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Chula Vista is worker friendly Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Apr 23 2011 12:00 PM

The Chula Vista City Council supported a resolution Tuesday to affirm the rights of workers and collective bargaining.

Councilman Steve Castaneda brought the resolution forward to support the right to organize, bargain and fight for what people believe is right.

"The reason we have the things we need is because a lot of people fought really hard to make sure there's a living wage," he said. "It helped sustain a life that I am proud of."

Several members of the public supported collective bargaining, including Southwestern College governing board president Tim Nader.

"We need to recognize the job they're doing and stand ready to negotiate with them in the interest of maintaining the middle class..." Nader said.

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox was a member of the school district for 30 years and also sat on the other side of the table as a school administrator.

"I support collective bargaining when it's fair and there's no tricks," she said.

In January, the Chula Vista Police Officer's Association was the last of five labor unions to make a deal with the city to help alleviate the city's then $12.5 million budget deficit.

Included in the agreement was a deal for 11 officers to volunteer for an early retirement incentive by May 9, which would save the city approximately $1.3 million annually.

Chula Vista Taxpayer Association President Larry Breitfelder said that letting go of police officers is like "cutting off our nose to spite our face."

Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano said the department desperately needs every officer it has, but also said it has never been more efficient or effective.

Chula Vista has the lowest number of police officers per capita of any city in the region, but when it comes to violent crime, it is the second safest in San Diego County.

Over the last few years, City Council and staff have gone into negotiations with bargaining groups several times, reducing benefits, cutting pay and asking employees to forego raises.

Cox said it's important that negotiations are meaningful.

"They deserve to be paid more but they kept their raises," Cox said. "What I can't buy or support is that we just finished collective bargaining agreements -the ink wasn't dry on the POA contract for 30 days."

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