San Diego’s white collar union will negotiate a global pension settlement with the city, agreeing to a proposal made last week by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

The union, the Municipal Employees Association, is the first of the city’s six employee groups to unconditionally accept Goldsmith’s offer of mediation. Should the talks occur, one of the first decisions will be about what to actually negotiate. In a Jan. 19 letter, MEA said it wants to make the negotiations more global than had been envisioned.

Pensions and the $2.1 billion liability the city owes have defined San Diego politics and finances for nearly a decade.

The union wants to wrap discussions of other important issues, such as contract negotiations and potential reductions to retiree health care into the debate. It argues the matters are too interrelated and big to bargain about separately.

Goldsmith had proposed settling numerous outstanding pension lawsuits and discussing lower pension benefits.

“By accepting your offer, we do not agree with the exclusions you propose; however, in our view, not only is it counterproductive for one side to pre-ordain the scope of any mediation, but it would be counter-productive for us to argue in advance about your proposed exclusions,” MEA attorney Ann Smith wrote in the letter to Goldsmith, Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council.

Smith wrote that she disagreed with Goldsmith’s recent opinion that the city could exclude certain specialty pay, such as extra compensation for speaking more than one language, from pension calculations.

Despite MEA’s agreement to settlement talks, it remains unlikely that everyone will sign up.

Police union head Brian Marvel, who was most opposed of any union leader to the negotiations, said Smith’s letter intrigued him. But he said the police union did not want to reopen a two-year contract it agreed to in April.

“In light of what (Smith’s) written, I would definitely present it to the board for review, but at this point I don’t foresee the POA submitting to global mediation,” Marvel said.

Goldsmith has said it would be difficult for global settlement talks to move forward without the agreement of all the city’s labor groups to participate. He also has said that he invited labor organizations to bring their own ideas to the talks.

Goldsmith wants all sides to agree to mediation by the end of the month.

Correction: This post originally stated that the union agreed to negotiate an unconditional settlement. The union unconditionally accepted the city’s offer to negotiate a settlement. We regret the error.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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