Berkeley city workers authorize strike


City workers in Berkeley voted to authorize a possible strike on Wednesday, though if or when a strike would happen remains undetermined.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 announced the results of the strike vote today, saying that 99 percent of workers who voted during a day of demonstrations outside Berkeley City Hall on Wednesday authorized a strike.

According to the union, the city’s maintenance and clerical employees have been in negotiations for two months and negotiations are scheduled to end on June 16.

Workers are seeking more compensation, better health and safety protections and a community outreach program the union has proposed, according to union officials.

The union also made allegations today that city managers had conducted surveillance on employees and intimidated workers but did not elaborate. A union spokesman did not immediately return a call for clarification.

Regarding safety, the union is arguing that the city has not sufficiently protected workers’ safety after a garbage truck driver, Johnny Tolliver, was killed in 2016. Tolliver was pinned between his truck and a utility pole while working on his regular route.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health eventually imposed a $31,810 penalty on the city, which was reduced from nearly $100,000 after an appeal.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said in a statement that the city and union have not reached an impasse and have three meetings scheduled before the 15th.

Chakko argued that city employees were well compensated and receive generous compensation packages and ranked very favorably when compared to comparable city and county agencies.

But the city is also facing rising pension and healthcare costs along with other economic challenges, he said. Chakko’s statement did not include information about the content of any offers the city has made in negotiations.

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