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San Rafael, labor union reach tentative contract deal

Adrian Rodriguez - Marin IJ

Jul 1, 2024

San Rafael and the union that represents 120 city employees have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract after several months of tense negotiations.

City workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 ratified the pact on June 27 with 97% approval. The San Rafael City Council will vote on whether to approve the contract at its meeting on July 15.

For the majority of the union-represented employees, the agreement calls for 5% wage increases starting this month and 4% increases in fiscal years 2025-26 and 2026-27. That’s a 13% increase over the three-year agreement.

Employees classified as library assistant II and child care director would receive a 12% wage increase starting this month, and 6% increases in fiscal years 2025-26 and 2026-27, a 24% total over the contract term.

Angela Robinson Piñon, assistant city manager, said the proposed increase for these two positions is in response to an analysis that showed that as of March, compensation in San Rafael was 24% less than comparable positions elsewhere.

In the past several meetings, the council has approved new three-year agreements with several bargaining groups, including the San Rafael Firefighter’s Association, the San Rafael Police Association, the Western Council of Engineers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, among others, Robinson Piñon said.

In addition to the increases in base salary, officials aligned contributions to medical care premiums across all bargaining groups, she said. As a result, all full-time employees will receive the same contribution toward their medical care starting Jan. 1.

Increases in medical benefits are in addition to the employee’s salary increase and are a portion of the total compensation.

“The successful completion of these labor negotiations would not have been possible without the Mayor and City Council, representatives from many City departments, and the City’s union partners,” Robinson Piñon said in an email.

Negotiations with SEIU Local 1021 for a new three-year contract began in January, according to the union. City officials had planned to settle the agreement by June 30, when the existing contract expired. Under that contract, annual pay raises equaled about 3% to 4% depending on the job classification of the employee.

Union members complained to city officials that there is a staffing crisis across departments that has led to employee burnout, safety risks and a decreased quality of service.

Recruitment and retention numbers are unfavorable because wages are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living or with similar jobs at other Bay Area municipal agencies, union members said. The areas that have been hit the hardest are libraries, child care centers and public works, they said.

The city has enough resources to pay for the equivalent of about 415 full-time employees. It has about 50 vacancies across all departments.

Trish Cerutti-Saylors, a San Rafael child care director, is the only full-time provider at her center. The city has hired temporary part-time providers to compensate for the staffing shortage, she said.

“Waitlists for San Rafael’s childcare centers have been too long for far too many years,” Cerutti-Saylors said in a statement. “Our new union contract brings childcare providers up to parity with surrounding public employers. It’s a major step forward to make San Rafael an employer capable of attractive safe levels of public staff.”

In addition to wage increases and improved medical benefits, SEIU Local 1021 employees also negotiated new terms for parental leave, life insurance, shift change notices and bilingual pay.

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