria’s efforts to address the high vacancy rate at the city, which has led to delays or reductions in city services. More than 18 percent of the positions represented by both MEA and Local 127 are currently vacant.
A 2020 report by the City Auditor showed a major factor behind employee turnover was significant pay gaps compared with other California jurisdictions. Most city employees only received modest salary increases in the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years after more than a decade of stagnant wages.
The high vacancy rates and difficulty in hiring have had noticeable impacts for residents, delaying or diminishing the level of service across city functions. MEA represents dispatchers, pool guards, recreation center workers, code compliance officers and customer services representatives in the city’s Public Utilities Department – all functions that have suffered from unfilled positions. A major push to fill vacant Library Assistant roles is enabling the Library Department to begin re-opening libraries on Sundays after three years of Sunday closures due to lack of staff.
Local 127 represents employees who repair streets and streetlights, collect trash and remove litter, maintain city vehicles to keep them in service, keep city parks, libraries and beaches clean, and additional essential services the public relies on.
“As we move towards a structurally balanced budget, it is also essential we fill our vacancies while investing in competitive salaries to attract and maintain workers,” said Council President pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe, who chairs the Budget and Government Efficiency Committee. “This tentative agreement demonstrates our value for city workers and is a step toward living up to ‘America’s Finest City’ by providing quality services to our residents after years of divestment.”
The tentative agreements are a major step toward resolving the city’s longstanding underinvestment in the workforce and is an intentional effort to make San Diego a more attractive employer through competitive compensation and benefits. They will become final once the unions’ employee membership ratifies them and the City Council gives its final approval..
(City of San Diego Release) n