Update: A Tentative Agreement was reached with the City and members voted to ratify their 3 ½ year Tentative Agreement on June 23. With the ratification vote, City members also took an overwhelming Vote of No Confidence of the City Manager Martin Bernal.
Read more in a message from the bargaining team.
Seven detained after demanding living wage
As the town clock struck 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, the daily commute home was anything but normal in Santa Cruz. Hundreds of city workers and supporters stood tall at all corners of downtown’s busiest intersection to spread the word—city workers demand respect and a living wage.
After seven years of stagnant wages, which city workers painfully swallowed in an effort to help the city rebound from the Great Recession, many have found themselves economically forced out of Santa Cruz by the high cost-of-living and lack of affordable housing. The city pays an average of only $34,000 per year—about half of the median income for Santa Cruz County—to its workers such as landscapers, sanitation drivers, administrative personnel, library workers and parking attendants.
With the city budget recovered and a surplus to spare, city workers were hopeful they would follow on the path to recovery. But when the city’s bargaining team offered a pay cut of five to ten cents less per hour than the wages they already receive, workers decided they’d had enough.
“We need to show them that we are not going to accept less… they made us an offer than is an insult, making less money than we did five years ago.”
– Jonna Hubling, parking attendant, City of Santa Cruz
Workers took their message straight to the top by marching to city council chambers, hand-delivering a letter to City Council—demanding a response to the need for a living wage, affordable housing and community investment for all. As the council chambers were packed inside and surrounded from the outside by city workers and community members, the city council was forced to listen.
“Some employees lost their homes, some moved farther out to more affordable areas, and some were forced to rely on low income housing subsidies and other public assistance … We look to you for leadership. We have helped this City recover and ask that you help us do the same as we provide the highest quality services to this great city.”
– Michael Gomes, parks maintenance worker, City of Santa Cruz
Gomes, along with six supporters linked arms before the council and refused to budge. The police detained all seven, including Matt Nathanson, Region 2 Vice President; Gwyn Harshaw, Local 521 President; Jeffrey Smedberg, Retiree Chapter member; and Cesar Lara, Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council. They were later cited and released from custody. Watch video here.
Their message delivered, workers are hopeful the city will take action to provide a living wage and affordable housing for all.
Watch more videos on Facebook: facebook.com/seiu521Region2