By Jeff Stoffel
The County of San Diego is asking the lowest paid County employees to take pay cuts between 7 and 14%!
This while the County has 1.2 billion in reserves; while they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash on infrastructure property, including $120 million on a planned “Legacy” water park at the County Administration Building; and while the top management, executives and elected officials have continued to get raises on top of their $200k plus salaries, plus better health care benefits and car allowances of between $600 and $1000 dollars
Between 2002 and 2010, the rank and file County workers average wage increases were between 2 and 2.5%. For employees making between $13 and $30 dollars an hour, that equates to between .25 and .75 cents an hour.
During the same time period, the average health care out of pocket premium increase has averaged between 2 and 5% a year. The bi-weekly out of pocket for a single employee is $175 +, the bi-weekly for an employee and 2 or more is $290+.
The biggest problem with this whole thing is that the top management and executives receive between $82 and $140 dollars a month towards the same health care plan as the lowest paid workers! An added benefit for all employees is the County paid life insurance policy. The difference is that the top management and executives get either 1 year or 2 years their annual salary paid out for life insurance at no cost to them; for CEO Walt Ekard, that would equate to over $600 thousand dollars if there wasn’t a cap of $500k!
The rank and file workers get $10k dollars paid for. While we are thankful for the benefit, the excessive benefit for them is a huge class inequity just as the lower health care cost is.
There are several problems with this potential pay cut besides the obvious for the employees. Some of the problems being that with the economy being what it is, the high cost of general living cost such as gas prices, food prices and housing cost, the county employees are also members of the community and contributors to the economic well being for the county of San Diego. Most all rank and file workers have already made personal cutbacks within their own homes to make ends meet. Any further pay cuts would also mean less money being spent in the local San Diego County communities and economy. With roughly 10,000 represented employees, the economic impact is immeasurable.
The reality of all this is that there are current county employees who qualify and many who are already receiving public assistance from their own employer; and there will without a doubt be many more if we are forced to take further pay cuts. Other employees are saying that this pay cut could cause them to leave their jobs with the county for other jobs, some of them for jobs out of California that have a lower cost of living; myself being one of them.
Unfortunately, there has been a horrible misperception of county employees in the private citizens’ eyes for far too long. While there are some public employees who are receiving wages and benefits that are inflated and in some cases being 100% paid for by the tax payers, the County of San Diego employees are definitely not among them. We do pay our fair share, and we are struggeling to survive paycheck to paycheck just like our neighbors.
While all county employees play a large roll in the successful function of the County of San Diego, I can tell you first hand the roll that the Dept. of Public Works road crews have and how what we do day in and day out benefits the citizens of this great county.
The best example of what we do was seen during the devastating fires of 2003 & 2006, and the devastating rain storms that followed each fire that caused massive mud and debris slides. We cleared large burned out trees that blocked dozens of roads and cut off access for the residents and emergency services, cleared mud and debris from plugged storm and sewer pipes.
We worked very hard on 12 hour shifts around the clock for weeks to get the roads open and safe for the public and emergency services. We protected homes from mud and debris slides every day by building sand bag walls.
Virtually any thing that mother nature threw at us, we tackled it and didn’t stop until the people, property and traveling public were safe. Some of these things can be seen on the County’s own You Tube channel. And now, just as in each year of the last decade, when it comes time for contract negotiations, the county wants to reward us for our property and life saving work with a contract that continues to take more money from our take home pay than the year before; we can not survive another pay cut of this magnatude!
As for the Dept of Public Works road crews and the work that we do during the worst possible weather like routine snow in our mountains, rain storm flooding and the occasional unexpected disasters, the question that we have for the Board of Supervisors and its top management and executives is: if we have to go to our second jobs after our regular work hours and on our days off so that we can make ends meet, who will be available to respond to the crap when it hits the proverbial fan the next time?
We need your help, you in the media are the only way that we can get the true facts of what is going on within the County of San Diego’s upper class elite and how they are “reaping the benefits” while the people who do the hands on work day in and day out that keep the county running are hurting and the potential affects on the people that we serve could be affected.
Thank you for your time and consideration for sharing our story.
Jeff Stoffel is a Sr. Equipment Operator in the Dept. of Public Works, County of San Diego.