Luncheon for public safety employees is canceled because of union boycott

The decision by the San Luis Obispo police and fire unions to shun an upcoming annual appreciation luncheon held in their honor led the committee in charge of the event to cancel it Tuesday.

Union leaders say the intention of boycotting what would have been the 19th annual Public Safety Appreciation Luncheon scheduled for March is to show that union members are done being publicly attacked by chamber leaders.

Both union leaders, Matt Blackstone, president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers' Association and Erik Baskin, president of the San Luis Obispo City Firefighters Association, say that recent positions taken on pension reform and binding arbitration by chamber leaders have become too politically charged against city employees.

The fallout between the unions and the chamber became public when Blackstone and Baskin pulled out of the Financial Sustainability Task Force created by City Manager Katie Lichtig citing concerns about elite special interests.

Maggie Cox, chairwoman of the Public Safety Service Committee charged with organizing the annual event, said Tuesday that she was stunned by the move.

The committee, comprised of 25 volunteers mostly from the business community, met Tuesday to decide how to handle the news. The committee contracts with the chamber to host the event — which draws more than 350 each year.

“We are disappointed but decided that the best path forward was to cancel the event this year,” said Cox. “We don’t know why the unions would bring politics into this event.”

Letter from union leaders to chamber members