CMCEA in the Community

On January 19, 2015 CMCEA once again participated in the Costa Mesa United Mesa Verde Classic charity golf tournament as a hole sponsor. This year’s theme was “Home on the Range,” and while there certainly weren’t any deer or antelope playing, CMCEA members and tournament participants were noticeably having fun at the Wild West-themed booth. Guests enjoyed “Dodger dogs” fresh off the hot dog wagon grill, courtesy of OCEA.


Saturday, April 25, 2015 is the annual Costa Mesa Community Run, and the CMCEA Board is sponsoring teams of CMCEA members who would like to participate in the 10K, 5K, or 2K events. We will pay for the entry fee and provide you with a stylish CMCEA t-shirt to run in. Proceeds from the event benefits Costa Mesa schools.

If running isn’t for you, we are also looking for volunteers to man a water station. There will be a few water stations set up in Fair-view Park for the runners, and we are honored to have one of the stations to man.

The 5K and 10K races start at 8 a.m., and the 2K begins at 9 a.m.


Happy Holidays from CMCEA!

Another year has passed and together we met all the challenges laid before us. This year, I came on board as Vice President for CMCEA and when Patrick Bauer, our then President, moved on to another opportunity, I had the challenge of filling his shoes as new CMCEA president. We were in the middle of tenuous negotiations with the City and an election was on the horizon. Even with these challenges before us, the CMCEA family and the residents of Costa Mesa stood together to fight the good fight. For that I am thankful and humble, and I am filled with both optimism and hope for 2015!

My holiday wish to my CMCEA family is for each of you understand deep in your hearts and souls how important you are to the community. Reflect on the contributions you make every day to keep the community safe and civil. Never regret that you have chosen public service as your career because what you do truly matters.

To the residents of Costa Mesa, I want to wish you a safe, joyous and happy holiday season. Thank you for your continued support. In 2015, I wish you all an abundance of happiness and peace!

Happy Holidays,

Kelly Vucinic
CMCEA President

Tentative agreement ratified by CMCEA

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.

CMCEA elects new president

cmw_patrickbauer_011614The Costa Mesa City Employees Association has elected Patrick Bauer as their new president following the retirement of Helen Nenadal in December of 2013.

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.”

CMCEA President Helen Nenadal retires

cmw_helennenadal_2014Helen 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.”

CMCEA celebrates 60th Anniversary of Costa Mesa Police Department

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!

VIDEO: Celebrate Costa Mesa Police Department’s 60th Anniversary

Join us for a FREE community celebration to say “thank you” to Veterans


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 ( 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

CMCEA proposes pay freeze and more pension reforms

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: Culture change needed at Costa Mesa City Hall


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)

Report: Costa Mesa employees report low morale, toxic work environment

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

You can read a full copy of the report by clicking here.

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?