City of Santa Rosa's biggest labor group affiliates with Teamsters

The largest labor group representing Santa Rosa city employees has voted to affiliate with the Teamsters in an effort to give itself greater leverage in negotiations with the city.

The 410 members of the Santa Rosa City Employees Association last week voted overwhelmingly to join the Teamsters Local 856, which represents about 8,000 workers in the Northern California.

"It is the opinion of the current SRCEA board that the time has come for professional support," said union president Mike Reynolds.

The labor group has been an independent organization since it was formed 67 year ago. Negotiations with the city have become more adversarial and costly in recent years, and the leaders of the SRCEA, all of whom are volunteers, felt they needed the backup a national union could bring, Reynolds said.

The employees represented by SRCEA, who include a broad spectrum of non-public safety workers from planners to financial analysts, have been working without a contract since last summer.

Ten days of voting ended last week with 86 percent of members choosing to affiliate with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million workers nationally.

The national union already represents six assistant city attorneys in their protracted labor negotiations with the city. Reynolds said he has closely watched the representation the attorneys have received and has been impressed.

Both SRCEA and the attorneys late last year declared their negotiations with the city to be at an impasse.

"The sticking point of the current negotiations is absolutely based on salary," Reynolds said, noting that employees haven't had a raise in four years.

Both groups have called for fact-finding, a new and time-consuming process before a three-member panel made up of a neutral fact finder and one representative each from the city and the union.

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