Members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) recently ratified a tentative agreement with the City of Costa Mesa to extend through June 30, 2016. Normally this would have been on the agenda for City Council adoption at the Council meeting following ratification. However, under the City’s new COIN ordinance, two public meetings are required before the Council can vote to adopt the agreement. Both the City and its employees will therefore have to delay the effective date of their agreement until at least Sept. 16, 2014.
Patrick is an Associate Engineer for the City, where he has worked for eight years. He has been a member of the CMCEA Board of Directors for the past seven years, leading City employees through one of the darkest eras in the City’s history following the death of City maintenance worker Huy Pham and the City Council’s unsuccessful attempt to lay off more than half the workforce in 2011.
Since then, Patrick and the rest of the CMCEA Board of Directors have helped support City employees through a challenging era punctuated by political attacks and dangerously low staffing levels. He is on the CMCEA bargaining team, which is currently negotiating with the City for a new contract.
Acknowledging there may be added pressure and attention in his new role, Patrick is confident the relationships he’s formed during his tenure will help employees navigate these challenging times.
“I’m just going to do my best and stand up for what is right,” he said.
Patrick came to Costa Mesa in 2005 after a long career in the private sector. He chose public service because it provided stability for his family and an opportunity to connect with the community in a way he felt was more meaningful than when he worked for corporations. Now, he says, he feels deeply connected not only to his coworkers, but to the entire Costa Mesa community.
“I am honored that I have been chosen to represent my fellow employees in a leadership role at the City of Costa Mesa,” Patrick wrote in a recent email to employees. “I promise to continue to listen to your concerns and do what is in the best interest of your conditions of employment while working with the City of Costa Mesa. I do not take the responsibility lightly and feel it is an important position, ensuring the proper checks and balances remain in place, not only for my fellow employees but for the community and citizens of Costa Mesa. As always, I welcome your feedback and value any concerns you may have. I look forward to a prosperous 2014.”
Helen Nenadal, who has been a tireless advocate for city workers as president of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association, retired in December after 32 years of service. Helen led city workers in their fight to stop the city from outsourcing more than 200 jobs. She was often in the crosshairs of a politically motivated City Council majority, and spoke out for her fellow workers in public meetings and in the media.
“Before 2011, if you told me I was going to be in the media like I had been, I would have said ‘You’re crazy,’” she said. “Being in the New York Times was like nothing I’d ever imagined. I’m just a maintenance worker trying to do my job.”
Nenadal began working for the City of Costa Mesa in 1979 as a part-time softball coach for the city’s “ponytail” league. She ended her career as a full-time Facility Maintenance Technician, responsible for plumbing, painting, carpentry, and electrical and mechanical work at all City-owned buildings.
“I only planned to stay for a year or two, but it was the people and the atmosphere that made me stay,” she said. “It was a very caring group. You enjoyed getting up and going to work.”
She became involved in CMCEA in 1997, joining the board of directors because her co-workers convinced her it would be a good idea considering the number of people she knew throughout many city departments. She represented employees if they had problems with management and later assumed a roll on the bargaining team.
She said things changed in Costa Mesa after a previous City Manager retired and current Mayor Jim Righeimer—who has led multiple attacks against public employees—won a seat on the council in 2010.
Her biggest challenge would come the following year when, in March 2011, the council voted to issue more than 200 layoff notices to staff. In the wake of the notices being issued, CMCEA member Huy Pham, a fellow maintenance worker, jumped from the roof of City Hall and died.
“In times past, when we had issues and the economy was down, we were able to work together with the city. We went through a period of layoffs in 2010—about 70 people getting moved, bumped or let go—but nothing like what happened in March 2011,” she said. “I do believe their callousness played a significant part in what happened to Huy Pham.”
Pham’s death and the ensuing battle to save hundreds of jobs galvanized CMCEA and encouraged its president, board and members to fight back—first against the pink slips, and later against a proposed city charter that would have allowed the city to create its own outsourcing rules. That charter was defeated by an overwhelming margin of 20 percent.
After three years of constant turmoil, Nenadal said working at the city was affecting her health and it was time to move on, adding, “I have no regrets with my career, being a woman in a man’s role and learning a lot. Being on the board, and being president these last three years, I have zero regrets about communicating with management, the Council or the press.”
She believes communication and solidarity will get CMCEA members through their darkest times, and said she leaves with confidence that her fellow workplace leaders will protect the union members who she has viewed as family for so long.
“We have a strong board, so whoever succeeds me as the next president, they’ll do just fine,” Nenadal said. “Hopefully people will support them as they have supported me.”
The Costa Mesa City Employees Association invites everyone to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our city police department.
CMCEA is proud to represent approximately 65 non-sworn personnel in the police department who work every day to keep our community safe. Check out this public service announcement featuring CMCEA Vice President Kelly Vucinic, a crime prevention specialist, to learn more!
To honor our Country’s veterans, union members, community groups and veterans organizations from across Southern California will be hosting a FREE community celebration at the Orange County Fair & Event Center this Veterans Day.
Veterans, their families and the entire community are invited celebrate our nation’s heroes with live music and entertainment, free hot dogs, and opportunities to give back by sending care packages overseas and making holiday cards for ailing vets.
The event will also include a special stamp unveiling by the U.S. Postal Service, as well as information about family-supporting jobs, free wheelchairs and access to services for veterans.
The event is being held in conjunction with the new “Veterans + Labor – Partners in Service” project launched earlier this year (www.veteransandlabor.com). Union members all around the state will be participating in volunteer projects and activities throughout the Veterans Day weekend, culminating with this very special “Honoring Our Heroes” veteran appreciation event.
Sponsored by California unions, “Veterans + Labor – Partners in Service” aims to support and raise up veterans on three fronts: providing volunteer service, opening doors to good jobs and a special Veterans Day event to honor our heroes for their service.
WHAT: FREE community celebration to honor veterans
WHEN: Nov. 11, 2013 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Orange County Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
WHY: Those who serve our country in uniform risk their lives to defend and protect the freedoms we all value. But far too often, our nation’s veterans don’t receive the support they’ve earned or the services they need when returning home. California’s labor unions are taking the lead to change that.
Learn more at www.veteransandlabor.com.
Costa Mesa City employees continued their efforts to collaborate with the City during another bargaining meeting this morning, submitting a new comprehensive proposal that both reduces employer costs and promotes transparency, accountability and efficiency in government.
Although the City has reported record sales tax revenues this year, CMCEA understands the reality of the City Council’s desire to achieve some limits on the cost of employees. So in addition to proposing that the City and its employees consider the collaborative government efficiency model LEAN, which has saved other public entities millions of dollars, CMCEA also proposed increasing employees’ contributions to their retirement plans, eliminating any potential wage increases, and freezing all merit pay for CMCEA members.
With respect to pension contributions, we made proposals that continue to demonstrate CMCEA’s leadership in pension reform. CMCEA members were the first employee group to collaboratively lead with reforms in 2008. Today, we proposed further concessions, including:
- Paying the maximum employee contribution share toward pensions, and
- Paying one-half (1/2) of the increase in 2013-14 employer contribution rates from the date of the agreement through the balance of the proposed term.
This proposal represents a significant sacrifice for Costa Mesa employees, who would see their take-home pay reduced by approximately 3 ½%.
“CMCEA employees have historically stepped up and made sacrifices to help the City through its challenges. City revenues are strong, but we have always respected and supported reasonable measures that promote both a strong workforce and economic stability. We know it’s so much better for the community if the Council, City executives, and City employees are focused and working together to deliver first rate services and value to residents,” CMCEA President Helen Nenadal said. She added, “So with this proposal, we are extending a huge olive branch as an investment towards that objective.”
The proposal also reiterates CMCEA’s commitment to transparency in government by requiring the disclosure of potential conflicts with certain private contractors. And it proposes partnering with the City to reduce health care costs by working together on a wellness program and other potential cost saving initiatives. The full bargaining proposal is listed below: Continue reading
Helen Nenadal, CMCEA president, recently wrote a commentary piece for the Daily Pilot. The article is a response to Daily Pilot writer Bradley Zint’s recent story on the “Espinoza Report,” which includes interviews with Costa Mesa employees and (all but one) Council members about the culture at City Hall. Read the original Costa Mesa Works post about the report by clicking here, and read Helen’s article for the Daily Pilot at this link, or below:
Commentary: Not a good way to build trust with workers
Re. “Study describes distrust within city, but finds hope,” (Oct. 10): I read with personal interest Bradley Zint’s recent article about Costa Mesa’s attempt to “connect” with its employees by hiring an expert to interview them about what is good and bad about the municipal culture at City Hall.
The “Espinoza Report,” as it has come to be referred to by city employees, confirms what employees have been feeling and saying for nearly three years, that there “is strong sentiment that the city of Costa Mesa has slipped from being an employer of choice to an employer that simply does not care about its employees.”
According to CEO Tom Hatch, this was an effort to bring city employees, executives and the council together for a fresh start after what has clearly been a three-year period of workplace turmoil in the wake of pink slips and political attacks against workers.
Although skeptical, employees carefully thawed to the efforts of Chip Espinoza, a management consultant, and provided him with sufficient insight to carve a positive path forward. Employees actually held out hope that those in charge might be open to listening for a change.
Four months after it had been completed, the city finally emailed the report to employees late one afternoon. The employees didn’t see the original report, but rather a version revised for “tone” and changed to omit the fact that one city councilman didn’t bother to participate in the process at all.
In other words, the report was revised to make the City Council and executives look like they care about employees when it’s clear to us they don’t.
Morale among employees is so low that to repair it would take a culture change at City Hall — a change that would need to be embraced by every member of the City Council and promoted by every member of the city’s executive ranks.
The Espinoza report appropriately indicates that city employees are ready and hopeful to meet that challenge. But we can’t do it alone.
The CEO had a perfect opportunity to begin to restore trust with employees, and what did he do? Let their words and opinions sit on his desk for months, and as every day went by, the opportunity withered and trust eroded.
We believe there is a better way, and we are going to continue trying to partner with the city on initiatives that improve efficiency, service and culture in our great community. Please join us in urging the City Council to do the same.
(Photo: New York Times)
A long-awaited report that summarizes interviews of Costa Mesa employees by Chip Espinoza, expert on milennials in the workplace, was finally released to employees last night — months after a draft was first completed in June and after being sanitized by City
executives. The report confirms what employees have been feeling and saying for nearly three years – “[t]here is strong sentiment that the City of Costa Mesa has slipped from being an employer of choice to an employer that simply does not care about its
The interviews, which were anonymous to encourage employees to disclose what they truly thought and felt, revealed a work force victimized by a repressive and dysfunctional culture. They were conducted in the wake of the Council’s decisions to lay off nearly half the city workforce and to propose a contract that slashes employee security, pay and rights. For example, employees listed among the problems they face a lack of leadership (“mistrust,” “not being backed up by management,” “uncertain about the direction we are going,” “there is no ‘big picture’”); lack of communication (“breakdown in communication with management,” “we are kept in the dark,” “hear about changes through peers”); a toxic work environment (“decision makers don’t care about us,” “we feel like we are always walking on eggshells,” “culture of distrust,” “adversarial climate between employees and management,” “decision makers don’t care about us”); and an unsupportive City Council (“employees are disposable,” “don’t feel valued,” “lack of respect for what we do,” “being attacked in the media”).
The report acknowledges the fact that “[t]here remains strong energy for positive change,” that “there remains a firm commitment to serve the citizens of Costa Mesa,” and that “[Costa Mesa employees] love their city and they want their city to love them – that means citizens, management, and council members.” And it concludes that the barriers to that still exist: “Most of what you are reading in this report is the result of the failure to create a safe environment in which people can change.”
Yet commitment to collaboration that benefits all Costa Mesa residents are values that Costa Mesa employees poured into our many bargaining proposals to partner with the City. The City’s employees are eager to partner with the city on initiatives to make Costa Mesa more efficient and transparent. We want to go back to a place of collaboration and trust through all levels of City government. Unfortunately, so far, the City Council’s approach at the table has continued to be adversarial. They refuse to move away from proposals that would undermine financial security and rights for employees who have already been through so much and who clearly feel attacked on a daily basis. The City’s employees demonstrated true leadership in sharing their opinions with the City’s consultant in a climate where they continue to feel so much fear.
Hopefully it was not for nothing. Hopefully the Council and management will take the Espinoza Report to heart, acknowledge the amount of damage that has been done, and commit to the rebuilding work that must be done. A good start would be for the City to reconsider its extreme negotiations proposals and instead engage employees at the bargaining table in a way that promotes a culture of cooperation, collaboration, and mutual trust and respect. “That future is not possible without a commitment from every individual to move from self-protecting to self-giving,” the report says. “Trust must be established. It requires suspending feelings of the past and acting on hope for the future.” We’re there. Is the City Council?
The City of Costa Mesa on Monday rejected transparency and lobbying reforms proposed by city employees during its third round of contract negotiations.
The City employees’ proposal would have required City Council members to disclose discussions with lobbyists and donations by campaign contributors before voting on contracts that could benefit those lobbyists and contributors.
“We are disappointed that the City Council majority once again rejected transparency reforms designed to protect taxpayers from corruption in public contracting,” CMCEA President Helen Nenadal said.
The City also changed its initial proposal to cut City employee salaries. Under the City’s amended proposal, approximately 65 percent of current employees would see a salary cut of 7.5%. Newly hired employees would start their jobs at the City at an approximately 7.5% lower wage. And about 35% of current employees would see an immediate salary cut of 2.5%.
“City employees are committed to partnering with the City to deliver the most effecient and high quality services for the public,” Nenadal said. “Unfortunately, the City’s proposal to unnecessarily slash salaries only shows the Council is more interested in continuing its political attacks on employees than working together to deliver the best services at the best value to Costa Mesa residents.”
That’s why CMCEA supports the intent behind the City Counci’s COIN ordinance. And it’s also why we have never understood why last year, when adopting COIN, the Council majority at the same time rejected additional transparency reforms that would protect how taxpayer dollars are spent and shine a light on how lobbyists and campaign contributors leverage influence at City Hall.
So, during bargaining this year, we proposed a measure that’s similar to an initiative Councilwoman Wendy Leece championed in 2012. Simply put, the Transparency, Disclosure and Accountability article would require City Council members to disclose communications and campaign contributions from potential contractors and lobbyists BEFORE they vote to award a contract with those contractors and lobbyists.
That just makes common sense: The public should know what is happening behind the scenes that influences the decisions elected officials make.
Current law does not require the Council to disclose conversations with lobbyists. And even though they do ultimately report campaign contributions, those reports often don’t surface for months after a vote, leaving the public in the dark at the time decisions are actually made.
Transparency can only help build faith in government—something the City Council and City employees both support. And by shining a light on how lobbying works, it will be more difficult for special interests to manipulate politicians to receive contracts that may not be the best deal for taxpayers.