With employee labor contracts expiring today, Santa Barbara union workers will rally in front of City Hall to draw attention to their demands.

The Service Employees International Union Local 620 – which represents over 840 Santa Barbara City employees – will hold a rally today at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall. The union announced that the rally will be a display of solidarity rather than a demonstration against the city.

Contract negotiations between city employees and Santa Barbara began in late June and have continued on a weekly basis since then. At each meeting, two bargaining teams from the union met with the city to discuss aspects of the new contract for employees. An agreement has yet to be reached.

Mick Sherer, an executive director for the union, said Local 620 decided to hold a rally in response to the as yet unsuccessful negotiations.

“We wanted to bring notice to the fact that we haven’t reached an agreement that we feel is satisfactory, and the contract is expiring [today],” Sherer said. “We wanted to send a message to the city of Santa Barbara that they really need to make the city employees a serious priority.”

Kristy Schmidt, Santa Barbara City employee relations manager and chief negotiator for the city, said she believes an agreement will be arrived at soon.

“We are not in any different position than we have been in other years at this time when the contracts expire,” Schmidt said. “It is not unheard of for public employers not to have a new agreement in place at the time the old one expires. We shoot for one, but it is not uncommon if we don’t have it.”

According to Schmidt, both parties have acknowledged that one of the negotiation tables is close to reaching an agreement. Additionally, SEIU has told her the upcoming rally is just a demonstration of unity – not a protest.

“I have been assured by SEIU that this is a unity rally and not anything incendiary,” Schmidt said. “I believe that we’re close to an agreement and I’m confident that the rally is just what they say it is, a rally to show unity and their solidarity in their request for a wage increase.”

In a statement, union member Rick Ornelas said it is important to remind the city of the crucial role of employees.

“620 members are the backbone of the city,” Ornelas said. “The work we do ensures that people are safe and that things run smoothly. We deserve to be a priority.”

SEIU Local 620 is the largest labor organization on the Central Coast and represents employees who work in a wide-range of jobs. Guest speakers at today’s event will include Stanley Macias, an airport painter and bargaining team member, Planning Department Commission Secretary Kathleen Goo and airport patrol officer Jarrett Garcia.