SAN JOSE, Calif. – Using polarizing vocabulary and a sense of urgency, Mayor Chuck Reed proclaimed a fiscal state of emergency a few weeks ago and sent a memo to the City Council advising on drastic cuts to public services.

In protest, several young activists dressed as zombies spent the night on the steps in front of City Hall to participate in the following day’s City Council meeting.

The action was organized by Next Generation Bay Area, predominantly made up of young people, union workers and organizers.

According to the group’s website, the Next Generation chose to dress up as zombies because, “If we lose collective bargaining, there’s no future for young people in San Jose. We’ll become the ‘working dead’ and not have a voice at work.”

Although the mayor and his proposed plans are directly focused on pension costs and retirement funds, the group is concerned that a possible next step could be a debate on unions’ right to collective bargaining.

San Jose paid $150 million into retirement funds this year, according to Mayor Reed.

The Bay Area group and several of its union supporters are worried about Mayor Reed’s efforts to slash pensions and public worker layoffs. Collective bargaining was an issue Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made famous by attempting to end, under the guise of austerity measures.

The ongoing attacks on the public sector and public education have been helping to marry the youth and student movement to the unions and public sector workers, especially in California.

The San Jose City Council voted on a general framework for negotiations, implying that there will not be a measure on the ballot to eliminate collective bargaining – the concern that focused the Next Generation Bay Area into public action against Mayor Reed.

The fiscal state of emergency, as proposed by Mayor Reed, will be voted on Aug. 2.


Luis Rivas
Luis Rivas

Luis Rivas is a native of Los Angeles who lives in Echo Park and works in the San Fernando Valley.  He currently edits the non-fiction online literary journal