CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of time since city employees last struck and the number of city jobs that are currently vacant. We regret the error. (July 13, 2023)

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Hundreds of employees for the City of San Jose are preparing to go on strike after contract negotiations over the city’s recruitment and retention crisis sees no end in sight with the city’s administrators. 

It has been 16 years since San Jose has seen a strike by city employees. Over 4,500 city employees have been trying to work out a new deal with the city before their contracts expired at the end of June, but have met with no resolution in sight. The city’s recruitment and retention crisis has led to over 860 vacant city jobs, according to a city representative.

On Wednesday, city employees are expected to attend a strike school to learn their rights and prepare for a possible strike if the city’s administrators can’t meet their end of the bargain. Workers are calling for an agreement to be met that will solve the understaffing crisis and make San Jose a competitive employer once again.

“We are working five to six days a week, eight to 14 hours a day. We get forced to work overtime that we don’t want, multiple times a month,” said Scarlet Darmousseh, San Jose Fire Department’s radio dispatcher. “We miss out on time with our families, and we each work hundreds of hours of overtime a year.”

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The strike school will start at 5:30 p.m. at San Jose First Methodist Church located on Fifth Street, across from the San Jose City Hall. Those attending include 911 dispatchers, library workers, public airport staff, water treatment center staff and union workers who maintain the city’s streets.

San Jose City Manager Jennifer Maguire provided KRON4 with the following statement regarding the potential strike:

The City of San José aims to strongly support its workforce and our community. We understand that our workforce is the backbone that keeps the City and our community services operational. This past year, we have focused on reducing our vacancies which stands at approximately 860 with a vacancy rate lower than many of our neighboring cities.   

The City provided a last, best, and final offer and the unions (MEF, AEA, AMSP, and CAMP) provided their last, best and final offer. An impasse was declared by the bargaining units, and we are in mediation with MEF today and will be with the other unions on Friday. The City’s offer includes a pensionable wage increase of five percent in the first year, four percent in the second, and three percent in the third year, among other important items, which is comparable to the agreements reached with the other bargaining units whose prior contracts also expired on June 30, 2023.   

The City remains hopeful that a tentative agreement that is fair to all – employees, our community, and the City –  will be reached.”