Editor: In response to the Union-Tribune’s rant against organized labor in Monday’s (4/13/09) edition, Judie Italiano, representing the Municipal Employees Association, jumps back at them.
UT Editorial Board Sinks to A New Low for Dishonesty and Manipulation
by Judie Italiano
In another shameless effort to pit the public against City employees and their Unions based on lies, the Union Tribune editorialized this morning that “to no one’s surprise, organized labor rebuffed the mayor’s bid to negotiate $32 million in employee benefit concessions to help close a $60 million deficit in the budget year that will begin on July 1.” To no one’s surprise, this statement is a bold lie in keeping with the Union Tribune’s editorial history of angry, false rhetoric against City employees and their Unions.
In fact, as the Mayor will confirm if asked, the San Diego Municipal Employees’ Association (MEA), the City’s largest employee union, has made every dollar of concessions for FY10 which the mayor asked of MEA-represented employees totaling $14,622,946.
This represents one-year worth of concessions totaling $8,932,000 — straight out of the compensation of MEA-represented employees who are paid by the General Fund, and results in a windfall to the City of another $5,690,946 when the concessions of MEA-represented employees paid from sources other than the General Fund are taken into account because these employees will endure the same take-aways despite the lack of savings to the General Fund.
These concessions will adversely affect all MEA-represented employees and their families whose budgets are already strained as are the budgets of many working men and women in San Diego. As the Mayor himself said in describing his own circumstances last week, they have bills to pay and are simply trying to make ends meet. MEA has offered to continue these same concessions into a second year if the City prefers a two-year contract.
The Mayor will also confirm, if asked, that MEA did not wait until the end of the bargaining to state its intention to do its fair share to address the extraordinary down-turn in City revenues due to the depth of the current recession. Instead, MEA’s first proposal to the City in mid-February included a proposed wage and benefit freeze and major concessions to address the budget shortfall.
While MEA and the City have a difference in positions on the City’s Retiree Medical Benefit program first established in 1982 by then-Mayor Pete Wilson, MEA has done its part to help this City through the current recession. The Retiree Medical Benefit issue presents a significant challenge which requires more time for a rational resolution in light of the long history and legal protections surrounding this benefit. Even last year, Mayor Sanders admitted in an interview with the Voice of San Diego that “his office found out that the retiree health care is a vested benefit that’s untouchable.”
The Union Tribune’s editorial board is using a deliberately false portrayal of the negotiations between the City and MEA in an effort to influence the public and intimidate City Councilmembers who face critical decisions affecting the lives of every City employee and every resident of San Diego.
What the public should know is that MEA is prepared to sign a contract for one or two years which gives the City every dollar in concessions the City has asked from MEA-represented employees in order to help us all survive the recession.