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Important Message About Proposed Layoffs

On Monday MEA representatives attended a meeting in the Mayor’s office that ended after 5:00 p.m. where the Mayor and Jay Goldstone gave all the unions a “preview” of his proposed solutions to the FY2011, $179 million budget deficit.  He will be formally announcing the plan today at a 1:00 p.m. press conference, though the Mayor obviously gave the Union-Tribune an advance preview yesterday, resulting  in City employees learning they might lose their job by reading this morning’s paper.

Very few specifics have been revealed but the Mayor’s plan can be summarized as follows:

The Mayor’s proposed “solution” is NOT the final word. The proposal will now be considered by the City Council and ultimately the Council will determine what action will actually be taken. They will discuss this at their December 2 Budget and Finance Committee meeting, then at the City Council meetings of December 7 and December 14. Whatever gets approved by Council is slated to take effect by Jan 1, but it seems that the layoffs will not be finalized until February because the Mayor’s budget only counts 4 months of savings (March-June) from the layoffs. The Mayor expressed his understanding of the City’s obligation to initiate meet and confer negotiations with the unions over the impacts of these cuts before they can be implemented.

Assuming the Council takes action immediately, this could be the end of the drastic cuts for both FY 2010 and FY 2011 assuming that, for instance, the State does not take any more money and other questionable assumptions. But if those assumptions hold, we will essentially have an 18-month budget that will take us to June 2011.

So the good news is that the predictions of the Mayor proposing to layoff between 500 and 1,000 employees were not correct. At the end of the day, it will probably be around 100 employees laid off if the Mayor’s proposal goes through.

But everything else is bad news. For starters, the cuts to our employees in the hardest hit departments are absolutely unacceptable. Collectively, we will vigorously fight every one of the cuts in an attempt to persuade the City Council to do the right thing.

In addition, the Mayor will likely highlight the fact that no facilities will be closed in his proposal—no libraries, no recreation centers, no fire stations—and that generally speaking, “service to the citizens will be uninterrupted.” Perhaps it will be magic that after years of cuts and lost positions we will simply get slashed again without affecting much more than some library hours here and there. This premise is both incorrect and insulting.

The message to the public will be clear: there’s no need for structural changes in the way the City collects (or doesn’t collect) tax and fee revenues to bring us more in line with what every other city in California collects. The implication is that, once again, the Mayor can just cut some more “fat” in the form of those City employees to balance the budget, but the public won’t really feel it, so don’t worry. And those same employees will then be responsible for keeping it all band-aided together but this time with even fewer band-aids. MEA views this as a real lost opportunity to tell the public the truth about these issues, but obviously some people in this City are more concerned with pretending to “protect city services” with more smoke and more mirrors, all on the backs of employees.

Everybody at MEA will be devoting every bit of resources and energy to the fight to preserve these jobs. We do not have much time given that the public hearings scheduled for December 2, 7, and 14 are right around the corner. Please call staff members at MEA if you receive any communication about your job status, if you have any questions, or if you want to help support your fellow employees whose jobs are in jeopardy. Our representatives have already begun attending meetings and organizing employees in the most targeted classifications this morning.

We will be sending out additional messages with more detailed information as soon as we get it. Please stay strong and let’s work together to defeat this injustice proposed by our Mayor.