SEIU's New Pact With City Looks Remarkably Like Old Pact -- But Won't Save Jobs of 288 Workers Dismissed Today

For the SEIU Local 1021, it may be time to paraphrase The Who: Meet the new wage concessions package, same as the old wage concessions package. Specific details for the deal weren't immediately available -- the bargain was only cut in the wee hours this morning -- but the major pillars of the agreement appear to be virtually identical to the wage concession package the SEIU rank and file shockingly voted down last week.The big difference is, after today, there will be 288 fewer workers to vote on the deal.

SEIU officials promised that the nitty gritty of the plan -- which will supposedly save the city $35 million -- will be posted on their Web site sometime this afternoon. In the meantime, the major points told to the press at a noon City Hall press conference mirrored the last deal: The roughly 11,000 workers in the city's largest union still get the 3.75 raise that kicked in on April 4, but give up 10 furlough days over the next two years. The ratification vote commences on June 1, and SEIU leadership has already started educational meetings at workers' offices. But you don't need seminar from a union official in a purple shirt to know the city means business -- especially if you're an SEIU employee in the Department of Public Health or Parks and Recreation Department, which the Friday layoffs hit hard.

While the SEIU is banking that ratifying the deal will save the 700 and change other jobs Mayor Gavin Newsom put on the chopping block, it only may be a postponing of the inevitable. Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard -- tall, camera-ready, and sporting a beard that equips him to walk directly into a community theater presentation of Much Ado About Nothing and portray Don John -- praised SEIU leadership and encouraged ratification, but confirmed there is no guarantee that ratification will stave off future layoffs. "If they ratify, we hope to minimize layoffs in the future," he said, a statement that commits the mayor to absolutely nothing.

Actually, Robert Haaland, an SEIU organizer, says the mayor has agreed to a bit more than that. There is a "no layoffs" clause in the deal that guarantees SEIU workers won't be dismissed between ratification and November of this year. This is a significant arrangement, because if Newsom hoped to mandate shorter work weeks for city employees, SEIU rules don't allow him to do so unless workers are laid off and then hired back part-time. This guarantee would prevent that situation.

If SEIU workers ratify the deal -- a good, but uncertain bet -- it would provide a number of benefits to the mayor and the city. First, it would set the tone for wage concession deals with the city's other, smaller unions. It would preserve the services workers slated for dismissal provide. And, not insignificantly, it keeps the powerful SEIU from exacting vengeance upon gubernatorial candidate Newsom.

"He did not want people in purple chasing him around the state," said one insider close to the deal. "The benefits of this are practical and political."

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