City Employees Walk Out Of Event Over Contract Negotiation Frustrations

By Samantha Mehlinger

As Long Beach City Manager Pat West got up to speak at an annual breakfast celebrating public works employees this morning, about 200 of those employees got up and left in protest, according to witnesses present. Those who left are part of a group of 700 city workers across more than a dozen departments represented by the Association of Long Beach Employees (ALBE), a labor bargaining group that formed in 2016 to represent employees who had previously been members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace (IAM) workers.

At issue today is that ALBE employees still do not have a contract, according to Wendell Phillips, general counsel for the organization. The city and ALBE were engaged in mediation to resolve the matter, but that process ultimately failed, according both to Phillips and Long Beach Human Resources Director Alex Basquez.

Phillips explained that the city manager has offered similar contract parameters to those currently held by IAM, which the organization is not satisfied with. ALBE employees have received raises commensurate with those of IAM in the interim.

According to Phillips, West abruptly canceled the mediation process on Monday. Basquez said that characterization was not quite right. “We did engage ALBE in the meet and confer process for a contract agreement. We didn’t reach an agreement. They requested mediation, and we did try the mediation route,” she said. “But that also did not result in an agreement. Then they requested fact finding, which we are going to start in June. So that’s basically where we’re at.” Basquez noted that it takes both sides to come to an agreement. “We were just not able to see eye to eye with respect to the terms of a contract,” she said.

The fact-finding process involves convening a neutral panel that will hear from both sides and then issue a report with a recommendation, Basquez explained. Phillips noted that the bargaining parties are not required to adhere to the recommendations of the panel.

Phillips said he hoped that West got the message when employees walked out of the breakfast. “I think we’re headed for probably the most serious labor dispute the city has ever seen. I think these people are just tired of it,” he told the Business Journal.

A study commissioned by ALBE in 2018 found that its members were paid below the rate of 10 comparison cities – those used by the City of Long Beach in comparing the salaries of its employees – in 13 job classification types. “You guys have written stories about the number of people in Long Beach who make $200,000 a year, I think you call it the $200,000 Club,” Phillips said, referring to an annual analysis of city salaries by the Business Journal. “And we’ve got people who even working full time for the city qualify for food stamps.”

A more in-depth story on this matter will appear in the June 4 edition of the Business Journal.

Long Beach City Council Passes Tenant Rights Ordinance
After months of negotiations and hours of public comment, the Long Beach City Council approved a new tenant rights ordinance on first reading during its May 21 meeting. Under the new ordinance, landlords are required to pay relocation assistance to “tenants in good standing” if the landlord chooses to terminate the lease or raise the rent upwards of 10% within a 12-month period. Tenants are considered “in good standing” if they’ve lived in the unit for over a year and fulfill a list of requirements, which include regular, on-time rent payments. Tenants who have damaged their unit, have substantially interfered with other residents or have engaged in illicit activity on the property do not qualify for relocation assistance, according to the ordinance. Landlords are also not required to pay relocation assistance if they themselves or a family member plan to move into the unit. The council voted 6-3 to pass the ordinance, with councilmembers Suzie Price, Daryl Supernaw and Stacy Mungo opposing. All three opposing councilmembers had suggested amendments to the ordinance that were voted down by the remaining council. The ordinance, which is scheduled to go into effect on August 1, will be brought to the council for a final vote on June 11. – Alena Maschke, Staff Writer

Josh Butler Stepping Down As Executive Director Of Housing Long Beach
The local nonprofit Housing Long Beach announced this afternoon that its executive director, Josh Butler, is stepping down. He has served in the position since 2015. In the interim, the organization will be led by its board president, Cynthia Macias, and its director of community organizing, Maria Lopez. Butler is remaining on in an advisory capacity during the period of transition. – Samantha Mehlinger, Editor