No End for Alameda’s Four-Day Work Week

No End for Alameda’s Four-Day Work Week


A sign on the door of City Hall notes the four-day work week.

A budget surplus and busier times won’t end Friday government office closures any time soon.

Drop by City Hall on a Friday, and you’ll find the doors locked to the public. These Friday closures, going on since 2011, can be frustrating, especially if you need a permit. So, with Alameda’s economy apparently on the mend, as evidenced by an $11.5 million budget surplus in fiscal year 2013/14, is the city looking at gearing up for a five-day week?

“A lot of people think that taking every Friday off is having public employees not work,” said newly sworn-in Mayor Trish Spencer, who found the five-day week an issue in her 2014 mayoral campaign. “It’s like something is wrong; that public service isn’t the focus. Because what comes with a four-day week is a three-day weekend, and, considering that taxpayer dollars keep City Hall open, that creates an issue.”

The Friday closures began in July 2011, when the City Council voted to close City Hall and other administrative offices to the public each Friday. City Manager John Russo, who recommended the closures, said the shift didn’t save the city much money, since most staff were already working a four-day week—a schedule decision, Russo noted, that dated back to 1992. But they weren’t working on the same four days. “So, we moved everybody to working on the same four days so the public can rely that they are there,” Russo said.

Russo said he hasn’t received emails in favor of a five-day week. And Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft could not recall anyone at council meetings speaking out against Friday closures. But she has encountered frustrated members of the public outside City Hall on a Friday. That’s because she, along with the rest of the city’s executive management team, works a five-day week and has keys to City Hall.

Returning to a five-day week isn’t entirely off the table—just not starting in 2015, Russo said. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “But it would need to be part of the contract negotiations that will happen later this year, because the nonpublic safety employees’ contract ends Dec. 31, 2015.”

Russo said Alameda employees pay more toward their pensions and health care than other employees in Bay Area cities. “So, the four-day week is one of the only selling points we have, which, I think, is fine, because this is what Millennials tend to want.”

Russo said it could take as much as a 10 percent annual increase in salaries and benefits to retain all city employees on a five-day schedule. “If we go back to a five-day week, then it will be absolutely essential that our compensation packages come into line with our neighbors’.”

In November, city staff presented recommendations for using the surplus, the majority of which came from one-time sources of revenue such as a $1.3 million redevelopment pass-through, transfer tax on the sale of two large apartment complexes, and salary savings in both the Police Department and general government categories.

“My team recommended that the surplus be used to make the organization more financially sound, so that next time there is a recession, we are actually prepared for it,” Russo said.

In the end, the council voted Dec. 2 to move $3.96 million to the city’s reserves to cover three months of operating expenditures. Another $3 million went to a trust fund to cover future deficits and other long-term liabilities. The council also allocated $2.4 million for equipment and vehicle replacements and technology, $1.8 million for sidewalk repairs and park improvements, $250,000 for emergency preparedness, training, and supplies, and $100,000 for library materials and training.

This article appears in the January-February 2015 issue of Alameda Magazine
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