City Workers To Strike as Harry Black’s Leadership Puts Stockton At Risk

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Essential services like sewer and water may soon be at risk thanks to a 3 day strike workers for the City of Stockton are going on. According to workers we spoke to, the drastic move is the result of what they say is City leadership not negotiating in good faith. The person responsible for the daily operations of the City and positive outcome of contracts with workers is the City Manager. 

City manager Harry Black seems to be more concerned with attending the parties than he does the well-being of the city that pays him over $400,000’a year. In fact he’s spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to attend such parties.  He’s already been investigated twice and is now under a third one. The first time was for alleged mistreatment of city staff, the second time was for calling a female state worker, Shannon Ding of Cal Water, a “f*cking b*tch” at a conference while representing the City of Stockton; and now a third time for abusing his authority to force the police department to harass and shut down a private Mexican owned business – Stocklandia. 

The previous two investigations led to him nearly being terminated twice, but sparred with a “performance improvement plan”. Not only was he sparred and allowed to continue with his dysfunctional arrogant behavior, but he was even given a raise- one greater than what essential City workers are fighting for. According to public statements made by City Councilmember Brando Villapudua,in violation of the Brown Act, the voting block of 4 Councilmembers loyal to the Stockton Cabal who keep protecting Harry Black are Brando himself, Michael Blower (who witnesses Black disparaging the Cal Water employee and is president of Grupe Real Estate), Susan Lenz, and Dan Wright who is running for mayor. 

In his first year Harry Black was paid a total of $222,786. By 2022, only his third year, Black was paid a total of $319,103, more than the Governor! And that’s not including nearly a hundred thousand more dollars in benefits. Meanwhile workers who actually get their hands dirty and keep the city running have put out the following statement under the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Harry Black:

“We have deep concerns about the potential strike of the City of Stockton’s blue-collar workforce and the significant impacts it may have on the essential services that our citizens have relied on for decades.

Our blue-collar workers play a vital role in ensuring the daily functioning of critical services that contribute to the comfort and safety of Stockton’s residents. From providing safe drinking water to maintaining the wastewater system, their dedicated efforts are fundamental to our community’s well-being.

Safe drinking water is a cornerstone of our daily lives, supporting activities such as bathing, washing clothes and dishes, watering yards, flushing toilets, and, most importantly, consumption. The maintenance of the wastewater system, including storm drains and sanitary sewer systems, becomes even more crucial during the winter months. Stockton’s skilled workforce diligently keeps the storm system operational, preventing flooding by managing storm runoff through an extensive network of storm lines and pump stations.

Last winter, Stockton faced unprecedented challenges with widespread flooding caused not only by the volume of rain but also by power outages resulting from trees falling into power lines. The collaborative efforts of multiple departments, working tirelessly during off-shift hours, were necessary to restore normalcy. With the possibility of a strike looming, the City cannot guarantee the same level of service, even during a moderate storm, as the intricate behind-the-scenes work demands a properly trained and committed staff.

The wastewater collection system, spanning nearly a thousand miles of sewer lines and numerous pump stations, is equally critical. Any disruption to this system poses the risk of multiple failures that could impact thousands of residents simultaneously. Recent incidents, such as what happened in the Westlake area of Spanos West, a private contractor’s equipment failure lead to over 50,000 gallons of untreated sewage flow, this incident should underscore the potential health risks and financial consequences for the city.

Other often overlooked city services, such as road maintenance, traffic signal management, building maintenance (including community centers and libraries), and vehicle fleet upkeep, all rely on the dedicated efforts of skilled tradespeople. A citywide strike could disrupt these services, causing inconvenience and potential hazards to residents.

The city workers, have dedicated their time and efforts to Stockton, asking only for a fair contract that reflects our value. Despite bargaining in good faith, they were met with an inadequate offer based on a survey that did not accurately represent the scope of our job duties. The employees highlighted these discrepancies, but unfortunately, their concerns were dismissed.

Moreover, the city’s attempt to use the past bankruptcy as a rationale for denying fair compensation is both unfair and unfounded. The blue collar workers played a significant role in the city’s recovery through furloughs, delayed COLA’s, and benefit cuts. The involvement in negotiations of a law firm with ties to former City Manager Bob Deis,  who allowed questionable purchases of large properties just prior to bankruptcy, adds a layer of concern to the fairness of negotiations.

As the City and its workforce are only 4% apart on wage negotiations, the decision to let a strike occur appears dangerously disproportionate. Outsourcing to unfamiliar workers could compromise the safety and efficiency of critical systems. Reach out to your council member and convey your support for the city workers who tirelessly serve our community.

We need to ensure a fair resolution that prioritizes the well-being of Stockton and its residents.” 

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