Santa Monica OKs 7% Raise for Union That Charged Sex Discrimination

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica City Council has approved a new contract with the Municipal Employees Assn., the 300-member organization that charged the city with sexual discrimination in a months-long dispute over wages and benefits.

The organization, made up chiefly of women, represents nearly a fourth of the city's Civil Service employees. They will receive a 7% annual pay raise under the 2 1/2-year contract. Some members also will receive salary adjustments.

The union's membership had been working without a contract since Dec. 31. Barbara Renteria, speaking for the union, said the members, many of whom hold clerical and technical jobs, were pleased with the agreement, even though a number of their demands were rejected.

"We had to fight all the way for everything that we asked for," Renteria said. "It was pretty much of a give and take on both sides. I don't think that the city really gave us anything. But I don't think that they were unfair either."

Negotiations started in September. Talks reached an impasse when leaders of the union, charging that its members traditionally had been paid about 20% less than members of other city unions, called on the city to implement a comparable-worth program and provide for maternity leave for both sexes.

Members wearing buttons that proclaimed "Rights, Raises and Respect" converged on City Hall in December to protest to the City Council. Talks resumed after a state mediator was called in. The city had opposed calling in an outside party, but Renteria said that the mediator resolved nearly half of the 32 issues dividing the two groups on his first day and helped settle the remaining issues.

Renteria said the membership was "very happy" with the contract, which it unanimously approved last week. The council also gave its unanimous approval Tuesday night after reviewing the agreement in closed session.

Mayor Christine E. Reed said the agreement appeared fair. She added that she always assumed that the dispute would be resolved, despite the lengthy negotiations.

"The employees have their script and management has its script," Reed said. "I don't get real excited about this stuff anymore after watching it get played out for years on the City Council."

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