IBEW Local 1245 members spearheaded a massive display of union solidarity at the Jan. 5 meeting of the Redding City Council.
Outraged by two proposed ballot initiatives that attack employee retirement benefits, more than 80 IBEW members were joined by about 40 firefighters, police and other city employees in a short rally before filing into city hall, where union members spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting. Their message: don’t waste scarce city resources on ballot initiatives that don’t accomplish anything.
“We owe it to both ourselves and the residents of the City of Redding to recognize that advisory ballot initiatives are simply a waste of City finances,” testified Lineman Mark Larsen, a Redding Electric Utility lineman who served as spokesman for Local 1245 at the hearing. Larsen said that “only through good faith labor negotiations” could the city and its unions reach agreements “that respect both the needs of the city and its workers.”
Making tough decisions is the job of the City Council and City staff, he said, and “there is no reason to resort to frivolous and expensive elections.
City leaders have been looking for ways to cope with its budget shortfalls in the current economic recession, but as the old country song says, it has been looking for love in all the wrong places. To be specific, a push by the city to outsource city jobs fell flat on its face after the city’s special Privatization Committee disbanded in December without making any recommendations. The committee’s spectacular crack-up prompted the Redding Record Searchlight to note that the group had met more than a half-dozen times “without finding any ways to save the city money by outsourcing or privatizing public services.”
Nevertheless, some city leaders are still eyeing the jobs of city gardeners and civic auditorium workers as potential targets for outsourcing. And Mayor Rick Bosetti is now leading the charge for ballot initiatives that would cut off retiree medical benefits for future hires and force city employees to pay the employee portion of their Cal-PERS retirement benefit.
The IBEW Local 1245 Executive Board last fall authorized a budget of $50,000 to combat the ballot initiatives and support the union bargaining effort. Before Christmas the union ran radio ads in Redding challenging the wisdom of the proposed ballot initiatives.