City Council members said that it was a hard decision, but that they were left with no other choice as they aimed to bridge multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls without resulting in employee layoffs or further service cuts for local residents.
"I think we are doing the best we can to preserve what you have, but we can't do it at the expense of the residents you serve," Councilwoman Laura Friedman said.
On Tuesday, more than 100 employees — many donning red GCEA polo shirts — packed the City Hall chambers and an additional overflow area to voice opposition to the contract imposition.
In September, the union's membership overwhelmingly rejected a proposed one-year contract, characterized as the city's final offer and almost identical to the one imposed Tuesday, with 87% of voting membership casting votes against the proposal.
At that time, city officials declared impasse with the union — which had not been done at City Hall in more than a decade.
On Tuesday, many employees said the action would damage morale and hurt the city's ability to attract future employees.
"If these terms and conditions as proposed are forced upon city workers, the relationship between the GCEA and city management could suffer damage," association President Craig Hinckley said.
Librarian Lyda Truick was brought to tears as she addressed the City Council, pleading with them to reconsider.
"If you impose this contract, I don't know how much longer I can afford to work for a city that I've come to love," she said.
City officials countered that without the reductions, layoffs could be likely as the city continues to see increased costs.
"It could very well be, people like this young lady could find their jobs on the chopping block," City Manager Jim Starbird said.
Union officials in October had offered a counter-offer that called for a two-year contract with three furloughs, or unpaid workdays, this year and four furlough days next year.
"We offered the money they were asking for," said Wendell Phillips, an attorney representing the union.