Shades Of Wisconsin
City Hall's Madison Moment
Tuesday night, Emeryville's lowest paid public union members descended on the council chambers, agitated after receiving notice from City Hall that they will have their pay cut, again. The workers have partaken in 19 good faith bargaining sessions with the city that have not produced a contract. Some 42 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) city workers, laboring without a contract since June, let the city council know they're tired of being treated like a doormat Tuesday night.
Many city workers already do not make enough money to live on but the city is asking them to take another pay cut. The city for its part asserts that Emeryville is facing "long and short term economic uncertainty" and the SEIU workers should bear the shared sacrifice and accept their pay cuts. The union contends that talk of shared sacrifice is unconnected to reality since it is only the SEIU workers that are really being forced to sacrifice.
|Pay Day at Emeryville City Hall for SEIU workers.|
Stephen Cutty, the field representative for SEIU noted the lack of symmetry in regards to the cost of living adjustments for three of Emeryville's public unions, "From 2006 to 2012 with a one year extension, the firefighters got a 26% adjustment and the police got 18% while SEIU only got 1.7%" Mr Cutty told the Tattler that SEIU employees are already the lowest paid in the city, "The lowest paid SEIU employees get only $1800 a month while the lowest paid fire fighters and cops get $7,400" he said. "Average SEIU salary is only about $4000 per month", he added.
Union representatives noted Emeryville's rainy day fund known as the 'Uncertainty Fund' is now more than 250% of what the Government Finance Officers Association's best practices recommends. Workers contend these are the very uncertain times the fund is meant to ameliorate. Further, they maintain Emeryville has a record of overestimating expenses and underestimating revenue to the tune of an average of $3.4 million per year. The workers say if less than 10% of these excess funds were applied, it would be enough to cover all the cuts to the employees wages and mitigate the inevitable fractured services the city will experience with the cuts.
More than one worker Tuesday night noted the parallels between the language of Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker and the management at City Hall, raising the idea that perhaps it's not the interests and values of Emeryville's residents that's really being addressed by the management, but rather some other ideological agenda that's operative here. Union representative Stephen Cutty said he thought Emeryville's recalcitrance to decently pay the SEIU workers can be traced to 1968 Memphis and the infamous garbage workers strike lead by Martin Luther King. "The garbage workers there were also the lowest paid in the city", Mr Cutty said, "It's sad that we're still fighting the same fight today".