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Big Labor is mustering its strength once again in the South Bay. Public sector unions have tried to push Redondo Beach mayor Steve Aspel around, but he won't be bullied. Now the El Segundo City Council is facing off against their own Big Labor juggernaut, and it looks as if they are going to win. The Daily Breeze reports:
The article has its pro-labor slant, giving the impression that the public sector employees are victims, and the emotional reaction from city residents in the article suggest a lack of understanding about labor policies and local politics.
One of the photos at the beginning of the article carried the following description:
"En masse"? How many people were there, really? One hundred? What about the rest of the city? How many of the working taxpayers can show up and protest a selected number of labor unions seeking more money?
At the height of the recession, the El Segundo police and fire unions shelled out millions to help keep the city afloat.
I have to take exception to this comment. The police and firefighters did not "shell out" money. It was never their money in the first. It was the city taxpayer's money. They never gave anything.
The concessions have continued for seven years — a pay freeze here, furloughs there.
And now, they just want to be left alone.
From what I have learned from city leaders and residents, what I have seen personally in the city: it is a privilege to work in El Segundo. If the police and firefighter do not like the pay, they can work somewhere else.
Dozens of police and fire employees, along with supportive residents, flooded the El Segundo City Council meeting Tuesday night to protest purported cuts forthcoming to the public safety budgets.
Although union contract negotiations are conducted in closed session, union officials have gone public with the details, stating that the city is requesting financial cuts totaling about 11 percent of the police and fire budgets despite projecting a $3 million budget surplus next year.
One again, "en masse" is not the city. "En masse" is made up of the labor union members who come to agitate and intimidate local leaders.
The city is asking that the police and fire association employees start paying the 9 percent contribution to their pension plan, without providing an adequate pay increase to offset it, union officials said.
The fact that these employees are drawing a pension in the first place should placate further demands. It is appalling that these unions keep on demanding and demanding. Who is supposed to pay for these pensions and benefits? If these criticisms seem unfair, further comments below will correct that misunderstanding.
“We’re not asking for raises. We just want the city to stop the cuts,” said Geoff Gerny, vice president of the El Segundo Firefighters Association. “We’ve endured seven years of continuous concessions to balance the city’s budget. Now El Segundo is demanding unreasonable cuts. (The council) is on the precipice of turning El Segundo into a stepping-stone city. This demoralizes everyone that works here. It’s setting up El Segundo for failure, for a complete breakdown.”
So, the world is coming to an end if the city council enacts serious budget reforms and expects city unions to pay their fair share. Wow.
The unions want tit for tat — if the city is proposing the unions pay 9 percent toward pensions, then they want a 9 percent pay increase to match it, making it a wash, he said.
A pay increase in perfect match with higher pension contributions will not save the city or the residents anything. Such gimme gimmicking labor negotiations have no moral standing.
“All the other cities, because they care about their employees, give them raises to offset them paying for their PERS,” said Officer Brandon Browning, president of the El Segundo Police Officers Association. “That’s all we’re asking for. The city has said, ‘We want you to pay our 9 percent, but we’re only willing to give you a 2 percent increase.’ That’s basically a 7 percent cut.”
Here the labor union leader plays the Emoti-Card: "If you make us pay more for our pensions, then you don't care about us!" If the city employees really care about their city, they would stop gouging the taxpayers and be happy with the pay they are receiving.
He said the city also wants to take away longevity pay for police officers, an automatic bump they receive every five years, among other things.
No one should be getting a pay increase just for being on the job. Longevity increases should be commensurate with service. If an individual employee has served for a long period of time, there is nothing wrong with rewarding that employee with more pay, but it should not be automatic.
Meanwhile, he said, the city has told the unions they expect a surplus next year, and that money is not an issue.
“They just feel like we make too much money,” he said. “But all the salary surveys show we’re right in the ballpark, right in the middle.”
This argument "we are right in the middle" is a part of widespread labor tactic called "patterned bargaining". One city gets a pay raise, then employees in another city demand more pay in turn. Other city labor unions then start complaining in turn: "What about us?"
Browning acknowledged that the groups are toward the top of the chart in some areas, but said they are average when it comes to total compensation. Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Culver City are among the cities with a higher base salary than El Segundo, he said.
The last time I spoke with a local activist in the city, one hundred people applied for one firefighter position in El Segundo. If the current labor force in the city does not like the pay, they can go somewhere else. It is time for the city council to call the labor unions' bluff.
Some of the more striking total compensation numbers for city employees on the yearly charts are often due to employees working overtime to fill the roles of those out on leave or the positions that have been reduced, Gerny said.
He said the Fire Department staffing has been cut by 26 percent since 2008, with 14 firefighters now on duty per day, compared to 19 in 2008.
How many fires are there in El Segundo from year to year? Just asking. Did anyone in the firefighters' association provide any information on this matter? Anyone?
For police, the department had 70 officers 10 years ago but 58 officers today, with 10 officers threatening to leave the force if the city imposes its proposed contract, Browning said.
Tell them: "Thank you for your service" and wait for a long list of applicants to step in and take their place.
During the recession, the Police and Fire departments took the brunt of the hits since they make up the majority of the budget, Gerny said.
“Less than 100 people gave the city millions of dollars. Basically, we wrote them checks to balance the budget,” he said. “Now, they’re $3 million in the black, expenses are dropping, revenues are increasing, and they want to come after us and the four other groups. They’re asking fire for $1 million in cuts.”
Excuse me? The Firefigters' Association did not write anyone anything. It was NEVER their money.
Word of the yearlong, tense union negotiations has irked many residents and triggered an online petition, “Save ESPD from budget cuts,” which has garnered 225 signatures and 57 comments since it was posted a week ago.
I wonder who wrote those signatures. They police and firefighters and their family and friends, perhaps.
Dozens of residents showed up at council chambers Tuesday night, holding up blue signs that read, “Stop the Cuts,” pleading with the council to treat the public safety employees fairly or risk losing them to other coastal cities that will pay more.
“Years ago, when the city was struggling and needed help, police and fire helped you get to a number,” resident Lance Giroux said. “Now ... there’s a surplus in the budget. Why are you asking the same people to give you money when there’s a surplus? Why double dip on the guys that helped you get (back to a surplus) in the first place? It seems to be a gratuitous shot at public safety.”
There is a surplus in the budget precisely because the city council stopped handing out money to the labor unions.
Melissa Brankovic, the mother of young children, said she’s scared of what she’s seeing in the city.
“When I see discussions about cuts when we are seeing crime that we never saw before, it is very disheartening,” she said.
The crime issues are connected to other trends, such as Prop 47 (perhaps) and other cultural issues (illegal immigration). Blaming the city council for the crime wave, when the leadership just wants to balance its budgets is just outrageous. Again, there are more people seeking jobs in the public peace and safety core than are leaving. All this fear-mongering is immoral as well as uninformed.
“We’re here for our safety. That’s what really stands out in this town,” echoed resident Tara Van Buskirk. “If you cut the pay of our police and fire, we’re going to be like every other city around here. I’ll just move to Torrance. It’s cheaper.”
Oh give me a break! One resident threatens to move to Torrance because of public safety concerns. There is more crime in this city, too. More police and fire can be hired, but that depends also on the same labor unions which claim to want a fair deal being fair in turn and serving their cities and not just themselves.
But not everyone believes the unions are getting the short end of the stick.
Former City Councilman Mike Robbins said, according to the city’s 2014 earnings data, of the 272 employees, 163 of them were paid more than $100,000 last year.
I am a good friend of Mike Robbins, and he has shown me these data before. Why are more than half the city employees taking in six figure salaries?
Fifteen employees had total earnings of more than $300,000, 27 with more than $250,000 and 55 with more than $200,000, not including medical and other benefits, he said.
What?! I cannot fathom why anyone in the public sector is taking in so large a salary. These large salaries do not include the lavish benefits, either. One can only imagine what the total compensation would look like factoring in the medical, dental and pension benefits, too. Public sector workers are living it up like kings, and the city homeowners, residents, and small businesses have to pick up the tab, long after the employees retire.
Robbins forgot to mention that most of the city employees do not even live in El Segundo, so they extra compensation does not necessarily circulate back into the city, either.
“The unions are campaigning with deceptive scare tactics as usual,” he said. “Cut the wage, cut the fat and cut the union corruption.”
I have a better idea: cut the whole collective bargaining option for public employees in the first place.