After weeks of intense back and forth between political players in Richmond and Concord the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday that neither city would play host to a state call center—and its 200 plus jobs—because the county could not settle a contract with a local union.
The call center would have been one of three statewide centers set up by the California Health Benefits Exchange to help Californians with health insurance questions under the new federal Affordable Care Act. The state had announced its intention to award the center to Contra Costa County earlier this year.
City councilmembers, county supervisors and property owners in each city have argued that their site is best. Over the last week, the Richmond City Council met twice—once in a special session just to consider how to help developer Richard Poe secure the center—and through a combination of loans and concessions helped Poe lower his bid by more than $1.6 million.
But four hours into Tuesday’s regular board meeting, Board of Supervisors Chair Federal Glover said that the board and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 512 had failed to reach an agreement over wages for the 14 jobs the union was supposed to fill. The board was expected to hear an update from county staff on the two locations and then make a decision between Richmond and Concord, but Glover recommended they call the whole thing off.
“It is my recommendation to the board that we not continue to go any father with negotiations and refuse the contract with the state,” Glover said.
In a vote that clearly shocked the audience, the refusal passed unanimously.
The county and the state are under a tight deadline for the call center—the plan was to have it running by June—and the drawn-out negotiations meant the county would be hard pressed to open the center on the timeline laid out in the state’s contract.
“The leadership of Local 512 should be ashamed of itself,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, whose district includes the would-be Concord site. “Shame on you,” she added.
Richard Cabral, the president of the AFSCME 512, and Nadine Peyrucian, the vice president, did not return phone calls or emails asking for comment.
Richmond’s Supervisor John Gioia listed the unions the board had been able to agree with: AFSCME 270, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers Local 21 and Service Employees International Union 1021. “I’m not happy either that we have not reached an agreement with AFSCME 512,” he said.
Richmond City Councilmembers Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick, along with City Manager Bill Lindsay, were at the meeting—initially, they said, to argue for the Richmond site. Instead, each of them went to the speaker’s podium to say how disappointed they were that there wasn’t a need for a showdown.
“I came here early and was, you know, eyeing the Concord guys,” Myrick said. “But, after hearing this news…” he added, shaking his head. “The idea that all 200 jobs are vanishing away from our community because of 14 people is really kind of astonishing.”
“I also had prepared comments I wanted to make for Richmond,” Rogers said, “but instead I’d like to cede my time to AFSCME 512 so someone can explain why they’re playing ball that way.”
Rogers turned at the podium and looked over his shoulder to gaze around the room and see if anyone would take him up on the offer. Nobody came forward, and after a long pause he shrugged his shoulders, turned and walked away.
According to an article in the Contra Costa Times, circulated by Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt on his E-Forum, county supervisors and AFSCME Local 512 reinitiated negotiations for the call center Wednesday and came to an agreement. Richmond Confidential will continue to follow this story.