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Original post made
on Aug 28, 2009
Attention SEIU Members: If you have to strike, there are many retirees who will march with you.
With someone in the city finally facing reality, the SEIU seems stuck in the twilight zone. According to the story, the average worker gets close to $43,OOO in benefits - far outpacing the average private sector job, which is closer to $20,000. Most of this is for the defined benefit pensions and health care for life which are anachronisms everywhere but in the public sector.
Kudos to Keene for recognizing that these benefits must be curtailed if the entire budget is not to be eaten up by retiree costs. It would be better if the city would lead the way in getting rid of defined benefit pensions completely in favor of 401k's like everyone else But what Keene is proposing is at least a start. Let's see how tough he is in holding to his guns when the Union toughs start their inevitable harassment campaign.
No one is going to have much sympathy for workers complaining about having to pick up 20% of retiree health benefits which aren't available at any price to anyone but municipal workers. (Of course, not many people except municipal workers can retire before Medicare eligibility with 80 percent or more of preretirement salary...)
So let the SEIU strike. Let them stay out a LONG time - saving the city a lot of money in the interim. And if legally possible, let's outsource their jobs to somebody who actually appreciates them.
Bring on the strike!
It has happened before, and back then, the managers actually had to get out there and keep the water flowing and the sewers emptying. I will pitch in and help my neighbors to get their garbage hauled.
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This is not a good time to hit the bricks. It is a worse time for the union to try those sabotage stunts they pulled last time. Let us correct the mistake made last time and include an amnesty for illegal acts by strikers.
Go on strike . Lot of people are looking for a job. Who needs arrogent people? In this economy any one has a job should feel lucky.
I would be very surprised if a strike occurs. There are plenty of reasons and motivations on both sides I suspect to avoid it going to that point. A union like SEIU is like a sleeping giant, it doesn't want to have to be awoken and lumber in swinging (with all the powerful friends both local and national in their corner). And the City of Palo Alto probably has other fish to fry than deal with The Jolly SEIU Giant.
This is all just maneuvering and posturing-- on both sides I suspect.
For the vast majority of working people moving from the defined pension to the 401k's is has been a dismal failure. Another way to line the pockets of the supremely greedy at the expense of the more needy. There was a whole PBS NOW documentary on this a while back.
Gee it seems health care coverage is a big expensive topic. Surprise, surprise, surprise........
Good, bring it on. Happy to take the pain to reset our out of whack cost structure. Remember the air traffic controllers?
Please go on strike. Any job done by an SEIU member can be easily filled or wasn't necessary to begin with.
Amazing the default contempt people here seem to have for the city workers....you'd think they were all just spending their time at the donut shop or something.
I remember the Air Traffic Controllers. That was a national strike when Reagan was President.
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Now it might happen, a strike or lockout that is. But before you all are salivating to go snarl into the night and cast them out, look behind you to see how many are following.
I remember the air traffic controllers also. They were fired by Reagan because they weren't allowed to strike. I guess the implication was that the city workers could be easily fired and replaced. Why all the hostility and resentment? Nobody was envious of those jobs a few years ago. Why should the employees in SEIU be the only ones to make concessions? None of the other bargaining units are taking the heat. Things have to shift but everyone should share the burden.
These workers need to get real and look at the economic situation all of us are facing in the private sector. If they strike they will be striking against us to get benefits that are far richer than virtually any of us gets. We simply can't afford to pay rich pensions and full benefits for the life of city retirees anymore. This is what caused GM to go bankrupt, and it will cause Palo Alto to go under too if we don't hold the line.
The *average* worker receives $115k in salary and benefits? Seriously? For a 9-5 public servant?!?! WTF?
Fire them all, and replace/outsource them now! I work 12-hour days, 6 days a week, at a local "glam" tech startup, and I don't make that kind of coin -- and the only kind of "guarantee" / "job security" I have is that I think they'll still genuinely need me tomorrow, or they'd fire me!
Sorry, but I have *zero* sympathy for whining public-sector employees who are asking for raises while the rest of us are happy to have a job!
Keenan, stick to your guns, and make an example of one or two of these people!!
BTW, what is the deal with the city subsidizing a golf course in the worst economic downturn in a generation!?!? Have we all lost our minds?
To College Terrace Guy....did someone force you to work for a start up?
Isn't the draw of working for a start up that you'll eventually rake in the big bucks? The whole risk/reward concept?
Would you trade all possibility of any further lucrative take off in exchange for the stability and wages/benefits that the city employees now have (and may or may not have in the future)?
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As has been noted; a bad time to strike.
Checking my private-sector paystub, I pay over $6,000 per year as my contribution to my employer's medical/dental/vision plan for my family.
I wish it were "free", but that's just not the real world right now.
The City will go bankrupt, or lose a lot of services (and jobs!), unless costs are brought in line with revenues. So let's get cracking.
Unions are for the weak minded, Get rid of them, they will bankrupt the city.
Maybe Obama can save all of you by taking over the city, and have a Fed agency take over.
Come on people, wake up!
Every other municipality offers the same benefits. No other local city is going bankrupt. It's all spin that the PA politicos are spewing out so they can look good. The only bankrupt one is that pit called Vallejo. It's ruled by gangsters and parolees. Not a good example , so don't try to even compare it to PA.
Take a look at EVERY OTHER city in the area and tell me that PA and it's longtime, dedicated employees are overcompensated. The plain answer is NO.
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Air traffic controllers were not allowed to strike and so were fired. But city employees are allowed to strike, are they not?
Can they be fired or replaced for striking? I've always thought laws around unions prevented that.
That would mean anyone working during the strike, which I suppose could theoretically last forever, would not be a permanent employee; would they get any benefits at all or just salary?
Even if they just get salary, right now it would appear that there are enough people willing and able to take that deal.
When strikers return to the job, do they get back pay for the time they were on strike by law, or is that a negotiation to be made?
There are lots of able bodied people looking for jobs. The city could hire them for less money and break the back of an unnecessary union.
My understanding about the ATC strike is that they were violating a "no-strike clause" in their contract, so they could be and were fired.
The city workers can not be fired for going on strike and do not get paid while they are out. Any worker has the right to cross the picket line and remain at work and get paid. Once the strike is over, the employee goes back to work, with no back pay.
Kind of a related story.
It takes at least a year to find a lineman to come and work for Palo Alto. The City was offering moving expenses and hiring incentives to lure lineman to work here. Palo Alto is not the incredible employer some posters here think it is. We finally hired a very qualified and experienced lineman who started this week. He asked me how much I made last year. I gave him a ballpark number. He looked shocked and said "that might be a problem, I made $50k more than that last year." This has me wondering why I should stay. Then I remember, it's for the benefits.
The City Council is going to ruin the City for years to come. They tout themselves as being on the forefront of new ideas. Trying to compare public to private sector benefits is ignorant. I've completed many projects under budget and before a deadline. Many private sector companies pay bonuses for that. I don't expect a bonus and I don't begrudge the person that gets one. City Council and Jim Keene are driving out people who have extensive institutional knowledge of City works and facilities. This will hugely impact City services.
This will end up like the BART. Both sides will give alittle and there will be no strike. Palo Alto has a hard time keeping employees because of paid.
Mt View and Sunnyvale are giving all their employees raises this year.
Thank you Lineman for the City and Tim, some rationale discussion finally!
I am aghast that people don't have any appreciation of the work that the City Workers do, often dangerous and harder than what a lot of us have ever done.
Funny you should bring up Vallejo...I lived there many years ago and if we could plunk down some of the "fire them all and hire the cheapest labor we can find" crowd into that City for a contrast.
Here is the situation as I see it.
On the one hand no on wants a strike. The union (SEIUS National) doesn't want to expend money and effort on a strike. But, once a strike is sanctioned nationally then the slow moving giant becomes alive. I've seen that in action. The city really knows they can't just hire out everything to low ball bidding (despite the "Even a Caveman Can Do It" attitude expressed by many here). The city doesn't want to take on SEIU, the local striking workers, etc. People here may them no to push it to a strike, but doubt they want to suffer the consequences of the downgraded service.
But counter-balancing that there is a budget crisis. And the union members rightfully are probably in no mood for any significant give-aways.
And things could get out of control on one or both sides such that a strike MIGHT occur.
But I imagine there will be lots of "Come to Jesus" discussions--both between top union officials and the city workers, as well as between city officials--those eager/willing to push it to a strike being told the full ramifications of what would come down. Meanwhile the puffing up, posturing and dance go on.....
I recall a Palo Alto Weekly Article on employee over-time where they reported employee over-time costs.
One employee made $71,431. Holy Cow!
Let them stike.
I want one of the golf course managers jobs.
I would love to see some of those senior managers get off their duffs posting on paloaltoonline, and hit the streets. Let them fix the pot holes, broken pipes, and climb a ladders (up a pole, or down a hole), while we interview the new employees.
Here is the link to The Weekly Article about employee over-time
Having not received a paycheck nor a "Benefit package" since 1975 I have no idea what adequate compensation should be, but pragmatically it ought to be all you can get. Were I to join in the general condemnation of Civil Service I would be unwelcome at family reunions since most of my Sacramento relatives are civil servants. I suggest the City give in on every point in exchange for one point - abandoning compulsory union membership. Alternatively, offer employees a choice between union membership and civil service protection, not both.
Cool. Strike is a good thing. Recession is a terrible thing to waste.
1. Reduce benefits
2. Reduce head count
3. Time to start outsourcing some jobs to India.
I never get "upset" about what someone, who is a hourly employee, makes in overtime. To make that type of money, they need to put in the time.
Now the pensions are another thing.
Will CPA have a registry for replacement workers? I would like to sign up. I need the money.
Those overtime numbers are exactly what the city spinsters want you to buy into. Please note, Police and Fire are essential functions to provide public safety. Also, Public works employees are essential, in case you all have forgotten.
The pensions have nothing to do with overtime. It is not factored in.
Take a look around you. No other cities are pulling this crap. It's the messed up leadership and City council. I agree that pension reform is due, but DEFINITELY NOT on the backs of workers who have put the time and effort in for their promised compensation. Pulling the rug out from someone is a nasty, nasty trick. But, isn't that how the good ol' US of A was built? Through greed and deception of men in power, that's how.
I would like to respond right now but I don't have time to. This week I've worked 60 hours and I just got called back in to work again.
Please click: Web Link
You can not compare the public and private sector. That is like comparing police to private security. They just don't compare. A city is a service providing agency an company is a profit driving organization.
With that said, during good and bad times public workers have always gotten benefits in exchange for other compensation, such as, a bonus, stock options and so on. Over the years they have exchanged such things as wage increases for more pick up of retirement and healthcare. That is the way it works. I used to be a public worker and I did that work because I loved serving the public and because it was secure. Many of my friends were making lots of money during the hight of economy and if you avaraged it out over the 15 years they still made twice as much a me if you included my healthcare and retirement. My friends decided that they would risk making that money for a less secure job. That is fine. Now we are in a downturn where everyone knows someone who is hurting, it is hard out there.
I am sorry, I do not see how the City of PA should be using this to strip healthcare from workers or take less money out of there pockets. That does not help the economy. Just like our tax dollars pay public worker salaries, their salaries pay ours in one way or another. We are all dependant on one another. That is the way it works. Also, we just got out of eight years of fear politics. Those people used fear to strip our rights and tax money. Where did all that money go? It went to further an income divide that has grown to a high maching that right before the great depression.
Now is not the time to be doing this. If the City workers offered to do furloughs as early as the reports say you know they have more room to move. Most companies and public agencies are doing it and I think that is the way to go. Do some help for the problems right now and wait and see for the long term.
Is our City really hurting as bad as they claim? I now work in San Jose and their roads, etc., are in far worse shape than ours?
Last, no matter how any of us feel can we stick to issues, slamming people because you don't have the same healthcare or retirement is much like wanting your neighbors house to burn down because your's did. We should all want secured healthcare and retirement and I am glad these workers are holding the line for that as it leaves it out there for us to try to get.
You know this is all Kline and Burt. We should do a recall on them both. Healthcare is the biggest issue right now and they are moving this council in the direction of Bush. We voted near 70% for Obama in PA and should be with our City employees on this one. I guess we could just vote Kline out in November. Also, isn't one them running for state office? If they are we should see where they stand on this and then make sure they don't win.
One thing that surprised me greatly when I moved here recently was the number of libraries and paid library employees -- and after last year's proposition the commitment of yet more money to library renovations. In most towns I've lived in that have been of comparable size, there have been signficantly fewer libraries with smaller paid staff and many more volunteers. I just don't understand the overstaffing, especially in an age where libraries compete with downloadable books and the internet. If the City wants to cut fluff, I'd look hard at how comparably-sized towns handle their library systems and start scaling back there. I'm a huge library fan and user, but that seems to be one area that's grown way out of control here in Palo Alto.
There is a lot of skilled unemployment in the Bay Area today.
If there is a strike, the city could choose to fire its striking workers and replace them with cheaper, and not less skilled, labor from the rest of the Bay Area.
Are you sure a strike is a good idea?
Welcome to Palo Alto. Obviously you're a new arrival. Anyone proposing closing of a branch library or a consolidation of services is hung, drawn and quartered. Libraries are used as free child care centers, and a strike will adversly affect this mission.
I just can't wait to see the managers try to run their new dysfunctional Utilities system.
Does it mean I need to keep an eye on the Utilities bill to make sure the consumptions were recorded correctly? Do I need to keep an eye on the bill to make sure there is no double billing again?
The error will only be corrected when the customer calls in. Who will take the phone calls? who will fix the errors? Or will they wait for the SEIU workers to come back to take care of the mess?
Until then, the residents will see who are the non-skill/ low-skill workers at the city; the place where popularity is rated much higher than capability.
Maybe because you are new to the city, you aren't aware that several years ago there was a move to close the multiple libraries and build one big one but it was met with such strong opposition, the idea was dropped. AND, the existing libraries have lost multiple positions in the past few years, leaving most branches with a skeleton staff. Don't fool yourself into thinking that they are working with a surplus of employees. It simply isn't true. Maybe because those working in the libraries, are giving it their all so things run smoothly....that there's a false impression that they must be overstaffed.
Actually the City could find much of the money in question if it abandoned the dysfunctional SAP database and installed a cost-effective, off-the-shelf system.
I have to laugh. What would turn taxpayers off more than anything else? Ask them to pay more in a time when they earn less and have less security, to people who have guaranteed jobs and are asking for more money.
That is really, really a good one.
The union needs to fire whoever is representing them and be grateful they have the great paying, steady work. And they CERTAINLY need to stop whining about "overtime", when there are many of us who would LOVE to pick up the slack, but are prevented from doing so because of union rules and contracts.
There are way toooooo many libraries in Palo Alto for it's small size. Reduce the libraries by 50% and everything will still run smooth AND save money. More effeciency grouped together in a larger building(s) for everyone.
To cc: My understanding is that the fire and police do count overtime in retirement pay -- am I incorrect on this? Am not sure about other city employees.
The 2.7 at 55 formula is incredibly excessive. It doesn't stop at 2.7% per year of service, but moves up to at least 3% per year of service after age 55, which means they could earn 90%+ of their highest salary for a long, long time if they are a career employee. In take home pay, that's more than they earned while working. A strong retirement system is fair and necessary to support public servants, but let's be reasonable. When we read stories about police officers who retire with a pension of $155k and year at age 50 and then take another city job at $160k a year ($315k/yr in public money), we should recognize that the system is in need of some adjustments.
I agree that comparing private/public sector doesn't make alot of sense. So, to give you a reference point, not all public servants are compensated in the way area cities choose: the average salary of California State University professors with a Ph.D. and 20 years of service is about $78,000 a year. Their retirement formula is 2% at 55, moving gradually to 2.5% if retiring at 65. This year, all professors were given a pay cut of 10%. They're calling it furloughs, but made no adjustment in teaching loads, thus it's pay cut. There are city administrative assistants who make more than that.
I am not advocating that cities pay as poorly as the CSU, however, there is a limit to what our taxes can cover. It's important that the union negotiators be cognizant of economic realities and be willing to share the pain.
Looking for work. Sorry you're still looking.
Here are some facts that contradict your post.
"to people who have guaranteed jobs and are asking for more money."
No job is guaranteed. SEIU asked for a two year extension with no raises, except for those who are paid well below what market data shows.
The City workers aren't the ones whining about overtime, it's the people who believe what the local press prints. You can apply for a job with the City online. Do you have state and federally mandated water certifications to work on drinking water or gas lines? Are you willing to random drug testing like most of utilities? Even the administrative asst. who answers the phones in the gas department can be randomly tested. Do you have the slightest idea how to trim a tree to a residents liking and will still prevent disease or infestation? Can you climb a power pole and handle 12,000 volt wires? Can you operate a back-hoe and dig around pressurized gas lines? Are you certified to work on fire trucks? It takes special certifications to work on fire trucks. Can you calibrate water, electric, or gas meters? They are like the cash registers of the city, they have to be right. Do you have any expertise in building inspections? Miss something here and there could be a serious fire hazard. Our electrical inspectors are continually making contractors fix installations. The contractors always say "that's good enough for PG&E." So go to the City's site and submit an application.
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Good post with one correction.
Most of the retirement factors increase after 55. The 2.7% factor caps at 2.7%.
Of the 476,252 retirees with CalPERS about 1% make over $100k a year. Most make about $1,900/month.
Greenmeadow Resident: You said...
"When we read stories about police officers who retire with a pension of $155k and year at age 50 and then take another city job at $160k a year ($315k/yr in public money), we should recognize that the system is in need of some adjustments."
That very well may be true, but police officers are not part of SEIU. SEIU is the lowest earning group in the city, and SEIU is being asked to bear the biggest burden of the City's "supposed" bugget woes. While the average SEIU member is making 70k, a great number of them are working for 15k-20k less, and they're being asked to pay the same amount of healthcare as those better compensated.
Adobe-Meadows resident: You wrote...
"When I see City workers asleep in their truck in Mitchell Park I ask why are we paying these guys. Strike, then we can fire you all. Meanwhile Supervisors or a contractor can be hired to repair any broken sewer line."
Would you rather these giant service trucks park in front of your house while they take their lunch break? If you ever see a city employee abusing the system, you should report it to their supervisor instead of making incorrect assumptions as to what the employee is doing. Do you want them to hang signs on their vehicles saying that they're on their lunch break? Would that make you happy?
I work with a small group of civil servants who have taken furlough's, benefit cuts, but we're all dedicated, happy to serve the tax payers, and happy to have a job in these times. Let them strike and let them lose their jobs--maybe they will appreciate what they had. Why do SEIU employees feel as if they are providing some special community service that no one else can. SEIU employees do the bare minimum to keep their jobs and the only effort they put forth is when their precious benefits are in jeopardy. If they'd only put forth the same effort towards their jobs, perhaps the community would be more supportive. Go to the HR website and take a look at the salaries and benefits. $1,500 a year for professional development and $2,500 a year to cover out of pocket medical expenses--are you kidding me? Mr. Keane--fire them all and hire from within your own well qualified community. The City will save $$ and have a more qualified staff that will produce the quality results the citizens of Palo Alto deserve.
Overtime does NOT increase the retirement pay for hourly employees. The Post was WRONG when it said it did.
Your retirement pay is base on your highest of your last three years of base pay only.
I repeat- OVERTIME DOES NOT INCREASE THE RETIREMENT PAY!!!!!!
The argument commonly presented here that SEIU members "chose" lower paying but secure jobs over private sector jobs with bonuses and stock options during the tech boom is laughable.
First most private sector workers in the kinds of jobs SEIU members hold never qualified for much in the way of bonus and stock option pay - even in the valley at the height of the tech boom. A lot of press was focused on secretaries at Google-level startups reaping millions of IPO money, but these stories cover a tiny fraction of Valley workers. Most workers - during the boom and now - didn't and don't work for startups. The majority don't even work for tech firms. Secretaries at your local auto dealer don't have stock options...and they don't have pensions starting at age 55 either. And even in the startup game, the fraction of people seeing payouts of any size is infinitesimal. Most stock options go to founders and technical employees - not to staff workers.
In Palo Alto, we have cement finishers earning over $70,000 per year, along with retirement and health benefits that no-one in the private sector working at such jobs (or any other jobs) get. Which stock option granting, bonus paying private sector jobs did these cement finishers turn down to take a "lower paying" high benefit position in the city?
There's no reason the city has to have jobs like cement finishers at all. This kind of work can be contracted out to private firms at MUCH lower cost to the taxpayers. A lot of SEIU members work in such jobs.
There are some jobs that are particular to municipal government. But do we really need to pay lavish pensions to employ them? I'd guess they'd still be sticking around if we went to a 2% at 60 instead of a 2.7% at 55 system - or even to a less generous payout system - like Social Security and a good 401k. We just can't afford these retirement benefits.
THe purpose of city government, contrary to the apparent beliefs of union members posting here, is NOT to provide the best possible pay and benefit package to its workers; it's to provide the services residents expect in the most efficient way possible.
We've lost sight of this simple truth in the past few decades. It's time to find it again.
To Former CPA employee (which I doubt)
"Go to the HR website and take a look at the salaries and benefits. $1,500 a year for professional development and $2,500 a year to cover out of pocket medical expenses--are you kidding me? Mr. Keane--fire them all and hire from within your own well qualified community. The City will save $$ and have a more qualified staff that will produce the quality results the citizens of Palo Alto deserve."
That is not a benefit of an SEIU employee, that is a benefit of a manager. In fact, that is something the SEIU union has a problem with, and thinks should be changed. The amount of misinformation I'm reading on this thread is truly amazing.
I hope you and the other city workers don't assume that the people posting here represent some cross section of the Palo Alto citizenry. It pains and disgusts me to see all the "peasants, replace them with new chattel" type attitudes exhibited here.
I suppose it's a bit of human nature to just assume that some job can be easily done by any drone with an IQ of 10 or 20. Many years ago, when in my 20's, I worked for years for a garbage company in the central valley. We got paid for getting the shift done. These routes were laid out and planned to take 8 hours. The city had several different companies (so the houses to be picked up were a bit of a checkerboard) and had large areas that were rural to semi-rural as well as the "downtown" area.
So we started running through the route. We also got creative with how we approached it. And we got the route done in about 3 to 5 hours depending on the day. The bosses got PO'd about this and then consolidated a bit....but this ironically allowed us to get it done even faster as a couple of us decided to work together (the truck going to the dump leaves it's non-driver to help, and more creative ways of approaching).
So one fine day we finished and went in....some little spark ignited a big yelling fest (they tried to give us even more) and we all just quit en masse......
For days we watched as the owners family was out driving with people trudging along and it was taking them 10 or more hours to finish, in Central Valley summer heat. We would toss back a beer and jeer. They hired us all back.
My point is that even jobs which a reasonable person might think are a bit of a no-brainer actually take skills (a good book describes this..."First Go Break All the Rules"). For ours it took a while to get up to speed and we carried the hook cans on our back (none of this curbside wheels only). So your shoulder had to adapt by the bones having a bit of a notch developed also.
Later we organized a union and there was a big strike. We sent in our friends to "work". They would empty only 1/2 or less of the cans, then mid shift "oops" and crush the large aluminum cans (the ones carried on the back) in the compactor. Plus it was a college town, was in the 70's, I had friends and contacts.......
The end result was that the City got fed up, tossed out the various small companies, and signed on with Sunset Scavenger. So somewhere out there some Vito's and Vinny's owe me a favor!
So, a city strike maybe? Time to dust off my old skills and lend a hand!
You're absolutely correct, the $2,500 is a management benefit. So tell me....all full time city staff receive 100% coverage medical, dental, and vision. What would be an example of an out of pocket medical expense? Gym memberships??? Since your a source of SEIU info., tell us how much do SEIU employees receive for professional development? And does this profofessional development include purchases of home computers, home office equipment etc,,,And if it does, explain why a golf course greens keeper would need a home computer and home office furniture to enhance his/her ability to maintain a golf green?
I do not know, but I'm not about to speculate as others are so ready to do.
To Resident, you got the wrong union in your statement, police and fire make 3%@50. You will have to wait until next year to complain about that group.
To Former CPA employee, same thing wrong employee group. Numbers you are stating are for management employees, by the way, who are also in labor negotiations with the city but have failed to offer any reduction in their salary and benefits package and still in line to receive bonus's this year ,but you would know this as a former CPA employee.
Currently there are less than 750 active retired CPA employees, many over 65 and on medicare. It is unfortunate that city council and city manager dismiss employees concerns and continue to let their employees hang in the wind and take no pride in the employees they currently have working under them. It is truly a statement of the level of discourse within the city and a morale problem for both the city and it's residents.
Hopefully the media will also focus their efforts of notifying residents equally on current employee negotiations regarding the CPA Management Group whose benefit package far outweighs any other employee groups within the city. Maybe we can even get some information where the $2 million for the city managers house will come from.
Your answers are here: Web Link
Section 10. Tuition Reimbursement and Training Programs
(a) City will reimburse expenses for tuition, books and curriculum fees incurred by
non-probationary employees within the representation unit, to a maximum of
$1,000 per fiscal year, for classes given by accredited institutions of learning or
approved specialized training groups. The City will also reimburse professional
association memberships and conference registration fees, professional books
For purposes of this subsection, tuition does not include costs for equipment or
tools (except for computer hardware and software), if the employee may keep
such items at the end of the course.
(b) Purchase of job-related computer software, hardware, high-speed internet access,
telecommunication equipment and home office equipment/furniture may be
reimbursed under the Section (a) $1,000 tuition reimbursement benefit.
Consumables (i.e. printer ink, paper, batteries, etc.) do not qualify for
The non-probationary requirement will be waived for probationary employees
when submitting reimbursement for job-required certifications.
All programs eligible under this section must either contribute to the employee's
job performance or prepare the employee for other City positions, and must be
approved in advance. City employees wishing to engage in educational programs
involving working time may be granted rescheduled time if departmental
(c) Employees assigned by the City to attend meetings, workshops, or conventions of
their professional or technical associations shall have their dues and reasonable
expenses paid by departmental funds and shall be allowed to attend such
workshops, meetings, and conventions on paid City time.
(d) Requests for tuition reimbursement will be determined to be taxable income
unless sufficient documentation is provided to support how the course or seminar
is related to improving performance in the employee's current position.
Reimbursement requests may be submitted at any time, but will be batch
processed on a quarterly basis.
(e) Health club/gym membership reimbursement of these expenses is taxable to the
I have taken night classes at De Anza for accounting, leadership, and business. The tuition reimbursement helped pay for my classes. There are two people in my department who will be getting their B.A. soon. P.A. has this program to assist it's employees became more educated. Of the 600+ eligible to receive this money only half ever do.
As for the out of pocket expenses for management. Just because the premium is 100% paid doesn't mean there aren't other costs. The PersChoice health plan has a $1000 deductible.
A Noun Ea Mus:
I've had many a conversation about the group that posts here. Through my 13 years here I've met quite a few wonderful business owners and residents. It is a little disheartening to read some of the opinions the few that post here but I know they don't have the prevailing sentiment.
Someone once told me, "You haven't experienced rude until you've experienced 'Palo Alto rude.'"
Here's a question I have for the SEIU Leadership overall, not just Palo Alto.
What do you folks see actuarially and for union member's job security in light of changed circumstances for municipal employers and employees in the last 5-10 years?
I highly value the people that are part of the SEIU here in Palo Alto, but that really is not the issue, IMHO. Rather, it is that the compensation and retirement models that made sense in a prior era no longer work in our current times.
I think the SEIU leadership for workers all over the state need to think through just what makes sense for their members going forward, and not use exisitng paradigms as a basis for current negotiation.
We must change the rules of engagement. We need something that the tax payers, the citizens, and the workers find simpatico going forward. Trying to negotiate from the existing arrangements is BS.
Our City Manager is setting an example that will apply to cities all over California. That is what the union leadership is concerned about. The union folks in charge instead need to take a more constructive view of what the future holds for their workers, and work with PA City management to an outcome that makes sense for union workers in PA going forward.
It will lead to similar outcomes with other cities all over California.
This is not a Palo Alto issue, it is a state wide issue, and Palo Alto is leading the way. Management should not capitulate due to local circumstances.
There are a couple ways that this situation could develop into a strike.
One is what I'd call the "Accidental Strike"---a combination of bad timing, bad luck, and bitter feuding personalities overwhelms the usual disincentives for a strike (even Federal Mediators over run).
The other way would be what I refer to as "The Gettysburg Syndrome". In the battle at Gettysburg the armies just happened to swirl around the town, but the decision to fight was a forgone conclusion.
Which takes me to Mr. Losch's comments.
If some SEIU member forwards his comments to national SEIU leadership and a reply is forthcoming maybe it will be posted here. I will not hold my breath....My take is that by phrasing it as a question to SEIU leaders it can "lift and separate" his comments from the rabidly insulting comments directed towards the City Workers. I'm just not so much a boob that I see it as really directed towards the Union.
It seems that Mr. Losch hopes/wishes/believes/knows that a plan is underway to in fact use the City of Palo Alto's management/labor negotiations as a sort of "Shoot out in the OK Corral" in order to ransack the "the compensation and retirement models", or "not use existng paradigms as a basis for current negotiation", and that "Trying to negotiate from the existing arrangements is BS" plus "Our City Manager is setting an example that will apply to cities all over California". And I sense a belief that the City of Palo Alto will then be prepared to sacrifice such that "It will lead to similar outcomes with other cities all over California."...As goes Palo Alto so goes the state!
Does anyone think that national SEIU leaders will say "hey you're right come to think of it! Despite the fact that billions of taxpayer dollars have gone into the coffers of the rich, despite the fact that much of the benefits we need to fight for could more easily be handled by a Single Payor Healthcare System, despite the fact that we have a Senate/Congress/President that is more pro-labor than any time in recent history, despite the fact that Palo Alto is a fairly liberal/Democratic town and next to a major University (students agitating there for a living wage for employees there) yeah we'll just cave."????
But then the question wasn't for union leaders really. Much like the phone "surverys" by Stanford.
If it's a statewide issue, if Palo Alto is being chosen to be the "Gettysburg" for this conflict, then let's also not pretend that the opposition to such will view it as just a local issue, nor solely arise from local resources, nor capitulate due to the "local circumstances".
I suspect this is just wishful thinking....unless there is some consulting group hired to arrange this and raking in the money. convincing people this is a viable option.
If SEIU strikes, we can gleefully break the strike. SEIU is a thugocracy, and Palo Alto will learn that very quickly, once the strike occurs. Palo Alto needs to hire consultants experienced with breaking strikes, because our current council does not have the experience in such things.
I'd like to comment but I've just been called back to work. Wires are arcing at the 200 block of Lowell.
Paul Losch makes a very important point, even if it's in his typical bureaucratese. It's sad to see A Noun Ea Mus treat him dismissively.
Losch's main point is that the compensation packages that Palo Alto city employees (and all government employees in the state) have now are unaffordable. Whether this is true is an empirical question, and the answer to any casual observer is unavoidably that it is.
If government compensation packages of the current sort are unsustainable, then it's only a matter of time before they're adjusted (via Vallejo-style bankruptcy, taxpayer revolt, or similar). It would be to everyone's advantage - especially SEIU members - if they'd accept Losch's suggestion to be constructive participants in this inevitable process.
If the SEIU goes the route of obstruction, thuggery, and other similar tactics, we'll have a lot of unnecessary strife without advantaging workers in the long run.
We can no longer afford the kinds of benefits that have become common in California for government workers. THe sooner everyone faces up to that fact, the better off we'll all be.
"SEIU is a thugocracy"
Yes, but Palo Alto is a kakistocracy.
It will be interesting to see how things work out....
What are the scenarios in this matter.
Can Palo Alto fire everyone who strikes and re hire at a market rate?
Can I quote you with a small modification that really shows where a huge amount of our tax payer money is wasted:
"We can no longer afford the kinds of benefits that have become common in California for Illegal Aliens. THe sooner everyone faces up to that fact, the better off we'll all be."
The current employees, if they go on strike, cannot be fired. And who in the world do you think could step right in to the multitude of jobs within the city? There are actually skills required to do these jobs! I hope there are less hostile solutions to this problem.
Outside Observer, if you were taking a history class dealing with Attila the Hun's invasion of Rome, would you insist the course be titled "Illegal Aliens Invade the Roman Empire"?
Does the City of Palo Alto have any illegal aliens on it's payroll? Is this issue at all relevant to the discussion?
I did not dismiss Mr. Losch's post. Actually the opposite, though clearly I come from a bit of a different perspective.
To mutate an old song of Dusty Springfield....I don't know though if it reveals..
"Wishing and hoping and dreaming.......or planning" (it won't get the strike to start)....can't think of how to work "the kiss" in...
If there is a plan to force a strike, do a lockout...how will City Officials handle the problem that their most vocal and rabid supporters on a strike issue also are their most fervent critics and seem to have enormous amounts of personal disdain for them? And that they seem to think the City Officials can just walk into El Fornaio and ask "got any extra waiters or dishwashers we can hire to run the city?" (oh wait no illegals, hmmmm).
I suspect that the union workers know full well that in today's climate they may have to forgo some raises, allow some mild take-backs--which they have already agreed to and (before any settlement) may full well agree to some more. There is a budget crisis, the property tax revenue is falling, etc. But what seems to be being called for by many here is a wholesale rollback.
A few years back I was on a negotiating team-- on the union side. The institution claimed that it had lost a ton of money and was desperately demanding that pay raises be frozen, other cost saving measures. The union side dismissed this and wanted to "see the books". Management declined. Finally a mediator came in and insisted that management show the books. Then the books were sent to Washington DC where top union financial experts reviewed them. It became patently obvious that 1) yes there had been major losses and 2) the reason for these losses revealed a level of incompetence which boggled the mind. They didn't want this information revealed! But, like in a poker game, the union had called the bluff, the bluff had been real, and so the union had to agree to freezing salaries for a specified amount of time. I recall the Business Agent laughing and describing the rank incompetence revealed, yet also saying how now we needed to give a bit.
"Can Palo Alto fire everyone who strikes and re hire at a market rate?"
The market rate is always a mix of supply/demand also the level of organization, muscle and political power. You are proposing to drop the market rate. Perhaps property taxes need to be jacked up such that we see more Lexus and Mercedes "For Sale, Desperate" signs around as we ensure a working wage and benefits people can live on (medical care and retirement). Then, if there is still a financial crisis take it from there. The taxes on the wealthy have been dropped way to much over the last few decades. Now the greed knows no bounds and many are very eager to plunge everyone they can into abject poverty in order to keep getting theirs.
Enough is enough.
Remember the SF Longshore Strike of 1933 (well not remember but it happened) in the middle of the depression.
I think the folks who work for the city by and large do a wonderful job. Happy to have them and grateful for their work.
That being said, I think Paul and Anna are 100% correct: We can no longer afford to pay public sector folks with these huge trailing benefits packages. As others have observed, pay and benefits have been slashed to the bone for most working in the private sector. I know a LOT of people who have taken pay cuts, and almost everyone I know is paying a bigger share of current benefits with NO PENSION and NO FUTURE BENEFITS.
And the salaries are just not that different any more.
As the BART outcry showed, even longtime democrats (I campaigned and voted for Obama!) can no longer support the generosity to workers that we wish we could. No one is being that generous with any workers right now.
I hope there's no strike, I would deplore any massive firing (which I think is totally impossible in this situation anyway--and should be!) but I also think union members need to realize that the environment for ALL of us is difficult. In my view, this is not a time to strike. It's a time for compromise.
A Noun Ea Mus,
I think you didn't take my modified quote of Anna in the way it was intended. Her comment was about the state, not Palo Alto. My modified quote was for the state. Indeed, I don't believe there are any illegal immigrants on the Palo Alto payroll.
But it is all tax money, and the state is holding back moneys that should go to Cities, thus indirectly Palo Alto is suffering from the the benefits given to illegal aliens.
Case in point: It cost $50,000/year to keep an illegal alien criminal in prison in California. Add to that free health care on the tax payer's dime (and isn't it hypocritical that so many Palo Altans want to dump health care for municipal workers, while they have no problem paying for it for illegal immigrant criminals).
The one thing I wish Schwarzenegger was able to pull off in the budget negotiations was the deportation of illegal immigrant criminals.
Would they come back, yes, of course, because we refuse to enforce immigration law. However, if there were a monetary incentive to the corrupt Mexican government to insure these criminals were incapable of returning, it would be far cheaper in the long run than supporting illegal immigrant criminals in our prisons.
Outside of that misunderstanding, I think we are on the same page re: city workers......
The City shouldn't back down in anyway to SEIU. The cuts described here are very reasonable considering what the private sector has experienced in this recession. If SEIU doesn't like it, let them walk out---and hopefully the City will replace the strikers with lower-paid workers, saving us taxpapers money.
I am a former employee of Redwood City for ten years. I took a small cut in pay to work for the City of Palo Alto in 2003. Two of my former co-workers also came to the City of Palo Alto for a combined work experience of 30 years!
We came here not for the money,healthcare, or retirement. We had the same benefits when we worked for Redwood City. We came to Palo Alto because we wanted to work with the best city workers in the Bay Area. That is the rep. that you have. The best city employees in the Bay Area, because we work for the best city in the Bay Area.
The City wants us to pay 38% of our healthcare not 20%. That comes to $500 a month. One months pay a year. One years pay every Ten years. It would cost me a total of $108,000 dollars from now until I retire.
No other city in the Bay Area is asking this of their workers. Do you want to compete for the best talent when working in, and running your city services? Do you want to loose your highly trained and certified workers to another city? When Palo Alto advertises for a job opening and list the benefits who will beleive them?
I do not want to strike, but I will fight to keep what I have and what was promised to me. I can also leave the City if I want, and will if this contract is approved, not because I want to, but because I can't afford it! I can work for the city that I live in and not commute for better pay and benefits.
P.S. I just worked 60 hours of overtime that saved the City $100,000 that they would have paid if contracted out! They paid me a few thousand dollars in overtime instead! You do the math!
Ya, you can make cuts to your budget and set a new trend for all other cities to follow by losing 20% of your employees by the way of early retirement and another 20% to other cities! GO PALO ALTO!
A Noun Ea Mus is nothing if not imaginative. Portraying the city's current labor negotiations with the SEIU as a union busting tactic where the city is protecting wealthy Lexus owners by stealing from downtrodden workers desperate to protect their "working wage" might have the makings of a good movie script about the 1930's labor strife (his reference to the SF Longshoreman's strike is revealing), but it has little relevance to Palo Alto city workers in 2009.
Even if the City were to get everything it's proposing in the current negotiations, SEIU workers would still have benefits and pensions that anybody not living in the separate fantasy world of California government workers can't even dream of. To suggest otherwise only shows how an entitlement mentality has affected our city workers. If the SEIU pushes this line of reasoning, or treats this as 1930's style labor dispute, they'll get scant public support even here in Palo Alto.
Humble but Real makes a more nuanced point. It's true that government workers all over the state have unaffordable benefit packages. And the unions typically point to other cities that are paying lavish pensions to support their demands. City governments typically cave in because, after all, it's only taxpayer money the politicians and city managers have at risk - not their own.
But now the well is dry ( there are not many more Lexus owners left to fleece, Ea Noun Ea Mus). So if Palo Alto is the "leader" it claims to be, starting to throttle back these luxury retirement packages is a good way to begin showing it. Other cities will be following suit because they nobody can afford this anymore.
There are other ways to cut labor costs (which are upwards of 80% of most city budgets). As pointed out above, we could contract out much of the SEIU work to private firms that aren't burdened by ridiculous labor contracts. (Anybody know why the city needs to employ cement finishers at 70,0000+ per year with pension benefits?) This process is starting in many cities and will be accelerated if the SEIU continues to be unreasonable.
The state (and the city for that matter) waste lots of money on illegal aliens and on other things. But labor is by far the most expensive part of city budgets. And cutting labor expenses is essential if the city is to regain sustainability in its finances.
Any arguments about city pay packages have to deal with this simple mathematical truth.
I already purchased candles, bottled water, and a propane heater! If the City has its way the city workers will leave and nobody in their right mind will want to work here!
To the Union member complaining of paying one month's pay per year for his insurance: I sure wish that were all of my yearly pay I had to pay for my insurance and health care of my family!
I really would wake up and start looking around at what it is the taxpayers are living! You are living in an insulated world.
Or, better yet, just wait until the unions get their way, and we are all on universal health care, and see what MORE you pay...for less care.
In the meantime, I would be extremely grateful if all I had to pay was $500/month for my family for the the great health care unions get ( and how much is your deductible? Your co-pay?)
The "revealing" mention of the 1933 Longshoreman's strike was to remind people that just because we are in a depression and everyone things people are desperate that it would be an easy thing to win a forced strike. There are plenty of people posting here with "let them strike and we'll just hire the cheapest we can find" and calling that the market.
I have no idea if the current negotiations are just the tip of the iceberg in some "union busting tactic". I initially said I would bet that all this is just initial maneuvering and posturing on both sides, that a strike is very unlikely. Then when Mr. Losch posted his perspective, and knowing his position and potential vantage point, responded--as one way of interpreting what he wrote is that Palo Alto is schedule to be the tip of the spear driven deep into unions statewide. It could be just wishful thinking born from years of frustration. Or more.
If there is some deep agenda to all of this, what is more likely than expensive consultants (who are usually Bozo's and just take the money and run) mixed with a plan to replace the workers with some strike breaking outfit....is that a backroom deal has been made, perhaps on a state level, that a strike will be forced and then PG&E will asked to come in and "rescue".
Watching a documentary the other night..."The Smartest Guys in the Room" all about how Enron, Bush, purposely cut off power to California and helped bankrupt the state, get Grey Davis impeached and Arnold elected. Cost us billions. Once again the only way to make up for this consistent level of criminal and social stealing is to go after the whole class via increased progressive tax---one to restore it to previous levels, retribution for past losses, and punitive. But it's easier to complain about "illegal aliens" while we still hire them as gardeners and maids, whine loudly when stock prices plummet and we compare our portfolio's to wages and benefits of city workers. But when people complain about the widening pay gap over the last 30 years between CEO's and workers....oh that is called "class war".
I have no inside information, nor am I anti SEIU. I merely am pointing out, as I have for several years, that the structure for compensation and retirement packages, for all municipal employees in Palo Alto and statewide, is actuarially unsustainable.
You clearly have a point of view, and appear to be a thoughtful person. You insuate way too much into what I say. Please don't do that. Stick to facts and your own point of view, don't second guess my thoughts.
What disappointments me in your comments is that you do not seem to perceive that there is a financial challenge that cities all over the state, including Palo Alto, face with the current structure of compensation and retirement benefits. This is not an ideological battle. This is not a question of whether this city or other cities should have employees or outside contract workers performing certain work.
We have a terrific work force in Palo Alto, as has been mentioned by earlier posters. I see that first hand in the work I do as a volunteer Parks and Recreation Commissioner.
We must act responsibly going forward in providing fair and fiscally responsible compensation packages for all employees who work for the city. This goes beyond SEIU workers.
I tire very quickly when rhetoric is invoked around national matters such as the financial crisis we have faced of late, let alone the chicanery of Enron, although I was totally repulsed by that entire fiasco. It has limited, if any, relevance to the matters at hand. It distracts, it does not inform.
I fear that the union supporters are refrying some old fish. Enron has nothing to do with our situation in Palo Alto, other than that we readily agreed to buy futures contracts from Enron to ensure our electricity supply. California refused to build new power plants, and we were forced to buy electicity from out-of-state producers, during the dot-com boom. CPA utilities thought that it was a very smart idea to sign a deal with Enron. It probably was, but then the dot-bust collapse occurred, electrcity demand followed, and we still owed Enron. If the union sympathizers want to claim the $$million spent on the Enron contract, then where were they when nuclear power plants were being proposed for California?
The bottom line with unions is that they extort whatever they are allowed to extort. Palo Alto has only taken them on one time in the past few decades. That strike was a real eye opener for the management staff, becasue they were forced to go out and get the essential jobs done. They discovered how much featherbedding was occurring, and adjustments were made. It is now time for another strike, the sooner the better.
Palo Alto has refused to hold the line against union demands, because our city council members are not fighters against unions. Now we are stuck in a hard place. This why I think we need some outside contractors to handle the strike. I can only hope that our city manager is making contact with such contractors, as we speak. Strikes are not pretty things.
In referecne to Paul Losch, I don't see why Palo Alto is leading anything state-wide. We have our own issues, and we need to respond to them. Others can follow or ignore or oppose. Let's just focus on ourselves.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Apparently, the last time there was a strike in the 70's, there was some sabotage.
Does the city have plans to deal with this kind of activity if it occurs?
Palo Alto is on the verge of making a national name for itself if it cuts these long promised and earned benefits. It would not be the first time PA has been a laughing stalk, or the object of mass disdain.
If Jim Keene thinks he's going to make new friends or start a national wave of cutting the throats of dedicated workers, he's got a rude awakening, and a long (or very very short) path in front of him. Well sometimes change takes a lifetime...
And sometimes change causes grief, suffering and even death. Is that what people really want? Ruining lives creates desperate people and desperate people have nothing to lose.
Just look at the change in Iraq. It caused all of the above and more. All because of poor decisions. You can never go back and do it over.
Changes are needed. Just NOT for long time employees. Change will happen, trust me, this is not the way, with these proposed cuts. There needs to be a new system for new employees.
If the changes proposed by the city go through, it will no doubt be disappointing to city workers who've been counting on the relatively lavish benefit packages the currently have. But "grief, suffering, death...ruined lives"? After all, even with the proposed changes, city workers will have benefits that no one in the rest of the working world can even dream of. Nobody will be forced into involuntary penury with the benefit changes being proposed.
That being said, cc does have a good suggestion regarding a two tier system. Whether benefit changes to the packages of current employees are changed or not, there's no reason to give the same perks to new employees. Social security and 401k's should suffice for them like it does for employees in the rest of the economy. I doubt we'll have difficulty hiring eager employees in this economy if we pay like everyone else.
It is probably correct that the current problem is unsustainable. My idea of how to make it "sustainable" is just 180 degrees opposite of your.
One way is to continue with the past and keep widening the gap between CEO and worker's wages and benefits. Make them pay an even greater portion of the health care insurance (which lines the pockets of Big Pharma and the HMO's and which needs fixing via Socialized Medicine), reduce their pensions--already threatened by inflation risk and also by lack of regulatorr oversight, switch to 401K's notorious for also helping to rob from working people and dump money into the coffers of the wealthy......
Another way is to hold the line, say "enough is enough" and no more taking back from working people. If it's unsustainable then sustain it by taxing some of the obscene profits that have been squirreled away over the years. My list of how to do this would be long and surely infuriating to many. I know where those vulnerable valves are.
Enron has everything to do with this, though they are only one of many such examples. What those criminals did was to purposely shut off power in order to drive up prices. And they got coverage by Bush. This was further then leveraged politically by blaming the fiasco on Davis, the recall, etc. The criminals did some jail time, but the stolen profits over the years are still out there, accessible only by punishing on bulk the whole lot.
Enron is only one recent example of how to both reap justice, make things sustainable, etc.
Yes Anna let's spread fear and loathing in Palo Alto....perhaps also a march from EPA can generate even more fear! I suppose it's good pro-management PR to in advance brand strikers as criminals. This tactic goes way back also.
To clarify in response to several posts: Although some of the benefits I referred to are for firefighters/police, my primary point was that this is a prudent time to revisit the sustainability of all benefits paid through tax dollars. It's good to know that the 2.7% doesn't grow after 55 for the current union negotiating a contract, but I'm not sure such full compensation at 55 is justifiable given the current expected life span in the U.S. In the state PERS system, most who choose early retirement (ages 55-65) receive less (2%) per year of service (safety workers are the exception), with gradual increases in percentage compensation as they move toward the "full" retirement age of 65 (when they receive 2.5% per year of service). This seems fair and perhaps could be applied in Palo Alto and other cities as well. It could save the city quite a bit of money and still provide a solid retirement benefit for new workers. Please note that I don't believe it would be fair to change this for current employees.
I appreciate all of our city workers and believe strongly that they should be fairly compensated for their work. We must also recognize financial realities and work toward a fair contract not just for this union, but for workers at all levels, including management. For example, why managers receive bonuses just for doing their jobs (no significant contribution above and beyond job description), especially during budget deficit years, makes no sense to me at all.
It will take a gifted person, or persons, to mediate this process respectfully and reasonably. I hope both sides will be able to truly hear each other.
It took several city managers, many, really to mess up the city bad enough that it can't handle some financial woes such as these.
The point is, it's not going to be fixed overnight in one fell swoop, as Keene and some others believe it should be.
Death, yes it is a real factor in all of this. If the cost of insurance is too much to bear, something has to suffer, right. And, some people are really worth more dead than alive.
Without retiree PERS insurance for my Mother, she would not have been able to afford her cancer treatment. She already makes so little on her pension that other family members have to pitch in to help her make ends meet and be able to go to art classes for therapy. That's one example of why you can't just drastically change these things right now. There are many stories...
California sabatoged California in the energy crisis of 2001. ENRON was a mere vehcile for exploiting that self wounding at the margin. The action is always at the margin, at least that's what I learned in Econ 101.
"Looking at the history of California, it is obvious that regulation prevented the construction of new plants, especially base-type plants, since these would most likely be nuclear power plants. By not allowing base (nuclear) power to grow, state regulations have increased the dependency on more expensive, at-the-margin, domestic sources of energy." Web Link
ENRON has nothing to do with our taking on the SEIU in Palo Alto.
While I realize that my comments have tendency to, oh, shall we say "inflame"....I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments expressed by Resident both his general tone and spirit, and most specifically in....
"It will take a gifted person, or persons, to mediate this process respectfully and reasonably. I hope both sides will be able to truly hear each other."
I feel that is the best tone for people to take right now. I didn't log onto this story with a zeal to blast away. But when I saw so many "Bring it On!" or "Fire the Lot and start over" type comments I got appalled. And if some can wax nostalgic about Reagan and the Air Traffic Controllers I would also bring up the SF Longshore Strike in 1933 as another perhaps relevant example (and "reveal" about myself stuff which is fodder for people prone to spread stuff). BTW great book "The Family" by Jeff Sharlet details how this strike led by Harry Bridges freaked out a religious fundamentalist named Abrams...who went on to found the religious order now known as The Family--C Street of Sanford "I was hiking the Appalachian Trail" fame). Abrams was so upset by the growing power of the unions that he created a form of "Christianity" which viewed the rich and powerful as god's new chosen people (no longer the Jews), views morality as "just for the little people", etc. They have grown and still despise unions as one of their core beliefs. Maybe.....
The PBS documentary and book The Smartest Guys in the Room (written by reporters for that notorious Marxist rag Fortune)....
Totally debunks the spin posted by Steven from a 2002 link.
The deceit, lying and crimes of Enron were mulit-layered and penetrated everything from financial analysts, to Arthur Andersen, to the highest levels of government. But relevant to this discussion as regards CA finances...it clearly reveals that they deliberately told power companies to find excuses to shut off power in order to manipulate the market. There was no lack of power, only cynical manipulation. They were these Texas urban cowboys making fun of California and gloating on the audio.
And still the spin continues...that the legacy of these crimes is being used to further take away from working people. The money is out there to fix the situation, we just need to tax it out of their greedy little paws. (and send them to jail whenever possible).
The ENRON "manipulation" story is a deflection from the reality that California refused to produce the electricity that it consumed. California purposely abandoned its leverage in the energy markets, and projected itself to the mercies of marginal markets.
However, what does that have to do with the Palo Alto strike with the SEIU? The SEIU is a thugocracy that needs to be defeated, for the benefit of Palo Alto citizens. I will be one of the first to join the strike breaking line, assuming I get paid for my honest efforts, like pick and shovel and mowing and tractor and database work. I am willing to work for about 2/3 the cost of current workers, and I am very competent and hard working.
Will there be registry for willing workers, once the strike is called?
I'm very happy to hear of the disavowal of sabotage by the union members posting here. I hope they'll be vigilant in ensuring their more volatile Union brethren don't get carried away if and when the strike gets going.
I hope my post was indeed unnecessarily alarmist. But sabotage and violence are not rare occurrences in labor disputes... and apparently there were incidents of sabotage here in the 1970's strike.
Incredibly generous public employee pensions will bankrupt Palo Alto. If other cities offer similar pensions, they will be bankrupted too. Do we all want to end up under bankruptcy court administration like Vallejo?
There is no better time to tackle this problem than now.
SEIU is used to dealing with patsies in government. Time to end that.
I keep hearing Palo Alto needs to set a new standard and make an example of SEIU and the city workers by making drastic cuts in pay and benefits for all others city's to follow in CA!
After we acheive this we can post a big sign that says "Welcome to the City of Palo Alto! Home of the lowest paid civil service in the whole state of California"!
This will increase your property values. This will attract new business. This will insure safety and reliable service during a flood, earthquake, and pandemic outbreak (which we are all trained to respond to, required by FEMA two years ago).
This will insure clean water to drink, safe parks to enjoy, safe sewage treatment, gas and power.
Go ahead and destroy your own infastructure by breaking the backs of your civil servants and breaking the picketline! Were will you draw the line?
Will you hire the cheapest doctor to treat your family? Will you hire the lowest paid teacher to educate your children? Will you hire the least qualified contractor to build your house or repair your car?
Things to think about when you are asleep at night in your warm house in the Winter when that first big storm hits causing a tree to fall in your yard,the power to go out, or a water pipe to break!
You can rest easy knowing you will have the lowest, least qualified person to respond to your emergency in the whole State of California!
"Changes are needed. Just NOT for long time employees. Change will happen, trust me, this is not the way, with these proposed cuts. There needs to be a new system for new employees."
This was offered. Switch new employees off of these extraordinary benefits. But noooo the union wouldn't have any of that.
Your posts really are hypocritical. This is the time for this strike. It has to happen.
Given the economic realities we need a restart.
By some estimates we can cut 30% of the workforce and hire motivated, market rate people to do the rest of the jobs.
Look at any job site of Palo Alto union workers and you will see a lot of people doing nothing productive.
We have a great opportunity for long term increases in productivity by getting rid of the fat.
If my dry cleaner were charging me 30% above market rate they would be replaced real fast.
Sell our utility to PG&E. Contract out street/sidewalk/plumbing repairs. End funding for PACT and many other frivilous programs. Contract out fire protection services. Contract out police services unrelated to serious criminal activity. Above all, contract out those activities that SEIU now has an extortionist lock on. We have a contract to empty our garbage, and it goes to bid with each new contract. That is good model to provide city services.
"Drastic cuts" in pay and benefits? Hardly.
Even if the city gets all its asking for in the negotiations, union members still will have pensions and retirement health care that would be the envy of even the most lavish private sector plan.
The city is proposing that pensions be based on 2% at 60 rather than 2.7% at 55. Do you dedicated union members mean you won't be as diligent if you get a pension plan that is merely lavish rather than ridiculously and unaffordably excessive? Do you mean that if you have to pick up a tiny fraction of your retiree health care (health care that no one in the private sector gets at all), you'll stop doing your jobs to the degree that we'll find our infrastructure deteriorating, be unsafe in earthquakes, fire and flood (and pandemics!)?
If you really mean these things then let us know now. Because if you do, we don't need to wait for you to go out on strike. We can start firing you all now and outsourcing your jobs to those many workers who appreciate the opportunity to provide good work for good wages absent your totally unreasonable attitude of entitlement.
"By some estimates we can cut 30% of the workforce and hire motivated, market rate people to do the rest of the jobs."
By who's estimate, Sharon.
The word entitlement keeps getting used like it's an bad thing. Here's a definition from a legal dictionary:
2 : a right to benefits that is granted esp. by law or contract (as an insurance policy)
SEIU has a contract with Palo Alto
"If my dry cleaner were charging me 30% above market rate they would be replaced real fast."
Have you looked at your utility bill?
Contacts are renegotiated as times change, eg leases etc
In fact the employees of Palo Alto could be cut by 50%
if you go to any work site they are at least 50% less productive than any private enterprise.Probably more
Fire them all and put it up for bid.
Invoking national security was the last straw for rational people-- bad move and irrevocable
Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
Or you could look-up the definition in the context it is being used. Just another example of their hypocrisy, keep it coming, it's working soooo well.
"In fact the employees of Palo Alto could be cut by 50%
if you go to any work site they are at least 50% less productive than any private enterprise.Probably more"
Sharon, you've gone from 30% now to 50%. Where are you getting your facts?
"Lavish pension plan" Give me a break! What do you think that we work for the City for 30 years then jump on our private jets! You mean "Lavish" as in expend or bestowing profusely?
You need to do some research on CalPers!
To answer your question; It will be hard to stop doing our jobs when you have replaced us with private contractors!
You are a word twister Anna. You will be destroying your infrastructure by getting rid of all of us city workers and replacing us with less qualified and cheaper contracted labor. Not I!
Something needs to be done.
I used dictionary.com.
The difference in our definition is you state the benefits that we've bargained for are a "belief" of what's one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.
A contractual obligation isn't a belief. My definition is more accurate. Your definition is just more inflammatory.
My favorite part in all this is when the City Manager graciously offered a "generous" 5% paycut from his $229,780 annual salary and got a standing ovation from the City Council. At the same time, he wants to make around 10%-12% cuts to SEIU's salary/benefits package.
If SEIU strikes, I will support them. Mr. Keene is pandering to the public and has lost the faith of all those under him.
Most cities in the Bay Area offer similar salaries and retirement plans...why all the hate directed at just Palo Alto?
You say if changes happen here, the other cities will follow suit. I think what will really happen is that the City will lose its talent and no one will want to work here. Sure, we'll save money, but you get what you pay for...
I predict Palo Alto will have a fall from grace, while the other Cities keep what they have and laugh at us. We'll be the laughingstock of the Bay Area by having lesser paid and less experienced workers.
"According to government data, the average salary for jobs in Palo Alto, California is $75,626, and the median income of households in Palo Alto was $90,377."
The average SEIU salary is around that so I don't get all the fuss. You act like all SEIU employees are millionaires, yet in reality very few can even afford to live here.
No, lineman, your definition is a convenient circumvention of the intended meaning. You definitely have a sense of entitlement throughout your posts. Self-delusion, ha?
Larry Klein is running against 14 others so he has to differentiate himself in some way. Two years ago--when workers bargained for "2.7% at 55" he was in favor because "it was something everyone else had." Now he's changed his tune because he has some opposition.
"Im your ice cream man, stop me when I'm passing by..."
If the City wants to cut our pay and benefits to 10% below all other civil service in the area and the citizens of Palo Alto do not want their current employees, I say you can have it!
There are many who will jump at the chance to capitialize on your invested dollars that it took to train us and will be more than happy to hire experienced personel away from Palo Alto!
Don't beleive me? I get two job offers a week from other city's. I have passed them up in the past, because they offer the same benefits and pay that I was already receiving, and I thought my dedicated service was appreciated! Boy was I wrong, thank you for waking me up to the truth!
What world do you people live in? On one side of your mouth you say you want the cheapest employees, and in the same breath you expect the best service possible.
You keep comparing us to the private sector, so let me ask all of you this question. Why would you work for a firm that paid you 10% less than all the other firms in the area?
You bash us for fighting to keep what benefits we have! What kind of person would be willing to give up so much without a fight? Well, one months pay a year may not be much to you people, but its a lot to me!
I had no idea that we were so hated and resented by the people we serve! Not to worry! I will be leaving the City of Palo Alto asap, making all your dreams come true. That way you can get rid of us and we can serve a public that deserves us!
Who wants to work for people that don't want them for less pay?
The SEIU folks really believe that they are "talent". Even the flight controllers thought the same - thinking if they strike the govt. cannot touch them.
Guess what ...
To Tax Payer and Property Owner
If I were in your shoes and read much of what has been posted here I would be very PO'd also. Please bear in mind that I've noticed most of the posters here tend to run a bit to the right of King George in their perspectives and stances. This is not obviously the bulk of the Palo Alto population. They are just a vocal minority on this Forum. I get the Palo Alto Online email notifications and can often read the headlines and know well in advance some of the predictable, yet bizarre spin.
Please look back on your experiences over the years "on the ground" with Palo Altans to guide your decision. Anywhere you go, if a strike looms, management will play the "they expect two slices of bread and you all have to pay an extra quarter for that second slice" card (despite the fact that here in Palo Alto many have 3 stocked freezers and mommy and daddy own the bakery).
Yes it seems Palo Altans here expect Nordstrom level service, but want to pay Burger King wages. And then tout supply and demand.
Predictably one sees this in a depression or recession. Often it's the start ups and middle to upper management who are hit the hardest. And working people (especially those at top skill level) are more protected. But the egos of the "disenfranchised" venturists and managers leads them to think their desperation is more widespread. We saw that years ago when hospitals were being downsized.....clinicians were safe, middle and upper managers were being let go every week. But they pretended that we were all as desperate as they.....
It is very foolish of the union to threaten to strike in these tough economic times when many PA residents have seen their 401Ks evaporate, businesses closing etc.
Professional service firms are taking a 30 to 40% reduction in fees across the board.
The unions have turned the tide of public opinion strongly against them, even in this very liberal town.
A rational approach is to radically downsize the city work force and contract out services through competitive bid.
If we hold those contractors to quality benchmarks we will see a dramatic increase in customer service over existing dismal standards
Maybe hire ex Marines?
The Union isn't "calling for a strike" despite the headlines and the spin, despite the foolish salivating for such.
Go back and read the article....
"Palo Alto's largest labor union voted Thursday to authorize a strike if the city continues to call for long-term concessions from the workers."
""We don't want to have to strike, but this vote gives the negotiating team the option of being able to do this," Krug said. "
My take is that we are not exactly on the precipice of a strike.
If there is an agenda here it is probably on management's part--- to wreck the current system, bring in their contacts and network via contracting out. We'll all still pay at least as much, probably more, get rotten service. But some pockets will be nicely lined. And Qid pro quo will be passed around in gratitude.
Let them strike, they will loose public support and illustrate to the public how over compensated they are. PLEASE STRIKE!!!
What's the problem here anyway? "Taxpayer and PO" says he and other city employees get 2 job offers a week at the same pay and benefits they're getting here.
If the union members who are disgruntled by the level of compensation being offered by the city and offended by the lack of respect showed to their percieved arrogance by taxpayers, then they should just take one of the cushy job offers so readily available in neighboring towns.
Maybe T and PO is right that we'll suffer on quality of service matters if we contract out or hire more willing workers. And maybe not. But either way, it won't be his problem anymore, and he won't be ours.
So why all the hostility and acrimony and strike talk? Seems we have a win/win proposition here. T and PO gets to keep his luxury benefit package. He's not harmed at all. And Keene gets to try out his theory that he can run the city as well at less expense by paying more reasonable benefits or contrating out.
Sounds like everybody should be happy.
You guys be careful of the door on your way out, and we will try to run the city on a more financially basis.
Best of luck to all of you.
So let the SEIU strike. Let them stay out a LONG time - saving the city a lot of money in the interim. And if legally possible, let's outsource their jobs to somebody who actually appreciates them.
Many of us have. Many of those remaining have training, licences and permits that are mandated by the federal government. They can't be outsourced because there is nobody out there with the required crudentials.
I don't have a problem with most of the workers but I have a serious problem with the Palo Alto "process" and the managers who don't listen to the workers. I'm thinking specifically of the Mitchell Park workers who aren't allowed to give feedback to their managers about costly annual absurdities like closing the half of the dog park each year to resod it and then neglecting to water it. Then it dies. Surprise.
The woman handling construction permits is referred to as the "Annie factor" by architects and contractors because she's so recalcitrant.
And how many costly studies do we really need on issues like whether to make busy Middlefield road a bike path? Ludicrous.
And don't even get me started on the ridiculous utility rates we pay to take out our own garbage. Do we get utility subsidies for that?
Again, I think the problem is the process and the management. Sales tax revenues are tanking so we get higher rates and more resentment against workers who have benefits many of us envy.
I hope the City Council elections will address some of these issues.
Every crisis offers an opportunity. Opportunity to gain control of our city. A strike will surely illustrate the bankrupt notions of unions caring about anything other than their members welfare. Let them go and seek jobs in the private market place (at half their package).
I agree with Anna, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, who said 14 hours ago:
""Drastic cuts" in pay and benefits? Hardly.
Even if the city gets all its asking for in the negotiations, union members still will have pensions and retirement health care that would be the envy of even the most lavish private sector plan.
The city is proposing that pensions be based on 2% at 60 rather than 2.7% at 55. Do you dedicated union members mean you won't be as diligent if you get a pension plan that is merely lavish rather than ridiculously and unaffordably excessive? Do you mean that if you have to pick up a tiny fraction of your retiree health care (health care that no one in the private sector gets at all), you'll stop doing your jobs to the degree that we'll find our infrastructure deterioratin"
Additionally, I can't understand why ANYONE should be able to retire with such spectacular benefits at 50, unless their city job requires a major amount of physical skill and effort. Certainly no office worker should be able to retire at 50 and then go to work elsewhere in the city -- double dipping, isn't that what they call that?
My son, who for years worked for a major Silicon Valley company, said his company purposefully and appropriately used every down turn to get rid of "dead wood." I suppose union rules would not permit a city to do that to its unionized workers -- too bad.
Our city pay packages are unaffordable, period. Something must be done about that, and I hope the SEIU will get out of the way and allow the city to make the necessary and reasonable changes.
"Additionally, I can't understand why ANYONE should be able to retire with such spectacular benefits at 50, unless their city job requires a major amount of physical skill and effort. Certainly no office worker should be able to retire at 50 and then go to work elsewhere in the city -- double dipping, isn't that what they call that?"
SEIU must retire at 55 to get the 2.7% rate. If they retire earlier they get significantly less. You are confusing SEIU with Police and Fire, who get 3% at 50. Please get the facts straight before running your mouth.
> We came here not for the money,healthcare, or retirement. We had
> the same benefits when we worked for Redwood City. We came to
> Palo Alto because we wanted to work with the best city workers
> in the Bay Area. That is the rep. that you have. The best city
> employees in the Bay Area, because we work for the best city in the
> Bay Area.
Well .. this explains why government is so dysfunctional in the Bay Area.
> P.S. I just worked 60 hours of overtime that saved the City
> $100,000 that they would have paid if contracted out! They
> paid me a few thousand dollars in overtime instead!
And you know that to outsource 60 hours of overtime costs $100,000, how? This is just delusional!
Palo Alto is too small to own a utility .. this should be sold as soon as possible!
I live in a city with almost no sevices--we contract them out to the county (libraries, fire, police (oh sorry, sherriff)), and other entities. Yet we have good service.
I think a lot of people are outraged over public workers benenfits in EVERY city (the post did a good job highlighting a lot of neighboring cities salaries and overtime pay). When times were good, no one cared--after all, the retirement benefits would be paid way in the future and maybe paid for by our children (hire someone at 22 and they retire at 50+--can't see the harm there...) Now, every town is concerned about its exposure and, with retirement plans worth 60% of what they once were, are having to put extra money away TODAY to cover the existing and upcoming costs of these hefty retirement plans.
Valejo declared bankruptcy to get out of its union contracts. Recently, there was a Bill in the state legislature to make it harder for other cities to do the same (I hope it failed). If every city (and school district) had to accurately account for its contractual retirement liability, there would not be a solvent city in CA (and the state would never get out of bankruptcy).
Palo Alto, along with every city uses a lot of overtime because they cannot afford to hire additional people--the health and retirement benefit cost make it cheaper to just pay overtime. With the contractual liabilities increasing every year, there will have to be fewer workers doing more work. Eventually, somthing will have to give.
Comparing Palo Alto city wages to city wages locally is really incestuous--better contracts beget better wages and it all spirals upward. There is an underlying current among taxpayers to have a major reset of all city and state wages and benefits and to bring things back to reality. When public workers make >40% more in salary per year than those in industry, and can retire 15 years earlier with a guaranteed 85+% per year payment of their highest wage with 100% coverage for medical/and dental, something is definitely out of whack.
Regular industry pays fairly with no guarantees of keeping your job (CA is an "at will employment" state), a 401K plan, and choices of medical/dental (all with some employee contrbution), and Medicare (no other covered medical/dental coverage). With regular swings in economies (3 downturns in the last 30 years), you cannot be "guaranteed" that it won't hurt your bottom line. This is reality! City workers cannot expect to be immune from reality.
The rest of us do not have any guarantees. So, I do NOT feel the pain of these union workers! But I sure feel the pain of the increased liability incurred because of their contacts and the increased taxes that we will all have to pay to support their negotiated retirement lifestyles.
Just a few comments
1. Good luck hiring new people with wage and benefit cuts. I hear a lot of PA residents say they want those SEIU jobs (now that they lost their high tech jobs) but do you want to move to Tracy or Mountain House? Because that is the only place you will be able to afford.
2. Is "I don't get that, so why should they!!" a legitimate argument? I think not.
3. Is PA residents ready to live in a City where the services are cut in half? Parks grass turning brown, backups in the sanitary sewer, trees blocking roads and signs, illegal building going erected on your street, power outages for days...I can hear it now "whaaaa!!! I pay taxes where is my services?"
Sorry for the banter
But IMO most PA residents probably do appreciate the services and realize that city workers are (for the most part) high trained and highly skilled workers. For every job there probably are 200-300 applicants which allows the city to pick from the cream of the crop these job are not being done by just any Joe Blow. The real problem is the way these contracts are negotiated; they use positional bases bargaining which harbors animosity and suffocates trust, openness and new ideas. Rather they should use interest based bargaining which harbors trust, openness and new ideas and creates partners out of the "other side"; all while meeting the interest of management, workers and the public.
"Parks grass turning brown, backups in the sanitary sewer, trees blocking roads and signs, illegal building going erected on your street, power outages for days..."
These scare tactics bear little relationship to reality. All of the services listed by the poster have been performed by contractors in Palo Alto or in other cities. We already have some park maintenance performed by an outside contractor (the result of a previous moment of sanity on the part of the city in connection with a labor negotiation.) The city auditor found no discernible difference between parks maintained by city workers and by contractors...except that the outside work was a lot less expensive. If you've paid attention, you will notice that tree trimming also is done largely by outside firms - agian saving the city lots of money. PG & E seems to have no difficulty keeping the power on in Menlo Park. A lot of people think we should sell PAU anyway. Even building inspections are done by outsiders in many cities (some plan checking in PA already is done by outsiders).
There may be some transition issues, but it seems likely that we can get along just fine without whining SEIU members. As any labor economist will tell you, if you've got 300 applicants for every job, you are paying more than is necessary for labor.
The purpose of city government is NOT to provide the largest compensation packages possible for its workers. It is rather to provide services in the most efficient manner. We're not doing that now...but we need to start.
Jeez. It must be hard to sit in your multi million dollar homes thinking that someone has it better than you. We City Workers are fortunate. We have good benefits. None of us dismiss that. But how many people work at City Hall and can afford to buy one of your homes? Less than one percent I'm willing to bet. How many of us can afford to send our kids to ivy league schools? Too few to even count probably. We are happy with our lives, we've traded salaries for benefits. You traded benefits for salaries, get over it. Sell your over priced and oversized home and move to a reasonable neighborhood (theres a house for sell in my neighborhood - 4 bedrooms - $500 K) and bank the rest of the money for your retirement, then we'll be even and everyone will be happy! No? Not willing to live amoung the peasants?
It's just sad, all of you have the answers, "fire all the city employees", "contract everything out", "sell the utilities div", "recall council members", "5% pay cuts for all city workers", "no more benefits", but it's funny that only 14 of you are running for Council. I guess it's more fun to complain than fix things. Typical Palo Alto Citizens, too lazy to leave their palace and step in the real world. Too busy complaining about everything to actually do anything. I wouldn't know, but I do suspect it's a tough life, a lot of pressure to keep up and all. I would feel sorry for you but you are all so mean it's impossible to feel anything but pity for people that have to deal with you.
"We are happy with our lives, we've traded salaries for benefits. You traded benefits for salaries, get over it."
You have not traded anything. You earn 40+% more than the rest of people doing equivalent jobs. AND you "earn?" WAY more (too big to quantitate" in benefits (current and especially future). So, I don't think we are even close to even.
I'm a Palo Alto resident and happen to own a nice home... But I make just $60,000/year, and my only benefits are health insurance worth $12,000. I frequently test the job market, and I can say that the SEIU numbers are way out of line - at least 30% above market for base pay, with unheard-of benefits. Personally, I'd take a reduced salary for government employment, with its isolation from economic forces.
With economic pain so widespread in the private sector, and government revenues collapsing, SEIU has chosen an interesting time for a confrontation like this. It might just lead to a broad reconsideration as to whether there is any legal basis for recognizing government employee unions.
MM is correct. For example, we have Cement Finishers earning over $75,000 per year in Palo Alto. Where in the private sector do cement finishers earn this kind of money .... or qualify for lifetime pensions and health care...?
Well, Anna and Jon, I suggest you both get jobs in local municipalitites as cement finishers.
I make a little bit over twice what I made when I was an entry level secretary for a private company 20 odd years ago. As a very experienced, high level admin I have earned and continue to earn the additional money I make. When I left the private company not that long ago I was making roughly what I make now - though you are right the benefits weren't as good. That's why I came to the public sector. I suspect the cemement finishers you are refering to are experienced folks that have been on the job many years as well. Why should they still make entry level wages? Don't you make more money than you did when you started out? I understand, and partially agree with you, that $75,000 is a lot of money for a guy that smoothes out cement. But before we demand his head on a stick, shouldn't we get details? What else does he do? What kind of experience does he have? What factors into his job? What are the hazards of his job? Could he take his job to a private contractor or another city and get paid comparably? With out that information you aren't being constructive, you are simply trying to insult people.
And I'm sorry Jon, but you can't afford a Palo Alto home on $60,000 a year. You're holding out on us.
Actually, the $75,000 dollar figure quoted is not for a senior level Cement Finisher. If you're a senior level Cement Finisher in Palo Alto, you can haul down a cool $104,000 per year. (Average pay for private sector cement finishers is $52,000/year. They don't get pensions.)
In 2006, we had over 175 employees in Palo Alto earning over $100,000 - not only cement finishers, but also "administrative assistants" (formerly "secretaries), and technologists and on and on. You can check the list here:Web Link Figure that since there have been raises in the 3 years since the list was compiled, we've got well over 200 $100,000 plus employees. And that cement finishers - both senior and beginning - are still doing really well.
As a long-time union man, I want to go on record of being willing to accept a 5% compensation reduction in exchange for consistent Palo Alto weekly pay checks.
There are times to strike, and times NOT to strike. This is one of the latter.
Sorry...I mistyped. The median annual wage for cement finishers is $35,080 (2008 figures). See here: Web Link
Private cement finishing contractors like to go to work with CPA. Why? Becasue they no longer need to face the pressure of hustling their own business, and because the benefits are outlandish. They also do not need to work nearly as hard, because profit is no longer an issue. It is never easy work, but it is much easier, compared to the private market.
The obvious alternative to city employees finsihing cement is to put each project out to bid, or to have a large contract with a cement contractor for all projects in our city. That way, SEIU would have no leverage for an extortionist threat.
The answer to this extortion by SEIU is to contract all possible work to the private sector. This approach should have been taken years ago, but Palo Alto is a knee-jerk, pro-union city. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. We do not have the personalities, in our leadership, to run a strike, and that is why we need outside consultants that do this for a living. The best we can hope is that our current leadership will reject the demands of SEIU, and take on a strike.
For the record, I completely agree. I do not support any notion of a strike. It's absurd. Specially since the SEIU is being asked to give up the same as the other groups. We all get to take our share of this pie. We got to take it when times were good, and now we get to take it when times are bad.
And Anna, I looked at your document and it actually lists an apparently new cement finisher at a wage of only 33,000 a year. The highest paid was 67,000 a year. The salaries listed in that document include benefits and overtime. That was actual earnings for the years listed. You are off target with your accusations.
That being said, I do think that is a very nice salary for someone that smoothes out cement for a living - provided there isn't anything we don't know about their job. But it isn't as extreme as you all make it sound. Private sector cement mixers are union also, and as such, get excellent benefits just like the city workers do. A quick Google search puts their salaries at a very similar rate.
So, perhaps you all need another scape goat. Leave the poor cememt finishers alone.
I perceive the citizens of Palo Alto to value and appreciate the services provided from CPA employess.
I'm lookn' at the books, gotta do things diffrent going forward.
If many of the posters here represent a cross section of Palo Alto I must say I am ashamed to live amongst so many pathetic whiners.
Part of the reason that the "market" is so low is that unions have been eclipsed lately. Many working people forgot the hard fights that it too to establish unions, forgot all the gains that never would have occurred in our society were it not for unions---public education, social security, and on and on. If there is an entitlement problem it's that workers tended to think that the former benefits and protection just arose from the graces of the enlightened employers.
Business forgot that deals were made in order to "tame the wolf" and reach an armistice (NLRB and negotiation rules). If these workers in Palo Alto have it better than many in private sectors then perhaps the real lesson here is that workers in the private sector should themselves unionize!
Now I know a lot of the "let them strike and we'll take advantage of the situation for ourselves" will vehemently disagree....I am hardly preaching to my choir, more like walking into a Baptist revival meeting on Palm Sunday and saying "Easter's been canceled, they found the body"....but just so you know the position I and many others will take..
Part of what constitutes the "Market" is the establishment, protection and proliferation of unionized workers. When times are good working people who are unionized can leverage up also, when times are bad the unions can put the brakes on. So part of holding the line for me (and many others) is to support unions. It is no accident that recent history in the USA, where the gulf between CEO obscene pay and those for working people had widened is parallel to the fact that less workers are unionized.
Management likes to scapegoat unions for any and all problems, provides a cover when their ineptitude overwhelms all.
For those calling for a strike in order to supposedly fire everyone and hire at the "market rate"....do you have any moral limit to how low you'd let this go? If there were no minimum wage, if we had teeming masses begging to work for literally scraps of bread, would you also then argue to hire them at the market rate?
Anyway I know that the tide is slowly starting to change. In health care unionization is markedly on the rise. And hopefully the Employee Free Choice Act will pass soon.
As for the current negotiations between the city and it's workers. I don't work for the city and it's not for me to vote on any contract or for or against any strike (if it comes to that). While I vehemently disagree that there should be any retreat on wages, COLA , or benefits I understand that the specific local and "on the ground" reality may mandate some slight retreat. But if people are planning to use this as a lock out, force a strike, opportunisically use this as another way to further drive down working people....
The Unions are holding up the sky. It is not for the other working people to point upwards and whine and complain, but rather to look towards constructing their own union "balloon".
The rest of you can keep on whinning.
A Noun Ea Mus, a simple question. How do you plan to continue to pay for maintaining the status quo?
I posted that above, basic outline is use taxation to recoup the losses by decades of Regan/Friedman/Greenburg/BushX2. A tax foundation like when Eisenhower was Prez, build the infrastructure, fund education and research, etc. I would recommend ways to save money--combination of Universal Healthcare and draconian legislation to put a big foot on Pharma, practice patterns which do little else put torture old people in their final months (while lining pockets), etc.
Problem is it wouldn't work on a local level, would have to be a nationwide (at least state wide) and then put back into coffers.
But I realize that the "facts on the ground" MAY mandate that the unionized city workers adjust to that.
But what is being vehemently called for by many here is gleefully pushing the city workers into a strike, dropping the foundation out of another unionized workforce, and bowing to "the market".
We've all (well most of us) paid mightily over the years for that formula.
> If these workers in Palo Alto have it better than many in
> private sectors then perhaps the real lesson here is that
> workers in the private sector should themselves unionize!
Lots of workers did unionize over the decades .. like the Maritime Industry, the Railroad Industry, the Steel Industry and the Auto Industry. Union salary demands and work rules destroyed each of these businesses in a "globalized" world. Government has been able to raise taxes, rather than go out of business. But with the untold Trillions that it now has promised to just about everyone, raising taxes is not much of an option in the future.
Unionization is just the first stage of going-out-of-business.
Unions only exist within monopolized labor markets. The reason it is monoplized is becasue the unions are thugocracies that force themselves against freedom of choice. Public unions should be banned. Why? Because the public fucntion is, itself, a monoply. That is why Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.
Unions are a huge detriment to the working person, when the totality of their influence is considered. They inhibit productivity, cause job loses, break the bank, and then, after all the damage, they demand government power. It should be enough that Palo Alto just takes on SEIU, without remorse.
I agree with Mark.
The real reason Toyota is closing NUMI is that it is the ONLY US Toyota plant that is unionized. There used to be a lot of manufacturing jobs in the Bay Area. Where are they now? In the Far East. Some of that was due to the tax breaks to offshore revenue but some is due to union wages. Several US industries (in addition to what Mark mentioned) have fled the US: textiles, shoes, apparel, to name a few.
There was a time and place for unions. With a few exceptions, that time has gone. Do you really want your healthcare professional unionized? I don't--"Oh, I can't help you, my shift just ended." If you think health care is expensive now, just unionize it. Minimum work rules will be put in place and it will take 2 people to do one person's job.
As the US is becoming more a service economy (not manufacturing), more and more people will be working for the cities, states, etc. There will be a shrinking populace supporting all these extreme wages and benefits (the wages, I don't mind so much but the retirement benefits go on and on as life expectancy increases) and it is just NOT SUSTAINABLE!!!
I could go on and write tons of stuff to dispute and debunk the above, but I think that it would be an utter waste of time.
If there is a strike we will see what occurs. I hope not, but in crisis there is always opportunity (not the one you seek though!).....
Unions served a useful purpose at some points in the industrial age but not any more in the vast majority of American enterprises.
Union stewards do not, in fact, serve the interests of members they serve their own interest which are financial and political, they are rent takers from the members and add no value.
Workers in such enterprises as Verizon Wireless realize this, so union presence in VZW is very tiny.
It is probably for the best if the PA union calls a strike so we can all start over without them, they have already doomed themselves by threatening Palo Altans in these tough economic times.
If I were a union member I would be furious at this ill considered threat and get rid of the union leadership ASAP
Where do I start. There's so much mis-information in this thread it's ridiculous.
How did a cement finisher make a cool $104,000? He retired in '06 and that was the sum of his salary and accrued vacation. He was one of the old school workers who never took time off.
You bring up PG&E, do you want to pay 20%(approx) for your electric bill? Palo Alto has fewer and shorter outages than PG&E.
MM: "You earn 40+% more than the rest of people doing equivalent jobs"
This is the most rediculous statement here. Did you know the City does a very comprehensive salary survey during every negotiation. Palo Alto is compared with 10 bay area cities. In the last contract the Union agreed to 3% below median of the 10 cities. Since then SEIU workers have got effective raises of 0%, 2.5%, and 3%. Wow, a total of 5.5% over three years. I'm a lineman. You did homework on cement finishers why don't you check out the comparable wages for my job.
"In 2006, we had over 175 employees in Palo Alto earning over $100,000"
A very small percentage of those are SEIU.
"As any labor economist will tell you, if you've got 300 applicants for every job, you are paying more than is necessary for labor."
There aren't 300 applicants in good times. You get 300 when the State has 11% unemployment. And, Palo Alto is about half of that.
"the best we can hope is that our current leadership will reject the demands of SEIU, and take on a strike.:
What demands? The Unions first offer was for a two year roll over with no raises. The City wanted a full blown negotiation.
"When public workers make >40% more in salary per year than those in industry, and can retire 15 years earlier with a guaranteed 85+% per year payment of their highest wage with 100% coverage for medical/and dental,"
40% more, not even close to being true.
Retire 15 years earlier than who? Let's say you're basing this on a 55 year old retirement. The Palo Alto employee would of had to work for 31 years. Personally, I don't think 85% is too much to reward that kind of dedication. How many private sector employees last at one job for 31 years. They are constantly looking for the bigger pay check, jumping from job to job. It's not the highest year it's the average of the highest three years. Effectively making it the second highest year. Dental is not covered after retirement. Where are you getting your facts from?
My opinion of a strike is it's like a war, nobody wins a war, one side just gets hurt less than the other.
For most of the post above I'm calling Myth Busters. They could do a whole show on what's been written.
Quote from above Union steward post "My opinion of a strike is it's like a war..."
Ok , so the Union has threatened war against the tax payer of Palo Alto,
so what is our response, act like Neville Chamberlain at Munich and roll over?
or act like Churchill and FDR-- they will not prevail-- bring it on! Do not make make a threat if you are not prepared the consequences.
This will be the fall of unions in PA, the threat was a very, very bad move
I agree, the SEIU members should make a voice for their rights.
As noted less than 10% of city employees live in Palo Alto. However I ask myself how can most if not all of the city council members who live in Palo Alto show such seemingly superior perspective and attitudes when it comes to the city workers and their economic future.
It's like the city workers are the pawns in the mindsets of the council.
Pawn being: the weakest and most abundant piece in the game of chess, representing infantry, or more particularly armed peasants, or "the common man/woman. i.e., of little importance.
The city workers matter!
I support them and will be there should they decide to go on strike.
additional comment: "The pawn is the soul of chess." - François-André Danican Philidor.
"The Palo Alto city workers are the marrow & soul(energy) of the city."
- the watcher.
'marrow and energy of the city'
What an absurd statement. There is nothing complicated or noble about working for this city. It is a job. If you interact with them over time you find they are pretty much like workers everywhere, on average no better and no worse.
What is the reason to try to elevate them to hero status unless you are one of them and will benefit from negotiations with those who actually believe this fiction?
It is this kind of attempt coupled with the large out of whack total compensation (salary+benefits+bonuses) that raise the kind of anger that is obvious all over this topics postings.
Outsource with competitive bids, that with solve this nonsense
Claiming to be "the marrow & soul(energy) of the city." is not only a mixed metaphor alert but also invites ridicule.
60% reduction in workforce with outsourcing to competitive bid is the clear path forward, every remaining employee must demonstrate their value add on a quarterly basis or be terminated, that is the best practice for everybody else in this economy.
I sure appreciate that I don't have to drive my garbage to the landfill, that the electricity works and the water flows. It's not a matter of appreciating the City's workers. It's a matter of eliminating structural problems in our City's business model.
I don't often agree with how the Council handles issues, but I do appreciate that they are trying to solve a difficult problem during difficult times and that requires taking a firm stand. If the union's threat to strike is credible, and it needs to be in order to be an effective negotiating tool, then the City's willingness to withstand the strike needs to be equally credible.
I'm encouraged that so many citizens have written that they are willing to absorb the hardships that a strike by city workers would cause. I am also willing to haul my own trash and do without other services in order to fix the problem of too high non-salary expenses (retirement and health care, among them).
Mr. Keene, be reasonable, but hold firm!
I am sensing some entitlement.
"Retire 15 years earlier than who? Let's say you're basing this on a 55 year old retirement. The Palo Alto employee would of had to work for 31 years. Personally, I don't think 85% is too much to reward that kind of dedication. "
The 15 years was referring to the ability to retire at age 50 at a large % of full benefits. The "normal" age for retirement in any industry (other than public service) is 66 for full Social Security benefits. If you are currently 66 making $100,000/year and retire next month, your likely SS check will be about $2075/month or $24,900 per year. (This assumes you have been working full time at least since you were 21 or 22 (a total of 44 years). It also assumes a normal progression of wage increases one would expect over that time.) Social Security is based on your average earnings over your work lifetime, not the last year you work.
Now we all know that no one can live on SS alone, so we assume that the poor schmuck has been contributing to his 401k plan. Oh, but wait, that lost 60% (only if you are one of the lucky ones) this past year. So let's say, he's been able to sock away 10K/year on average for 44 years. That would be $440K. Assuming some increase in value before the market fell, let's say the "retirement" account now has $350K. That has to last for 20 years (don't want to run out of money if you live too long). So that would be $17,500/ year (Yeah, I tried to keep it simple so I assumed no appreciation). So the total annual income SS plus retirement is now a whopping $42,400. If the same person had been working for the city of Palo Alto, he could have retired 11 years earlier at $85,000/year and not have to worry about having to die before his funds run out. Even if John Doe had been able to put away 20K year on average for 44 years, that would still only give him about $800K in total savings (I rounded up)for an income of $40K/year plus SS. And he still has to pay for Medicare out of this amount--no full medical. Oh, and wait, the guy working for the city of Palo Alto didn't have to put away $20K/year--he spent it.
And yes, the $ numbers don't account for investment appreciation--it was a simplistic comparison but it makes a point--there is a HUGE difference in when you can retire, the amount of the retirement, and the fact that it is guaranteed (no decrease with the market, no running out of money if you live a really long time).
So, no, I don't feel for the SEIU workers.
Why not just make all city salaries + benefits be a percentage of a balanced city budget. As the budget increases so does this salary & benefits pool.
If the cost of maintaining the benefits go up, the salaries go down. If the cost of the benefits go down the salaries increase.
The city gets a predictable cost and any future risk due to the increased cost of maintaining benefits is born by those who will receive them.
Everyone gets to share in the upside when property prices are rising and the budget increases. They will also share in the downside when the city budget falls but they still need to meet the rising cost of the benefits.
This article makes SEIU sound like a bunch of crybabies, and it just aint true! Before I go on, I am not an SEIU worker, but I do have a little knowledge of how negotiations work, and also of the workers at Palo Alto's Municipal golf course. Those service workers are up at 3:30 in the morning, rain, wind, fog or shine to be sure your city has a public golf course. The 5 men working there earn 75,000/yr benefits included, less than any other city worker. They have 168 acres of land to maintain every day of the year. I can attest that at least one of them has worked 23 days straight without a day off in the past. So there's some real numbers for you. The only one on the golf course making over 100K is the management.
People who work in PUBLIC SERVICE were promised a defined benefit when they began their job 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Whether they paid into PERS themselves or had contributions made on their behalf, we all know that the private sector has always made more than the public employee. If you were wearing the shoes of any SEIU worker, you would be singing a different tune. Who would give away any of their salary or benefits without a fight? Would you??
Why is it when Microsoft and Sun start dumping their personnel does everyone start picking on the public employees? Is it because they still have a job providing the public services you still need?
Residents of Palo Alto, support those who provide the things you need every day, but if you arent the one whose livelihood is on the line, remember what Thumper said, "IF you cant say something nice, dont say anything at all".
The union has now threatened " war" against the Palo Alto tax payers, we will do now what we have to do, If I were a union member I would fire the people who made that threat because you know they will loose badly in these economic times.
Union members should fire their masters for this very,very bad move which does not further the members interests in any way.
What were they thinking
Let me quote for you exactly what Lineman said as regards "war"
"My opinion of a strike is it's like a war, nobody wins a war, one side just gets hurt less than the other. "
That is NOT any declaration of war. It is not a call for a strike. Quite the contrary. It is a sober recognition of the fact that a strike is something to be avoided because "LIKE A WAR" nobody wins, one side just gets hurt less than the other.
One can only skim up and read the comments to see who is really salivating with Patrician delight at the prospects of a strike.
The funny thing is, if the City Management is thinking along the lines of "we want to avoid a strike if we can, but it looks like we might be forced into it", or even if such a strike is part of a forced plan I can envision some meeting where one says to the other..
"have you been reading the PA Online Posts? If we have a strike our most rabid, and I do mean RABID, supporters are going to basically be people like the Birthers and Deathers. We need to keep a sock on those folks or we'll really look bad."
"60% reduction in workforce with outsourcing to competitive bid is the clear path forward, every remaining employee must demonstrate their value add on a quarterly basis or be terminated, that is the best practice for everybody else in this economy."
the clear path forward??? Palo Alto Uber alles!
for everybody else? or be terminated. OK.......
I don't know whether to just laugh, imagining further bolstering with that scene from the Woody Allen movie Bananas where the new leader is off the deep end....."and underwear must be changed everyday..to make sure we will have everyone wear it on the outside".
Or I could just make up a form of exercise. Goose step around the room, crack a whip, and repeat the above quote.
Here's an interesting site: Web Link
The average CalPERS enrollee retires taking home $2101/mo. The average age of retirement is 60. That includes police and firefighters that skew the numbers slightly. They retire earlier.
Tha average age for a Palo Alto SEIU worker is older than 60.
Lineman's citations only prove how easy it is to mislead with statistics. The $2100/mo average pension noted by Lineman includes all retirees - including the majority who retired on plans that are MUCH less generous than those applying today to lineman and to other SEIU members.
If lineman earns over $100,000/year, which he surely does, and works for the city for 30 years, he'll be pulling down a pension of not $2100 per month - but a cool $6750 inflation protected and including generous health benefits. The same forumla used to calculate Lineman's pension will apply to all SEIU members if nothing is changed in the current negotiations. There won't be many of Lineman's buddies suffering with a Social Security level $2100/month pension.
The whole point of Keene, and of the posters here who decry the unaffordable levels of pension benefits, is that we must return to offering reasonable but not extravagant pensions if we are to survive financially in California. If lineman would agree to a cap of $2500/month on pension payments - far higher than the vast majority of Social Security recipients get - I think we could work a deal with the SEIU. I'm guessing that he'll have no part of it. What do you say, Lineman? A pension of $2500/mo is afterall, 20% higher than that "average" Calpers pension payment you cited.
I am skeptical of Lineman's assertion that the average age of SEIU workers in the city is over 60. I personally know two PA SEIU Members who just retired in their mid to late 50's. (56 and 58 respectively). If he'll provide some documentation for his claim, I'll listen.
We just can't afford to carve out a favored class of workers - government union members - for such lavish treatment in retirement. The numbers just don't support it and we're forced to change. That change can either be difficult - if the SEIU continues to pretend we all live in their own fantasy world where money falls from the sky - or it can be less disruptive if the SEIU will come to the table with understanding of basic economic reality and good faith.
Lineman, from your comment and Anna's follow up, it would appear that SIEU would be happy with an average CalPERS retirement package of $2101/mo and age above 60. The former is less than the city is offering, while the latter is what the city is suggesting.
Why is there any discussion here? From these posts, the city's current offer is more generous than SIEU workers expect.
Those of us criticizing ACORN/SEIU need to be cautious about our identity. Historically and nationally, SEIU thugs do take note of criticism. The current strategy of labeling those who criticize them is a distorted attempt to otherwise legitimize their arguments. Why is the truth subordinated to politics?
Well I've been involved in labor issues for years, helped TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) and was on a security detail up in Redding when they voted out the old Teamster leadership (one guy had his legs blown off by a bomb).
I am also aware of some fairly bitter feuds between SEIU, the nurses union CNA (and most nurses locally are in unions), and a spin off from SEIU call United Healthcare Workers. The animosity between them can be pretty high and there are some lawsuits, but I've never even heard of any violence.
For someone to think that SEIU gives a hoot about what people might post here is pretty far-fetched. Even more far fetched is the proposition, even if they were pre-disposed to such, that they would take action against the pathetic ramblings of the Patrician Crowd here.
But as long as Sharon thinks Lineman is declaring war, others might as well make up paranoid fantasies about SEIU. Nothing has happened and the victim posturing has begun.
The only violence I'm aware of involving SEIU was when two of their Business Agents were executed in their offices. They were involved in organizing casino workers in South Tahoe. This was back int the 70's in the Sacramento area.
To Fellow Tax Payer and others trying to see the union side of these issues, thank you.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
As a hard working employee of this city, I hope we don't have to go to the extreme and strike. Can't we negotiate? This is between the governing body of the City, elected by you, the citizens, and the city workers hired by those officials. So, point being, go to the City Council with your anger [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
See you there. I'll be one of those wearing a purple union shirt.
SEIU made the threat of a strike against Palo Alto tax payers, Lineman said this was like a declaration of war-- read his/her post.
SEIU made a bad move and has destroyed any support from peaceful PA taxpayers
They are trying to walk back the cat now but their true colors were revealed in those threats.
SEIU defensiveness and attempt to deny a history of union violence is revealing.
I'm sure there are alot of people who don't share your opinions, and would like to clarify that you have not been elected to speak for them, as some of your posts imply.
It is also to say that your interpretation of Lineman's comment is only shared by you. No one else can seem to explain it to you. Lineman's comments, even the way you interpret them are also in no way meant to represent the entire union, so just try to remember that please. Really, everyone just speaks for themselves on this forum, and leave it at that.
"For someone to think that SEIU gives a hoot about what people might post here is pretty far-fetched"
So why should we care about SEIU? We should *defeat* SEIU, by hiring outside consultants to break the strike (which *is* coming), then we should restructure our entire city workforce by signing contracts with priviate contractors, just like we do with the garbage pickup.
"We should *defeat* SEIU, by hiring outside consultants to break the strike "
LOL consultants...the Palo Alto Process at its finest...we're going to need consultants for the consultants since none of them know what they're doing...
Trust me, there are consultants that do know what they are doing. Stikes can be broken, and there are people who know how to do it. We just do not have current leadership in Palo Alto that is capable of doing it. That is why the current leaders need to hire those who are capable. It will be a small price to pay, compared to the benefits gained.
I would rather see my tax dollars going to paying the employees who have served me quite well than to see my tax dollars wasted on pet projects of City Management and Council. The City will find a way to milk us even if they let all the SEIU workers go.
Clearly SEIU threats have backfired big time.Their era is over, whether they like it or not.
The question is what to do next.
A rational re engineering of the jobs makes sense together with outsourcing to external contractors will keep the system fair and honest,
When was the last time PA tax payers were objectively surveyed on their satisfaction with PA services?
We understand the unions claim to entitlement, but it will not happen get over it.
Out source to competitive bid is the preferred option in Palo Alto
"we should restructure our entire city workforce by signing contracts with priviate contractors, just like we do with the garbage pickup."
Yes, and just like garbage collection, you will pay more for less.
What threats? Not your imagined ones!
"A rational re engineering of the jobs makes sense "
We agree. With the large number of retirements SEIU has offered to work with the City to restructure.
Here's your survey:
We did pretty well.
"SEIU defensiveness and attempt to deny a history of union violence is revealing"
Are you under any type of professional care? Can you name one piece of violence ever carried out by SEIU in Palo Alto.
I would have to work until I'm 67 to have 30 years. Lineman don't last that long. Since I've worked at P.A. these injuries have occurred to lineman:
Debilitating neck injury, medical retirement at 45
Back injury, moved to a different department, age 42
Knees blown out, moved to a different department, age 44
Back injury, fell off pole, moved to a different department, age 40
Back injury, fell off pole, moved to a different department, age 25
Blown out knee, we'll see he has second surgery in two weeks, age 48
Crushed hand, missed six months of work, age 47
Injured knee, missed six months of work, age 46
Knee surgery, missed six months of work, age 35
Severe burns, missed 5 months of work, age 48
Severe burns, missed 5 months of work, age 42
I've been lucky and only cut my hand and needed a few stitches.
I won't feel at all guilty retiring at 60 with 62% of my second highest year(excluding overtime).
The stock market must be doing much worse where you are with 60% losses in 401K plans. I know that the PERS won't be enough to live on so I pay into a 457 plan. I lost 30%, of which I've gained back about 20%.
All of my posts have quoted real numbers with links to back up my information. What I get back are "if this" and "if that" scenarios.
Anna, you say you know two people in there late 50's who recently retired. In the past six months I know of ages 62, 66, 63, 58, 59, 64, 66, and many more to come. This isn't a true average but I can check with H.R. to get you a number. The number on the CalPES site seems accurate though.
Let these people go on strike and better yet fire the strikers. I suspect many people are willing to help to see the city through. It's better to resolve this once in for all. Job has to be earned, they are not entitlement.
"Yes, and just like garbage collection, you will pay more for less."
You forget to calculate that we no longer pay retirement benefits or life-time medical benefits after working just 5 years *in* Palo Alto. We are getting more for much less money.
Follow da money,
Garbage collection has never been done by Palo Alto municipal employees.
It's always been done by outside contractors, and for many, many years by PASCO. They changed the contractor recently and costs increased while the service level has declined. My comment to poster Steven was to illustrate that the City is incompetent in contracting services out, yet that is his solution to the the current labor issues.
Lineman has been a valuable contributor to the discussion here, attempting to answer in good faith, and with factual data - if unpersuasively at times - the arguments of those on the other side from him.
It is therefor disappointing to see him veer into the tactics of distraction and emotionalism in his most recent post.
Lineman lists coworkers who he claims were injured (by inference on the job) in his occupation. Apparently, he wishes us to think that this has something to do with the topic under discussion: whether the city can continue to pay the lavish retirement benefits it does to its employees.
First, it should be pointed out that the retirement benefits that Lineman gets apply equally to ALL SEIU members - including the majority who have completely sedentary jobs. Thus the implication that SEIU pensions compensate for dangerous working conditions really lacks substance.
Second, while I am sure Lineman's job is more dangerous than, say a SEIU secretary's job, presumably he knew that going in. Lots of occupations are dangerous. Traveling salesmen have a very high death rate (because of car accidents primarily), but no one contends that entitles them to a lifetime pension. Convenience store workers also have a high death rate, but these people work long hours in the middle of the night mostly for minimum wage --and certainly no pensions.
It seems Lineman's diversion into claimed injuries among his coworkers is rather a diversion from the direct question posed to him: whether given his citation of the $2100 average CALpers pension, and the fact that the entire government pension system is teetering on the edge of insolvency, would he agree to a cap of, say $2500 on pension benefits? This figure is two and a half times the average social security pension payment, 20% higher than the "average", and a start toward restoring solvency to California local governments.
Lineman says he won't feel guilty collecting his $5000+ monthly pension starting at 60. No one is trying to make him feel guilty. What we're trying to do is to educate him on the fiscal realities that Palo Alto and other cities are suffering under - fiscal realities that also affect Palo Alto taxpayers who will get social security checks starting at 66 which are less than half of Lineman's guaranteed pension.
It should also be noted that by his own account, Lineman didn't start working for the city until he was 37. Thus he likely had a decade and a half or so working in the private sector - meaning that in addition to his city pension, he'll be topping off his retirement lifestyle with social security payments.
The point is not to malign Lineman: any of us would take the most generous benefits we could negotiate out of our employer. The point is that we simply cannot afford to make SEIU and other city workers into an entitled Mandarin class when it comes to retirement - granting them benefits that are far in excess of what economic realities allow at the expense of the mass of citizens who's retirements are much more penurious by comparison.
The 2% at 60 formula being offered by the city would still give Lineman a pension of more than $3800/month to add to his social security and savings - more than enough to live a VERY comfortable life - starting at 60...not at 66 like everyone not on the government dole.
This seems perfectly reasonable to me, and I expect to everyone not living in the fantasy world of government workers who apparently think no one pays for the benefits they receive.
It's time to reform the broken municipal pension system. Will the SEIU be constructive partners in this process....or will they be diversionary and obstructionist?
By the way, I don't think Sharon's worries about SEIU violence are completely unfounded. There was sabotage the last time the union struck here in Palo Alto.
And if you Google "Kenneth Gladney SEIU", you'll find lots of evidence that SEIU workers beat up a guy on the other side from them in the health care debate - including a YouTube video that certainly seems to show SEIU workers beating up one guy. We won't know for sure what happened until the upcoming trial is completed, but SEIU members were the majority of those arrested.
I'm mostly on the other side in the health care argument from the guy who got beat up, and maybe the facts are really otherwise than they appear, but I don't think those who worry about getting cross with the SEIU on a public matter are totally wacko.
"My comment to poster Steven was to illustrate that the City is incompetent in contracting services out, yet that is his solution to the the current labor issues."
Your post fails on so many levels and, regardless of whether you agree with the process, it is still cheaper for Palo Alto to contract out these services.
Since you need a history lesson, read this article: Web Link
BTW above link didn't work. But then the whole deregulation/privatization mindset and activity has just made a mess of our country....oh and the world economy.
Gee if we see headlines to the effect of "Negotiations Succeed, Strike Averted"......what are the pro-strike/pro-privatization people going to do? I sense an almost religious fervor, like hungry dogs barking for their food.
When or if that headline ever appears it will be most humorous for me to read the online howling, wailing, and gnashing of keyboard teeth.
Yes, theres an entire new workforce emerging, due to the prison overcrowding. Let's hire a bunch of parolees to work for this fine city. They can surely handle it.
Are you all aware that it takes time to screen and hire people? Who do you want poking around your house or neighborhood? Even as people are lining up for these jobs, screening quickly separates the applicants from the real candidates. Even most of you critics out there can't qualify for a majority of the positions, due to something or other. The hiring standards and practices are quite high, even though the minimum requirements are easily met. There is also reluctancy for people to come work here in light of the fact that most other surrounding cities have the exact same or better benefits that are currently under attack by the peoples republic of Palo Alto.
..."but I don't think those who worry about getting cross with the SEIU on a public matter are totally wacko."
And I may not be TOTALLY wacko if I get super worried each time I walk out the door that lightning will strike me. Not totally.
This isn't real fear, unless someone is partially wacko. It is pre spin cycle nonsense. Look at the tone and tenor, the rush to take the "like war" and expand it into a hysterical call to arms! I suppose I could also go out and find someone in City Management with an Italian background, find some ancestral or current link to some remote Mafia tie-in, then bring up the executed SEIU agents from the 70's (also the time frame of the purported sabotage). Anyone who did the sabotage then (assuming it's real) would be way past retirement now.
About Kenneth Gladney..
The incident involved one of the Tea Party group at a Healthcare debate.....
I don't pretend to know all the facts about what happened and obviously there is a partisan spin...
But just for some samples..
Actually if you read todays papers reports on the tactics of SEIU agitators in Palo Alto thay are straight out of Alinskys play book.
SEIU send flyers to every home with completely deceptive, false and misleading statements.
They altered quotes from the Daily News and the SJMN in the most blatant fashion.
The SIEU spokesman who authorized the fraud refuses to talk-- this is big trouble for them-- do they think Palo Altans are unintelligent and illiterate?
SIEU has lost all credibilty by this act alone, the leadership team who allowed this fraud must resign as the first step on the long long road to building any trust with the Palo Alto tax payers who pay SIEUs wages and are their customers.
OY! I think we can all agree that Palo Alto is a terrible place to live and work. Good luck to those of you who feel city services are overpriced and inadequate. Good luck to city employees and thanks for your unappreciated services and devotion. I only wish we could hear the City Managers view on outsourcing or even any of his views on current negotiations or any city issues.
the members pay SEIU, not the City...
Todays headlines about the SEIU flyer send to Palo Alto homes and designed to deceive Palo Altans, who pay the SEIU workers wages.
This is an outrage.
Jerry Jimenez, SEIU spokesman, declined to answer repeated questions yesterday about the deceptive lying SEIU flyers or say who who was responsible for the deceit.
Jerry, and the rest of his gang, need their walking papers and to get out of town ASAP.
First the SEIU threatens Palo Alto taxpayers, now they lie to us and deceive us and pretend it does not matter.
Obviously they have no problem with lying, but Palo Altan tax payers do have a problem with being threatened and lied to, everybody I have talked to today sees this as the behavior of thugs, do the City workers want to be represented by such people?
Do they understand the consequences of such dishonesty and lack of remorse?
As a member of SEIU I'm embarassed by the letter that was sent to residents, and I'm not the only SEIU member who thinks this. We were all apalled to read what had happened and want the person responsible to be held accountable.
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So "Anonymous SEIU"...what was it about the flyer exactly that has you all hot and bothered? I haven't seen it and sure there might have been a flyer distributed which a reasonable person might have a problem with.
What have we seen so far? One person says "like a war" and it's spun to be declaring war. People refer to this incident at a Town Hall Meeting (which is being spun into the crime of the century), refer to some time in the 70's when "sabotage" supposedly occurred, refer to SEIU as "thugs"...and on and on....
A lot of bombast and pomposity for sure....
But where's the beef?
Such an egregious fraud could not happen without the approval of top leadership from SEIU.
If, in fact, such a letter went out without top management sign off then SEIU has more fundamental problems than just a culture of deceit.
It has a culture lacking even basic business ethics and standards
Either way-SEIU is finished as the representative of PA City workers, you have clearly been very poorly served by SEIU, the investigation of SEIU in general now begins
The only way forward is to fire SEIU and negotiate directly with Palo Alto administration in a spirit of collaboration.
Not everybody in PA got a flyer .. what did it say?
Someone could scan and post the flyer, i am on a blackberry now,
better the Palo alto weekly do a full criminal style investigation-- this is a big story-- unions--corruption-- lies -- some young reporter can make their brand on this, but never go alone to an interview and record and video, also let others know where you are, this could be dangerous but your big break could be huge
BOth sides need to be more open and honest. All the he they said this & they said that....Makes one wonder who is telling the truth???
palo Alto Weekly
When will we read the investigative report on this SEIU fraud case?
It is a very big deal, if you are afraid of covering it let us know why.
When I mentioned the 1933 SF Longshoreman's Strike--as a potential hisotrical counter to the gloating of Reagan and ATC strike--someone (Anna I believe) said it was "revealing". I just happen to be reading "The Family" by Jeff Shalet and it was weird how the group now notorious for C Street got it's embryonic start by flipping out over the successful SF Strike.
But I also think it might be "revealing" the current fixation on Sal Alinksy. If an investigation is called for, oh wait it was...
So I invite people to check out the links, then ask yourself "is it 'revealing' that the anti-union people are now invoking the spectre of Sal Alinsky?"
Some unions are honest, some are very corrupt and have strong links to the mobsters.
This association between organized crime and corrupt unions goes back to the 1930s.
Alinsky was a key player in this link, another was Jimmy Hoffa.
By 1940, Jimmy Hoffa was president of the Michigan Conference of Teamsters, and in 1952 he became the international vice president of the Teamsters Union under President Dave Beck.
In the 1950s, the U.S. government went on a manhunt against organized crime; they hit mobsters and their hangouts hard.
Jimmy Hoffa never denied his involvement with the Mafia, he just never acknowledged it.
In 1956, allegations surfaced that the Jimmy Hoffa Mafia, Teamster, was involved in illegal activities.
Nice history lesson. But the connection is about as real as the notion that Jimmy Hoffa's body is buried on the land that the City purchased for the new Police building. Yes, that's the real reason they can't break ground on the project. They might find Jimmy and then, well all will be revealed...
Ahhh the demonization of Saul Alinsky
For a more objective viewpoint..
which includes the sentence..
"Obama learned and taught Alinsky's methods for community organizing."
Also in an article describing a documentary about Saul Alinksy..
Which describes his "association with the Mafia" as..
"Alinsky's hard-nosed politics were shaped by the rough and tumble world of late 1930's Chicago. Back then, the city, still in the grips of the Great Depression, was controlled by the Kelly-Nash political machine and by Frank Nitti - heir to Al Capone's Mafia empire. In 1938, with a freshly minted graduate degree in criminology from University of Chicago, Alinsky went to work for sociologist Clifford Shaw at the Institute for Juvenile Research. He was assigned to research the causes of juvenile delinquency in Chicago's tough "Back-of-the-Yards" neighborhood. In order to study gang behavior from the inside, Alinsky ingratiated himself with Al Capone's crowd, and came to realize that criminal behavior was a symptom of poverty and powerlessness."
Gee so this has been spun that Alinsky "bragged out" his association with the Mafia...
If he did so it was probably at some party, inebriated, a way to get laid or something..
Gee let me brag about my "Mafia Connections"....
When I was 17 I ran away from home and hopped a train to Texas, worked there doing roofing and other jobs for a time. With me also was my 15 year old (almost 16) girlfriend. Her best friend also ran away. On the trip to Dallas she revealed that "my uncle back east is really big in the Mafia". Her last name was Gambino.
Then many years ago a report from the state was leaked out, gotten to me and I passed it along to an investigative reporter. It had the full report on the Mafia in CA. I read through it all.....one guy named as a Mob guy was Frank Bompensiero (sp?). Anyway VERY soon after it got to an investigative reporter was when Evelle Younger released the 200 names of the Mob in the state. Frank Bompenseiro was shortly afterwards executed for being an informant (not in the report but I always wondered if, because of the timing of the release to exectution, that some detail in the report alerted the Mob to it...There now I've "bragged" that I was maybe inadvertently involved in killing a mob informant. Also I remember reading the report and one guy stood out---Mathew Madonna of San Jose Cheese Factory. The others mostly seemed like guys that would steal hubcaps.
I did not invoke the spectre of Alinsky in this discussion of supposed SEIU thuggery, unions, the indignant whining of the poor Palo Altans who resent not paying the supposed "Market Rate" for the their hired servants.....
One other thing...I have spent a lot of time involved with left wing causes and efforts. I never even heard of Saul Alinsky, except maybe in passing and forgot his name. The only name I ever had any contact with from the Wiki article was Fred Ross (UFW). I interviewed him once for an article. They were all really moderate in their political thinking. So I find the rabid demonization of Alinsky to be quite comical.
But perhaps revealing as to the political core of who is most fervently involved in trying to get rid of SEIU's representation of the City Workers.
The fact is that SEIU lied to and deceived the tax payers of Palo Alto in the flier they sent to every home.
When questioned by reporters on Tuesday, SEIU spokesman Jerry Jimenez refused to answer repeated questions about the fraudulent flier, the lies it contained and who authorized the deception.
We simply cannot do business with people who lie, deceive and show no remorse.
The City workers will have to find another union to represent them or just represent themselves.
The workers have been terribly betrayed by the actions of SEIU, the city workers must be furious at SEIU leadership and rightly so.
Re: Flyer: Did anyone verify numbers with the city???
The figures for the city having 22 million (potentially diverted form the general fund) come from "unrestricted funds" now in: Vehicle maintenance, IT (Computer Funds), and Employee Healthcare and Benefits. These figures come from the cities own documents. Please contact the city for verification of departmental unrestricted funds totals for the past 4 years.
City Excess??? Palo Alto Management continues to hire 4 - 14 employees a month for the past year. Why is Palo Alto Management refusing to reorganize around the 40+ retirements and 70 frozen (funded) positions? There is easily 4.4 million in onging savings per year if this was done?
"The figures for the city having 22 million (potentially diverted form the general fund) come from "unrestricted funds" now in: Vehicle maintenance, IT (Computer Funds), and Employee Healthcare and Benefits. These figures come from the cities own documents. Please contact the city for verification of departmental unrestricted funds totals for the past 4 years."
Ah, yes, the old "let's make the numbers up and let others disprove them" trick. Second time I've fallen for that one this week.
Even if everything City Employee imagines is true about the city hiding funds, engaging in deceptive accounting and wasting money is absolutely true, we should restructure the pension system, which after all is the matter under discussion here.
The 2.7% at 55 system simply is not sustainable, is unfair to taxpayers who have to fund this largess, and needs to go. If the city's accounting practices are as bad as City Employee says, then the responsible managers should be held to account (and probably prosecuted). If the city is wasting money through failure to reorganize or otherwise, then we should stop wasting the money.
But any money recovered through reforming the accounting practices of the city or through eliminating waste does not belong to SEIU members for use in retirement. It belongs to the residents of Palo Alto who have plenty of needs that supersede the retirement fantasies of the union members who lust for it.
Re: Flyer: Did anyone verify numbers with the city???
The figures for the city having 22 million (potentially diverted form the general fund) come from "unrestricted funds" now in: Vehicle maintenance, IT (Computer Funds), and Employee Healthcare and Benefits. These figures come from the cities own documents. Please contact the city for verification of departmental unrestricted funds totals for the past 4 years.
All people need a dignified retirement.
All people deserve healthcare.
All people deserve housing.
The SEIU employees have suffered years of attacks form citizens based on MANAGEMENT decisions and the rate of MANAGEMENT pay.
If you are going to have a 55-65,000 employee pay 8% of their wage towardas healthcare and retirement, you will bankrupt these employees and their families. These are hardworking community members.
First I am stunned that anything I wrote would be objectionable and removed from this listing. So it goes.
Second what is going on here? Jimmy Hoffa? Lies and investigations? SEIU and the City haven't finished with contract negotiations. A strike hasn't been called. And PLEASE someone post the offensive flyer discussed here. I don't live in PA so I didn't get a copy. If it is bad, SEIU should recall it immediately. The union doesn't need to make matters worse.
Third you dare SEIU to strike? Sharon and others, come on down to the picket line if it happens. You will be amazed at the number of people walking the line from all over the state (see the definition of Union!).
Lets see what is offensive here that will be deleted.
Another Hard Worker
"Third you dare SEIU to strike? Sharon and others, come on down to the picket line if it happens. You will be amazed at the number of people walking the line from all over the state (see the definition of Union!)."
Now you're trying to scare people? Way to lock people into their positions! It doesn't work very well as a negotiating tactic.
This is looking more and more like the strike we have to have?
So how in the world is..
"You will be amazed at the number of people walking the line from all over the state"
Something which you find to be "trying to scare people"? I suppose if I wanted to take a whining and hysterical stance I could also say that the calls for "Let them strike and we'll get rid of the whole lot" are also trying to scare people.
He is merely stating what should be the obvious. IF a strike gets both voted on AND sanctioned by national SEIU then that means that the full weight and resources of a national union, one not shy to fight for working people to say the least, will be bought to bear. I am not trying to "scare" anyone with this and I hope (for the sake of the City Workers) that a strike isn't a hardship to bear.
But this part of a whole weird pattern, like Spin Doctors in Motion. One guy mentions that a strike is LIKE a war, actually if someone read his words he wasn't enthusiastic about a strike. Yet spun that he was threatening war on the good citizens of Palo Alto.
Then some flyer gets distributed. I haven't seen it, but whatever was in it has some frothing that it should be investigated as almost a criminal assault. Geeshhhhh.
Now this "scary" stuff. Give me a break.
From what I read in the local papers SEIU has lost all credibility by sending out that lying flyer.
Local editorials say the City must standfirm and not give in to deceit and threats by SEIU.
They point out that the City has a very bloated payroll with many people who add no value.the market has a lot of skilled workers looking for work.
We should not let this crisis go to waste, we can reengineer the work force and reset financial commitments so the are realistic and sustainable.
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"bring in ACORN activists"?
Who said that? I see one listing about ACORN/SEIU. That is not a wise connection, I agree. SEIU doesn't need any support from outside groups.
People, please try to keep the facts right, at least here where we can back track and check on what you are saying.
Try and twist it anyway you wish. The intention was to instill fear.
As I said, this is looking more and more like the strike we have to have. If it gets too bad, I'll just switch bases to Tahoe until it runs it course. I've been looking for an excuse to spend the winter there, it should be fun!
2530 views of this site by 4.20 pm Thursday
That is a lot of eyeballs closely watching SEIU and reading about their threats and deceptions, history and tactics
This big news and the SEIU is getting no support in the PA press-- zip
This is a real opportunity for prudent long term fiscal strategy by Palo Alto tax payers.
The Palo Alto City workers deserve a new decent union that will be honest, fair and understand economics 101.
The best option for the city is to keep a very small core of contract administers to contract out the jobs to the private sector.
While the SEIU is pondering the wisdom of its strike vote, and dealing with the fallout of the misleading flyer, its members might also have a look at the latest Gallup poll, which shows public support for unions reaching an all time low. Here: Web Link
There will be little support for the SEIU if it carries out its strike threat... and a lot of sentiment for curbing the power of the union.
We employ people to provide city services to residents, not to service the needs of union members. I suspect we'll see increasing recognition of that fact by the public and by city leaders as this plays out.
The "strike" vote was merely an authorization should it be deemed necessary. There are probably scores of hurdles and impediments before a strike would actually happen. Do you not understand this? Or just purposeful spin?
I keep hearing about the flyer being some type of criminal conspiracy. I haven't seen ONE newspaper article about it. I have not seen ONE person here print ONE thing even about what is so bad about the flyer. I get the Mercury News and have seen no editorial, nor by searching there or PA Online. If I missed something actually in a real newspaper please post a link. Otherwise please back up anymore bizarre accusations with something even remotely resembling credibility.
There is basically just a few people there spinning this into a "get rid of SEIU " thread. One can easily sign up under another name, I did to show that and it was taken down. (I feel sorry for the PA Online moderators sometimes).
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"As I said, this is looking more and more like the strike we have to have. If it gets too bad, I'll just switch bases to Tahoe until it runs it course. I've been looking for an excuse to spend the winter there, it should be fun!"
Marvelous sentiment. So what happened to the default expectation that dealing with a strike would just be an easy matter--hire out Strikebusters R Us with a cookie cutter solution, hire the desperate masses to do your bidding for as cheap as possible and without any benefits.....
But you plan to cut and run?
What if SEIU organizes in Tahoe?
Anna- thanks for the link to the Gallup studyWeb Link
Unions brand is in dramatic decline in the view of the American voter across the board in every state of the Union.
SEIU in Palo Alto is in even deeper trouble because of their threats and deceptions.
Again the issue is prudent fiscal planning by the tax payers of Palo Alto, the current deal is a formula for disaster.
As Thatcher said, "The problem with socialism is that you very quickly run out of other people's money".
I am very troubled by this discourse.
If I were in a position to do so, I would ask to sit down and tell those that lead the SEIU, we have a broken model. How can we together fix it going forward?
This is not about what is or is not in the Palo Alto accounting systems. This is not about how important are the people who work here. I find objectionable comments about how PA employees can be so easily replaced simplistic and naive.
And, just like a family with a different set of financial circumstances, we need to make some adjustments.
There seems to be a line of thought in this thread that suggests that "market rates" for PA employees are needed. What I have not seen is comments that "market rates" can go down, as well as up. In municipal labor negotiations, this is less fluid than it can be in the private sector. But it can be done.
I am of the opinion that things have wratcheted up way too far for municipal employees in nearly every city in this State. It is something that every City Manager and every City Council needs to face squarely. A respectful and honest negotiation with those representing the SEIU employees is what is needed here.
This should not be an ideological battle. It should be a strightforward conversation that is based on where things are and will be going forward. What may have been true in prior eras and times do not contribute to the realities faced in different circumstances.
Paul Losch is right. There is no reason, especially when the size of the economy is shrinking along with the incomes of those who pay city taxes, for the beneficiaries of taxpayer largess to expect to receive an ever larger slice of the economic pie.
What the city is proposing is that pension benefits be returned to what they were only short while back before they became totally unreasonable. 2 percent at 60 instead of 2.7 percent at 55 is still a VERY generous pension. It will give SEIU members retirements that far outpace the vast majority of people not working for California city governments.
By taking a totally unreasonable obdurate stance, the SEIU leadership is doing no one any favors. As Losch says, this is not an ideological battle. It's not politics at all. It is empirical mathematics: we can't afford the kinds of pensions union members are not entitled to. We need to change the system. Simple fact.
I am not involved in the City of Palo Alto's management...or labor. At least not yet. I have other things to attend to and it is not my desire to whip up anything.
I fervently hope that some mutually agreeable solution can be found. It is a hardship on working people when they go on strike. Like war, people shouldn't go into it lightly. (and please some of you get a lid on it...I'm not declaring war.....yet).
The union side is charging that the are financial shell games being played. The management side is claiming that with decreased revenue things have to be cut back. I suspect there is more than a grain of truth to both aspects.
But if you go back and read your initial post the wording sure seemed to me that Palo Alto should "lead the charge" as regards drastically cutting back on working peoples wages and benefits. You later said that was not your intent and I take you at your word, give you the benefit of the doubt. I like to do that unless proven otherwise. But many others here seem to be eagerly salivating for that very "opportunity". [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
For if a negotiated settlement can't be reached, management's side will have some VERY strange bedfellows.
I suggest that a qualified financial expert open a new thread to
educate Palo Altans about the train wreck they have committed themselves to with the current deal with SEIU.
As City workers read such a rational dialog they will see that SEIU does not represent their interest.
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"Marvelous sentiment. So what happened to the default expectation that dealing with a strike would just be an easy matter--hire out Strikebusters R Us with a cookie cutter solution, hire the desperate masses to do your bidding for as cheap as possible and without any benefits....."
Yes, if all your scare tactics come to be true and your imported thugs make life unbearable in Palo Alto, I don't mind spending the winter in Tahoe. That's why I have the house up there.
"What if SEIU organizes in Tahoe?"
Huh? They're going to organize in Tahoe for a strike in Palo Alto? That would be weird.
The numbers are the thing that have not really been discussed on this thread. Noone, including you, have disputed that there is an actuarial problem with the structure of compensation and retirement benefits for all employees all over California.
That is the matter at hand, and CPA management is looking at it square in the face and trying to deal with it, and it is at the leading edge in doing so. A very difficult position to be in, but in this case a highly responsible one.
I take exception to your interpretation of my comments, and I again request that you confine what you say to your own point of view and the facts. Are you able to do that?
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I assume you are referring to my posts (Annonymous).
Yes I agree that there is a HUGE deficit of facts being discussed. If people (city workers and management, citizens) wish to post the financial "books" that is fine with me.
My solution to "the financial and acutarial problem" would not be predicated on cutting back on working peoples wages and benefits. My solution would be to tax the livin' bejesus out of the strata that have been, on bulk and per so much, raking it in and ripping the rest of us off over the years.
If this "financial and actuarial problem" is statewide as you say, then why is Palo Alto at "the leading edge" and not, say for instance, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, or Needles?
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The tactics of local Bush and Cheney like attacks by the media and politicians on labor to instill public anger and fear are very real. There is a strong need for public awareness of the media instilling anti labor sentiment. The Palo Alto On line site has become one more vehicle for the sentiments of outrage over city employees who dedicate their lives to their work,family, and the Palo Alto community. We are people, we have families, we need healthcare. We as the Palo Alto Community are only as good a community as we support the weakest among us. When Palo Alto City Council stated that we are working for the common good...that means all of us.
First of all, let me wish everyone a nice Labor Day weekend. I sent everyone home early today from the company I own and run, with pay.
At the risk of repeating myself, the numbers clearly point out that the sort of retirement packages that have existed in California for municipal employees are actuarially unsustainable.
Here is my new observation: the way this country runs, in both the private and public sector, is that different entities have specific responsibilities and accountabilities. We have seen of late some co-mingling of this, which I don't like, but accept as needed under current circumstances. (GM, Chrysler, AIG, for example.) I don't view such a model as how things should work on a regular basis.
The highly distibuted form of governance we have in this country means that local entities, primarily cities and school districts, but some other things such as water districts, must manage to their financial circumstances. Responsible leaders in these positions look beyond the here and now and ask, what will it take to maintain and hopefully enhance the services provided?
What I find puzzling in this thread is that "market forces" that have devestated so much of our economy in the last year does not appear to be a factor in commentary in how labor negotiations should work going forward. I view this as a much longer term problem than the current recession the country is in, but there are some blind spots in my opinion around just how to maintain our great PA employees while being more realistic about where things are going, not where things went.
Please allow me to address your comments.
"At the risk of repeating myself, the numbers clearly point out that the sort of retirement packages that have existed in California for municipal employees are actuarially unsustainable."
Even allowing that perhaps the city is playing a shell game with finances as part of the pre-negotiation process no one should doubt that there is (also?) a financial crisis. Business is down, property taxes less, etc. So from one vantage point a perspective is that the only rationale solution is to then cut workers wages and benefits.
Now we don't need to go on and argue this ad nauseum, but just be aware that there is another quite viable alternative fix. First we recognize that taxation on the upper strata, capital gains, inheritance tax, has been eviscerated to abolished over the last few decades. The funding is out there and what is needed is the political cajones and determination to go and get it back.
But I realize that this effort would have to come from a State-wide at least and probably a national effort. And so the City of Palo Alto is itself not going to solve it in this manner. However when the calls go out that Palo Alto must lead the charge for a statewide take back of worker's salary's and benefits, thinly veiled to outright calls for getting rid of unionization...then local tolerance for "the facts on the ground" should likewise evaporate. If you want to talk local, then keep it that way. If you want to talk more globally (Palo Alto Uber Alles) then the discussion can logically migrate there as well.
It is fascinating that the co-mingling you don't like is viewed as perhaps necessary when it is done to save "corporations too big to fail". But when it comes to workers and their families then they are too small to care.
As to the market forces that have devastated our economy...that is also a matter of some spin.
From one (mine) perspective the market forces weren't regulated and the foxes were guarding the hen house, at best asleep if not feasting. There was essentially legalized off track betting going on, credit ratings, it was one big greed fest. How working people's benefits and wages enter into this is beyond me. In fact one of the tenets of any stimulus is to ensure that people have money to spend, to kickstart the economy. Trickle down just means money invested overseas....It's back to supply side now baby.... and forcing a strike in order to fire and replace the city workers goes against that very concept.
And again "Market Forces" are always intertwined with the political and organizational aspects. The economy doesn't exist in a vacuum separate...unless you think, for instance,that OPEC has no economic significance. So too with workers organizing into unions and for advancing their political power in order to reverse the debacle of the Reagan era.
Now if you go back to the start of this thread it is very evident that much of what started the rancor was a mix of despicable disrespect for the city workers, enthusiastic calls for a strike so that they could all be fired and replaced with cheap labor, etc. I didn't log onto this discussion with any pre-agenda, just saw this and was both embarrassed to even be a resident among this (description held to avoid post removal)....
I do not mean to post the above to elicit an endless back and forth. I understand that some of you hate unions, seem to be itching for a strike so that you can get the cheapest deal for your paid help you think you can. I find it abhorrent and will fight that tooth and nail....but it's as if some don't even understand that this other perspective exists...and will be acted upon if necessary.
Boy, you want rancor - just keep talking about raising taxes to help pay public employee salaries! My wife and I already lose 40-50% of our income to various forms of taxation - enough already! Reduce spending.
I loathed the GW Bush administration. The untoward damage done by those clowns will take years if not decades to heal from.
That said, there are realities that go beyond that regime, and that must be managed to, they cannot be managed away.
Local municipal responsibiity cannot be remedied by looking for national or state policy to change. One may like or not like those policies, and I have my serious mis-givings about things like Proposition 13 in this state. Local entities must deal with the circumstances as they are presented.
BTW, many workers in the private sector have been able to continue working as a result of the last year's bailouts. By the same token, many more have lost their jobs. We may be scraping bottom with "only" 216,000 layoffs last month and an unemployment rate approaching 10%, but it will be a while before things achieve a general equilibrium.
We are not discussing severe layoffs in Palo Alto, as has occurred in the private sector. We are discussing how to fairly deal with the fiscal realities this City, and cities statewide face.
The compensation packages offered to municipal employees wratcheted up beyond a sustainable level, and need to be adjusted. One person in the City management side told me confidentially that he worries that without some adjustments, people will be laid off and City services will be affected accordingly. The City cannot afford to provide the type of retirement benefits going forward. I would rather keep our work force with some adjustments in the package they have than lose some good people in order to maintain an existing package that is a very nice thing to have, but not something that can continue without layoffs and cutbacks elsewhere.
"...so that you can get the cheapest deal for your paid help you think you can."
Um...that's kind of the point here, is it not? Shouldn't the City get the most value it can for the taxpayers' money? Why should we pay more than the "cheapest deal" we can get for street lights, for library books, for police cars...or for street sweepers, for librarians and for police officers?
Union members who think we should pay more than is necessary to obtain the services we want and need - especially when this "more" is in the form of retirement obligations that the city cannot afford are living in world divorced from any touch with reality.
"Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." From the below link.
Happy Labor Day to all of us, whether union supporters or not. And remember who brought you the weekend.
Labor Day: A Day to honor workers and workers' rights. Greed step aside because humanity is on the march!
About taxation...those 40-50% comes from people tallying up every thing....like "I earned a dollar but got taxed 33%, then bought gas and paid a tax on that", and so on. The type of gymnastic shell game that is used to conceal revenue pre contract negotiations.
It is an established fact that the rich have gotten a relatively free ride, one which needs draconian reversal..
So I am a bit caught between a rock and a hard place..
A rock in that yes revenues are down and at least temporarily it may be that the city workers may have to forgo something, as they have agreed to. They may have to forgo more for all I know. That is not for me to become intimately involved in. I assume both sides will look into this to their heart's delight. At some point there will be a financial analyst stare down as books may need to be more fully opened, charges of financial shell game addressed, etc. There will be probably a series of "Come to Jesus" conversations between city managers and between the Union and the city workers. Been there, done that.
I also realize that my more global solutions (as posted in the above link), even with the most optimistic time frame, will not impact local PA finances in time.
But the hard place for me (and others) is when, on the one hand, apparently fair minded people use this to push a "we can set the tone for the state" agenda. If it does come to pass that the city workers agree to accept other cutbacks then this should be treated like the crazy uncle at a family reunion. Not broadcast and touted as if the crazy uncle just graduated with a PhD.
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I am itching for a strike. The union apologists have had it their way for far too long. This issue will not be resolved without a strike. We taxpaying citizens of Palo Alto will win this fight, *if* we haire the right guys to win it. Our current leadership is not made of strong stuff, but I think they want to hold the line. Therefore, they need to hire the professionals that know how to take on SEIU. It won't be pretty, it won't be short, but it *will* be successful. Those who wish to leave to their homes in Tahoe, please do. I will stay here and do my best to beat the strike by taking a job, with the protection of those guys who know how to protect my free choice.
I have been through this before, twice. Expect violence and threats. Both sides will "man up", but it is the side with the most steely determination that will win. However, bitter disputes will finally dissipate, and neighbors will begin to talk to each other again. The important issue is that SEIU be defeated, because they want extortionist control. We cannot allow that.
Anonymous, your concern is misplaced. We're not talking about supporting someone on minimum wage struggling to survive against an uncaring company. The unions want to protect workers' $100,000 a year pension with full medical benefits at the age of 55!
To "get a life"
You should note that many of the most exuberant posters here are calling for replacing the current city workforce with as cheap as the market will allow. And under the current rules that means minimum wage and zero to pathetic healthcare.
Indeed your post takes umbrage with the city workers just treading water. And seems to imply that a severe reduction is in order. One that even the most passive and shy union would be forced into striking over....and that union isn't SEIU from what I've seen.
And then there are those "itching" for a strike, expecting violence and threats.....
If an truly outside observer were to look at the tenor and tone of the various posts on this thread...On bulk the actual city workers (i.e. Lineman and others) come off looking intelligent and informed. The Palo Alto citizenry appears a bit fringe, locked and loaded.
Labor Day celebrates people who work for a living and create value, it does not celebrate unions
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What value do unions add in the new economy, we supported some agricultural workers unions because they are vulnerable to abuse and were honest in their appeals for help.
In the case of skilled workers and knowledge workers it is an other case, they can individually negotiate their deals.
Gallup research shows that support for unions is at an all time low
"fewer than half of Americans -- 48%, an all-time low -- approve of labor unions, down from 59% a year ago."Web Link
As we relax over Labor Day, which celebrates all those who work for a living in America and create value for others, we could also reflect on what value creation role unions can provide moving forward.
It is an interesting question, unions need an reformation lest they become irrelevant,which would be a pity.
Based upon the Gallup poll unions need to be made relevant in some way.
In Palo Alto we need to be transparent and honest, the current deal with SEIU is not sustainable, in the past the economic prospects for the City looked enormous, now they are dismal for many years, surely the City workers understand this.
If not can a financial expert point out the economic reality moving forward in plain English.
Most reasonable people will agree that the recent actions of SEIU has, unfortunately, undermined their credibility, we need to communicate with the City workers directly about the economic realities as we move forward and achieve the best interest of Palo Alto tax payers in these difficult times
Anonymous, I do take umbrage at $100,000 a year pension and full medical benefits at age 55. Everyone should get a decent wage and opportunity to save/have a retirement. How can you not see $100,000 a year pension & medical at only 55 years of age for the rest of their life as being excessive? How can we possibly afford to keep going on like this?
My post isn't anti-union or anti-city worker. It is simply looking at the deal on the table and shaking my head in wonder. I still can't believe that you can walk away with that sort of pension and benefits at only 55 years of age. It seems so incredible. The city workers have these fantastic benefits and they even claim victim status in the current negotiations.
You can repeal prop. 13, then you'll have all the money you need to keep the current gravy train running.
What!! $100,000 a year pension with full medical at 55? You've got to be kidding. I'm 4 years short of 55 - if I were a City worker I would seriously considered retiring soon. Oh wait, I AM A CITY WORKER, and have been for 15 years and I won't be getting $100,000 a year pension. Where do these numbers come from? When I am 55 I will be lucky if I get a third of that. I will still have a 13 year son and another in college to support. Now imagine if the City gets their way, it will cost me $500 a month now and in my retirement. I barely survive on my salary now!!
And I don't know where the $72K average salary comes from either. Are you counting the manager's salaries and and overtime that SEIU workers make? Not everyone gets overtime. I make no where near the average and that's after 15 years of service. Increase my salary to what other cities are paying if you want to charge me $500 a month!!!! There has got to be a different way.
I welcome an outside independant auditor to go over the City's financials. Proove the City is in as bad a shape as they claim. I doubt it. . . Residents should be calling for this outside auditor. Bring the truth out.
I would LOVE to see EVERY city worker's salary and benefits, and retirement plan.
Where can I find that? Is it public info? I tried a search, but just came up with a lot of meaningless gibberish. Is there a chart somewhere?
Thats outrageous, yes it is.
There are city workers "retiring" from Palo Alto and working for FREE in the same role in other cities! That's how outrageous our current pensions are. We are paying other cities salaries through them as well!
That's an easy request. First let me point out that the numbers being tossed around here are greatly misrepresented. Only 1% of PERS retirees make $100k a year. Managers who make $150,000 a year get PERS also. Here's a link to PERS real numbers: Web Link
Here's the salary information for SEIU employees: Web Link Remember that overtime is not used for the retirement calculation.
Our formula is number of years of service x 2.7% x the average of the highest pay of three years of service.
Wow. Lineman. I expected it to not look so great in pay. I have to be honest. The pay is humongous. Private equivalents no longer make this kind of money, and if what you have been saying is true, nowhere near the benefits, retirement and overtime.
I suspect you are not going to win this one. There are too many of us paying taxes for the pay of people who make more than we do for jobs that did not take 4-6 years of college, internships, and working our way up the ladder.
Has your union done a "job equivalency" in the private sector for pay/bennies? That might help everyone get real. Maybe I am wrong, and I just dont' know what the equivalent jobs are out in the real market, I can only compare to what happens in my private world and try to compare jobs to jobs based on skill and education level, and need, of course.
BTW,Linemman. I appreciate your posting. Hiding information would not be a good way for anyone to have any trust, and actually work together, would it?
What is interesting is that apparently Palo Alto's wages and benefits for it's city workers isn't any greater than the surrounding areas......and while the economic downturn may mandate some less than vigorous COLA, etc., some want to compare to wages in Indonesia.
That is probably part of the whole "we can shine a beacon of light for the whole state" is predicated on......the need to blow a hole in the local comparisons.
So for private vs. public comparison....would you all agree then that the salary for Marines and other US service combatants should all be raised to the obscene level we've been paying those despicable mercenaries of Blackwater ilk?
Heard from a city employee: The SEIU is organizing a mass sickout for this coming Tuesday. Some members are squeamish about this because they know their public position is not strong and are upset about the hostile nature of the negotiations and the unfavorable publicity about the strike. This will not be helpful to their cause
Ugh Anna, can you provide us with a link to anything resembling "unfavorable publicity about the strike" (there is no strike to cover unless you know of some breaking news). Just to keep saying things over and over doesn't make them true.
Ugh Anna, can you provide us with a link to anything resembling "unfavorable publicity about the strike"
Sure. Here you go: Web Link
Circular posting (back to this site) which is akin to the logic exhibited here by some.
The story is just about a strike AUTHORIZATION vote. And various comments by various people. The news story is not by it's nature unfavorable. The comments posted here are hardly any publicity.
I have also not seen any news story that could be interpreted that "hostile" negotiations are taking place.
If you want to play word games with "strike" and "strike authorization" than go ahead. It adds nothing to the discussion.
From the postings here by city employees, and from the conversation I reported, some people think the negotiations are hostile. What does it add to the discussion to disagree with that.
It is unclear what definition of "news story" you're using, but if you mean that you only rely on establishment media for "news", then you're bound to remain both uninformed and a little bit priggish.
In any event, my post concerned the apparent planned sickout by SEIU members on Tuesday. Any comment on that?
For perspective- My department could use a temp worker, cost $30/hr; however, management won't approve it, so we get a contractor to do the job for $110/hr. You should see the insurance requirements they need, which can result in a cost of 30% of the contract and it takes months to get a simple contract in place at the city.
The temp worker is local and knows the local outreach and service program, the contractor does not know the program at all so I get is generic-themed work, then you- the residents and businesses of palo alto, call me so that I can then explain what the contractor provided to you. So, the city pays a $110/hr and then pays me, the city employee to do "clean-up" of the contractors work.
This has happened with the last two contracts that I have had to oversee for this work. It is a waste of my time and tax payer money. Moral of the story, contracts are not always cost effective or get the work done to the standards needed.
Be careful what you wish for if you want contractors. There is a lot of idealizing in this thread of what contractors will accomplish. Reality check, please.
Palo Alto residents reap so many more benefits than the surrounding cities. You have 5 libraries, your own Park (Foothills), free monthly hazardous waste events, free Shuttle service, a Children's Zoo, great schools plus many other benefits. Curb garbage service isn't up to Palo Alto standards. You want them to continue with the backyard and sideyard service. Where does all the money come from for these extras? Certainly not from any tax revenue.
Many residents don't spend their money in Palo Alto. They go to the outside cities, they have to. Palo Alto doesn't have the Ikeas, Targets, Safeways, and Home Depots. That's why the surrounding cities are doing better and why Mountain View was able to give their employees a raise. The fact is that the residents like the way their city as is. Not having the box stores helps to keep the riff raff from their city.
Do you really need a new $50,000 fountain, did you need to send consultants to a 2-day high speed rail seminar for $70,000? Must every city manager be supplied a house? etc etc etc
"If you want to play word games with "strike" and "strike authorization" than go ahead. It adds nothing to the discussion."
It is way more than word games. I don't know what the ratio of strike authorizations:strikes would be. But imagine it's a rather small per cent. If anyone has any data on this please link.
But sure, it adds nothing to "the discussion" as in how you want to spin it...a strike is planned, threats and violence on the way, Mafia thugs and Stalinist agents creeping up San Francisquito Creek, etc.
"From the postings here by city employees, and from the conversation I reported, some people think the negotiations are hostile. What does it add to the discussion to disagree with that."
There is no evidence by the posts here by (apparently) city employees that the negotiations could be construed "hostile" in any true sense of the word. I'm sure some people would like to think things are truly hostile. Again I detract from your spin on "the discussion" by pointing out no one has said things are hostile. They MIGHT be, they might get there, I also might get run over by a bus today...
"It is unclear what definition of "news story" you're using, but if you mean that you only rely on establishment media for "news", then you're bound to remain both uninformed and a little bit priggish."
Me priggish? Hah hah. OK let me take you back to your original post on this.
"They know their public position is not strong and are upset about the hostile nature of the negotiations and the unfavorable publicity about the strike."
Unfavorable pubicity? OK show me something from outside the "establishment media", maybe The Spectator or something someone in some world or universe could ever call "publicity". You just make these statements, which seem to arise from your wishful thinking, as if they are facts. Go ahead and get Un Priggish in a Medieval manner even.
"In any event, my post concerned the apparent planned sickout by SEIU members on Tuesday. Any comment on that?"
Well this is the first I've heard of the supposed sickout. It could be real, or not. But there isn't a good track record as regards facts.....not to be priggish or anything.
How about this....show me one link to the supposed fury over the SEIU flyer? Or describe exactly what "lies and falsehoods" it contained (not just differences of opinion)? For all the sound and fury surely you must have some conception of some substance to your charges?
Has anyone else heard anything about a sickout on Tuesday?
No word on a sick out. Where did you hear about it? Are you willing to say? Was it a union person?
I will bet not. But if so, it is still news to me.
Still working hard.
Nope. Stop hoping for somthing bad.
The Post tore apart the way the facts were presented. Someone stated there should be an investigation into alleged fraud. One way a lawyer tries a case is to attack the witness and not the facts. The Post didn't even mention all the information the flyer presented. BTW, SEIU hired someone else to write the next flyer. It will be put together better than the last.
SEIU has no knowledge of a sickout. I know I'm feeling a little nauseous after reading some of these posts.
Jimmy the SEIU spokesman was clearly scared of the consequences of what they had done and he has not been heard of since, quiet as a frightened mouse.
Look for a reply in Wednesday's Post. Buying ad space is the only way to get any semblance of truth in the Post.
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Will someone please post a link to the Post article about the SEIU flyer? I read PA Online, read the weekly (usually in a hurry). I freely admit I don't read the Daily paper post. I get the email from PA Online. I just did a search for any editorial about the flyer.
But nice of you to think that "no Palo Altan" should ever listen to an outsider, or care about their opinions. You may wish to dismiss me in the fashion you would your hired servants, but I'm not that compliant.
It may be that the flyer was at best poorly written and at worst was part of some criminal enterprise (yeah right)...I haven't read it or found any way to access either the flyer's contents (SEIU webpage) or any editorial or news article about it. One would think that if even 1/4 of the umbrage was justified there would be more fire to match the smoke, being blown up....
If you really think that it's up to the DA and the State Attorney General (LOL) to ascertain whether there is a "fraud" which violates election laws (??? election laws??? is there some city wide voting going on??) why would you take it upon yourself to post such accusations in advance in the first place?
Hey for Labor Day let's raise a toast to the hard working moderators of these forums. Obviously working late on a Friday night. May you be making a living wage and decent benefits!
Anna, "Has anyone else heard anything about a sickout on Tuesday?"
Now you're encouraging a sickout. I can't believe such a fine resident is trying to get workers to call in sick. You should be brought up in front of City Council and tarred and feathered by a Ukranian prostitute.
Quite a few city employees read these forums. My coworker just told me about this "sickout" strike a few minutes ago via IM. I asked him where he heard this from, and he referenced Anna's post in here.
I just checked my City E-mail and there have been no union e-mails about a sickout action. I didn't hear anything about it on Thursday either (Friday was my 9/80 off).
My coworker asked a couple of his other coworkers about it. Some said they didn't know, and others said they saw something on these forums. I'm sure it's spreading now. If a sickout does occur on Tuesday, I think we'll all know that it came from Anna, and not the union...
Well gosh, I never dreamed I had such influence over city employees!
Now that I understand how the system works, perhaps I can be a little more constructive. When you all return from the sickout I ordered, perhaps you'd be so kind as to be reasonable enough in the contract negotiations as to accept the city's proposals so you can stop fretting about your pensions, posting on these forums, and start doing the work that you're being paid so generously for.
Also, it's pretty difficult to do any business with the city on Fridays because so many of you are "off". Maybe you'd all agree to work 5 days a week like the rest of us from here on out.
Thank you all very much for your understanding and support.
We'll see how the sickout idea works first.
My comment on the Fridays off. The 9/80 schedule has some pros and cons.
City employees work 9 hour days. This means you get an extra hour of service without paying overtime. Employees drive to work one less day every two weeks. That cuts emissions from driving to work by 10%. The employees that commute from the valley don't have to wake up at 3:30 one less morning.
On Fridays the City runs at half staff.
To" College Terrace Guy
The city does NOT subsidize the golf course. The golf course returns a profit to the city each year and pays off its re-build costs. It is not a drain on the city - and it IS a civic asset. Know your facts.
To City Worker: Yes, I get that, about using contractors who cost more per hour, then city workers to "clean up" the mess. Thanks for reminding us. I know it is frustrating for you, having been in your shoes, to see this happening.
Having been in the hiring/management shoes later in life, a situation in a private sector facility, I suspect the problem is that actually HIRING someone, even at less per hour, results in a tremendous liability because then the facility is stuck with that person, regardless of need, and can't fire him/her without lawsuit and other liability risks. So, in the long run, someone, somewhere, decides to keep the facility flexibility and hire a contractor, keeping the regular staff down to the minimum possible to keep the future liability risk down.
The down side of "labor protection" laws is sometimes less willingness to actually hire.
"When you all return from the sickout I ordered, perhaps you'd be so kind as to be reasonable enough in the contract negotiations as to accept the city's proposals so you can stop fretting about your pensions, posting on these forums, and start doing the work that you're being paid so generously for."
Talking Down to the Underlings 101
Yes stop fretting about, and how cheeky for the city workers to post here!
This is great, I couldn't make this up if I were a script writer for The Devil Wears Prada type movie.
"The down side of "labor protection" laws is sometimes less willingness to actually hire."
the down side of lousy management is that a mess is created. Lousy hiring practices, no evaluations, job description not updated in 20 years, expecting more of "them that can" and not wanting to create a new wage scale as the job entails more and some rise to it and some don't.
Years ago I worked at a unionized place where, over the years the job expectations had skyrocketed. Yet management took a "they don't want to do this". Then the blame was laid at the union that the "dead wood" couldn't be made to pull their weight, or even let go. But looking under the hood more, all that would have been required was an update in job descriptions, perhaps separating into Category 1 and Category 2, etc. But this would have opened the door to an argument for a salary increase. So better to just continue with the Peter Principle and blame the existence of the union.
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Are any minds being changed?
A Noun Ea Mus thinks workers will thrive when corrupt management gets out of the way. Anna and Sharon think workers will thrive when corrupt unions get out of the way. Paul Losch wants to call the question on contract sustainability and set an example for the rest of the state. SEIU wants to slow down spending a bit based on sales and property tax shortfalls, but wants to spend the City's entire life savings in every reserve account before we discuss the structural issues with retirement costs. A Noun Ea Mus wishes we could balance the City budget with taxes California Cities can't levy.
The only things everyone seems to agree on are that the Senior Games and the California Ave fountain are proof that there's no need to reduce benefits or raise taxes, and that if anyone needs to sacrifice anything it should be someone else.
That's not a bad summary, anonymous. I doubt if any of us ideologues will have our minds changed by the ideologues on the other side. The question is partly, who among us ideologues is closest to the truth...and even more importantly, whose arguments do the non-ideologues find most convincing?
Of course I wouldn't summarize quite the same way exactly, but my hat's off to you for attempting to wrap this up a bit.
My sense of how it will probably play out before any strike would actually occur IF the two parties can't come to an agreement..
Mediators are called in. The books are looked at. Stances that the city is playing a shell game vs. the economic shortfall are laid out. The city management balances the best they think they can get with a "bitter pill" agreement vs. the hassle and hoopla of dealing with a strike. The union balances the best they can get "bitter pill" agreement with the disruption and hardship a strike would bring on. Various "come to Jesus" conversations occur on both sides. There might even be some pre-agreement rumbles, short of an all out and protracted strike. Sort of like 5.0 quakes to re-align the plates a bit....
From my experience with labor/management negotiations..it is amazing to me that people actually go from one negotiation to the next. I would rather have my fingernails pulled out than to have to suffer through drawn out negotiations ever again. Certain types of people seem to thrive on the give and take of it. And actually between some union negotiators and some management negotiators a sort of friendly rivalry mixed with respect can develop. (I said CAN). After all they are professional "neighbors" of sorts.
One time I was instrumental in actually helping to prevent a strike. The union negotiators were very subjectively irritated over an interpretation dispute after the contract was signed. So much so that a hold was placed on the agreement and people were livid. I had to explain to them that we would be treading on shaky ground to try and take this issue public, that even the mediator and some top union officials thought that it was just a tough lump.
What could derail this into an actual strike is 1) management actually has a behind the scenes plan to force a strike/lockout and intends to try and remove the union representation (doubtful as this would necessitate a large backup and Palo Alto wouldn't be the logical place to start) 2) the union wants to take a super firm stand and roll back any giveaways (unlikely as they have already agreed to some givebacks).
Time will tell.
Anna and Kate, you make sane and rational arguments, the problem SEIU PA has moving forward is that they committed fraud in sending their lying flyer to the homes of those readers and poster who do, in fact live in Palo Alto.
Contrast SEIU Stanford ( SU ) with SEIU PA.
SEIU SU reached and agreement with SU which involved reductions in benefits and outsourcing of some jobs, the negotiation was in good faith, SEIU did not lie so a good faith negotiation could proceed.
Without the replacement of the leadership of SEIU PA cannot take place, no matter how much their blowhards ramble on this blog.
SEIU PAs deceit is the elephant in the room, the leadership has to go, they are corrupt.
Gallup proved how the trust in the union brand has declined to an all time historic low across all voters.
Regarding the sickout, it was probably, planned but after the Gallup report and the comments on this blog SEIU is running scared and will back down from any threats or actions like that, unless they are stuck on stupid.
Next week we all expect to see much less posting on this site by union members during working hours, which we pay for, or from CPA equipment, which we own.
They need to get back to work, while they still have such generous payment for their jobs, or indeed still have a job.
Can anyone tell me exactly what was (supposedly?) fraudulent about the flyer?
I found a link to an SEIU news release.
Is this the contents of the flyer?
If, as alleged there are errors or untruths (be they purposeful or not) let's hear specifically what they are. One would think, if SEIU is blushing up a storm over this that then this link would have been removed, some "Oops" page, etc.
It gives the concept of delusion a good name when one thinks that some Gallup Poll and/or this blog will have any influence on this issue.
I was thinking about this last Sat as I attended the Electric Car Show at Paly High School. As you entered from Embarcadero one of the first booths on the left was electric bikes, then some electric scooters. At the far end were the "we did it ourselves" elecrtic cars. At one corner there is a new electric car company which has a van called "The Moose". Sharon has alleged that I don't live in town and I just wanted to offer some quasi proof that I do.
I've lived here over 20 years, not so long that I used to go park and dance with the car lights on Leland Stanford's Tomb with alchohol in hand, just heard the stories. Also about Rap streaking through town. Years ago there was a Black Mamba scare in South PA.
Can anyone tell me exactly what was (supposedly?) fraudulent about the flyer?
The link isn't the flyer in question. I wish that I could find an e-copy to post. The facts are the same in the release you found. The big fuss that's being made is over the credit given to two quotes. The Post had half a page dedicated to the mistaken credit but didn't mention any of the numbers mentioned.
So, all you all aware that Management, Fire and Police negotiate their contracts shortly after SEIU, right?
Are you planning on being as harsh on them, or is it just all of the 'peasants' who (apparently) don't matter?
Be careful what you wish for everyone. You want the best for the least? That can only happen in some markets. This is one of the most desirable places to live in the U.S. This is not China, India or some other 'cheap' labor market. You all have no idea how good you have it considering the size and density of this community. The Bay Area, especially cities along El Camino Real, are just one long miniature Los Angeles with houses and whatever a few miles in each direction off of El Camino.
If you really think things are that much better elsewhere, or you can get better services for less, then I dare you to pick up a phone book from somewhere in the U.S. within 1,200miles of here and find more for less of your tax dollars in a similar community with all of these offerings, services and real estate values. Trust me, you all have it good. You have just forgotten how good in the mess of the current situation.
The link has 4 quotes. Any citation for the any of the quotes was to one person.
One would think that anyone channeling the umbrage could at least "enlighten" us with SPECIFICALLY what is so heinous about the flyer.
But that is apparently hoping too much.
If I thought that some flyer had such a Gold Mine of "fraud", etc., you bet I'd be listing and describing each portion ad nauseum.
I get the PA Weekly with the mail but must have tossed it out with when in "machete mode" and putting stuff into paper recycle. I immediately save only the main section and ritually toss the ads, flyers, real estate section, etc.
I hardly ever read the Post unless I'm at some place and it just happens to be available.
Anonymous and Anna: Well said! I love it! Thank God we live in a democracy where, in the end, either such questions are answered correctly or we collapse! I have faith in the collective wisdom of the masses.
One principle I'd like to see in any new contract is to fully fund every promise. 2.7% retirement vesting? Fully fund it. Retirement medical? Fund it now. It takes an actuary to build a budget. The irony of fussing about reserves is we have reserves to do the right thing each year for IT and cars, but not fully for people.
We have to stop kicking costs down to future taxpayers and stop creating uncertainty for staff and retirees whether underfunded and unfunded promises mean anything.
I'm not happy that old Councils and City Managers didn't fully fund their promises. We may even need to dip into reserves to fully fund old promises. The tradeoff may be an aging City vehicle fleet, more deferred street maintenance, no police building and Lucie Stern keeps getting shabbier and shabbier. Who knows, that may even catalyze a few Prop 13 overrides and some programmatic rightsizing. My bias: we could do more with more, but we're too caught up in turf to see the bigger picture.
"One principle I'd like to see in any new contract is to fully fund every promise. 2.7% retirement vesting..."
That's a fine principle that most would agree with. But it begs the question - totally ignored by you - of where you plan to come up with this "funding". The SEIU apparently takes the position that the city is secretely hiding a treasure trove of "funds" that should be sequestered for Union members' lavish retirements.
Anyone familiar with the city's finances and even casually following the projections for the economy know that there are no such funds and that tax revenues will be growing much more slowly in the future than they have before the economic crisis. And even if there were some hidden "funds", the city has much more urgent uses for them than to continue the anachronistic 2.7 % at 55 retirement scheme for its workers.
Saying this isn't to knock the many city workers who work hard, od a good job and probably aren't posting tendentiously defensive balderdash on this forum.
This isn't politics; it's basic financial math: we can't afford these pensions any more.
It is true these formulas are unaffordable in this economy. It must and will change going forward, as it is already trending elsewhere.
BUT, promises need to be honored. If we cannot trust our government (I know, that sounds laughable) , or our city leaders to honor promises, then what value does our city really have?
If leadership has no trust or does not follow through with commitments, I certainly would not want to be affiliated even remotely with that sort of community. Karmically speaking, it's just a bad place to be.
And perhaps therein will lie the "Come to Jesus" conversations on both sides..
At least a partially un-fundable agenda...
No unbroken promises....
I predict a compromise between those two poles.
The barrel will be scraped and both sides will then look and the "residue" and say, "OK if this is all"...(then let's keep dancing..)
Unless either side is really prepared or enthusiastic to "go to the mat".
Cc: the moral dilemma is that ten, twenty, even thirty years ago city leaders made promises they didn't fund. They didn't set aside reserves for their promises and they didn't publish a balance sheet showing the promises as unfunded liabilities. They didn't even price their promises! Is it really fair to dump 100% of the old unfunded promise costs on new people who didn't vote on them?
So our moral dilemma is we have staff and retirees arguing, "The City made a promise" and current taxpayers saying, "I didn't have anything to do with these promises. I knew about bonded debt, but I didn't know about these other promises."
I vote for more transparency going forward! I also strongly hope if we dip into any of the reserves, it's part of a deal on how to fund old promises and not used to fund future promises.
To steal from the reserve to pay unrealistic retirements would be gross fiscal malpractice.
It is time for SEIU to face reality and stop trying to manipulate and lie to Palo Alto taxpayers.
The flyer has backfired big time,
they poisoned the well.PA SEIU leadership has to go immediately and if SEIU remains as the union they are going to have to work long and hard to build trust with both the workers and the Palo Alto tax payers-- that will take years- so the workers are better off with a different, honest union.
Sharon: your anger doesn't turn a disputable claim about benefits into "gross fiscal malpractice." I'm angry too, at old councils and city managers who didn't fund their agreements. I'm not even convinced our previous leaders read the agreements. And I'll be very disappointed in the current guys if they agree to anything going forward they don't know how to pay for.
And for Anna, if you read my post you'll see I'm not ignoring the problem of funding. I want new promises to be fully funded from inception. That tells us exactly what we can afford to do going forward. If we have to cut, we cut. If we want to do more, we figure out how to pay for it. If 2.7% is sustainable and funded, then go for it. If it's not, find a level we can afford. Not just for new hires, but for everyone going forward. As an employer I prefer defined contribution plans. As an employee I prefer defined benefit plans. So expect some negotiation.
The tougher nut is what to do with old promises. Perhaps we have to use some of the reserves, collected from the same cohort that made the promises, to pay for the old promises. Perhaps we negotiate the old promises down a bit in exchange for funding the new promises. Perhaps we ask the union for some guidance on how they'd prioritize headcount vs protecting salary and benefits vs protecting retirement benefits with a fixed pot. Just declaring the old promises are null and void won't get us very far, and probably won't stand up in court.
A Noun Ea Mus, you've had 15 posts deemed unsuitable for publication in this thread alone. You really shouldn't throw stones.
"deemed unsuitable". I have not ever once hit the "Report Objectionable Content" even though...well I can't describe some of the things without opening things already deleted.
I have also not complained about having anything I wrote deleted, only insofar as it then makes later "downstream" discussions (like this one) impossible.
By the time, or if, you've read this, yours and mine will both probably also be taken down.
Anonymous Said: "the moral dilemma is that ten, twenty, even thirty years ago city leaders made promises they didn't fund. They didn't set aside reserves for their promises..."
And therein lies the problem with governnment control. We are going to have the same problems in social security and medicare that SEIU is having now.
Had city leaders or national leaders "then" actually INVESTED THE MONEY IN STOCKS, even with the recent downturn, the money would be there..for social security, for medicare, for funding the retirements of union workers, for all the "unfunded liabilities" this country now faces ( and continues to build up astronomically, exponentially...steeply..with the Stimulus, Clunkers, Bailouts, government takeovers, and now Public Health).
Therein lies the problem with this ideology which gripped our nation under FDR for a while, then under Johnson, Carter, Clinton for a minute, now Obama.
Today Obama praised Unions for bringing us "social security and minimum wage"...the first bankrupt, the second completely self-defeating within 6 months. He then went on to claim that "the stimulus is working"... Yes, definitely, three programs to be proud of, all with the same basis in ideology, and all failing.
Well, in any case, I was thinking about it, and I AM grateful for the unions for bringing people the idea of organizing to help themselves, and I AM grateful for the concept of bringing people the idea of taking a little time off, of planning for retirement, of trying to improve your own lot etc.. So, for that I celebrate Labor Day. At the same time, many of the collectivist, instead of individual responsibility, policies that such thought brought about have been proven failures, and I hope we, and the unions, are learning from the mistakes of history.
Not. Social Security is actually viable, if it hadn't been raided. First to pay for our defeat in Vietnam. The money just needs to be paid back. Be it by my "soak the rich" link posted above or that with not funding the "friends" of the Plutocracy--Blackwater, Haliburton, etc.
The real lessons that people should learn is that our current mess is in large part to letting the super wealthy pay way less taxes, deregulation, dismantling of the structures FDR and others established. The polar opposite of what is posted above. An Ann Ryand lovefest isn't the solution to our current problems.
There was a recent PBS Now report on what a miserable failure the deferred comp plans have been for working people compared to defined pensions.
Funny minimum wage is spoken of with derision. If we tried to cap CEO's salarires there would be a hue and cry.
But the spin must be done. Because otherwise looking at the obvious facts leads people to inevtiable conclusions.
Interesting that the union is striking here locally. The state workers in that union have lost 14% of their salary due to furloughs. I've read stories of workers needing donated food, and some home-owners have gone into forclosure. I don't agree with the local strike.
I'll never lie to you. The check is in the mail. I'm from the government and I'm here to help you. Sick out link: Web Link
The SEIU Sick Out by 25% of employees today was a VERY bad move by the union.
We cannot do business with these people the leadership needs to be replaced.
First the fraudulent flyer now fraud by claiming to be sick.
Enough is enough of these ACORN tactics
Anna nailed this sickout stone cold. Atta girl, Anna!
It is clear that SEIU operatives have been using this forum to foist their thugocracy upon us citizens. "A Noun Ea Mus" is among the worst of these. I am ready to go to work, as soon as a registry is offered by CPA. Now is the time!
Oops. Maybe that was Anna who called the sick out. Anyway, kudos to the clairvoyant one or the sleeper cell.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Finally found a link to the flyer people are talking about:
I am an employee for The City of Palo Alto in the utility department. I must say that most people who I work along side took a huge pay cut to work here because the benefits and retirement made the job worth taking. While the workers in the private sector get rich, we maintain a decent wage, good benefits and retirement along with stability. We want to live a normal lower middle class life and have a stable job. We are not rich nor can we afford to live in the town we serve but we are hardworking people who do the best we can to serve this city.
I sincerely hope that the residents in this city review all of the facts before making a judgment. It is so disheartening to have what seems like all the customers we work so hard to serve, against us. If you look at what the city is asking for and actually look at how ridiculous it is, maybe you would understand. How would you feel if you worked so hard to give the best service possible to a community who is against you while serving a community you could only dream to live in and have your employer after all your benefits? One can only think that if the shoe was on the other foot you would be one of us. Please read all the facts and compare our jobs to those on the outside before you make your conclusion. We don't make all that much and the City has told us the only reason they are gunning so hard for our benefits is for political reasons.
Thank you for reading and I hope that you can understand where we are coming from.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
But the flyer sure looks like someone may have blown it. I went to the PA SEIU website and found no discussion, explanation, apology, etc. At some point this issue will have to be addressed by them. Meanwhile, what of the core asertions made?
The City negotiator and HR Director Carlsen wouldn't recognize a scruple or an ethic if it came and hit him upside the head. And he is a self proclaimed ethics expert in ICMA. LOL
I hope we can avoid a strike. However, there are a few themes that run through the threads above:
-"why don't the citizens care about the workers?"
A: Well, with the exception of police & fire, a few librarians and the utility company (all very good), my experience with city workers is abysmal. Shocking lazy attitude of mediocrity in a barely-9-5 job. Oddly, had the city managed it's employees and gotten rid of those who are poor performers, I suspect the citizens would have a much different view of this strike. The union has been left with a pretty weak hand to play.
-"the employees will never get rich, so we should get pensions".
A: well, I know a number of citizens who are out of work, facing serious losses in their family businesses, losing their retirement, some losing their homes. The promise of a guaranteed income is a luxury most of us never get. It seems odd in this climate that the concept of entitlement remains. It is very hard to imagine a lot of sympathy from citizens who are on the rocks. Most private individuals have seen their 401K's decimated. Expecting us to grant to city employees the retirement which has just evaporated (for us) seems a real stretch.
There are always two sides to one story, I'm hearing alot of bashing of the lowest paid employees of one of the richest cities in America, because they are fighting to keep what they have worked so hard for.
I don't hear too much bashing of the city leaders, and as we all know, oh yes they are always right.
I'm not here to take sides, but to have some of you think that any field woker can come in off the fields and do what these people do is a huge missconception.
I happen to know a huge amount of people from the electrical Dep., they do not just go to work for a paychek. They have pulled fellow workers out of exploding holes, not knowing if they were dead or alive until they were on the ground. They have witnessed Sparks from poles that nearly throw their co-workers off the poles.
So when you sit there and say fire them all, I suggest that you really do the research as to what each job intails, and by all means do the research on management as well, (that may be much more interesting) and really know, what you are talking about, and truly know both sides of the story. Then and only then can and urge you to make an educated comment.
Oh and yes I too have had a huge financial overhaul in the last two years, to the negative, due to the economy, but you don't see me blaming city workers for my losses.
You all know, if you live in Palo Alto, that even exceptional service is not good enouph, for the residents there. City workers by your standards, should not even be allowed to have a lunch break, as some of you have reported workers, parking in parking lots and not doing anything, and getting paid by your tax dollars.
The reason you see so many of this, is because while most of you, get one to two hours, to spend your lunch breaks in nice comfortable restaurants, the city workers only get 1/2 hour. (no choice, but to stay in that truck and eat, or should they eat while driving?.Hummmm.
A one-day SEIU strike saves the City $281,000; sounds good to me. Why not change the City schedule back to 8-5, Monday thru Friday like every other employer in the area, then furlough non-emergency personnel every other Friday (which they have trained Palo Alto citizens to tolerate) and save 26 times $281,000 or $7.3 million annually.
The most important compensation changes must be in the formulas for City employee retirement pay and retirement health benefits, emergency and non-emergency personnel alike, union and non-union alike. Our City cannot afford to keep paying exorbitant retirement benefits. In this worst recession since the Depression, the community is solidly behind you, Mr. City Manager, now is the time to make a stand.
Moreover, come November 3, I will vote for any Council candidate who stands up to the unions and requires a roll-back of retirement benefit formulas that will save the City at least $4 million annually. I will NOT vote for any Council candidate who accepts any union endorsement, funds and/or volunteer help during this election.
Anybody know which Council candidates are cozying up to the unions? Huge conflict of interest.
The City needs to go back to a five-day work week. As it is, too many people schedule overtime on their Fridays off, so they may as well be there on regular time. You think the SEIU doesn't know how to make up for lost time or money? Ha! Then there are the supervisors in Utilities, who come in whenever a crew is working overtime and get double time for doing it - all because of the debacle in E.Menlo Park with City workers using City equipment and charging CPA with a supervisor's knowledge? Clean up the corruption and massaging of the rules, and the City will save money.
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