Mercury News

San Jose



Milpitas City Workers Protest Long Contract Talks



By Dennis Knight

March 27, 2002



About 100 Milpitas city workers staged a noontime rally outside the temporary City Hall offices at the Great Mall on Tuesday to protest contract negotiations they say have gone on too long.


Members of the Laborers' International Union of North America's Local 270 Protech unit have been working without a contract since June 30, 2001. Protech represents more than 100 office workers, engineers, building inspectors, financial service workers and recreational employees of the city of Milpitas.


The city and the union agree they are close to an agreement and hold out hope that the situation can be resolved soon.

“We have just received a new proposal which is more in line with what we asked for financially six months ago,” said Nancy Mendizábal, a public works inspector and member of the Protech negotiation team. “But they want us to give up our current dental program,” Mendizábal said. “It will actually cost the city more money to give the employees less coverage if the change is made,” she said.


Milpitas City manager Tom Wilson says the city has been negotiating in good faith to settle remaining issues. “We're working on details about the language of the contract to increases in wages and benefits. We've had many points of agreement and some points of disagreement, but we haven't been negotiating in bad faith,” he said.


Local 270's contract negotiator, Al Bennett, said Protech has received support from the AFL-CIO South Bay Labor Council executive director Amy Dean and Neil Struthers, executive director of the Building Trade Union. “They were there to pledge support and give strike sanctions to the union,” Bennett said. “That includes a potential shut down of construction of the Milpitas City Hall.”


Wilson, however, believes a walkout can be avoided. “There are three issues or less that need to be dealt with, but I don't think it's beneficial to address those issues specifically right now,” he said. “We have expectations that we'll be able to hammer out a deal. We're close and this can get done.”


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