Alameda County Dems to support two candidates who short-changed working people

Hayward Councilmembers Elisa Marquez and Francisco Zermeno.

There was a time not long ago when supporting illegal wage cuts and taking money out of the pockets of working people would have been cause for the Alameda County Democratic Party to shun your campaign. Apparently, times have changed after the local party released its preliminary list of endorsed candidates for the November election.

The Alameda County Democratic Central Committee will give final approval for its endorsements at Wednesday evening’s meeting.

The pair of head-scratching party endorsements come from Hayward where 13 candidates, including three incumbents, are running for four at-large seats on the City Council.

Local Democratic Party leaders placed on consent the endorsements of incumbent Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno and Elisa Marquez, along with newcomer Angela Andrews. But both Zermeno and Marquez have supported plans in the past that ended up short-changing city employees and regular working people in Hayward.

In 2014, Zermeno voted to impose a five percent wage cut on 300 Hayward city employees represented by the Service Employees Union International Local 1021. The imposition vote was supported by the entire council and followed a repeatedly hard stance by Hayward’s city administration against any increases in pay benefits. A three-day strike ensued.

The council’s vote, which included support for a wage imposition by current members, Mayor Barbara Halliday, Councilmembers Mark Salinas, Al Mendall, and Zermeno, caused rancor between labor and the city rarely seen in Hayward politics. One SEIU Local 1021 declared the vote a declaration of war against labor and vowed retribution at the ballot box against each councilmember.

“It’s a little crazy,” Zermeno said prior to the wage imposition vote in 2014. “If I were to look away from this, it would be fiscally irresponsible.”

The state Personnel Employment Relations Board (PERB) later determined the wage imposition to be illegal and found Hayward city officials failed to enter into good-faith negotiations with the union.

In 2018, Hayward officials agreed to repay SEIU Local 1021 workers $2 million in lost pay and benefits as results of the illegal wage imposition.

Time may be healing some old wounds or memories of the 2014 imposition have simply faded. In recent months, with Zermeno’s re-election potentially in doubt, he has become far more progressive than he has ever in the past 12 years on the council. In a social media post, Zermeno recently advocated for Social Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for president even though she is not yet old enough under the U.S. Constitution.

In addition, when the Hayward City Council moved to roll back a two-month-old ordinance last April to increase the city’s minimum wage by $2 to $15 an hour, Zermeno voted no.

The move to place the city’s accelerated minimum wage on pause until Jan. 1, 2021 was led by Marquez, an establishment candidate who has espoused progressive ideas, such as a need for affordable housing, but has little to show for it in terms of legislation.

Marquez supported the ordinance to accelerate the minimum wage last February before voting to pause the ordinance in April as the coronavirus and shelter in place shut down local businesses.

The local party’s support for Marquez’s re-election is a bit perplexing since Alameda County Democrats had made a concerted effort over the past few years to encourage cities to increase their minimum wage. Aside from moderate-to-conservative city councils in the Tri-Valley, Hayward’s slow move toward a wage bump for local workers represented a nagging failure on the party’s end.

No other Alameda County city followed Hayward’s lead in postponing a scheduled increases in its minimum wage during the shelter in place.