As we reported in Fizz this morning, more than 140 city City Light strategic advisors and managers have filed an intent to unionize with the state's Public Employees Relation Commission (PERC) in response to Mayor Mike McGinn's proposal to cut 200 strategic advisor and "senior-level" positions.
More than 70 percent of employees in four job classifications have signed on to the union petition, which went to PERC late last month. (The city will provide the names of the people who are in the organizing unit to PERC on Monday).
David Bracilano, director of the city's labor relations division, says that once PERC confirms that 70 percent of employees in a bargaining unit have signed union cards, the agency will certify their union without an election. Although the city could theoretically force an election at that point, Bracilano says that it has typically opted to "voluntarily recognize" city unions, which it can do once 65 percent of employees have signed cards. Seventy-six percent of city employees belong to unions.
Sandi Fukumoto, a business unit administrator at City Light whose job classification is Strategic Advisor II, says City Light employees decided to organize in response to "the giant target that the mayor put on our backs.'" (Fukumoto called me on her personal cell phone, not her city line.) Unionizing, she says, "gives us a voice at the table. If they’re going to come after us for arbitrary purposes—because of our job classifications, not because of the quality of our work—we have a way to mitigate the impacts."
City Light staffers have been especially outspoken against McGinn's proposal to cut 200 strategic advisor and management positions; at a Civil Service Commission meeting last month, more than a dozen City Light employees, including Fukimoto, spoke out angrily against McGinn's proposed cuts. I have calls in to several more City Light employees who spoke at the meeting to find out more about the move to unionize.
Employees at the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities are reportedly also discussing plans to unionize.
Yesterday, McGinn confirmed his intention to eliminate 200 strategic-advisor and management positions, but said he would stretch the cuts out over a longer period than the year he originally proposed. And he confirmed that he plans to propose cuts at City Light, which is currently facing a $70 million shortfall due to declining wholesale power sales.
Fukumoto says that "If [the mayor] wants to go through the budget and legitimately say, 'We can't afford this job function anymore,' that's fine. We can respect that we have huge budget issues. But if they're going to say, 'We're going to get rid of you because you're a political [appointee], we have a problem with that."
I have a call in to McGinn's office to find out his reaction to the City Light employees' move to unionize.
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