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    Non-Public Safety City Employee Union Rep Defends Pensions, Seeks Raises From Council

    (January 6, 2006) -- The leader of the union representing LB's non-public safety city employees has defended lucrative pensions resulting from two 2002 City Council votes and has urged the current Council to give the employees a raise in a new contract now being negotiated.

    Janet Wright, Council 1/5/06Janet Wright, leader of the Long Beach Machinists union, acknowledged that city employees now have "a wonderful pension" but said their "wages are substandard."

    Addressing Councilmembers in the public portion of a special January 5 Council meeting convened for a closed session with management on how to proceed with negotiations, Ms. Wright said the pension "helps bring the entire package up to something that's sellable to the public to recruit quality workers to serve the citizens of Long Beach." posts extended portions of Ms. Wright's salient Council podium comments below:

    Janet Wright, President LB Machinists Union: ...[T]his is not a fast-track of negotiations. We have been at the table for more than 14 months...City employees do have a wonderful pension but our wages are substandard. You hear that police and fire aiming to be at the middle, not the top, but the median. We want to be brought to the median...We're not even bringing my members to the middle, we're still below...[W]e're far below industry standards.

    That pension helps bring the entire package up to something that's sellable to the public to recruit quality workers to serve the citizens of Long Beach...We don't want to be the lowest paid city with the worst benefits in the state of California or in this country. We're aiming for the middle, but not for my members. Our members have gone two years without a raise. This is not a fast-track and I know that there's been a lot of consideration put into our talks...

    Councilmembers agreed to hold the Jan. 5 special meeting after members of the union and Ms. Wright complained at the January 3 Council meeting that management's negotiator had failed to reach an agreement with the union by year's end.

    As on January 3, public employees came to the Jan. 5 meeting, some to speak, some in a visible show of support. But for the first time in recent memory, LB activists and Council candidates also showed up...and one activist made it clear she did not want the Council to cave in to the union's demands.

    South Wrigley resident and Better Balance for LB co-founder Annie Greenfeld-Wisner quoted from an editorial critical the 2002 pension vote and asked Councilmembers rhetorically, "When are you going to do what your constituents want you to do? In my opinion, you're hurting the City of Long Beach..." Another Better Balance for LB co-founder, 2d district resident Paul DeJung, criticized management for forming its own union.

    Also present in the Council chamber was 7th district Council candidate Alex Cherin and NLB activist Dan Pressburg (former aide to 9th district Councilman Val Lerch). Neither spoke but both observed closely.

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