I have been pushing to open up the collective bargaining process in Long Beach for several years but found little interest on the City Council.
But I am offering it again because I do believe "sun shining" would have prevented some of the mess that we face. Why? Because if voters knew what we were negotiating and city management had to certify that we had the money to pay for what was agreed to, then you bet some prior decisions would never have been made.
Sorry folks, but I am not going to jump on the band wagon of threatening the public employee unions. First of all I do think such a threat constitutes an unfair labor practice charge and is bad faith bargaining at its worst form which violates state labor law.
Secondly it is disingenuous. Every one of the employee unions in Long Beach have indicated they know that there has to be a change in the pension formulas and they are willing to change the formulas. The Mayor and the Council knows that. And we also know that the changes can only be made for FUTURE employees.
Thirdly, it is hypocritical to claim that public employees are acting as if they are entitled to the pensions and the salary increases. Isn't anyone in the news media ever going to point out that it was this Mayor and this Council (including me) who voted to give the employees salary increases a few years ago and that no one during those negotiations on the management side supported using some of the salary increases to pay for the pensions? (Something that the public would have known about if we had "sun shining.") How about reminding the public that because the Mayor and City Council recently negotiated these contracts that the employee contracts are NOT OPEN for changes?
How about also reporting that the public employee groups were presented with options during the budget process that if they accepted the negotiated salary increases that the Mayor and City Council gave them, then cuts would have to be made in their ranks? So they accepted the cuts and now we're pissed??
So are we saying now that we didn't really mean it? That because they didn't put the salary increases WE gave them towards their pensions but accepted the fact that there would be layoffs -- that we were kidding they had a choice?
Fourthly, the majority of the high salaries (over $100,000) and pensions that are constantly complained about in the press and by those handing out the pitchforks for the rallies -- are for management level employees -- not the rank and file employee who picks up our trash, cleans out the sewers, or does a thousand other services. So where is the plan to carefully weed out unnecessary management and to reduce management salaries? Where is the announcement that we will set the example at the top?
Fifthly, threatening that if things don't get better we have to contract out for basic city services is also unwarranted and illogical. Hello. The Los Angeles County Sheriffs and Fire Department are also public employees with similar salaries and pensions.
Do I think pensions need to be fixed? Yes. Do I think public employees should pay more of the share for the pensions? Yes. And when the contracts which THIS MAYOR and THIS COUNCIL agreed to a few short years ago expire, we need to make it the top issue on the bargaining table and we need to let the public know we are doing it.
But I also feel elected officials should be honest and open about the collective bargaining process and what part they had in creating the problems we face -- something that right now is not happening.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011
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