Zac Unger: Details on the firefighter union concessions

Last night, zac left a very helpful comment in the Open Thread detailing the agreement reached between the firefighters union and the City. To make it easier for people to find, and also to avoid overburdening the Open Thread with conversation on one topic, I’m putting up the comment as its own post here, and moving the comments that were already left in response over here as well. Thanks again for filling us in, zac! – V

OK folks–here it is. It’s time to let you all in on the contract that Local 55 (fire) has negotiated with the city. Ready? Go!

As you know (hopefully) Local 55 is already paying 13% of our salary towards PERS. This is far over and above any other bargaining unit in the city. And we’ve been doing it for years, saving the city lots of money. We also reduced the amount the city paid for our medical coverage two years ago. Next, two years ago we agreed to work four hours per week for free. We’re still doing that. This was effectively a 7% cut in pay. I’ve heard a lot of people say that that isn’t a cut to work four hours per week for free. But imagine if you are a 40-hour per week employee and your boss told you that you had to come to work every other Saturday, all day long. For free. It would probably feel like a cut.

Anyhow, that’s what we did before. Here’s what we’re proposing now:

  • Three year contract
  • 8.85% pay cut
  • Give up 2 Vacation days per year
  • Freeze the city’s contribution to our dental plan
  • New hires go to 3% at 55 for pension

An 8.85% cut plus a loss of two vacation days is equivalent to 10% of our total compensation, or 9.57 million dollars. Two vacation days might not seem like a lot, but we work 24-hour days. Most folks in the dept get either 7 or 9 days, so a loss of two days is a significant chunk.

So there you have it (for the first part at least; there’s more). Ten percent. Boom. In the form of a 9-ish percent cut and two vacation days. This is on top of the 13% contribution to PERS and all that other stuff. It saves the city 30 million over the life of the contract, and the change in retirement calculation saves millions more down the road.

But wait, there’s more…In the second year of the contract we give the city the option of browning out two companies. The city is quite eager to close/brownout firehouses. We insisted that each neighborhood share the pain. So to that end the brownouts will roll through the entire city. We have 32 rigs and 2 will brown out each day, beginning July 2012. Essentially, each company will be closed one sixteenth of the time. This saves the city 4.4 million dollars per year.

So there you have it. A 10% cut directly out of the firefighter’s pocket. Ten million bucks a year. And two years of brownouts. It’s not anybody’s dream, but it’s a solid concession and we’re proud to do our part to help the city through this rough patch. I also feel compelled to point out that this concession far exceeds what any of the council members asked us for in their budgets. Going off of V Smoothe’s analysis, IDLF wanted 3.7 million from us; the Kaplan team wanted 12 million from ALL UNIONS COMBINED; and the Reid group didn’t really seem to be asking for any concessions at all. At any rate, we tripled the concessions that IDLF asked us for, and his seemed to be the most concessions-based budget.

Bottom line is that it’s a solid deal in a shaky time. We hope all of the other bargaining units will make similar concessions so that we can get this city moving again. It’s a pleasure working for/with all you fellow Oaklanders and I hope you feel OK about this deal.

And now: fire away! I’ll take your questions.

90 thoughts on “Zac Unger: Details on the firefighter union concessions

  1. leila

    please explain the concession, “new hires go to 3% at 55 for pension” What are current employees at? What does it mean 3% of the last years income?

  2. zac

    Leila–currently you get 3% of our salary for every year worked, to a max of 90, and you can collect it at age 50. Currently if you start working at 20, work for 30 years, so can retire with 90% of your salary at age 50. Now, the retirement age will move up. From an actuarial perspective it lowers the amount that the city has to pay PERS for each retiree. Think of it as an increase in the retirement age, and a savings for the city.

  3. Dave C.

    Thanks for the info, Zac. I was surprised to read in the Tribune article about the tentative agreements that “The Oakland firefighters union would also pay 9 percent, as would the three other unions,” since it was my understanding (corroborated by the comment above) that firefighters already paid 13% into their pensions. Did the Trib reporter just mangle the facts, or is there something I’m mixed up about?

  4. zac

    Dave–Oh, you’re killing me. I haven’t read that article yet. Yes, he bungled it, mangled it, manhandled it, punted it, etc, etc. We’ve been paying 13 for years and we’re going to continue to pay 13. This kind of sloppy reporting is so disappointing.

  5. zac

    Just went and read it–they don’t even mention the fact that we’re taking a 10% pay cut! But you ABOers know the truth. We’re paying 13 to PERS, will continue to do so, and we’re also taking a 10% cut.

  6. Dave C.

    Zac– After reading the EBX article and re-reading your comment, I am guessing that the Trib writer meant to write that the firefighters and other three non-police unions also agreed to concessions of 9 percent. Coming after a paragraph about how the OPOA has tentatively agreed to pay 9% into their pensions, it sounded like she was saying that the other unions had also agreed to pay 9% into their pensions, which is what confused me. I’ll give the reporter the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is a case of unclear writing rather than getting her facts wrong, but maybe it’s a combination. Thank heavens we have V Smoothe to explain these things clearly and accurately!

  7. zac

    Yes, the EBX article was clearer than the Trib’s. Thanks for caring enough to figure out what’s right…

  8. zac

    Max–This contract continues most of the provisions of the previous contract, including the clause prohibiting layoff of members hired before July 1 2009. We currently have about 10 members hired after that date, and they are still subject to being laid off.

    However, it’s an issue that shouldn’t really come up. We’re budgeted for 507 firefighters, and we’re currently running with 428, with 50ish retirements expected over the life of this contract. The city is free to hire, and then to lay off the people they’ve just hired. But if we’re running 130 firefighters short–while we still have minimum staffing in place–it’s almost inconceivable that layoffs would be needed.

  9. Dax

    Zac, a few questions

    –A salary cut of 10%.

    Putting aside the part about the two vacation days, could you explain the pay cut of 8.85%

    The contract is 3 years.

    Suppose a firefighter is currently making $100,000 in base pay.

    What will his base pay be in the the first year of the new contract?

    What will his base pay be in the second year?

    What will his base pay be in the third year?

    One would think a 8.85% cut in pay would mean he would get $91,150 in each of the next 3 years, however I always ask for the specifics so I don’t a impression at odds with the actual contract details.

    So the $100,000 base pay will go to $91,150 with nothing else raising it above that figure for 3 full years?

    Will that 8.85% be reduced in all ranks and positions?
    Will overtime be based on that reduced salary?
    Will highest years salary for pension calculation purposes be based on that reduced salary, if no prior year’s salary was higher?

    –Freeze the city’s contribution to the dental plan.
    Does that mean it stays exactly where it is this year? In other words, no more, no less than now?

    Change the 3% at 50 to 3% at 55 for new hires.
    What percent of current Oakland firefighters retire prior to age 55?

  10. zac

    Dax: The city asked for a cut of 10% of our total compensation (salary + benefits). Last year’s total compensation was 95.7 million, so 10% of that is 9.57 million. Each vacation day costs the city about 550k. So 8.85% of salary plus 2 vacation day gets to 9.57 million dollars. 10%. Voila.

    If a FF makes currently makes 100K, next year she’ll make 91,150, and lose her two vacation days. Exact same scenario for years two and three. An 8.85 cut is an 8.85 cut. No funny business. This is across all ranks and positions. Overtime will be based on the lower rate. Don’t twist yourself up too hard looking for the trick, because there isn’t one. This is a 9 percent pay cut and a loss of two vacation days. There’s no sneaky money here; it’s a straight cut to base pay.

    PERS determines your pension based on your highest consecutive 12 months, not your final 12 months, so most people will have their pension based on a higher level than we’re about to be paid.

    Dental: Every year the cost of our dental plan goes up, and so every year the amount of money the city contributes to our dental plan rises. For the next three years the city will hold their contribution steady at current rates while, I assume, the cost of our dental plan will continue to rise.

    I don’t know what percentage of our folks retire at 55, but I do know that the city has to PAY FOR the benefit for 100% of us, whether we use it or not. This is a savings down the road.

  11. Max Allstadt

    Man, if we could get this kind of detailed Q&A from a member of OPOA, that would be fantastic.

    Any of the readership out there who’s an OPOA member want to follow Zac’s example?

  12. Jason

    How much does the average fireman earn for income without benefits? Do you know the average age of a firefighter and how many are employed?

  13. Livegreen

    Thank you Zac (and V) for this concise informative discussion. Thank you also to the Firefighters for their contributions, and for going beyond any other city employee union.

    You are an example for us all. Thank your community firefighter today.

  14. V Smoothe

    I am appreciative of the firefighters contributions as well, but a quick clarifying note – every union is giving back the same %.

  15. zac

    We’re not trying to go beyond any other union. We want all of the bargaining units–and the City Council–to step up and do their part to get us through this crisis. Unions need to stick together here and I hope you don’t read my posts as vilifying any other bargaining unit. A healthy Oakland will benefit us all.

    Jason–top step base salary for a firefighter is now 92,051.

    I don’t know the average age of a firefighter. We’re a youngish department and getting younger. The next few years will see many retirements of senior members. We currently have 429 firefighters employed, though we’ll be budgeted for 507. And like I said, 50 retirements over the next three years is not out of the question.

  16. Frank Castro

    Max, according to an email response I received from Zac last evening there ARE no lay-off guarantees in this agreement and they are pretty favorable to the Fire Department. Here is his response to my email where I asked him whether, according to this agreement, the staffing levels for the Fire Department would remain intact until 2017:

    Frank: Yes, it’s a little complicated, but you’re right. In 2005 we signed a 10 year agreement with the city that required them to field 25 engines and 7 trucks. What we’re doing now is taking a break from that agreement, and extending it on the back end to 2017. So it’s still a 10 year agreement, but with a two year hiatus in the middle.

    I don’t know of any other group in the City of Oakland that has that type of favorable no-layoff guarantees – the OPD certainly doesn’t.

  17. zac

    Frank: I fear I may have confused you, but it also might be a double-negative problem with the statement “there are no layoff guarantees”.

    To clarify, nobody who was hired before July 2009 will be laid off for the life of this contract What we’ve relaxed is the station-closure agreement. The city CAN brownout two fire companies in year two of the contract. They won’t need to lay off to do this, as we’re already so severely understaffed.

    All of this hinges on the fact that we have minimum staffing. You could lay some folks off, but then you’d have to replace them with overtime, so your savings wouldn’t be as big as a hard layoff. If we dip much below 400 members we’re going to be in crisis mode, with insane amounts of mandatory overtime (and the concomitant public outcry over how much $ we’re making in overtime).

    And you’re right, the police don’t have a no layoff clause. But you know what? We fought for that clause, we sacrificed for it. And I’m proud of the way we stick up for our most vulnerable members. I’m not trying to hammer the cops here but we made different choices than they did. Two years ago they elected not to make any concessions and they lost 80 of their members. We were threatened with 60 layoffs and, as a team, we made the decision to increase our workweek–for no extra money–in order to protect our younger members. It’s a decision I’d make again, and I’m proud of our union for making that stand.

  18. MarleenLee

    Zac: is the deal with the pay cut and vacation days permanent? By that, I mean, at the end of the contract, will the salaries revert back to what they are now? Will you get your vacation days back at the end of the contract?

  19. Dax

    As Zac indicated, the firefighters agreed to a 10% reduction in “total compensation”.

    Here is how those numbers would break down using the data supplied.

    Under the current contract there is $95.7 million of “total compensation”

    We can divide it by two sets of numbers.

    If we divide by the current staffing of 429, we come up with a average “total compensation” of $223,076 per firefighter.

    If we divide by the “budgeted” number of firefighters, we get $188,757 per firefighter.

    Under the proposed contract, the total “total compensation” would be $86.13 million.

    Divided by the current 429 number of firefighters, that would equal $200,769 per firefighter for their “total compensation” package.

    Divided by the “budgeted” number of firefighters, 507, that would equal $169,881 per firefighter.

    One would suspect the actual number of firefighters would remain closer to the current 429.

    So I would suspect the average “total compensation” package for firefighters over the next 3 years will be about $200,000.

    Of course I assume all ranks are figured into that total, with Chiefs, battalion chiefs, captains, lieutenants, being higher and engineers, and firefighters being somewhat lower than that average figure.

    I’m also assuming, but not sure, that all OT falls into that that $200,000 average pool of compensation.

    So, as I read this, the average “total compensation” package will be reduced from $223,000 to $200,000.

    I wish the Tribune, and other media would report “compensation packages” in a manner that the public could easily digest.

  20. zac


    It’s a three year deal, and it sunsets in three years. So yes, at the end of the three years, we will revert to current levels.

    That being said, we raised our PERS contribution from 9 to 13 “on a temporary basis” about ten years ago. And it never came back down.

    You’re asking me the same thing our members always ask, which is “how can we know what’s going to happen in the future and protect ourselves from whatever it might be?” The truth is we can’t. The only thing I can guarantee is that in three years the city will come to us and ask us to continue the 9% pay cut and loss of vacation days. And we’ll listen to them in good faith, because we always do.

    And we’ll negotiate. Every time the contract opens up, everything is in play. The pay cut might continue, it might not. We might get the vacation days back, we might not. At the end of the proposed contract we will have taken two years of zero raise followed by three years of 10% cuts. That seems solid to me.

    So yes, the cuts aren’t permanent. I can’t guarantee that this salary level will remain unchanged in perpetuity.

  21. MarleenLee

    Ah ha! And there’s the rub. True budget reform requires permanent solutions, and here we have more band-aids. I mean, this will help us limp along, but it will not actually heal the gaping wound. The existing and proposed parcel taxes are “temporary” as well. And then what happens when the City gets all comfy with the money they are getting and doesn’t think long term, like what will happen when that well runs dry? Panic, chaos, the kind of stuff we are dealing with now. These are precisely the type of “solutions” that are not solutions at all. The concessions need to be permanent in order for them to be meaningful.

  22. zac

    Dax: Overtime is cheaper than hiring FTE’s. If the dept currently runs short in order to save money, then you can’t turn around and hammer us for making too much money in overtime. So yes, you could reduce our overtime to zero by doing lots of hiring, but then your total expenditures would go up.

    We didn’t base our calculations on theoretical number or even budgeted numbers. we based them on ACTUAL expenditures for last year. Last year the cost to fill the firehouses (salary plus overtime plus benefits) was 95.7 million. So we’re figuring it ALL in when we give up 9.57 million.

    When you say that our comp goes from 223 to 200k, that’s a 10.3% cut…not even factoring in the loss of vacation days. (Our actual proposed cut is 8.85 plus vacation days.) So, if you want to use your numbers, at least give us credit for taking an additional 1.45% cut. But then again…use our numbers, because they’re right, and they’re what is actually happening.

    The average is based on every rank from firefighter through battalion chief. Top brass are not in our bargaining unit, and we don’t include their numbers in our averages.

  23. Ravi

    “True budget reform requires permanent solutions, and here we have more band-aids. I mean, this will help us limp along, but it will not actually heal the gaping wound. The existing and proposed parcel taxes are “temporary” as well. And then what happens when the City gets all comfy with the money they are getting and doesn’t think long term, like what will happen when that well runs dry?”

    MarleenLee said it all. But Oakland’s last-minute, short-term-thinking, panic mode of problem “solving” is fundamental to keeping the existing incompetent establishment in office. The establishment will never agree to any long-term problem-solving; a long-term solution means getting most of those Councilmembers out-of-office and getting a new mayor who knows what problem-solving really means.

  24. zac

    Marlene: The snarky part of me hears your triumphal “Aha!” and wants to say, “well, if 30 million dollars isn’t meaningful to you, then we’d like to have it back.”

    But I also understand your point about long term reform. But, at some point, years and years of no raises become equivalent to a cut. We’ve also changed our pension plan with an eye towards the long-term structural changes you’re seeking. Also, everyone in the city–the council, Ewell, Quan–keep telling us that this isn’t a spending problem but a revenue problem. We’re trying to give the the breathing room to allow revenue to rebound.

    And finally, I’m not entirely convinced that there’s any way to get the city elders to think long term. If these cuts were permanent, the city would build that into their projections…and squander at a higher rate. There reaches a time where we have to stop saying “we’re willing to take cuts to smooth over the effects of any level of municipal dysfunction.” I have a sneaking suspicion that if all firefighters worked for free, the city would spend all that savings on something else and then cry emergency and then come to our union to ask how we’d feel about paying for our own fire hoses.

  25. MarleenLee

    Zac, you should read and listen to the recent interviews with former City Attorney John Russo about the utter failure by City leaders to address long-term debt, including the PFERS issue. I agree that these people don’t want to think long term. Their definition of long-term is the next election cycle. But this is going to totally screw us all in the long run. It should be in everybody’s best interests to develop long-term solutions to the fiscal crisis, including the unions.

    Please don’t tell me you buy their “this is a revenue problem” line. I bought my home in 1999. By election time in 2004, when the City was claiming it was so “broke” that it needed new revenue from Measure Y and Measure Q, the value of my home had gone up around 75%! 2004 was a BOOM year for real estate, and the City was claiming, even back then, that their was a “revenue problem.” Oh puhleeeeeez. Remember, these are the same people who oversee corrupt inspectors fining homeowners $10,000 for an overgrown rose bush or a misplaced daffodil. Do you really believe these people?

  26. zac

    I’ve read Russo’s interview and I understand the problem. But practically, Marlene, what are you asking me to do? Go in front of my members and say “the city asked us for a 10% pay cut but we gave them 25 even though we know they’ll waste it”? As Donald Rumsfeld would say: you go to war with the elected officials you have, not with the ones you wish for. I can only negotiate with the mayor and city council who are here, not with some mythical balanced-budgeteers with capes and superhero names.

    The city asked us for 10%. We gave 10%.

  27. Dax

    Zac, I think my response and math were based on your prior answer to me, though in my rounding for simplicity at the end, I used $223K, down to $200K (-10.3%)
    “Dax: The city asked for a cut of 10% of our total compensation (salary + benefits). Last year’s total compensation was 95.7 million, so 10% of that is 9.57 million. Each vacation day costs the city about 550k. So 8.85% of salary plus 2 vacation day gets to 9.57 million dollars. 10%. Voila”
    Now, to be more precise, the average “total compensation” would drop from $223,076 to $200,769.

    That figure does include the 2 fewer vacation days you mentioned. Thus no need to add in an additional 1.45% credit for that feature. My “total compensation” figures in the prior paragraph include the vacation days, and do amount to 10.0%.

    Regarding the following… “If the dept currently runs short in order to save money, then you can’t turn around and hammer us for making too much money in overtime.”

    My post said nothing about overtime except the following … “I’m also assuming, but not sure, that all OT falls into that that $200,000 average pool of compensation.”
    Like you said, the method used was the one big pot of money, whether it goes to OT or extra staff (with more benefits needed).

    Lastly, yes, I should have left out the chiefs position in my division. So, included would be everyone from firefighter to battalion chief, which still goes nearly to the top of the compensation levels.
    In fact, without looking, I’d guess the chief and assistant/deputy chiefs are not the highest in “total compensation”.

    So new contract average “total compensation”, if the staffing stays at 429, will be $200,769.

    Now, I think we have the specifics nailed down (with the assumption that staffing stays at or near 429).
    Zac, just trying to be precise with the details. After all, the public has been left out of this process and we’ve had no news from the media. Also, the typical article covering all the unions will not give us the precise specifics which through discussion with you, we’ve been able to see.
    I’m a great believer in more detail as the antidote for the distorted and exaggerated claims we usually get from both sides.
    Too often we gets draconian claims limited to what will fit on a protest sign. Both sides do it to their advantage with the public learning little about the actual facts.
    Reporters tend to not have a background in math or accounting, leaving the public in the dark. ( I might add that our Mayor and city council members have not shown themselves to be financially competent over the past dozen years either)

    I would hope each union would be as forthcoming and precise as you have been here in how their individual agreements arrived at their own 10% reduction.

    Digging into the figures, acting like forensic accountants or auditors, is EXACTLY what the public should do on a constant basis, even in good times.
    A healthy city needs more, not less, scrutiny.
    Time has shown that we cannot depend on the mayor, the city council, nor the staff, to do the job for us.
    So rather than intense questioning and doubt by the public being viewed as anti police, anti firefighter, or anti public employee, it should be welcomed and viewed as healthy for a functioning democracy.
    Over the past 20 years, Oakland could have used 100 times the amount of financial scrutiny it was given.
    It stumbled along during the boom times, then tried patches for the past few years.
    This year reality has hit.

  28. MarleenLee

    Zac, I hear you. What am I asking you to do? Just don’t pretend like the concessions made by firefighters or any of the other unions are going to help solve Oakland’s long term fiscal problems. They won’t. They just postpone having to deal with them a little bit. And I am waiting for Oakland officials to parlay their “success” with these concessions into their ploy to try to get another parcel tax passed. The pitch will be, “the unions paid their fair share. Now it’s your turn.” And I’m pretty sure that the deal reached with the unions included some sort of promise that the City would go ahead with the special election. We shall see.

  29. zac

    Dax: I agree with you on transparency, obviously. And I don’t mean to tell you that you shouldn’t ask. Sorry if it came across that way.

    But I actually think you should have some way to include our mass vacancies when you’re talking about total comp. As people retire–and they will; and there is currently no hiring on the horizon–we will have fewer people making more money in overtime. But it wouldn’t be fair to vilify us for our compensation going up. The city saves money using overtime, so they want to let the numbers go down. To go too far with an analogy, what if we reduced the dept to 150 folks and made them work 7 days a week. The department would save a HUGE amount of money in benefits, but then the public would scream about these guys making 450k apiece. At some point you have to give us credit for the fact that it is in the taxpayer’s interest for us to hire fewer people, each of whom make more money in overtime. It’s not a strategy I prefer, but if your only concern is the bottom line, Dax, then you should cheer the high amounts of overtime.

    I’m reminded of the story about how if Bill Gates sat down next to a bum, the average net worth on the park bench would be $25 billion. But that doesn’t really tell an accurate story, and neither does using OT figures to say that we’re overpaid.

    Marlene: I know you’re pretty sure there was some back room deal about the parcel tax but I can tell you that I was in the room while we negotiated, and I never heard anything like. We might very well support the parcel tax–I do personally–but it won’t be because of any quid pro quo.

  30. livegreen

    Question: How do these concessions leave us for the 2012-13 budget?

    V, thanks for your clarifying note.

  31. livegreen

    Of course I should say for Year 2 of the budget, since it’s a two year budget…I see that the NKKS (Nadel-Kaplan-Kernighan-Schaaf) budget shows significantly more savings in Year 2 than does IDLF’s. Am curious how the actual reported concessions will affect the bigger projected deficit in Year 2…

  32. ZeroTech

    What’s going to happen to the budget as a result of CEDA rolling back its fees and penalties and (hopefully) being prevented in the future from illegally transferring the excess to the GPF? This must now be considered, I think.

  33. Livegreen

    Interesting how Oakland is willing to settle Burris lawsuits, whether or not they have merit, but not non-personal injury lawsuits. Would this change if Burris or another experienced lawyer joined and sued for a high $ amount?

    Also, with 2000 households potentially affected, what’s the chance of class action against a city?

  34. Mry

    @lG, oh I just think it’s because they are so anti police. I mean really, what other city would ever pay out a family when their family member was killed after pulling a gun on police??

  35. ralph

    Michael Dell and Bill Gates seem to do well enough.

    Zac, probably knows better than I, but I think that both FF and OPD are more than just high school graduates. Then there is a littls something about supply and demand.

  36. The Boss

    Last I heard thousands of people applied for a few openings at the fire dept. The job is vastly overcompensated.

    The entire point of the union is to circumvent supply and demand. If firefighters were private employees they’d probably make $50k.

    What shocks me is people don’t seem to mind that these folks make 4x the local median income and essentially get jobs for life. You’d think the poor would be out in the streets protesting.

    Me, I don’t care much. I already knew the city would waste my tax dollars. It was just a question of how.

  37. Mry

    Firefighters will always have a ton of people wanting to do that job even in a booming economy, why? Not only do you get to protect and serve, but it’s like supermodel status. Everybody loves firefighters.
    Now police on the other hand, not the same case.
    By the way “boss” I’m willing to bet many of our officers have more education than you think. Our force has many Cal grads, a few Harvard grads and I remember reading about one with a Phd, and he was a patrol officer.

  38. _AllisonC

    Zac, in your discussion about protecting your membership (whereas OPOA wasn’t able), you say,
    “We were threatened with 60 layoffs and, as a team, we made the decision to increase our workweek–for no extra money–in order to protect our younger members. It’s a decision I’d make again, and I’m proud of our union for making that stand.”

    I’m confused. How were you threatened with layoffs when you had a no layoff clause in your contract?
    Will you be threatened again?

  39. zac

    Allison: That threat came during the previous contract negotiations, two years ago. At that time we did not have a no-layoff clause.

  40. _AllisonC

    Ah. That changes the tenor of what you wrote.

    My understanding is that OPOA fought for a no layoff clause in exchange for 9% contribution for pensions, and when the city refused to protect staffing at OPD (like they do at OFD, because at heart I think they are just anti-police), negotiations broke down and the council fired 10% of OPD’s staff.

    That’s a little different than not trying to protect their members.

  41. _AllisonC

    Let me put this differently:

    The city was not willing to promise to not layoff officers because it knew they were going to. Then asking the OPOA to give up their salaries when officers were going to be laid off regardless made no sense. The reason negotiations broke down was because OPOA was trying to protect members and the council wasn’t willing to provide the same no layoff clause that OFD enjoys.

  42. zac

    I can only speak for my own union. They said: work four hours a week for free or we’ll lay off 60 of your members. We decided to work four hours a week for free to protect out most vulnerable members. You’d have to ask OPOA what their thinking was.

    Also remember that OFD has minimum staffing whereas OPD doesn’t. So when you lay off a firefighter you have to backfill him/her with overtime, so the savings is fairly minimal. Lay off a cop and that entire salary/benefits package just goes off the books.

  43. bell

    Are they going to be giving as much as much as OFD? 10%? I heard that OPD is going to give 9% into their pensions, but in 2012 and 2013 they are going to get 2% raises each consecutive year to a total of 4%. Will that affect the agreement with OFD by them not giving 10 percent or getting raises during this contact?

  44. V Smoothe Post author

    Here’s how the press release from OPOA describes the concessions:

    Subject to Oakland Police Officers’ Association members’ approval, this tentative agreement includes the following:

    -Beginning July 2011, OPOA members will agree to pay 9% toward their pensions

    -Beginning July 2011, pension reform requires new hires to be subject to a new 3% at 55 retirement formula – not 3% at 50; retirement for new hires will be based on a 3 year average, rather than the single highest year

    -Beginning July 2011, pay for an entry level officer will be reduced by 10%; a Police Officer Trainee in the police academy will receive a salary that is 15% less than the new lower first step pay

    -OPOA members will agree to further delay previously negotiated Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA’s) until 2014 and early 2015

    -All officers will agree to give up two (2) holidays a year through 2015

    The tentative agreement, if approved, will expire June 30, 2015 and will voluntarily save the City an unprecedented $65.5 million over four years. In addition, the tentative agreement specifically states that there will be no layoffs or furloughs for Oakland police officers through 2015.

  45. bell

    Is OFD getting a COLA in 2014 and 2015 too? are both unions giving what equates to a 10% reduction in operating budget?

  46. Dax

    Zac, you keep telling us you are working 4 hours for “free” each week.

    “They said: work four hours a week for free or we’ll lay off 60 of your members. We decided to work four hours a week for free to protect out most vulnerable members.”

    You have repeated this in many of your posts.
    For those of us who don’t fully understand what you mean, could you please explain how you work for “free”.
    If you could, would you put it in context of what other local departments do.

    Alameda- 56 hour week, in a 9 day cycle.
    (24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 96 off)

    Alameda County/San Leandro- 56 hour week, in a 6 day cycle
    (48 hours on, 96 hours off)

    Berkeley-, 56 hour week in a 6 day cycle
    (48 hour on, 96 hours off)

    Hayward, 56 hour work week,

    So Zac, please let us know the OFD schedule and how many hours it totals per week.
    I’d like to understand how we should view the 4 hours that are worked for “free”.

  47. livegreen

    The Fire & Police contracts are for 3 years. I assume the others are too. But the concessions are for the current 2 year budget.

    If there are further deficits after 2 years we’re going to have big problems without the ability to cut labor costs.

    Then the solution will once again be either to cut services or raise revenue (undoubtedly another property tax).

  48. zac

    Dax: Different departments work different numbers of hours. San Francisco works 48.5; Alameda County FD works 56. Years ago an arbitrator awarded us a 52 hour work week.

    Two years ago we agreed to increase our workweek from 52 to 56 hours with ZERO dollars of increase. So every one of us works 208 additional hours annually for no more money.

    Yes, many cities do work a 56 and I know you’re going to jump on me for that. But while you’re jumping, please remember that a 208-hour increase is a 208-hour increase, no matter where you started from. Any way you slice it, working 208 hours for no increase in pay is a concession.

    Oakland works 24 hours on, 48 hours off. Over a 6 week cycle, that averages to 56 hours per week.

  49. zac

    Bell: OFD is not getting a COLA. We’re getting an 8.85 percent pay cut. No funny business, no hidden raises. If I make 100k this year I will make 91k next year, 91k the year after, and 91k the year after that.

  50. Dax


    “Different departments work different numbers of hours. San Francisco works 48.5″

    And…. the following departments work 56 hours

    San Leandro
    Alameda County
    Contra Costa County
    San Jose
    Palo Alto
    San Mateo
    San Rafael

    Do I really need to look up nearly every other department in the Bay Area to make my point?
    Your example of San Francisco is a example of one. Why does San Francisco have a 48.7 hour week?
    Because they were able to get it written into the city charter, NOT because they negotiated for it, or because it is thought to be reasonable.
    Just like SF MUNI employees got their demand to always be paid #2 in the nation locked into the city charter.
    Only recently changed by a vote of the people.

    Sorry but the fact that years ago, after a frozen negotiation, a single individual arbitrator gave you a 4 hour reduction by no means was meant to enshrine that as “normal” for the future.
    In other words, that is not the normal base work week for a firefighter.
    Having the work week returned to what is clearly the norm, does not mean that you are working 4 hours for “free”.
    Rather, during the years you were working only 52 hours, you were just getting paid for 208 hours a year you didn’t have to be on duty (or you were and it was worked as extra overtime hours)
    We’ve gone through a bubble in Oakland employee contracts. We see it in the absurd 37.5 hour work week for all miscellaneous employees as well.
    Just as you have been returned to a normal 56 hour work week, all other employees should be returned to a 40 hour work week.

    These changes in hours are only returning city employment to sanity. Something that was lost in the “bubble” years of the past decade. Like their 35% leap in misc. employees pensions.
    Unneeded and unsustainable.

    I would hope we don’t read too many more times about the 4 hours Oakland firefighters are working for “free”.
    I’m sure all those firefighters in the rest of the Bay Area don’t feel like they’re working for free.

    Just my observation as I view the scene from broad perspective.

  51. zac

    If the baseline was 20 hours per week and we added four hours a week, that would be an addition of four hours per week. If our baseline was 100 hours per week and we added four hours per week, that would be an addition of four hours per week. No matter where we started out, when we give something up, it’s giving something up.

    You’re saying that giving up four hours a week shouldn’t count as a concession. Marlene said above that giving up 9% of our salary shouldn’t count as a concession. If our four hours/week is meaningless, and our 10million in salary is meaningless, we’d just as soon not give them up.

    It seems that you’re saying that we should concede the four hours (essentially 7% of salary) before we even come to the table. Between you and Marlene we would give up 16% before you credit us with having given up a dime. Honestly, do you think I could get that past my membership? Can you imagine a meeting in which I walk in and say, “hey guys, we’re gonna give up 16% right off the top just for goodwill, and NOW we’re going to start talking about pay cuts”?

    I’m trying really hard not to get confrontational. We want to be cooperative, and we want to keep helping the city out. But if we help the city out and the response is “you guys never help the city out” it diminishes our reason for helping out. Because you know what? if we DON’T help the city out, the response will be “you guys never help the city out”. And if the response to making concessions is the same as the response to NOT making concessions, then it’s hard to make the case for concessions.

    Every time the city comes to us for help, we sit down and talk. We do it because it’s the right thing to do and because we want a healthy city. Our members are going to give up ten million dollars this year; the city is going to use that ten million dollars to balance the budget. These are real dollars. No matter where we started out, a cut is a cut.

  52. zac

    And Dax, I also understand that you’re hitting me because I’m here, and nobody from the other bargaining units is. But what the city is asking is 10% from every unit, not ten percent below what you think they should have been getting all along. If I were to follow your advice and categorize our concessions as not being concessions, then I would have to explain to my members why we gave up more than the city asked for and more than any other bargaining unit.

  53. ZeroTech

    Oops, looks like I shouldn’t have trusted JB’s emergency email blast this afternoon re the “4:30 instead of 5:30″ meeting time. It looks like that was wrong.

  54. The Boss

    Mry -

    If our firemen went to Cal and Harvard, then that just shows you how absurdly overcompensated the job is. So much so that people with excellent educations are choosing to go into a field that a high-school grad can do just fine. Everyone has their own motives, but I’m sure many, many such folks choose the fire dept because of the money.

    In any event, that makes this whole situation worse, not better. It means instead of inventing new technologies, our best and brightest are busy doing a job that’s been around since ancient times. I do hope other countries send their best and brightest into the fire dept corps too, otherwise we may be in trouble.

  55. The Boss

    Barry -

    Thanks for the link. Why am I zero percent surprised. Every single thing Oakland government does seems to be corrupt.

    Regardless, even if it is a bunch of Harvard grads, my point still stands. Corruption just makes it stupider.

  56. Dax


    “And Dax, I also understand that you’re hitting me because I’m here, and nobody from the other bargaining units is.”

    I do appreciate you coming here and explaining the details from all angles.
    I hardly think I am “hitting” you.
    I find, only by exploring the details, does the public learn the true facts. The public needs to know the reality. Far too many contract and pension details have been effectively hidden from the public for too long. Normally we only find out after-the-fact about some of the excess.
    Witness the fact that 99% of the city residents are still unaware that the city gave the miscellaneous employes a 35% retroactive pension boost in 2004.

    I believe if you review my posts, I said nothing negative about the current contract you negotiated.
    However, you felt the need to include the following in your original post.

    “We decided to work four hours a week for free”

    I’m sorry, but when the average member in your bargaining unit has a total compensation this year of $223,076, you are going to have a hard time telling the public that you “work four hours a week for free”…

    You should drop that issue entirely. Feel good that for a few years you had those 4 hours given to you by a arbitrator’s decision and that now you are back where all the other fire departments are.

    I’m telling you, there is a disconnect in relation to the real world and the general public on that point. If nothing else, saying that is a public relations disaster. It should be dropped as one of the talking points.

    Firefighters under the current contract and under the proposed contract are paid extremely well. Better than they were, relative to others, in past decades.

    During this negotiation they have appeared ready and willing to come to the table to find a productive outcome. I do wish representatives from other bargaining units would come here and allow us to explore their proposed contracts. I’m not sure why they don’t.
    The fire department seems more agreeable in these difficult times.

    I hope everyone is more in tune with the city’s financial straits, because 2 years from now it is doubtful there will be any more resources available. Even this year, its mostly a patch job budget. They can’t sell the Kaiser Convention Center every year.

    I appreciate the work of the firefighters and want them well compensated within the ability of the city and its taxpayers to afford it, as well as within the norms of the rest of society’s compensation structure.
    Fairness when viewed in the big picture of our economic reality.

  57. len raphael

    Dax, I wouldn’t place any bets that the City can work their Madoff maneuver with the Kaiser Center now that the state democrats approved Brown’s budget.

    Then there’s the outside of the budget items for the PFRS coming up very soon. Plus i would expect a surge in early retirements from employees who would prefer to collect their pensions and medical sooner than later just in case the ground rules change.

    City Council and our Mayor have a different timeline than the rest of us. Most of them are just a year or two away from retirement or higher office. We’re looking at the rest of our lives living with their decisions or lack thereof.

    Harder for Quan to juggle for 4 years, but she just doesn’t realize that yet.

  58. Mry

    @ the boss, “a job that a high school grad can do just fine”
    Really? You think our city has law suits now, let’s replace our police department with high school grads and see how that works. I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with you, I think our PD face many issues and in this instance more education is better.

  59. The Boss

    Mry -

    Your assertion demands proof. Please post proof that more education in a PD causes fewer lawsuits or stop posting.

  60. V Smoothe

    For those who were asking before, this article in today’s Chronicle offers more information about the police contract.

    The tentative police contract dictates that no council member is allowed to “support, endorse or sponsor” any measure that would modify or eliminate City Charter provisions that relate to the police union. If they do so, the contract is voided.


    Officers will contribute to their pensions for the first time, something all other city unions have already been doing. In addition to financial terms, the contract gives the police union more control over schedules. The proposed contract says officers cannot be deployed on five eight-hour shifts, only four 10-hour shifts. City leaders wanted to civilianize the supervision of the dispatch unit, but that work would be done by sergeants under the proposed contract.

  61. J

    Now the City Council and Jean Quan have some time to pursue structural budget reforms that will really make a difference rather than the blue smoke and mirrors. As Len points out this problem is by no means over. While everyone might be slapping each on the back for getting concessions and a budget, there is some very serious work to be done otherwise we face this same problem in future budget cycles.

  62. Max Allstadt

    Actually, J, when we get to see the video from last night, I don’t think anybody’s going to be particularly celebratory.

    Several members of the media who were there described the interaction between councilmembers as the most unpleasant they’d ever seen.

    In addition to this, Mayor Quan cast a deciding vote against the Schaaf-Kaplan-Nadel-Kernighan proposal. The Mayor had promised to support that proposal, and suddenly flipped at the last minute, which means that those councilmembers are probably not feeling particularly trusting of the Mayor right now.

    You know why the Mayor flipped? The other side promised her that they’d preserve funding for Chabot. The Mayor is the Chair of the Board of Chabot.

    So, in order to preserve funding for a private non-profit that she has a outside obligation to support because she’s board chair, the Mayor voted for a proposal that guts the ethics commission.

    I’d say that if we have politicians with motivations like that, the last thing we need is for the ethics commission to be de-funded.

  63. The Boss

    What is the intent of this “support, endorse or sponsor” clause in the contract? I assume there is stuff in the charter that guarantees some kind of sweetheart deals for the police union?

  64. Max Allstadt

    Section 910. Arbitration for Uniformed Members of the Police and Fire departments.

    It is hereby declared to be the policy of the voters of the City to endeavor to establish and maintain, without labor strife and dissension, wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for the uniformed members of the Police and Fire Departments which are fair and comparable to similar private and public employment. To such purpose, the voters of the City hereby recognize the efficiency of and adopt the principle of binding arbitration as an equitable alternative means to arrive at a fair resolution of terms of wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for such employees when the parties have been unable to resolve these questions through negotiations.
    Pursuant to the public policy hereinabove declared, the City or the recognized employee organization for the uniformed members of the Police and Fire Departments may, as the result of an impasse after meeting and conferring in good faith on matters within the scope of representation as required by applicable State law, refer any such matters which are unresolved to binding arbitration under the provisions of this Section; except that the Charter provisions concerning the Police and Fire Retirement System and such other provisions of this Charter which specifically govern wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment of uniformed members of the Police and Fire Departments shall not be subject to change by arbitration. In any such arbitration, the arbitrator is directed to take into consideration the City’s purpose and policy to create and maintain wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment which are fair and comparable to similar private and public employment and which are responsive to changing conditions and changing costs and standards of living. The arbitrator shall also consider: the interest and welfare of the public; the availability and sources of funds to defray the cost of any changes in wages; hours and conditions of employment; and all existing benefits and provisions relating to wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment of the uniformed members of the Police and Fire Departments, whether contained in this Charter or elsewhere.
    Any unresolved dispute or controversy arising under the provisions of this Section, or any unresolved dispute or controversy pertaining to the interpretation or application of any negotiated agreement covering uniformed members of the Police and Fire Departments shall be submitted to an impartial arbitrator. Representatives designated by the City and representatives of the recognized employee organization affected by the dispute or controversy shall select the arbitrator. In the event that said parties cannot agree upon the selection of the arbitrator within five days from the date of any impasse, then the California State Conciliation Service shall be requested to nominate five (5) persons, all of whom shall be qualified and experienced as labor arbitrators. If the representatives of the recognized employee organization and the City cannot agree on one of the five to act as arbitrator, they shall strike names from the list of said nominees alternately until the name of one nominee remains who shall thereupon become the arbitrator. The first party to strike a name from the list shall be chosen by lot. Every effort shall be made to secure an award from the impartial arbitrator within thirty (30) calendar days after submission of all issues to him.
    The arbitration proceedings herein provided shall be governed by Sections 1280, et seq., of the California Code of Civil Procedure. The arbitrator’s award shall be submitted in writing and shall be final and binding on all parties. The City and the affected employee organization shall take whatever action is necessary to carry out and effectuate the award. The expenses of arbitration, including the fee for the arbitrator’s services, shall be borne equally by parties. All other expenses which the parties may incur individually are to be borne by the party incurring such expenses.
    Nothing herein shall be construed to prevent the parties from submitting controversies or disputes to mediation, fact-finding or other reasonable method to finally resolve the dispute should the City and the recognized employee organization in the controversy or dispute so agree. An impasse may be declared by either the City or the recognized employee organization in the event the parties fail to reach an agreement on matters within the scope of representation after meeting and conferring in good faith as required by applicable State law, or after other mutually agreed-upon settlement methods fail to result in agreement between the parties.

  65. Max Allstadt

    Regarding the “support, endorse or sponsor” clause:

    Could a council member say the following without breaching the contract?:

    “I signed a contract that said that I wouldn’t support, endorse or sponsor the proposed charter reform, so I can’t do that, but if I hadn’t signed the contract I absolutely, 100% would support the reforms to chatter section 910 that are being proposed by several very smart and dedicated citizens groups. But again, I can’t do that, so I’m not doing that. I totally would, if I could. Very enthusiastically, actually. But, I can’t, so that’s not what I’m doing right now.”

  66. BarryK

    Max- Thank you for your passionate pleas before the Council last night.
    I don’t think I’ve seen or heard so many of Council members being so rude (especially “Cutin’ to da bone” Reid) to Jim Dexter. Awful. Also Kernighan telling a speaker “I have the floor.” And to everyone in the chamber, “Don’t believe everything you hear from the podium.”
    The arrogance of the Council members will not be forgotten by this voter.

    Regarding KTOP and Quan’s cuts to televising sub-committee meetings, they aren’t cutting her weekly televised press meetings.

    Regarding Chabot Space, Quan has gone out-of-her way allocating thousands of our Dist 4 Pay-Go to them (plant studies, office furniture…). She pushed to increase in the transient tax (nightly hotel tax) for increasing arts funds (including Chabot Space).

    She’s held several annual private/public holiday fundraisers at the Chabot Space for her “office funds” without ever paying the City the $32k rental fee, or, disclosing the income that came in.
    No other Council member has used (for free) City assets like Quan for her political agenda and career.

  67. ZeroTech


    I agree. I was absolutely stunned by Reid’s behavior, and his apology was pathetic. Just wow. I am truly embarrassed to be “represented” by these people. As for Quan and her beloved Chabot deals, I’ve never forgotten about that. She told me personally during some meeting that the tax measure on the ballot at that point for Chabot et al was “necessary so we could balance the budget” and then ran off in a self-important huff. That told me all I needed to know about her.

  68. livegreen

    I support all unions giving their fare share, and have voiced my support for Police not bearing the brunt of layoffs or cuts, for how it will negatively impact crime and victims.

    However convoluted labor agreements that hamstring the democratic process, that hamstring the ability of the Chief to manage OPD, and establish contracts that don’t match the budget time frame (so can’t be adjusted when the budget needs to) are to be frowned against.

  69. Mry

    @the boss, sorry but that’s not the way that works. What I stated is my opinion, and what you stated was yours. Nothing more, nothing less.

  70. Mry

    [PDF] The Impact of a College-Educated Police Force: A review of the …
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    in creating a better prepared and more tolerant police officer. Page 3. 2. Recommendations for a better educated police force did not originate with ……/ The%20Impact%20of%20Higher%20Education%20in%20Law%20… – Similar

  71. len raphael

    The part of the OPD contract preventing current and presumedly future council members from supporting the repeal of binding arbitration is disgusting.

    I don’t blame the cops for asking for it, but its pathetic that the council and mayor were so desperate to show they “balanced” the budget that they would abdicate their responsibility to consider that essential piece of charter reform.

    Without the council putting a charter reform item on the ballot, supporters of any reform item would have to raise +- $200k to cover cost of collecting enough valid signatures and the legal costs to put a charter amendment on the ballot.

    The fix is simple: we have to embarrass our elected officials at public meetings by asking them why they agreed to something that throttles the residents rights to change the charter. Get at least one of them to violate the agreement and see if OPD dares to void the contract.

    -len raphael, temescal

  72. Ravi

    “The fix is simple: we have to embarrass our elected officials at public meetings by asking them why they agreed to something that throttles the residents rights to change the charter. Get at least one of them to violate the agreement and see if OPD dares to void the contract.”

    Yes, it may well be that this sort of provision is illegal/unconstitutional. Leave it to our brilliant CC members and “Mayor” to neglect their homework until the very last minute. No wonder things here are such a mess.

  73. Dax

    Police officer and firefighter compensation will be driven up 7% even if salaries are not raised.

    Yes, the cost of pension payments is expected to rise from the current 38% of salary to 45% of salary by 2015/2016.
    Thus, even if Oakland makes it through the 2 or 3 year contracts now being discussed, it needs to find an extra 7% of salary just to stay even.

    Any thought of future raises is going to be swallowed up by future mandated contributions to CalPERS.

    The current pay, in the new contracts for police and fire, can be expected to stay the maximum for the next 5 or more years.
    In fact, even a greater contribution from police may well be required. Up from even the new 9% agreement.

    Firefighters may be able to make the case to not raise their 13% contribution, depending on other factors.

    Just keep thinking.. Forty Five Percent, and that is only for the pension. Doesn’t include all the medical, dental, vision, plus all the other benefits.

    Of course, I’m sure Mayor Quan fully calculates all this into her master plan for Oakland.

  74. len raphael

    Dax, you must be referring to our Mayor’s long range, sustainable fiscal model of Oakland’s finances. That’s on the excel sheet stored next to the one she had developed for OUSDI shortly before they went under.

  75. ZeroTech

    And that’s right next to the one where, as finance director, using a sophisticated algorithm, she calculated the City’s deficit to be about half of what it actually was.

  76. len raphael

    When Mayor Quan went on that junket to China the other month, I hope she remembered to ask her Chinese Govt hosts if they were interested in refing our PFRS debt at say 3.5% instead of the 7 to 9% we face in the market. If that didn’t do it for them, she could have also thrown in a chunk of OUSD’s debt to the state.

  77. len raphael

    Trying to understand why our Mayor seems to think she achieved something with this latest budget.

    Ignoring those who say she’s innumerate, I’m thinking her blind optimism is the flip side of her blaming the city’s financial problems on Wall Street bankers.

    Once you accept that premise, it’s easy to buy into her view that now that the gnomes of Zurich have been chastined, all will be well in a couple of three years with Oakland’s tax base.

    Not only is our Mayor a budget whiz, but also a very competent economic forecaster.

    In this context, all you have to do, is use layoffs, sales to RDA, and borrowings to get by this next couple of tough years. No need to reduce future pension and retirement medical obligations, or reset all employee compenstation because we’ll be able to afford them no problem.

  78. len raphael

    Dax, if Oakland had gotten wage rate reductions, instead of layoffs, work week changes, pension contribution boosts, wouldn’t we have reduced those untouchable vested pension benefits that are based on last year(s) pay?

    I suppose all the OPOA had to do was go to the City during contract talks, and tell them 9% and delayed pay raise was all they would conceed. They knew that with 6 cops retiring/leaving each month, the City was not about to lay off any more of them. So all they had to do was protect their pay and OT. To do that they had to threaten the Mayor and CC that they wouldn’t pay in the 9% without both a no layoff and assurance of binding arbitration.

    They took a chance on shooting for the binding arbititration ring, but they also knew the Council and Mayor badly wanted to show a win on the 9% to save face with the public and the other unions.

  79. len raphael

    Our Mayor’s other talent is her ability to predict the outcome of lawsuits. She and the City Council have 0 contingency plan in place to cover the very possible success of Brown’s attack on RDA’s.

    It’s not as if she can blame that law on Republicans. The law was passed entirely by Democrats.

    i assume she’s relying on Siegel Sr’s sage legal advice on the RDA lawsuit outcome, much as she did on the Gang Injunction. His record on that wasn’t so hot.

  80. DJ Williams

    I understand that only retired PFRS OFD people will take a 9% cut in pension ..Not the Calpers people or the PFRS OPD retirees..Why is this? Out of these 3 groups of retirees only the PFRS fire retirees are taking a 9% reduction in there pensions?