Staff Recommends Imposing Contract on Firefighters

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firefighters-friends-of-2It is perhaps fitting that the Davis firefighters will have the final 2012 contract imposed on them, for they have become a symbol of the old way of doing city business and the final vestiges of resistance to change.

In late 2009, the firefighters became the first bargaining unit to agree to the 2009 MOU which has been roundly criticized for not going far enough with needed structural reforms.  The city’s agreement with the Davis Professional Firefighters Association expired on June 30, 2012.

Bargaining for a new contract began in February 2012. Since then, five other bargaining groups – representing a majority of the city’s employees – have reached agreement on contracts with the city, containing much-needed concessions on pensions, health insurance and other benefits.

On November 19, 2013, the city imposed its last, best and final offer on the Davis City Employees Association (DCEA). The Davis Professional Firefighters Association is the final labor organization without a contract or imposed terms and conditions of employment.

According to the staff report, “Since the beginning of these negotiations, the City communicated its need for long-term structural budget changes in compensation costs, particularly pension and medical costs. The City’s negotiation team conveyed the expected increases in CalPERS [California Public Employees’ Retirement System] retirement contributions and in the City’s retiree medical liability”

Staff notes that the city’s budget deficits have been communicated to the firefighters and they responded by expressing “concern that the structural changes were too severe economically.” The Davis firefighters also initially expressed a fundamental opposition to a two-tier retiree health benefits plan, where new employees would receive different benefits from current employees.

The city notes that, over the course of negotiations, “both sides moved and came close to agreement on several key issues. However, the parties could not bridge some significant economic issues.”

The city provides an example, noting that “while the Davis Professional Firefighters was willing to make some changes to retiree health benefits, the changes were minimal and fell far short of the savings necessary to fund the salary increases that were contingent on changes to retiree health benefits.”

On April 18, 2013, the City declared impasse, claiming “it was clear at that point that further negotiations would be futile.”

The city reports, “After completing a round of mediation on June 11, 2013, Davis Professional Firefighters submitted its request for factfinding to PERB [Public Employment Relations Board] pursuant to Government Code section 3505.4 on June 12, 2013.”

On June 20, 2013, PERB appointed Charles Askin as the factfinder for the bargaining dispute between the parties.  Mr. Askin submitted the written “Factfinder’s Report and Recommendations” to the parties on November 26, 2013.

“The factfinder recommended many, if not most, of the proposals submitted by the City,” the staff writes. “Overall, the City is pleased that the factfinder agreed with the City’s proposed structural changes.”

However, they add, “The factfinder did not adopt all of the City’s proposals.”

For example, “The factfinder recommended a limited approach to health insurance cost sharing and also recommended an additional salary increase not proposed by the City.”

“Significantly, the factfinder recommended the adoption of the City’s retiree health proposal,” the city writes.  “This proposal would reduce retiree health benefits for new employees, resulting in an immediate reduction of the City’s Annual Required Contribution (ARC) towards its retiree health costs.”

“Currently, the ARC is an additional 20% of the City’s payroll. Because of the immediate savings to the ARC, the City was able to offer other employee groups salary increase contingent upon the retiree health changes. The factfinder recommended similar salary increases for the Davis Professional Firefighters if it accepts the City’s retiree health proposal,” the city continues.

The city claims that the firefighters are unwilling to accept the City’s proposal on retiree health benefits.  “Without acceptance of that proposal, the City cannot fund the salary increases offered to the Davis Professional Firefighters,” the city reports. “And without the salary increases, the parties remain far apart in negotiations. Notably, the City cannot impose its proposal on retiree health benefits because of concerns that such benefits may be vested.”

“However, the Davis Professional Firefighters is unwilling to accept the remainder of the City’s proposals without some salary increases; and again, those salary increases are contingent upon the retiree health proposal. Accordingly, the parties remain at impasse,” the city writes.

Given the impasse, the staff recommends that the council adopt a resolution, “implementing terms and conditions of employment on the Davis Professional Firefighters consistent with the City’s proposals at impasse.”

For a full discussion of the factfinding report and the city’s response see this article from December 7.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 thoughts on “Staff Recommends Imposing Contract on Firefighters”

  1. Grassroots

    Under the Right to Work law hundreds of thousands of labors are forced to take a lower pay rather than be unemployed thanks to ALEC. This law sabotages unions, favors corporate profits and immorally high CEO pay. Our national and local economies suffer when we force laborers to take lower pay and the poorest to suffer even more from super harsh budget cuts to programs like food stamps, healthcare and unemployment insurance. Pinkerton’s solutions to the Davis budget problems seem similar to those of the austerity vultures who come from the antebellum south and now occupy the U.S. House of Representatives. They say, “Cut the salaries and programs which raise up the middle class and the poor”. Where is the famous American ingenuity in this solution?

    If so many should be willing to take the salary cuts of the City Employees and Firemen then why aren’t the owners of local apartments and commercial rental real estate and stock holders, passive high income money makers, lobbying to pay sufficient higher taxes? To counterbalanced many of the funding reductions and deferrals stemming from the budget crisis and the nationwide recession, why can’t Davis create or decrease the $15 million budget needed (1) by ridding itself of the increased cost of the water to the city by negating its approval of the surface water project, (2) by voter approved tax measures to pay for increased cost of CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System), (3) and by voter approved tax measures to pay for the tens of millions to fix up its roads ?

    (Note Germany at the beginning of the recession called for their industries to put employees on half time saving industries 50% of their labor cost. The government then paid the workers the other half of their salaries and required industries to hire additional workers to fill the hours vacated by regular workers. Germany was first to emerge from the recession. They pay their industrial workers $50.00 an hour. Their Burger King pay is a pitiful 11.00 an hour.)

    Pinkerton is doubling down on the laborers. I am opposed to that because there are other and seemingly better ways to meet the City’s budget needs. The problem remains the same. Some in the community are not paying their fair share. Pinkerton is not creating ways to bring in more revenues. More just answers might include this idea, labor owned businesses. Think about this, “In December 2006, Ted Howard, co-founder of The Democracy Collaborative, outlined for civic leaders the catalytic role that the spending of “captive” anchor institutions like hospitals and universities could play in community wealth generation in Cleveland. He talked at length with local civic leaders about how an anchor-institution-based, worker-cooperative business model might be the engine for the sustainable job creation and wealth-building that had thus far been elusive in Greater University Circle. Democracy Collaborative researchers determined that Case Western Reserve, the Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals alone spent more than $3 billion a year on goods and services—but they spent it almost entirely outside the community.

    Howard and his fellow strategists began sketching out a compelling framework for what was to become the Evergreen Cooperatives. The business model involved supplying the needs of the anchor institutions to create steady revenue for a network of worker-owned, local businesses that would be built to be the greenest in their sectors. “Sustainability in the broadest sense can only be created if you can stick capital where it won’t get up and leave,” Howard explains. ‘You can think of Evergreen as an anchor institution designed to capture the capital flows of other anchors and circulate them locally’.” Cooperatives are now in operation and the profits stay in the community. Could this true for Davis?

  2. Frankly

    Grassroots writes a fine echo of Marx. And like Marx, his/her rants and ideas fall short because of what is left out. And what is left out is sustainability. A system is only worth protecting if it is sustainable. And nowhere do we find an example of sustainability where unionized labor is involved. It is time to accept that the old us-versus them, fist-in-the-air, collectivist-approach to worker rights is a broken relic of the past. Every worker deserves the level of protections currently provided them through our robust labor law and best-practice. They deserve to be recognized for performance and contribution. They deserve to be true parters with their employers… both striving together to be successful not at the expense of one or the other.

    Labor unions once served a purpose of providing balance to unfair labor practice. Today they only serve to perpetuate a different kind of unfair labor practice… specifically their gross over-compensation and financial insolvency of their employer.

    1. Grassroots

      Cooperatives, Marxism and Socialism: the most important aspect of socialist transformation is not the replacement of the market but is the ending of the position of the working class as a slave class, and its transformation into the owner and controller of production. Consumers who have been educated to desire and acquire “cheap” stuff drives corporations to low worker pay and unsafe work places. In the shallowest of ways this grows an economy but the growth is not sustainable. This produces profits to build more corporations to continue the profit cycle but does not fairly improve worker wages or city and national budgets. It is time to enrich our city and country by breaking the cycle.

      You seem to have adopted the idea that Co-operatives are bound to fail within the confines of Capitalism. In truth, worker own and directed cooperatives are competitors to profit driven corporations. The latter are failing 99% of the people. Which of these systems (for profit corporations or worker own corporations) best meets the needs of the individual and serve democratic principles is the questions. For profit corporations have purposely stolen from the people (with derivatives) and violated the principles of democracy causing recessions and depressions while making hundreds of trillions of dollars in profits. I would not call that sustainable. We see people fighting at the bottom to reduce a $100,000 salary for a fireman while not blanking when a business man like Mitt Romney earns 14 million and pays a lower tax rate then the fireman. That is not fair and it is not sustainable.

      To illustrate sustainability, I provided the Cleveland example which clearly outlines sustainability as a process that connects the new local businesses to anchor corporations like universities and hospitals who will need those services as long as they exist. I now offer, “Fagor, a workers’ co-operative, one of dozens that dot the valleys of Spain’s hilly northern Basque country. Most belong to the world’s biggest group of co-operatives, the Mondragón Corporation. It is Spain’s seventh-largest industrial group, with interests ranging from supermarkets and finance to white goods and car parts. It accounts for 4% of GDP in the Basque country, a region of 2m people. All this has made Mondragón a model for co-operatives from California to Queensland. How will co-ops, with their ideals of equity and democracy, cope in the recession? My hope is that as a people focused corporation, it can use the same ingenuity that the technological economy has used but this time to “better” insure that profits care for the environment, consumers and workers.

  3. South of Davis

    Grassroots (aka Union Astroturf) wrote:

    > Our national and local economies suffer when we force laborers to take
    > lower pay and the poorest to suffer even more from super harsh budget
    > cuts to programs like food stamps, healthcare and unemployment insurance.

    What does this have to do with Davis firefighters (most who will still make close to $100K under the new contract)?

    > If so many should be willing to take the salary cuts of the City Employees and
    > Firemen then why aren’t the owners of local apartments and commercial
    > rental real estate and stock holders, passive high income money makers,
    > lobbying to pay sufficient higher taxes?

    This does not make any sense, and since there are very few “owners of local apartments and commercial
    rental real estate and stock holders, passive high income money makers” in town even if you take ALL their money there will still not be enough to let every Davis firefighter $100K/year and let them retire at 50 with a $100K/year pension…

    > To counterbalanced many of the funding reductions and deferrals stemming
    > from the budget crisis and the nationwide recession, why can’t Davis have a voter
    > approved tax measures to pay for increased cost of CalPERS (California Public
    > Employees’ Retirement System)

    Good luck getting the masses that are having a tough time paying their bills to vote to give more money to guys with a TCOE of close to $200K who work 10 days a month and can retire at 50.

    > Some in the community are not paying their fair share.

    Who are these people, and what is their “fair share”?

    1. Grassroots

      ^What does corporate greed have to do with Davis firefighters (most who will still make close to $100K under the new contract)?
      Increase salary rates should add to purchasing power of the worker. 2013, the average income could easily be about $100,000 a year plus pension. Inflation has eaten most of the value. What cost $100,000 in 1950 would cost $940,949 in 2012. There is no financial reason why 1% of the people should own most of the wealth locally or nationally.

      ^This does not make any sense, and since there are very few “owners of local apartments and commercial rental real estate and stock holders, passive high income money makers” in town even if you take ALL their money there will still not be enough to let every Davis firefighter $100K/year and let them retire at 50 with a $100K/year pension…
      You do not offer supported facts for your claims which maybe where the problem lies. Here are a few facts provided by the City of Davis’ web site to help bring clarity. Approximately 57% of the 25,869 housing units in Davis are rental properties and 55% of Davis residents live in rental housing. More than 43% of the housing units in Davis are multi-unit structures (apartment complexes). Home ownership in Davis is 43.8% compared to the national average of 66.9%. I do not know of Davis stock holders but there are many. There is clearly plenty of passive income being made in Davis.

      ^Good luck getting the masses that are having a tough time paying their bills to vote to give more money to guys with a TCOE of close to $200K who work 10 days a month and can retire at 50.
      Yes I belong to that group who is having a tough time paying bills but I am also aware of, “The Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.” This is what corporate profiteers understand and use against us to make immoral profits, treat workers as slaves and to urn blind eye against fiscal ingenuity..

      1. South of Davis

        Grassroots wrote:

        > Increase salary rates should add to purchasing power of the worker.

        I agree with you, but when my three close firefighter friends (who all work outside Davis) make more than Governor Brown (and 99% of the population) it seems like firefighter pay has more than kept up with inflation…

        > What cost $100,000 in 1950 would cost $940,949 in 2012.

        And I have not heard if a single union firefighter in California that is not making more than 10x more than firefighters made in 1950 (a cousin that recently retired from the SFFD with a pension of over $10K a month was making more than 25x what he made when he was hired in the 70’s).

        > There is no financial reason why 1% of the people should own most
        > of the wealth locally or nationally.

        The reason is that the top 1% (that today includes many union “workers”) have so much wealth is that they pay off politicians (of both parties) to rig the system to screw the 99%…

        > You do not offer supported facts for your claims which maybe where
        > the problem lies. Here are a few facts provided by the City of Davis’
        > web site to help bring clarity. Approximately 57% of the 25,869 housing
        > units in Davis are rental properties and 55% of Davis residents live in
        > rental housing.

        Take a look at the US Census data if you need support, there just are not many people that make huge amounts of money in Davis. I’m one of the “rich” rental property owners you talk about and since we moved South of Davis and rented our modest East Davis home (that was worth more than $100K less than we owed) we have lost money each year (aka actual negative cash flow). I’m not going to complain since (at least according to Zillow) we are getting close to being able to sell at a profit or break even and/or able to refinance to make at least $100/month profit (unless the water rates go up that much) for a while (until we need to drop $15K to replace the roof last replaced in the late 80’s)…

  4. iPad Guy

    The new federal budget agreement includes reductions in retirement pay for military and civil servants as well as a requirement that new hires make higher contributions to their retirement accounts.

    The concept of two tiers of employee pay and benefits is a logical method to start correcting a reimbursement system that has gotten out of hand and unsustainable.

  5. growthissue

    What’s sad is we have a couple of council members that might vote against imposing a new contract on the firefighters. I thought after the fallout of past councils being beholden to the union that we were past that.

    1. Rich Rifkin

      Based on what I have been told, the vote is going to be 5-0 on the fire contact Tuesday night. This morning, a well informed source told me the unions have told Wolk and Frerichs to vote their consciouses and they won’t be punished. Since those two both voted to impose on DCEA, they would look morally and ethically bankrupt to vote the opposite way with the fire union. My guess, further, is that by voting against the fire staffing change and by voting against the fire chief consolidation and by working so hard to fire Steve Pinkerton**, Wolk and Frerichs have sufficient capital now with the powerful unions in the Democratic Party to vote the right way on this contract.

      **I have multiple sources which have told me Wolk and Frerichs (with full support of Bobby Weist and his men) are doing all they can to can Steve Pinkerton. I have not spoken to Brett Lee regarding his views on this. However, my sources say that Wolk and Frerichs are trying to get Brett to join them against Pinkerton. And since Pinkerton’s job was just put to the test by the Council a few weeks ago in closed session, it’s fair to conclude that Brett has not been persuaded to fire the city manager, as the fire union would like.

      1. Mr.Toad

        Why is it that you think Lucas and Dan need the permission of the FF’s to vote to impose a contract? This is sooooo disrespectful of our elected officials and suggests that they don’t have free will to decide for themselves how to vote. The vote to impose a contract is a harder vote than anything else that has come along because you are reaching into the pockets of working people yet if Dan and Lucas vote how you want instead of praising them you are arguing that doing so is nothing more than political theatre. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.

        At the end of the day it appears that if someone isn’t voting 100% as you like on an issue area then votes you agree with get no respect. How politically immature can one be.

        I agree Dan and Lucas will join in a 5-0 vote to impose a contract not because the FF’s allow it but rather because they have a responsibility to the citizens of Davis to to act as fiduciaries of the public purse. Instead of condemnation you should be thanking them if you support that position.

      2. B. Nice

        Are either of these sources Dan or Lucas? Have you confirmed this information with them? I have no personal investment in this story, but I’m uncomfortable with they way you are presented information as factual with out also presenting solid proof. Saying you have sources means very little to me, are these sources making assumptions about situations and passing them off as factual.

        You strike me as having a strong bias again Lucas, Dan, and the fighters, which makes me question your ambiguous claims. You are seeming to spin everything Lucas and Dan do in order to make their actions fit into your preconceived notion of how you think things are.

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