Park District Workers Vote on Strike

East Bay Park Workers Park educator Aki McKinize, pictured here at Crab Cove is among the people East Bay Park Workers say is among the underpaid staff at the East Bay Regional Park District.

Park District Workers Vote on Strike

East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) workers will decide whether to go on strike after no agreement has been made in ongoing negotiations with the EBRPD’s Board of Directors.

The 600 EBRPD workers will vote this weekend whether to authorize a strike at EBRPD’s 73 parks, including Crown Memorial State Beach, Crab Cove Visitor Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park in Alameda. A vote to authorize a strike will not lead to an immediate strike, according to People for East Bay Park Workers’ (PEBPW) spokesperson Heather Weiner. The group would decide when to strike at a later date.

“If a strike were to happen it probably happens during Labor Day Weekend,” said Weiner.

A simple majority wins the vote. Weiner doesn’t see the vote being close because the “workers are pretty united.”

Representatives from the union, AFSCME 2428, and the Board of Directors have been negotiating for a new contract for months. Weiner said the existing contract has already expired and park personnel have been working under the previous agreement while negotiations continue.

Park workers are demanding the elected seven-member EBRPD board raise their pay to meet the median wage levels of similar workers within the region. The union hired Ralph Andersen & Associates (RAA), a human resource consulting firm, to compare their pay scale to similar employees at other Bay Area public agencies.

According to the RAA report, which was released in 2019, EBRPD employees were paid 10 percent less than similar public agency employees. In one example, a civil engineer for EBRPD earns a monthly salary of $7,870 to $8,824. This was 15th out of 15 agencies surveyed. East Bay Municipal Utility District paid comparable civil engineers the highest salary at $9,779 to $11,886 a month. The RAA study looked at 37 different job positions and EBRPD did not pay any position in the top half of agencies surveyed.

The People for East Bay Park Workers believe the low wages contribute to the more than 40 EBRPD positions remaining vacant. This while EBPRD reported a surplus of $26 million in 2020 including $10 million in unspent salaries, according to a PEBPW report.

Weiner said park personnel want to avoid a strike, which would be the first in nearly 50 years, but believe “collective action is the best way to help each other.”

“They say we are paid in sunsets for working at East Bay parks,” said Aki McKinzie, park educator for EBPRD. “But sunsets don’t pay for groceries and school supplies. Like many other working people in our expensive region, East Bay Regional Park workers are struggling to cover childcare, rent, and other basic necessities.”

Strike authorization results will be announced Monday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. A call to the EBRPD board was not returned by press time.