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Labor Negotiations

Collective Bargaining 101

We have approximately 400 full-time staff (regular employees). All regular employees are members in some form of a bargaining group, from the various public safety groups to non-safety positions such as engineers, street maintenance workers, and librarians. Negotiations between the City and these groups determine conditions of employment, such as wages, working hours, overtime, holidays, sick leave, vacation time, retirement benefits, healthcare, and grievance methods. These negotiations result in a City Council approved Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Resolution that lasts for a set time period. Some of these groups are represented by labor unions while others are unrepresented.

Transparency Measures

We value inclusive and transparent labor relations. In addition to adhering to the Ralph M. Brown Act, we engage in the following measures to ensure equity and transparency in negotiations:

  • Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, and the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), which governs labor-management relationships within California local governments.
  • We hire an outside negotiator who serves as the City’s lead to conduct negotiations on the City’s behalf.
  • We hire an outside actuarial firm to conduct an independent economic analysis of the fiscal impacts of any contract provision that has long term actuarial impacts.
  • We host a labor negotiations kick-off meeting prior to the start of negotiations, during which the current and projected financial status of the City is discussed along with a broad outline of the issues we will be addressing during negotiations. This meeting is open to the public and includes an agenda item for public comment.
  • The City Attorney always publicly reports on any reportable actions from City Council closed sessions.
  • Staff reports provided to the City Council for labor agreements include a “Fiscal Impact” section that details the fiscal impact of the proposal compared to the past agreements.
  • Absent extenuating circumstances, staff reports regarding proposed MOUs are placed on two sequential public agendas on regularly scheduled City Council meetings. They are heard as a regular City Council agenda item rather than on the Consent Calendar, first as a discussion item followed by an action item at the second meeting. This allows for the draft MOU or Resolution to be available for public review for two weeks.
  • The basic terms of the agreement are found in every MOU, which are all posted online, and the public can provide feedback to the City Council at any time, in any manner, including providing public comment at any City Council meeting.

How Labor Negotiations Work in the City of San Rafael

In San Rafael, there are 11 different bargaining groups, eight of them represented by unions. Each group has their own MOU or Resolution. Typically, negotiations between the City and each bargaining group begin about four months prior to the end of the current MOU or Resolution.  Some examples of factors that are considered through the negotiations process are:  the City’s financial health, comparability with compensation in similar jurisdictions, the “marketplace” which refers to the City’s ability to recruit and retain quality staff, the cost of living including health care costs, and work rules or other factors that would lead to a better working environment for the City and its employees.

The labor negotiations consist of a series of meetings, during which information is exchanged to support proposals made by the City and the bargaining unit.  For represented bargaining groups, the parties may reach “tentative agreement” during the negotiations on certain proposals that later will become part of a full package of MOU changes.  In all cases, the City Council plays a key role in setting the parameters for the City negotiators and reviewing and directing the progress of the negotiations.  Draft MOUs and labor agreements are made available to the public for review prior to consideration by the City Council for formal approval in a public City Council meeting.  In addition, the basic terms of the agreement are found in every MOU, which are all posted online, and the public can provide feedback to the City Council at any time, in any manner, including by providing public comment at any City Council meeting.

Overview of Bargaining Units and Current Agreements

State law and our Employer Employee Relations Resolution provide procedures for the administration of employer-employee relations between the City and its labor organizations. Below are brief descriptions of each group. Get detailed information on current MOUs and Salary Schedules.

Represented Groups

  • The Public Employees Bargaining Unit (PEU) Local 1 – Confidential Bargaining Unit is a group of non-management employees who work in the City Attorney’s Office, City Manager’s Office, Police Department, Human Resources Department and Finance Department (approx. 8 employees).
  • The San Rafael Fire Chief Officers’ Association is a group that includes Battalion Chiefs in the Fire Department (approx. 3 employees).
  • The San Rafael Firefighters’ Association group includes non-management employees in the Fire Department, such as Firefighter-Paramedics, Fire Engineers, Fire Mechanics, and Fire Captains (approx. 61 employees).
  • The San Rafael Police Association group includes all non-management members of the Police Department, including Police Officers, Dispatchers, and Sergeants among others (approx. 80 employees).
  • The San Rafael San Rafael Police Mid-Management Association group includes all of the Captains and Lieutenants (approx. 6 employees) in the Police Department.
  • SEIU Local 1021 is the largest employee group (approx. 123 employees), including a wide variety of positions ranging from Building Inspectors to Maintenance Workers, Librarians to Parking Enforcement Officers, and Planners to Administrative Assistants, among others.
  • SEIU Local 1021 Child Care Unit is a group that includes Child Care Instructors and Directors (approx. 44 employees).
  • The Western Council of Engineers unit is composed of Engineers and Engineering Technicians in the Public Works Department (approx. 10 employees).

Unrepresented Groups

  • The Elected City Clerk and Elected Part-time City Attorney group consists of two elected employees, the City Attorney and City Clerk.
  • Executive Management is a group that includes all Department Directors (approx. 12 employees).
  • Mid-Management is a group that includes all non-safety mid-management positions, including Chief Building Official, IT Manager, Planning Manager, Senior Recreation Supervisor, Deputy City Attorney, and Assistant Library Director, among others (approx. 24 employees).

How the Public Can Be Involved

The basic terms of the agreement are found in every MOU, which are all posted online (with links above), and the public can provide feedback to the City Council at any time, in any manner, including speaking at any City Council meeting or attending the labor negotiations kick-off meeting. Prior to City Council consideration, the proposed MOUs will be made available for public review on our website. At any time, the public may contact the City Manager to discuss their thoughts or concerns regarding labor negotiations.

Additional Resources

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