Nearly 60 Pleasanton residents, former city leaders and police officers packed Tuesday night's City Council meeting to demand that city officials settle on a fair contract with the Pleasanton Police Officers Association.
The group including retired Pleasanton Police Department Capt. Craig Eicher and former councilmember Arne Olson, overworked police officers and concerned citizens showed up half an hour before the meeting, which was held at the Operations Services Center on Busch Road, to rally and show their support for the PPOA with signs and chants.
They all had the same message to the council and city staff: pay the police officers what they deserve and end the months-long impasse in labor negotiations.
"In my 39 years as a resident, I have never witnessed the lack of support this council is showing for our Pleasanton police officers," Pleasanton resident Vicki La Barge said during public comment. "The ineffective leadership and pet project spending by this council will not go unnoticed at the voting booth."
The PPOA declared the impasse on May 24 after the union had rejected the city's offer of a 15% pay increase for officers over the three-year contract. The previous contract between the city and the union ended on May 31, meaning that as of Wednesday the union is on day 77 without a new contract.
According to the city's website, the city's offer consisted of a 6% pay increase on June 1, a 5% pay increase in 2024 and a 4% pay increase in 2025 for regular officers. An 18% pay raise over the three-year contract would have been enacted for police sergeants, who are also represented by the union.
"The city did offer a package that has a $6.6 million value over the life of the contract," City Manager Gerry Beaudin said after roughly 20 speakers voiced their concerns during public comment. "It is the largest increase that this city has offered to the PPOA ever."
City officials said they also agreed to the PPOA's request to triple the city's contribution to employee's retiree health savings accounts and to provide an additional 5% premium pay for specific departmental assignments.
"That is a commitment from this organization to our police officers and with that, we would be within 3% of the mean, which is the city's compensation philosophy ... this contract does that," Beaudin said.
But while the city's offer somewhat mirrored the PPOA's request of a 19.5% increase over three years, one of the main reasons why the union turned down the city's offer was because of retention pay, which the city flat out rejected.
The retention pay, according to the city's website, would have offered a 2% increase to officers who have been with the department for eight years, 4% to those who have been there 12 years and 5% to those with 15 years on the force.
According to the PPOA website, the union had requested those increases to start earlier the first year with 3% increments every year for some units and 5% every year for other units over the three-year period.
Eicher, who has an extensive history of being on both sides of the negotiations table including six months as interim police chief, told the dais that low wages also lead to retention issues, which translates into new police officers using the city as a training ground so that they get the experience needed to transfer to a city with better compensation.
"One of the problems I see here is that the city has allowed officer pay to get so low, that it's taking a lot of money to get it caught back up," Eicher said. "Low compensation is going to give you exactly what you're trying to avoid. If you don't get the right officers in to do the job, you're going to impact the organization and you're not going to like the outcome."
Several current members of the PPOA and longtime residents also stood in front of the dais and pleaded for the council to end what they said would be a long and contentious contract negotiation process by meeting the union's request for higher, competitive wages.
"In collective bargaining when we open a session, both sides indicate their goals," PPOA President Brian Jewell said. "One of the city's stated goals was to keep our pay in the median or above of our 10 comparable cities. This has always been the city policy and a point on which we agree. The city's last offer did not do that. If accepted, we would continue to be at the bottom."
Following the news that mediation efforts to reach an agreement between both parties failed back in July, Beaudin told the crowd that the California Public Employment Relations Board will be conducting a fact-finding on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27. Fact-finding is when a qualified, impartial third party makes written findings of fact and recommendations for resolution of an impasse.
He added that on top of the fact that the city has an obligation to maintain the job positions of officers who are currently out on either sick or injury leave, Pleasanton cannot do what many of the speakers asked for, which was to use other funds for capital improvement projects, to go toward paying police officers.
"Those are different dollars," Beaudin explained. "We don't have the ability to use one-time money for salaries and benefits because those are recurring costs. Once they're in the contract, they're in the contract forever and we want to make sure that we're being good fiscal stewards and financial stewards for the community and for the organization. We're not interested in running deficits and getting into contracts that we can't afford."
However, Jewell explained that in a time where the PPD is facing minimum staffing levels, one officer having just retired and another one having submitted their resignation letter, it is important that the city resolve the contract negotiations sooner rather than later.
"The city manager can continue to say that the offer is fair and generous, but it abandons your longstanding policy of keeping our pay competitive in the market," Jewell said. "Despite the current schedule we are on, the city can offer to settle our contract at any time with a reasonable offer that is consistent with your past policy and satisfies the goals your city negotiating team outlined at the outset of negotiations."
"If you continue to do nothing, with the schedule we are on, there will be no resolution till the end of the year," he added. "Our dedicated officers and the community of Pleasanton deserve better."