Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Protestors hold signs in front of the Madera City Hall Wednesday night asking for what they called fair wages and bargaining in good faith.
About 60 to 70 rank-and-file city workers held a protest Wednesday night in front of the Madera City Hall, before the start of the 6 p.m. City Council meeting, to express what they called their frustrations over lack of progress with their stalled contract negotiations. Bargaining group president Dustin Pickett of the Madera Affiliated City Employees Association (MACEA) said previous discussions have gone nowhere, and enough was enough.
The last large turnout of MACEA workers was in July, when members filled city hall chambers. Pickett said city officials had declined to discuss any cost-of-living increase at that time, and had instead chosen to stick with what he called “their take it or leave approach since then.”
The MACEA is the largest bargaining group in the city of Madera and represents about 120 employees — the people who keep the city running — police officers, the mechanics, carpenters, electricians, administrative staff, equipment operators, workers in the streets, parks, airport, and the water and sewer plant operators, among others.
“We are here to express the plight of city employees. We’ve been here before. This isn’t negotiation. There has been no progress ... in quite some time. The attitude of the city towards its employees leaves a lot to be desired,” Pickett said. “We are going backwards ... with our increasing health care portion costs ... but we aren’t afraid to come out into the public forum anymore. We are going to do what we need to do, and let people know what is going on. Nothing has changed. It’s a huge problem. We are losing good people city wide, already 32 so far,” he said.
According to MACEA literature passed out at the protest, the city is asking it’s rank and file to accept benefits cuts resulting in 3 to 5 percent reduction in take home pay and a wage freeze for the next three years.
Many motorists on 4th Street honked and waved their support of the protesters who were holding signs for fair wages, and others saying 30-plus workers had already left the city for other municipalities.
Some residents spoke to the City Council, asked who was responsible for the labor impasse and stood with the protestors to demand that the city administration now take care of it’s rank-and-file city personnel, especially with the savings after the recent departures of previous senior city department heads, some making salaries of $250,000 to $320,000 annually.
City officials declined to comment, citing ongoing labor negotiations.