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.


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

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?

How the economic collapse is still affecting families in Costa Mesa and beyond

As the Costa Mesa City Council goes into closed session tomorrow to discuss their thoughts on our bargaining proposal to partner with the City, we wanted to  share this important story that ran in the LA Times on Sunday about how families are faring five years after the massively destructive 2008 Wall Street crash.

At the table last week, the City’s lead negotiator told City employees that as much as a 20 percent pay cut and massive reduction in sick leave would not have a significant impact to their families.

The story in the LA Times illustrates why those statements are so wrong. Increasingly, families across this Country are struggling as the economy struggles to recover. Many of our members are now taking care of elderly parents who lost their savings in the crash or supporting children who have graduated from college but who have still not found adequate work. Some are now the sole breadwinners in their households as the State’s jobless rate continues to remain high.

A deep pay cut would force some to make impossible choices: Do we buy groceries or medicine? Pay tuition or the mortgage?

Slashing sick pay so deeply could spell the difference between financial ruin or a recoverable hurdle for a family who has a sick child, parent or breadwinner.

The family in this story is just like many of the families who work for the City of Costa Mesa. The sole breadwinner in this household is a teacher who, just like the Costa Mesa employees, has a modest salary, retirement benefits, sick leave and health care plan.

The City’s employees believe there is a better way than the slash and burn attack the Council has proposed. We want to partner with the City to deliver the highest quality, most efficient services in Orange County. We will continue to pay increasingly more toward our retirements and help the City make common-sense changes to sick pay. Most importantly, we want to partner with the City to make it more transparent and accountable to the residents we serve.

The Mayor has said he does not want to partner with the City’s employees. It’s hard for us to understand why engaging with employees, treating them with respect and dignity, and partnering with them to make an efficient and accountable government could be anything but extremely positive for the residents of Costa Mesa. We hope you agree.

What a real return to “normal” looks like

In case you missed it, the Daily Pilot on Sunday ran a great editorial by CMCEA President Helen Nenadal addressing Mayor Jim Righeimer’s distorted concept of “normal,” and reiterating what real collaboration between City employees, the Council and the community has historically looked like.

Read Helen’s full commentary here.

The editorial was written in response to a piece published by the mayor mischaracterizing the City’s draconian bargaining proposal as an attempt to return Costa Mesa to “normal.”

But employees who have been with the City for decades know that what the mayor described is not normal at all — it’s a radical political attack based on ideology, not what’s best for the residents of our great community.


Celebrating 60 years of dedicated service


Costa Mesa employees were proud to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our great community.

To help fund the celebration, CMCEA purchased an ad in the 60th Anniversary Magazine highlighting the contributions of the City workforce. The magazine is a beautiful chronicle that highlights Costa Mesa’s journey from the 1800s boomtown of “Fairview Springs” to the modern-day City of the Arts.

Costa Mesa employees look forward to celebrating dedicated service to the community for another 60 years and beyond!

Costa Mesa employees teach community safety at National Night Out

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City employees volunteered Aug. 6 at the National Night Out community event, which occurs annually across the nation to build bridges between residents and local law enforcement.

Members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association helped put together the event, which included displays by Costa Mesa’s police and fire departments, a coloring contest and a demonstration of self-defense skills by local students of the Samurai Cop Self Defense Academy.

Costa Mesa Crime Prevention Specialist Kelly Vucinic, who celebrates 25 years with the City of Costa Mesa this year, said she enjoys coordinating the National Night Out event each year because of the community building that occurs.

“National Night Out is an important event to me because I enjoy teaching the community how to stay safe,” Vucinic said. “I look at it as an opportunity for the City and the community to work together.”

Pictured: Civilian Investigator Lily Martinez, Crime Prevention Specialist Kelly Vucinic and Crime Analyst Holly Carver

Meet CMCEA’s bargaining team

Five dedicated employees have stepped up to negotiate a new contract on behalf of Costa Mesa’s employees.

The CMCEA bargaining team sits alongside support staff from the Orange County Employees Association and across the table from City of Costa Mesa executives and two outside attorneys who the City has hired to negotiate.

Combined, the bargaining team represents more than 100 years of service within the city. Here’s the 2013 CMCEA bargaining team!

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