By Chris Frost
Oxnard—Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, the Southern California Service Workers, took a stand during public comments at the May 7, Oxnard City Council and expressed their displeasure about potential layoffs in the city.
The city, facing a significant budget shortfall in the fiscal year 2019-2020, has discussed the potential for employee layoffs, but City Manager Alex Nguyen has not made any recommendations yet.
Patricia Garcia led off the comments on behalf of SEIU and said she is a 31-year city employee.
"I am here tonight to urge the council to reconsider its plan to implement layoffs," she said. "In my 31 years, I have seen the ebb and flow of the city, and when the city tries to tighten its belt, it's through layoffs which fall on the backs of its workers. Those directly impacted have their lives turned upside down."
If an employee recently bought a house or had a baby, she said their entire stability would be ripped away suddenly.
"For the workers who remain after the layoffs, they will have to do much more with less," she said. "I have seen first-hand how doing more with less has an effect on staff and services the city provides to our community. A reduction in forces also leads to a reduction in services to our community. Programs are scaled back, or they are completely shut down and are no longer available."
She asked the council if layoffs are necessary.
"This council must find a way to get its finances on track without taking drastic steps of layoffs and program closures," she said. "For example, the city has consultants doing work that our members could be doing."
In the past, she said when layoffs hit, the affected departments struggled, and the city hired consultants to fill the gaps.
"This time, we the city should take an approach that will work in the long run," she said. "Let's keep our employees working and scale back on the consultants."
Lupe Montano said the city had taken hits for the past decade due to mismanagement.
"We lost workers and city services year-after-year," she said. "Workers are doing two or three jobs for the same pay and are expected to do more every year. Our workers need relief, not more layoffs."
Workers will continue to leave the city, she said, and some already have left, and the city's services will suffer and deteriorate.
"We had already seen how city services were impacted when library services were hit," she said. "I had the opportunity to grow up here in Oxnard and take advantage of public services that helped me prepare for college."
Hearing about cuts breaks her heart because the next generation will not have the advantage of the services she had.
"I am here to work with the city council to find solutions," she said. "Together we can come up with new ideas to raise revenue and properly prioritize spending. We have a lot of opportunity in this city, but that means creating partnerships and bringing in ideas from across the community."
Local 721 Tri Country Regional Director Danny Carrillo said he's standing up for 721 employees and asked the council to seek alternatives to planned layoffs.
"Don't rush this process," he urged. Let's look for solutions. As you know, both residents and employees have had concerns about the city council and transparency, and this administration has shown us not to be much better. We submitted an information request to the city on May 1, and we received an incomplete or no response."
He wants a list of all city contracts with outside vendors, their values, start and end dates.
"We were told that they didn't have a document that answered those questions and that was their response," he said. "With all the information we can get creative and find solutions."
Carrillo said Local 721 has a history of helping the city.
"When it comes to making the tough decisions, SEIU 721 has always stepped up to do what is needed," he said. "For example, our members, unlike a lot of the city staff, are paying their fair share when it comes to their retirement cost."
When the council came under attack, he said SEIU was the first group to protect its members from being recalled and partied to help save city resources.
"Now the livelihood of our workers is under attack," he said. "Layoffs are life-changing for those who are laid off, and the rest of our workers are left with massive workloads and those impact city services. There are other possible solutions, but we have not been given the opportunity to look at the details. We can work together to find alternatives to layoffs."
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