Negotiations are back on in Oakland as strike continues

Oakland and its striking unions were returning to the negotiation table on Thursday afternoon, after the City Council authorized negotiators to make a new offer to get workers back to their jobs.

It remained unclear whether the unions — SEIU Local 1021 and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 — would strike for a fourth day. Negotiations were scheduled to resume at 3:45 p.m., Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

Details about the council’s new offer were not released. It came after a closed-door session Thursday as 3,000 city workers remained off the job, shutting down most city services. The city and its unions had been negotiating for months at City Hall when workers walked off the job on Tuesday morning to protest what they said was unfair labor practices.

The unions and the city agree on the contract terms for the first year, which include a 4 percent wage raise, retroactive to July 1. The dispute is focused on the second year of the contract.

The city wants to tie future raises to revenue growth. The unions want guaranteed raises, among other things. They have asked the city to approve a one-year contract and begin negotiating for subsequent years. The city, however, refuses to approve a one-year contract, saying its credit-rating would be hurt.

Thursday’s move by the council comes a day after it authorized negotiators to offer the unions a 2 percent raise for the second year, contingent on revenue growth, beginning in January 2019 rather than in June 2019. The unions rejected that offer.

Rob Szykowny, SEIU Local 1021’s chief negotiator, said the Wednesday proposal was “predictably unacceptable,” because it didn’t deal with the unions’ non-economic demands.

SEIU Local 1021 and IFPTE 21 called for the strike after Oakland’s negotiators rejected the one-year compromise or bringing in former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, as an informal mediator. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said he wouldn’t have been a neutral party, but agreed to have a mediator whom both sides approve.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 also are refusing to cross the picket line.

Many workers did not expect to be away from their jobs for this much time.

Amaka Watson, a records specialist in Oakland Police Department’s special-victims unit, said she considered several times crossing the picket line. It’s nearly the time of the month when she has to pay the medical bills for her son, who has severe hemophilia A.

“I’m fighting for his future and mine,” she said. “In the end, the sacrifices I’m making will help both of us. I’m teaching my son to speak up for what matters.”

On the third day of the strike, she and other picketers said they were tired and hadn’t expected it to go on so long.

“We don’t want to be out here,” said Alice McCain, a city librarian. “It’s a terrible disservice to the community.”

City employees like Maxine Visaya, who works in Oakland’s rent-adjustment program, brought their children to the strike. Visaya said she couldn’t pay for a babysitter for her 2-year-old daughter without the daily income.

Another striking librarian, Janine deManda, said she was ready to hold the picket indefinitely.

“I’m increasingly exhausted and increasingly angry,” she said. “But I’m also ready to do whatever is necessary to increase the union’s bargaining power.”

Kimberly Veklerov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:

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