Do We Owe City Employees Lifetime Employment?
Original post made by Chris, Palo Alto Hills, on Mar 20, 2007
Before the usual suspects drown us in vituperative dogma, it might be interesting to get a rational discussion about the issue started.
Diamond makes some very good points that seem to counter very effectively the union's arguments on cost, quality and safety of outsourced work. She also compares Palo Alto to neighboring cities in a way that makes it look like we have more workers than we need at first blush.
She also confronts head-on the moral/political arguments about what we "owe" the union employees. She says the city's first responsibility is to provide services to its residents in the most efficient way possible. She seems to dismiss any argument that we owe the union employees something "just because" they're on the payroll, regardless of whether they're doing best what the city requires.
Is this right? Are we, in some manner, responsible for the welfare of anyone who works for the city - for life? The mayor's recent state of the city speech indicated just how deep a hole we're in specifically in large part because of pension liabilities. Do we want more of this, or can we shed them by getting rid of any 'excess' employees?
More broadly, given the union flyer Diamond describes, are we on the way to becoming something akin to the old line East Coast Industrial cities where municipal unions are perhaps the strongest political players - players that have to be satisfied before any policy change affecting their interests is made? Is this what we want given that most employees don't even live here?