Health Coverage Cut Fears Prompt Palo Alto Union Drive

August 22, 2003 ( - In a California city where most workers are already unionized, a mixed group of unrepresented managers and other employees may be heading down the same path - in part because of fear of health-care cuts.

An eclectic batch of employees of the city of Palo Alto – including assistant city attorneys, the arts and culture director, computer technicians, engineers in the utility department, librarians, architects, golf course supervisors and police captains, among others – have filed unionization papers, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The push for union representation is driven in part by fear that budget cuts could lead to reductions in health care benefits and possible salary cuts or layoffs, while the city’s other workers remain protected by union contracts. Police employees and firefighters have their own unions, and office workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union.

“Many of us felt our concerns are not being met,” said Leon Kaplan, the director of arts and culture, who has worked for the city for 23 years. If a majority of the group inks authorization cards, they’ll establish a chapter of Professional & Technical Engineers 21, AFL-CIO.

That would apparently leave only four non-union city employees: City Manager Frank Benest, City Attorney Ariel Calonne, City Clerk Donna Rogers and City Auditor Sharon Erickson.