Employee’s Union is concerned that Elected Officials are out of the loop of information and power.
By Ari Gutierrez Arambula
In a vote announced May 9, 2022, the Alhambra City’s employee’s union rejected the city of Alhambra’s terms for a new union contract. The vote was 67 against and 34 in favor of the city’s offer. The crux of the impasse is hero pay.
As the Covid-19 pandemic unraveled in 2020 through 2021 in an unprecedented national and global health emergency shutdown, it was frontline health and public service employees who kept working in jobs that exposed them to the virus in the work setting who were clearly the most at risk. The public soon came to recognize the courage and risk of those employees and elected officials called for special recompense to those workers in the form of “hero pay”.
In Alhambra, it was newly elected Councilmember Sasha Perez who called for an ordinance to assure the efforts of public service employees would be acknowledged in the form of a $5 per hour hazard pay. The eventual Hero Pay Ordinance No. O2M21-4784 was effective May 22, 2021. It required grocery stores, drug stores and publicly traded companies with over 300 employees and employers with more than 10 employees to add the hero pay stipend to the wages earned of their qualifying employees. This included the City of Alhambra.
Concurrently, the federal American Rescue Plan was passed by Congress providing financial support for state and local governments to cover the costs of maintaining pubic services and assisting local businesses and employees in covering the direct and indirect costs of the Covid-19 pandemic shut down. As such, for local governments, hero pay was essentially funded by the federal government not from city coffers.
The Alhambra City Employees Association (ACEA) representatives state that Alhambra’s management level, police and fire employees have long ago been paid their full hero pay stipends. It is therefore inconsistent that the City of Alhambra would now 1) withhold hero pay only from union contract workers and 2) negotiate a portion of that earned pay in the proposed wage rate adjustment. Hero pay is owed to all frontline workers. These are funds approved by city ordinance, already included in the city’s budget and funded by the federal government and earned by the frontline workers regardless of their union membership status, the union said.
The city employee union is asking for a 2% wage increase despite there not having been a wage increase for over 10 years. The ACEA, city employees union, protested with picket signs at the regional grand opening of the 626 Golden Streets open streets event. Mayor Mahoney and all members of the Alhambra city council along with state, county and federal leaders participated in the opening ceremonies held in Downtown Alhambra.
In its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23, the City of Alhambra anticipates the Measure AL sales tax, passed a few years ago to improve city services, will yield a projected $29 million in new revenue (page ii of the Executive Summary).
The City of Alhambra is in ongoing negotiations with the Alhambra City Employees Association (ACEA). To submit comments to the city council on this issue, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 626-570-5010.
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