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Union sues Oakland over temp workers

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A union that represents several thousand city of Oakland employees filed a lawsuit Tuesday that accuses city leaders of violating the city’s charter by increasingly using temporary workers instead of full-time employees.

The suit, filed by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration has continued and expanded the use of temporary workers despite limitations in the city charger that allow temporary employment only “when required.” The lawsuit says the charter requires the city to provide employees long-term, stable jobs with the possibility of promotion and advancement.

Felipe Cuevas, the president of the city of Oakland chapter of SEIU Local 1021, said in a statement:

“Just like the fast food industry and WalMart, the city of Oakland is splitting full-time jobs into part-time gigs.”

Cuevas said:

“This means these employees get no benefits and no vacation and have few rights if they are victims of retaliation or other management abuses.”

Cuevas said that in 2013, in response to growing concerns about the increased use of temporary workers, which the union believes was improper, the city created a “Temporary Part-Time Working Committee” aimed at limiting the use of part-time workers.

But Cuevas said the committee “failed to meet any of its goals, and eventually dissolved.” He said since then the city has dramatically expanded the use of temporary workers, even splitting full-time positions so they are part-time.

Cuevas said:

“The city is using part-time, temporary workers to solve full-time city problems. And in so doing it is offering only dead-end, un-benefited jobs to thousands of people, many of whom are city residents.”

The lawsuit is seeking a court order to re-establish the Temporary Part-Time Working Committee to develop a system that permanently reduces the use of part-time employees, stop the city from creating new temporary positions and stop removing employees just before they accrue enough hours to become eligible for retirement benefits.

The suit also asks the court to ban the city from expanding its use of temporary workers until it has made an effort to determine whether permanent employees can be used to perform the work that the temporary employees currently perform.

City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd declined to comment on the suit, saying city leaders haven’t yet seen it. She referred to questions to City Attorney spokesman Alex Katz, who was away from his office today.

SEIU Local 1021 represents librarians, building inspectors, street cleaning crews, sewer workers, parking enforcement officers, Head Start instructors and other employees.

A spokeswoman for SEIU Local 1021 said the lawsuit isn’t related to ongoing contract talks that the city is engaged in with Local 1021 and other unions that represent city employees.

Local 1021 employees staged a one-day strike on Nov. 2 to protest their allegations that the city is engaging in unfair labor practices.

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