San Jose Reaches Deal With Fire, Police Unions On Pension Reform

San Jose’s nastiest political battle is no more.

On Wednesday, the city reached a pension reform settlement agreement with its police and fire unions, ending a three-year court battle after voters passed Measure B in June 2012. Details of the deal have yet to be released, but sources confirmed that the agreement is in place and city officials will hold a press conference Wednesday evening.

Union officials for police and firefighters had set Wednesday as a “deadline” to reach a deal or court challenges would resume. That’s obviously no longer an issue.

A press conference has been scheduled for 6:45pm in the mayor’s conference room. Police and fire union officials will join Mayor Sam Liccardo and City Manager Norberto Dueñas.

UPDATE III: Liccardo sent out the following statement after the meeting:

We’ve reached a tentative agreement on longstanding litigation with our police and fire unions over pension, retiree healthcare, and disability benefits.

This is a moment for all of us to exhale. It’s also a moment to celebrate our collective commitment to move beyond the contentiousness of the past, and forge a new path for San Jose’s rebirth. Today’s agreement will be a catalyst for the rebuilding of our public safety services, to restore San Jose’s police and fire departments to their rightful and longstanding status as our nation’s finest.

I want to begin by thanking the over 1,600 hard-working police officers and firefighters who continue to serve our residents, day in and day out, with honor and courage. They have ignored the buzz of the naysayers who tell them they should chase dollars to work in some other city. Years from now, they will be remembered for their selfless role in the pioneering the rebuilding our police and fire departments to national prominence.

I want to thank Paul Kelly, James Gonzales of the POA, and Joel Phelan and Sean Kaldor of the IAFF, for their strong leadership through a challenging minefield of negotiations. They have dramatically altered the tone of the conversation between public safety unions and City Hall, a change which has gone a long way toward building bridges.

I look forward to working with them and our police and fire chiefs to recruit the best and brightest police officers and fire fighters with an unequivocally consistent message: San Jose is back.

We still have much work to do in negotiation in the weeks ahead—to reach agreement with nine other unions on retirement benefits reforms, to reach agreement on wages with our police union, and other issues.

But we have come a long way, all in the last month, reaching wage agreements with 10 of our unions, reaching a tentative agreement on settlement of the Measure B litigation with our police and fire union, and forging a path for future collaboration. For that, I can thank the hardest-working, most competent negotiating team in the country. I want to thank City Manager Norberto Duenas and his team, led by our lead negotiator, Jennifer Schembri and her team, Charles Sakai, deputy city manager Jennifer Maguire, Assistant Police Chief Eddie Garcia, and City Attorney Rick Doyle. They worked tirelessly and professionally to reach settlement against both considerable odds, aided only by excessive levels of caffeine consumption.

I’d like to thank each of my colleagues for their unanimous support of this step forward. Many of them interrupted vacations to be present for the vote—Margie Matthews hopped on a train to get down here in time for the vote; other councilmembers changed flight plans, with several of them calling in from airports in different states. This Council was committed to turning the page on this dark chapter, and drafting a new narrative that will herald San Jose’s renaissance.

Our residents tell me clearly that they want to restore police and fire departments, but to do so within our means. I won’t discuss the details of the tentative agreement until we’ve given the membership of their unions an opportunity to review and vote, but this tentative agreement does so, by establishing:

  • pension and disability benefits competitive with that of our neighboring cities
  • protecting those officers and firefighters who are harmed in the like of duty with robust disability benefits, but with strong limitations to curb abuse
  • share the costs for benefits fairly between our taxpayers and employees
  • and avoiding the imposition of any new unfunded liabilities on future generations.

UPDATE II: Paul Kelly, president of the Police Officers Association, provided the following statement to San Jose Inside:

“We are deeply appreciative of Mayor Liccardo’s leadership and the leadership of City Manager Dueñas and his entire team for working with us to resolve our differences over Measure B and move our city forward.

“Mayor Liccardo told San Jose that he wanted to negotiate a resolution to Measure B and he kept his word and now it is our job to end the rancor and rebuild our police department and provide the residents of San Jose the services they expect and deserve.

“It was a long and difficult effort, but when two sides work collaboratively and collectively…a positive outcome can be had. This is a historic day for San Jose and we are committed to using this collaborative process to resolve any differences in the future. Again, thank you Mayor Liccardo for your leadership.”

Sean Kaldor, executive vice president for the firefighters union, echoed those sentiments in a statement, complimenting the city’s negotiators:

“Mayor Liccardo should be commended for taking a hands on approach to bring us together and come to an agreement that will put our city in a strong position to recruit and retain a city workforce that can deliver quality services to our residents.

“This historic agreement will end the divisiveness that has gripped our city and turns a new page in the relationship between public safety workers and city hall. Thank you, Mayor Liccardo, the City Council and City Manager Norberto Dueñas and your entire negotiating team for your hard work and long hours to make this possible.”


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