Unions sue Menlo Park over pension initiative Menlo Park, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Sep 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm
Two labor unions filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court on Sept. 15, challenging the legality of Measure L, the pension reform initiative passed last year by 72 percent of Menlo Park voters.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, September 19, 2011, 11:47 AM
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm
Hmmm, Let me see who said "see you in court" and who said this "Bears and Bulls Survive..Pigs get slaughtered" I assume you are going to put your personal money up to fight this right? Roy are you out there?
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm
Well this was predictable and demonstrates why Measure L was such a bad idea. Of course it violates state labor relations statutes, which assign the responsibility of labor negotiations to the "elected representatives", in this case our city council. To punish the council for their vote in 2007 to bring retirement benefits of city employees in line with those of other city, county and some state employees this ill-conceived initiative was brought up and passed in the wake of the market collapse and subsequent recession. Now the courts will have the opportunity to set things right by reactor
Ing the primary role of the council in negotiating contracts with city workers.
And be the way, by the time the initiative passes, Council had already voted to correct what everyone, in retrospect, recognized as overly generous retirement benefits.
As I wrote at the time. the initiative process is a blunt instrument that is intended for the most exceptional examples of bad government (ie malfeasance). If you don't like how the council voted then campaign at the next election to throw the bums out.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2011 at 7:22 am
the voters of thsi city voted for it. There is no need for Henry and Roy to foot the bill. This was a popular mandate by the voters. By the way, the unions are going to lose this one too. Once again they forget who they work for.
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:25 am
It is unfortunate that the Unions have once again chosen to try litigation to stop the peoples mandate. They apparently forget that their employees work for US, the citizens of Menlo Park.
They spent over $125,000 trying to defeat Measure L, and they will spend countless dollars AGAIN, try to litigate their mandate.
Nearly 72% of the citizens of Menlo Park (a landslide by Initiative/Ballot Measure standards) voted to cap the pension costs for Menlo Park.
Steve, you are incorrect. The city did not impose the contract until AFTER we had drawn papers, and began gathering signatures for the initiative. In addition they used the fact there was an initiative going on as a hammer. So please don’t confuse their political statements, with their actions. They did NOT act until forced to, they also had a chance to accept the signatures and not force a vote but lacked the spine to do so. The November elections showed that the voters not only wanted measure L, but also candidates that supported it (with Hayward Robinson ousted from the council over his “No on L” campaign statements).
So what we have is two unions with a disregard for the will of the voters that will again force the city spend budget dollars to defend the rights of it’s citizens……..
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm
Lets be clear here 72% voted for it but you ask that 100% pay to support it. I think there should be an exemption for those you do not and did not support your so called reform. Just remember there were many votes over the years to forgo any raises to get the 2.75% at 50 years old. Also for 10 years the City did not have to contribute to Cal Pers and they spent the tax payers money on other interest in stead of saving it like it was recommended to do. Now you want the Workers to make up the short fall up. Not fair just more rich people making money on the backs for people with less.
Posted by Ron Shepherd, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm
It's time to take care of the taxpayers and provide the services they need most cost effectively on a long term basis. This should include outsourcing whenever feasable. The current city staff can then apply for positions with the new service provider at real world rates of pay and benefits.
Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Quote from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.
Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm
72% voted for it 100% pay for it. That's the way a democracy works. There are plenty of initiatives I have voted against in the past, but they take my tax dollars and spend them on those things I voted against. Like I said,we live in a democracy and I accept that's the way it works. It's time for you and your union buddies to realize you live in a democracy and remember you work for US, the tax payers.
Posted by mj street, a resident of another community, on Sep 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Hank: Your lame selective editing is weak. Read the whole letter. FDR SUPPORTED Unions. He was not against federal public employee unions. He opposed STRIKES by federal public employee unions.
In fact, the letter you snipped a couple sentences from was a congratulatory letter for A UNION!!
Who was this National Federation of Federal Employees that FDR was congratulating? A union representing federal employees since 1917.
The letter in whole <less what you've already selectively edited>:
"Franklin D. Roosevelt
112 - Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service
August 16, 1937
My dear Mr. Steward:
As I am unable to accept your kind invitation to be present on the occasion of the Twentieth Jubilee Convention of the National Federation of Federal Employees, I am taking this method of sending greetings and a message.
Reading your letter of July 14, 1937, I was especially interested in the timeliness of your remark that the manner in which the activities of your organization have been carried on during the past two decades "has been in complete consonance with the best traditions of public employee relationships." Organizations of Government employees have a logical place in Government affairs.
The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.
<insert the two paragraphs you quoted above>
I congratulate the National Federation of Federal Employees the twentieth anniversary of its founding and trust that the convention will, in every way, be successful."
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2011 at 6:12 pm
“Also for 10 years the City did not have to contribute to Cal Pers and they spent the tax payers money on other interest in stead” is simply a lie you made up. (BTW I left both of your misspellings in the quote….get a dictionary or use spell check please)
The city of Menlo Park did not make payments to CalPERS from 2000-2004 (they used the money to build reserves). Since then there payments have skyrocketed from 6.25% in 2004 to 11.51% (2005), 10.04% (2006), 9.67% (2007), 10.97% (2008), 14.6% (2009), 14.5% (2010) and 16.07% this year. It is expected (see staff report # 09-129 & 11-049) to climb to 17.9% next year, then 20.05% & 20.3% for the 2013 & 2014 years respectively. Compare this to private industry, with their payments of 6.7% for social security and you can see that the costs of pensions to the city are simply OUTRAGEOUS and UNSUSTAINABLE. The costs are TRIPLE private industries’ costs and CLIMBING.
[Portion removed] Please remember that your rhetoric cries shallow on the ears of hard working residents who could never dream of the outrageous and outlandish pensions that our municipal employees enjoy. And that our tolerance for their Union suing the city and costing tax payers thousands of dollars to protect these outrageous pensions is waning.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2011 at 12:15 am
You might be right that the unions will lose this legal challenge - you've obviously had more experience in these matters than I. But you must understand that they had no choice. This initiative has ramifications far beyond the bounds of our little burg. If allowed to stand then state law on how contracts are negotiated with municipal emoyees might as well be thrown out the window. Any community initiative can over-rule the decision of the designated body (in this case the city council who, despite your protest, have to approve or disapprove the recommendations of their designated negotiators).
Remember, ours is not a pure democracy where issues are put to a vote of the populace, but a representative democracy where power resides in those we elect to lead. The initiative process subverts this representative process and has demonstrably caused more problems in California than it has solved. Witness Prop 13, Three Strikes, Term Limits, etc. - all well-meaning initiatives that have produced dreadful unintended consequences that are largely responsible for the state deficits and political gridlock that hamstrings state government.
Measure L only threatens to bring the same disfunction that afflicts the state down to our community government as well.
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm
[Portion removed; stick to the facts and stop attacking other posters.]
you won't do that I tried. In the mean time what I said was right and you sir are fudging the numbers not me........ Remember what I said? See you in court, what you have done is embroiled the residents of this City in a law suit that will likely cost them hundreds of thousands to fight. But it's not your money and not your fight. How much are you going to put up for legal fees to support this? Peter still has not answered me either. This reminds me of the bully on the play ground who sicks one kid against the other the whole time never putting any skin in the game. We will see who will win and it won't be you! [Portion removed] BCPW
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm
To (the Aptly named) Blue -
Me thinks Mr. T-S struck a nerve.
In your zeal to lash out at him, you probably forgot to address Mr. T-S's only question. Roy refuted your assertion that "for 10 years the City (of Menlo Park) did not have to contribute to Cal Pers and they spent the tax payers money on other interest in stead" and he listed each year and the contribution percentage (which were astonishing high).
So which is it, Blue? Was Roy correct or were you?
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm
No Roy is incorrect if you back prior to 2000 they underfunded the plan. This is what I mean by fudging the numbers Roy only tells you voters what fits his plan. And anyone who talks about another persons mother I have no respect for. Also I challenged Roy to an open debit prior to the vote and he declined. He has truly created a huge liability for the tax payers of Menlo Park despite all the rhetoric he feeds you.
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm
The editor has taken it upon himself to try to enlist a little decorum here. and in his zeal for correctness (over barring I might add) he removed the portion of my letter where I said I would be more than willing to meet with you so you could better understand the numbers and perhaps enlighten you to why the residents of Menlo Park voted in an overwhelming majority for Measure L (is that PC enough for you Tom?)
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm
Making comments about my mother mom (who past away from a cancer) is why the editor deleted your comment. Was that really necessary, I think not. The truth is the City of MP did choose to underfund the pension contribution (anything under 5% was too little) as many Cities did and now when they are having to fund it over and above the normal levels and it is hurting. But remember we also gave up raises and other contributions to get the 2.75% at 50. So Roy when are you going to put some skin in the game? This was your baby I think it's only right for you to step up and back your big idea up. So you have created and funded more high tech jobs than you can count. That's great and very noble of you but how many jobs have you destroyed. I mean if you hired that many surely you have fired many also, how many have you laid off to make those companies profitable for your share holders? This is not about your reputation it's just a question and I'm asking to show everyone here your thought process.
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm
I am sorry, you are wrong AGAIN. the city of menlo park was ONLY underfunded in 2007 when they gave RETROACTIVE pension raises from 2.0% to 2.7%.
Please keep your facts straight. It is lamentable that you just make stuff up. EVERYTHING I have quoted is from a city report instead of a fictional delusion....(Tom/Editor: that's a fair assessment of BCPW's state of mind, not a personal attack. OK?.
Not sure what jobs you are referring to (That I destroyed)? I do start ups, you know that, right? They essentially make jobs. we have had 3 failures in our portfolio. Again, how many jobs have you created? How much sales tax revenue have you added to Menlo Park?
I have put more skin in the game than you......since you are anonymous we can only assume you haven't done a thing. But do enlighten us, I insist.
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm
I wanted to correct you again. Menlo Park cannot under-fund their pension plan. CalPERS tells them how much to remit every year (it's the rising and falling % you see in the chart I posted).
A city like San Jose or San Francisco that owns their own pension fund can decide not to contribute the actuarial amount specified to guarantee the needed return (CalPERS calculates a %7.75 return)[That is technically under-funding a pension fund]
Do you understand that now? Are we clear? Your earlier statement that Menlo Park under-funded for years is untrue (Tom/Editor: that's a euphemism for lying)
Posted by Lucy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm
Roy, wholehearted thanks for your efforts on Measure L. The productivity generating engine of our economy (the private sector) is in your debt. The union blackmail ("If you pass L we will try to bankrupt your city from the inside") will not work.
The unions will definitely succeed in wasting more Menlo Park money through their court histrionics, but on the off chance they succeed, we the public should and will make sure that Measure L 2.0 is far more painful for them. They are too self-righteous and entitled to realize that even after Measure L they are still an entitled class relative to their private sector counterparts, where you're accountable for your value add.
Posted by Doubtin Thomas, a resident of the Menlo Park: Stanford Hills neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2011 at 7:32 am
Roy Thiele Sardina is a Saint. Through his hard work he has created thousands of jobs and improved lives and increased tax receipts to numerous cities in California. The SEIU and ASFME are leeches upon society. The want more and more from people who earn far less than they do. They are parasites who must be stopped before they drain the life blood out of Menlo Park.
Posted by not sure, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2011 at 8:26 am
Name one company Roy started. I don't want to hear about companies he joined early. What did he start. Like Zuck or Brin or Joy or Jobs...never heard of one company started by Roy. I do work in this sector and have for years and I can prove that Roy has joined start ups but never started one. Those jobs at FB? Those are not Sandberg's creation. They are Zuck's. I love it when all these mid managers start rewriting history.
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:56 am
I am “not sure” why this is relevant to the Unions suing Menlo Park, but since you’ve taken it upon yourself to question my credentials (from the that infamous “anonymous” podium that this forums cowards ususally stand on) here is the answer to your question.
I have been involved in startups most of my adult life. The short list is below. As a translation the word co-founder implies you actually were there day one. The term member of the founding management team means you showed up 7-30 days later. In all cases each company grew and employed hundreds of people.
Whiele I was certainly not there on day one at Sun (my two co-founders of HighBAR were – (the B is for Bill Joy and the A is for Andreas Bechtolsheim and I am the R in the firms name) I joined Sun in the early 80’s and grew the Telco business to be 10% of Sun’s Worldwide Revenues. After that I was responsible in the late 80’s for International Sales (intercontinental Operations) and helped grow that from $150M to $1.8B. In all these cases I have hired and managed hunfreds/thousands of satisfied employees.
I was the co-founder and CEO of Tasmania Networks, an early Computer Caching/Proxy company. I led it through it's sale to Cisco Systems. It is still Cisco's Cache/Proxy Product.
I was the Co-Founder and CEO of Ingrian Networks, the worlds leading Data Content Protection Company (you saw their sign on 101 next to the San Mateo Credit Union Building) the company was merged with SafeNet in 2008
I am a member of the founding management team @ Brocade. I was the 5th employee in the building (the first Non-Engineer), which is the worlds largest Fiber Channel Switch Manufacturer.
I was the co-founder and Chairman of SANValley Systems. One of the leading Optical Long Range Network Storage companies.
I was the Original President of RedSeal Networks (when they had three engineers as co-founders).
Out of curiosity, what have you done to help the Valley or Menlo Park?
Many of the companies above were based in Menlo Park, paid business taxes here and gave their .25% sales tax to the city too.
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm
I agree. And the leadership of the Union doesn't realize the harm that their calousness causes their rnk and file. I think all the employees of Menlo Park are doing a gerat job. Their Union continues to do them a diservice by playing the heavy hand.
In another thread here I suggested the city stop negotiating with AFSCME and impose a contract of their liking until the lawsuits are settled. It is very TWO FACED of AFSCME to think we should continue to negotiate with a Union that won't let the will of the people stand. Quite frankly each and ever member of that Union should be embarassed by it's Managements Conduct and we should not reward or condone that behavior in any way by negotiating. When they are done with the litigious vitrol, we'll decide how we want to deal with them. until then, the citizens don't need them.......
Posted by Bret Roland, a resident of another community, on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:54 pm
It is not clear to me why SEIU and AFCME are thought of as the the bad guys. Last time I checked it takes multiples sides to reach an agreement. In this instance the pensions are bargained for compensation and the unions simply want that which was bargained for. Let us not forget that Menlo Park agreed to provide these pensions. Even should Measure L be held invalid by the courts, it should be seen as a referendum on government accountability.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2011 at 6:58 am
the lawsuit is not about the unions getting what they bargained for. Measure L doesn't take away their already ridiculous pensions. It creates a two tier system so that going forward new employees don't get the unsustainable pensions that the current employees get.
No, this is an attack on the citizens that the union's members serve and their right to demand their elected officials do what they want. The citizens were tired of the unions buying off our elected officials, hence, measure L.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2011 at 7:17 am
As Menlo Voter and Mr. Carpenter pointed out, this lawsuit isn't trying to maintain a bargain.
The union's lawsuit is attempting to block the legitimate vote of citizens who expressed their overwhelming support for a NEW pension arrangement. What the union is doing is anti-democratic and transparently trying to undermine the results of an election. It's membership would be wise to distance themselves from their leadership.
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm
FYI the unions are not wasting the tax payers Money this pension was negotiated and Roy and the rest of you are now forcing the union into court to uphold the negotiation you now want to welch on.......................... If it were the other way around we all know you would do the same. f[Portion removed. Please don't attack other posters.]
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm
Aptly named Blue -
For about the hundredth time, no one is "welching" on anyone's prior deal. The initiative only impacts NEWLY HIRED EMPLOYEES. Surely you are smart enough to know the difference.
That said, the citizens could reincorporate their city as a charter law municipality and then they could renegotiate even their EXISTING pension deals. Keep it up and perhaps someone will take you up on it.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm
[Portion removed; be respectful of other posters.] You don't have a clue. You keep drinking that union misinformation. You aparently don't have any memory from discussions on this forum before where we said " a deal's a deal." No one is talking about taking away retirement benefits previously negotiated and agreed to. We are instituting a two tiered system where NEW EMPLOYEES get a different retirement deal. Get it now? Stop listening to your union buddies. They aren't giving you correct information [portion removed]
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Sep 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm
I have no desire to pile on, but you should really search this issue for yourself........There has never been, and I frankly doubt ever will be, a sucessfull attempt to roll back the pensions of current retirees, or of those current employees who have negotiated a pension contract. In fact, to do so would be a violation of State law and in this State it will never happen.
The proposal to change the available benefits for PROSPECTIVE employees, makes absolute sense and must be done......
Posted by Sally, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Sep 24, 2011 at 11:32 pm
Blue collar (I think the taxpayers even pay for that uniform), If you don't like your job there are thousands of unemployed Californians who will take your place. People are tired of your gravy train and your wining. Taxpayers aren't going to take it anymore. And, Why should they?
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm
I'm not quite so sure that there won't be efforts to roll back EXISTING pensions and benefits. When the state is out of money and declares bankruptcy (which will take an action from Congress), then all bets are off.
That's how "reorganization" works the business world, too.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm
Maybe pensioners won't be impacted, but current public employees who have yet to retire may be. In fact, it's already happening.
Allowing states to seek protection under bankruptcy laws is viewed by many as a real solution to the debt problem. And when states are out of money, can't borrow any more and the feds have no more cash to bail them out, those last bulwarks will fail... and all bets are off.
I seem to remember people saying that the United States will never lose its AAA credit rating. Regardless of which agencies did it or why they did it, regardless of the impact, it did happen.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Getting back to the Measure L lawsuit and why I think the Union will prevail:
Menlo Park was only one of hundreds of municipalities that followed the state lead back in 2007 and raised pension benefits for their employees, benefits that were widely seen as too generous once the markets crashed at the end of that year and into 2008.
Yet Menlo Park was one of only a few cities that felt the need to pass an initiative to "rein in" their city council. In other towns & counties, local governments met with their employees and their unions to renegotiate the contracts to be more in-line with the newly constrained budgets. In fact the Menlo Park Council did the same thing with it's employees, a fact the supporters of the initiative insist was done only because of the threat provided by the initiative, though they provide no proof that that was the case. Meanwhile, other cities brought their pension costs under control by working with their employees and their unions who understand, better than most, the effects of declining revenue.
Why Menlo Park citizens such as Roy & others insisted that Measure L was the only way to reverse the overly generous pensions is a mystery to me. Most other towns & counties in the state managed to do just that without resorting to the extreme measure of the initiative process. They seem to have solved the same problem without alienating employees and citizens from one another in the process. And if you think there isn't acrimony still from that election, just reread this blog.
There are two strong arguments for why I believe the Union was right to bring suit against Menlo Park and why I believe they may well prevail:
1) the initiative process was completely unnecessary as demonstrated by all the municipalities who solved the same problems without resorting to this "nuclear option".
2) the initiative violates state guidelines (laws?), which call for negotiations between elected officials (or their representatives Peter) and the unions who represent the employees.
We have a system of representative democracy, not direct democracy. The initiative process does an end-run around this representative system that has worked well for many decades and that continues to work just fine in most other communities. And that's why I believe this initiative is likely to be overturned in the courts.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm
This is what I found on-line:
In 1968, California enacted the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act to govern labor relations in local government. Among other things, this act stipulates the role of the elected representative body (ie. the city council) in negotiating over wages, pensions, etc. with employee representatives (ie. public employee unions). This is the pertinent paragraph:
"The governing body of a public agency, or such boards, commissions, administrative officers or other representatives as may be properly designated by law or by such governing body, shall meet and confer in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with representatives of such recognized employee organizations, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 3501, and shall consider fully such presentations as are made by the employee organization on behalf of its members prior to arriving at a determination of policy or course of action."
See the following web site where the full state statutes are listed:
Peter, it seems to me that process of collective bargaining between local representatives and public employee unions is fairly clearly drawn in this law. I don't see how a local initiative - such as Measure L - stands much of a chance in overriding a state statute that has been on the books for over 40 years.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
""The governing body of a public agency, or such boards, commissions, administrative officers or other representatives as may be properly designated by law or by such governing body, shall meet and confer in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with representatives of such recognized employee organizations" does not preclude those representatives from being given direction by the voters anymore than it precludes union representatives from being given guidance by their members.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm
You're being disingenuous.
Initiatives, as I understand them, are generally meant to have the force of law, which is much more that simply "offering guidance" to representatives. I don't believe that you truly interpret the purpose of this initiative to have only offered guidance to the Council. I also don't believe that's how the initiative was sold to the people of Menlo Park.
At the state level certainly the initiative has the force of law, as indicated by this quote from this background paper on the California Initiative Process: "In 1911, an amendment to the California Constitution established the California initiative process, giving voters the right to enact legislation." Web Link
And as I said, where the law as defined by local initiative conflicts with the law as defined by state statute, I fully expect that the state statute will prevail.
I notice that you're ignoring my other point that Measure L was totally unnecessary, as demonstrated by the fact that almost all other communities & counties were able to renegotiate their overly generous employee contracts without resorting to the divisive initiative process. It was especially unnecessary since our city council had already renegotiated a 2-tier contract with the unions before the initiative even went before the voters.
This lawsuit by the Union is totally appropriate and I expect that they'll win. It was also quite predictable.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Guidance from the voters can come in many forms. Initiatives are a means by which voters determine what THEIR elected leaders can and cannot do. Measure L was designed to set limits on the agreements that elected representatives were allowed to enter into on BEHALF of the voters. This is no different than union members telling their representatives what they will and what they won't accept.
Measure L was necessary because the elected representatives were giving away the the store and they voters simply said STOP. The fact that the elected representatives finally saw the writing on the wall just before Measure L was passed did not mean that they would have continued to do so in the absence of binding direction.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm
You write "the elected representatives were giving away the store".
No more so than in every other city & county up & down the state. Yet those other elected representatives were smart enough to recognize the changed economy and make a correction to their employee contracts without requiring a voter referendum to make them see the light.
I think you under-estimated the intelligence of our council members to do the right thing. And when they did, you simply justified your own continued actions by claiming they only did it because of Measure L. Kind of self-serving analysis if you ask me.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Steve states:"Yet those other elected representatives were smart enough to recognize the changed economy and make a correction to their employee contracts without requiring a voter referendum to make them see the light. "
I could not have said it better - thanks Steve. That is exactly why Measure L passed with such a huge margin.
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Sep 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm
Now your confusing me. Was Measure L guidance or the electorate telling their officials what they may or may not do. If its the latter, I do not see how the Union could not prevail. State law takes precedance.
No matter. I agree a new contract has to be negotiated for new hires.
That said, I am sure you will enjoy this new piece of non-information
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm
A little too snide Peter.
These were duly elected representatives of the people of Menlo Park. If they made a mistake, it was a mistake made by 100's of other councils throughout the state. Our council deserved the opportunity to correct their mistake, an opportunity afforded the councils in other communities.
But rather than give them the benefit of the doubt, Roy & company jumped on them to gain a political advantage. To my mind, this was an example of the sort of gotcha-politics that has infected national politics since the 90's and that I'm sorry to see introduced to our local scene. It does not reflect well upon us and will end up costing real $$ as we end up defending an initiative that accomplished nothing but furthering divisions in our community.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm
Regardless of the outcome of this litigation - and I think the voters have every right to impose their will on their elected representatives - the Menlo Park City Council will ignore the will of the people at their own peril.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSION REFORM ACT FOR NEW, PUBLIC EMPLOYEES (EXCLUDING SWORN POLICE OFFICERS) IN THE CITY OF MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA.
SECTION 1. Title
This measure shall be known as the New Public Employee Pension Reform Act (excluding sworn police officers) in the City of Menlo Park, and may be cited below as the Act.
SECTION 2. Findings and Declaration of Purpose
The People of the City of Menlo Park find and declare that:
(a) Government has an obligation to provide fair and secure pension benefits to its employees;
(b) At the same time, government has a responsibility to its employees and to taxpayers to ensure that such benefits are reasonable and adequately funded;
(c) Existing public employees have a right to receive the pension and other similar benefits that were promised them upon employment. Thus, this Act does not eliminate, limit or affect existing defined benefit pension plans for current public employees or retirees and their families;
(d) However, it is widely accepted that the current system of pension benefits is too costly, unreasonable and cannot be sustained without jeopardizing the future financial health of cities and the services cities provide;
(e) It is widely accepted that public employees receive pension and other benefits that are considerably better than the private sector, have pay that is better than or comparable to the private sector, and have unusual job security;
(f) It is responsible and prudent for the people to impose limitations on pension benefits offered to new public employees under existing defined benefit plans or any new plan;
(g) Therefore, the people of the city of Menlo Park hereby enact
the New Public Employee Pension Reform Act (excluding sworn police officers) in the City of Menlo Park to provide for fiscally fair and responsible pension for new public employees hired by the City of Menlo Park on or after the effective date of this Act.
SECTION 3. The Public Employee Pension Reform Act For New, Public Employees (Excluding Sworn Police Officers) In The City Of Menlo Park, California shall be added as Ordinance __ to the Municipal Code of the City of Menlo Park.
The defined benefit pension plan for new employees (with the exception of sworn police officers) shall be changed as follows:
(A) The plan shall provide for a full retirement age of new employees (with the exception of sworn police officers) as no less than 60 years of age. New employees may be provided a pension benefit beginning no sooner than five years prior to the retirement age specified above at a lower rate than the amount to be received at 60 years old if this would reduce net costs to the City.
(B) To enhance the ability of the City to fund and pay retirement pension benefits for new public employees as and when due, from and after the effective date of this Act, the City may not provide retroactive increases in retirement pension benefits for any current employee or new employee under any existing or new defined pension plan.
(C) The plan may not provide annual retirement pension benefits to any employee (Excluding Sworn Police Officers) that exceeds 2 percent multiplied by the number of full years of employment and then multiplied by the employee’s average base salary.
(D) For purposes of subdivision (C), a new employee's annual average base wage shall include only the portions of compensation as defined under CalPERS rules and regulations. Further, the base wage for pension calculation will be based on the highest annual average base wage of the employee over a period of three consecutive years of employment by the City of Menlo Park.
(E) The employees’ affected will pay the percentage of their salaries as defined under CalPERS rules and regulations towards retirement unless the City’s contribution falls below 7 percent, in which case the City may pay part of the employee contribution such that the employees’ and City’s contribution are effectively equal. If the contribution rate for the city is again 7 percent or more, the employees’ contribution will rise to the 7 percent level.
(F) The City may modify the limitations imposed by this Act only upon approval by a majority of voters in a regularly scheduled election.
(G) Definitions as used in this section:
(1) "Defined benefit plan" or “the plan” is the plan used by the City of Menlo Park (currently CalPERS) and means a plan providing a retirement pension benefit determined by a formula based on factors such as age, years of service, and compensation.
(2) "New public agency employee" and "new employee" mean a person who becomes an employee of the City of Menlo Park (excepting sworn police officers) on or after the effective date of this Act. Retirement benefits promised by other jurisdictions prior to such employment will not be affected.
(3) “The City” means the City of Menlo Park, California.
(4) The “Act” means the Public Employee Pension Reform Act For New, Public Employees (Excluding Sworn Police Officers) In The City Of Menlo Park, California.
(5) “Sworn Police Officer” means all persons duly and regularly appointed under civil service rules and regulations and sworn in as provided by law to perform the duties of a regular police officer in the organized police department of a municipal corporation.
(H) Nothing herein shall terminate, amend, modify or in any way limit or affect the retirement pension benefits, vested retiree health care benefits, disability, death or other benefits provided for current and retired employees of public agencies. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to require the termination or closure of any existing defined benefit plan.
(I) Nothing herein shall terminate, amend, modify or in any way affect the sole and exclusive fiduciary responsibility of the California Public Employees Retirement System.
(J) Nothing herein affects any existing agreements.
(K) No contract that violates this Act may be entered into or executed by the City.
SECTION 4. Severability
The provisions of this Act are severable. If any provision of this Act or its application is held invalid, that finding shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
SECTION 5. Effective Date
This Act will be effective upon approval by majority vote of the voters of Menlo Park, the passage of the prescribed time under law for it to become effective, and at the expiration of labor agreements (excluding labor agreements with sworn police officers) that are in effect with the City at the time of approval by majority vote.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
As you can see the language of the Initiative allows the City and its agent flexibility to "meet and confer in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment", but it also sets limits to how far it can go in giving away the taxpayers' money.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:37 pm
Reasonable? Really? With a retirement calculated based on the AVERAGE base salary of a full 30 year career. What about a high-3 or high-5 average, which is standard in most pension calculations?
Reasonable or not, it is a very prescriptive law that doesn't lend itself to collective bargaining. Rather, any collective bargaining responsibilities that are allowed are taken out of the hands of our elective representatives and placed instead in the hands of the general public via direct election. This is a fundamental, probably unprecedented, change in how a city negotiates with its employee unions. Given the generally negative view of the general public toward unions these days - even here in liberal Menlo Park - the unions can hardly expect that the general public can "meet and confer in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment" as called for by the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. In fact how can the union actually "meet and confer" with the general public? Perhaps if the whole of the voting public showed up on the Burgess Park Playgrounds? Impossible on the face of it.
I really don't see how the prescriptions you list from Measure L can be reconciled with the state statutes for collective bargaining, reasonable though you claim them to be. I suspect the court will not waste much time in throwing it out.
Posted by Ryan, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:54 pm
"Given the generally negative view of the general public toward unions these days - even here in liberal Menlo Park - the unions can hardly expect that the general public can "meet and confer in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment" as called for by the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act."
"Good faith" is a term the unions have abused; they'd like us to believe "good faith" is equivalent to meeting their out of market demands. Paying market rate wages and market benefits (401K) with market-level accountability (underperforming workers are fired) is a good faith conference by the representatives of the public on the employees of the public.
I'm sure the unions would not agree with me: Why would anyone who is making well over market rate with little accountability to perform want to be treated "fairly" when they're used to preferential treatment (vs. the private sector that pays their wages).
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2011 at 11:15 pm
It's not the unions that require that the sides meet "in good faith", it's the state law.
Measure L doesn't pass the laugh test when it requires the general public to meet in good faith with the employee unions.
As for your claim that public employees getting preferential treatment vs the private sector, let me reprint a letter from a retired police officer in Monday's SJMN letters page:
"When I left IBM in 1966 to become a San Jose police officer, I took a 50 percent pay cut. It was difficult with a wife and two kids, but it was a calling. Not just a job. It was hard work and long hours away from my family. Along the way, I buried friends and had some of my own parts damaged. As I progressed through the ranks, sometimes administering multimillion-dollar budgets and sometimes responsible for hundreds of people, I was similarly paid about half what private industry was paid. But it was OK because I was paying a lot into retirement, and the city promised to help make it up to me and my wife after retirement."
"Now, I have run my race. I can't go back and do it again. I and my fellow "old timers" are damaged goods with no union bargaining or political power. I gave the citizens of San Jose my youth and my health in return for promises the current mayor says he no longer wants to keep."
"I grieve for the citizens of this fine city when the day comes that competent young men and women will no longer be willing to pick up the burden."
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 7:21 am
I've got news for you. There's no shortage of men and women willing to go into police work. Especially in this economy and it's not because fo the pension, it's the pay. I think top step patrolmen in San Jose are now making north of $120,000 per year, not including their health benefits and retirment.
I'm ex-law enforcement. I went into it when I was young. I didn't go in for the retirement benefits and neither did any of the people in my academy class. Most all of us went into it to serve and to do something for our community. The pay was also good. Retirement was nice, but it wasn't a motivator. At the time our retirement was 2% at 60. Now it's 3% at 50. Pretty damn good and not anything one can find in the private sector. It was jacked up to that by city councils that didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the police union. The city couldn't give pay raises, but the politicians could kick the can down the road and give hefty pension increases, knowing they would be out of office when the time came to pay the piper.
So now San Jose is having to lay off officers because they can't afford the pensions they have promissed. The defined benefit pension is a dinosaur and is on its way out. They are simply unsustainable.
By the way, I think just like about 90% of police officers that retire after 30 years, Capt. Hawks went out on a disability retirement. That means 50% of his retirement benefit is tax free.
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2011 at 10:51 am
You are correct and these liabilities should have been at the bottom line of every public agency in California for the past 80 years since Per's began! It is only now that these agencies choose to underfund them and got upside down that it is required! So instead of paying these liabilities in good faith we are hit with measure L. My story is much the same as others talked about here in this forum when it comes to being duped by this measure. I left a software company in silicone valley with options that would be worth $400,000 today and a $70K a year job for stability and benefits. $54K a year to start and 2 weeks a year less vacation and sick time but I traded for the pension. Peter, Roy, Henry, a deal is a deal is a deal................
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:02 am
BCPW states:"Peter, Roy, Henry, a deal is a deal is a deal................"
Please read the language of Measure L - it does not break any already agreed deals, it simply says that any NEW deals must have limits.
"(H) Nothing herein shall terminate, amend, modify or in any way limit or affect the retirement pension benefits, vested retiree health care benefits, disability, death or other benefits provided for current and retired employees of public agencies. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to require the termination or closure of any existing defined benefit plan."
Posted by Really?, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Really? "A loser for the taxpayers of the City"? How does eventually saving millions of dollars from an out of control pension plan, become a loser for the taxpayer? Odd math, very odd.
Free market must take effect in our public sector. If we don't need the job, don't hire for it, or terminate it. If we pay too much, cut back the amount, or get someone else. It's not personal, I'm sure they're lovely people, but we are obviously paying too much for a position we may not need, nor ever needed. It's a very simple process, that unions and stakeholders aka politicians, like to make complicated.
Posted by Angry Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm
I'm tired of supporting a special class of overpaid worker that feels entitled to my hard earned money but is under no obligation to perform at market rate.
We should welcome our public "servants" to the real world by mandating GE-style automatic layoffs in the public sector of the bottom 10% of workers each year. There's plenty of new blood waiting for those jobs.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm
Steve reprinted a quote from a retired police officer: "I grieve for the citizens of this fine city when the day comes that competent young men and women will no longer be willing to pick up the burden." Personally, I chose to grieve for the many citizens who are busting their chops and cutting back on their spending to pay taxes that underwrite the current level of compensation, benefits and pensions enjoyed by public employees.
Blue Collar asked why municipalities will now have to list unfunded pension liabilities on their balance sheets. A better question: Why didn't they have to list them before? Businesses do. If it's a real liability - ie, legitimate and likely to have to be paid - it SHOULD be listed. Not listing it would be like you discounting the size of your mortgage when you apply for another loan. It's dishonest.
Blue Collar also suggested that, in addition to Measure L, there will be a Measure M and N that will roll back EXISTING benefits for current employees. Well, at least I'm glad to see you admit - indirectly - that Measure L DID NOT impact current benefits. Whew! But concerning Measure M and N - one can only hope.
Finally, BCPW and Steve - you've probably noticed that you're in an ever smaller group that defends the status quo. Even if you haven't gotten the message, it would appear that the electorate is growing increasingly wise to the public employee pay/pension/benefits game. Thank goodness.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm
Due to the concept of "Avoiding salary compression" the salaries of the people at the top of the public sector employment pyramid are constantly being pushed up by increases in the salaries of the rank and file. Hopefully putting the brakes on the salaries of the rank and file will enable local agencies to bring in new management people at lower salaries.
Posted by Mary Gilles, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm
Let's not forget that unions have morphed from protecting those who were oppressed in blue collar jobs to powerful machines that represent white collar workers who are far from oppressed -- especially considering their retirements and health care benefits!
The new unions have amassed fortunes to influence political figures. Our country is controlled by unions from the small city government officials (who get help both $$ and walking precincts delivering campaign literature) who are beholden to these unions all the way up to the presidential level. The white collar unions are not in place to protect the oppressed. Their function is to control the political landscape.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm
You call me a "defender of the status quo". Does that make me a conservative? :-/
I thought I'd look at personnel costs to the city for the past 9 years to see what it shows on how the Council is controlling costs (or not). This info comes from the annual budget reports put out by the city manager and is available at Web Link.
FY2011/2012 Personnel: $26,929,726 72% Total Expenses $37,358,599
FY2010/2011 Personnel: $27,818,285 73% Total Expenses $38,207,591
FY2009/2010 Personnel: $27,535,685 72% Total Expenses $38,204,520
FY2008/2009 Personnel: $27,200,261 71% Total Expenses $38,236,168
FY2007/2008 Personnel: $25,225,796 70% Total Expenses $35,907,229
FY2006/2007 Personnel: $21,970,518 67% Total Expenses $32,593,501
FY2005/2006 Personnel: $21,844,458 76% Total Expenses $28,882,312
FY2004/2005 Personnel: $20,097,954 69% Total Expenses $29,229,090
FY2003/2004 Personnel: $18,966,065 72% Total Expenses $26,298,918
The first bump in personnel costs came in 2005/2006. This is because, from 1998 to 2004, CALPERS earnings on their investments were so great that they didn't require cities to contribute toward their employee retirement funds at all. With the dot com crash, this changed and the first charge showed up in 2005 - an increase of about a $million. It's interesting that as a percentage of total expenses, 2005/2006 had the highest personnel costs of any year in the past nine.
The big jump in labor costs came in 2007/2008 after Council approved the increase in retirement rates, following the lead of the state and in order to remain competitive with other cities. This shows as a bump of about $3.25 million. This is the "unaffordable" benefits increase that Measure L was intended to reverse. It's interesting that even with this big bump, as a percentage of total expenses, personnel costs remained about 70%, less than they'd been in 03/04 and 05/06.
The next bump came the following year (08/09) when, I believe, the council approved significant raises for police officers in order to reduce the turnover rate in the department that, at the time, was over 50%. In this they were successful. Police attrition is way down.
Personnel costs (and total expenses) remained more or less flat for the next 3 years and even show a nominal decline during the current fiscal year. In reading further into these budgets, this cost control was accomplished over these four years by reducing staff positions, largely through attrition, and increasing employee contributions to both their health and retirement systems. All this, by the way, was accomplished through collective bargaining between the city and the employee unions. No arm-twisting initiatives were required.
The numbers, to my mind, demonstrate that the city government has been very responsive to the effects of the economic downturn and has had demonstrable success at keeping both labor & overall costs under control.
In other words, our city government, under direction of the City Council, is doing a darn good job under very trying economic conditions. They should be acknowledged, if not applauded, for their success, rather than derided as seems to be the preference of some people on this blog.
Just my opinion - but at least I've got some facts to base that opinion on.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 7:20 pm
I also congratulate Steve on his analysis and always thoughtful posts. They are sincerely appreciated.
Steve, you said "The big jump in labor costs came in 2007/2008 after Council approved the increase in retirement rates, following the lead of the state and in order to remain competitive with other cities." I challenge the last part of your statement. I hear this refrain repeated over and over again by city officials and union leaders that "we have to remain competitive." Or what, Steve? Has anyone ever tested that thesis? What will happen? Do you really think that any attrition won't be replaced by other qualified people?
I echo Mr. Carpenter's point that you have ignored some obvious alternatives. Just because a percentage of the total fell doesn't mean that they couldn't have saved more. I'm reminded of my government boasting about cutting spending when they mean that they have cut THE RATE of spending - spending has actually INCREASED. In this case, could the city have done better? Could they have outsourced? Could they have negotiated even better?
I know you are not a pension liability "denier" (apologies, I HATE that term), but except for our resident Blue Collar poster, no one, not our Governor and not even CALPERS, thinks that all is well in pension land. The truth will be extremely painful in a few years when cities find themselves devoting 25% to 40% of their budgets to pay employee pensions - to people who are no longer even working there. The cuts to police, fire, schools and libraries will make us long for the good old days of 2011.
At least Measure L (or its impact) will stop the continuation of the outrageous benefits and pensions that our elected officials gifted to their biggest campaign contributors.
Posted by Charles, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Peter Carpenter is right.
How have the services provided by our government personnel justified a 45% increase since 2003-4? Inflation over that period is less than 10%.
FY2011/2012 Personnel: $26,929,726
FY2003/2004 Personnel: $18,966,065
Public unions should be banned outright due to the conflict of interest with the taxpaying public. They use collective bargaining to take as much taxpayer money as possible with no accountability to deliver value.
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm
Thank you, good info and to the point I made in earlier posts that at some time in the near future it will be measure M,N,O and so on, or layoffs. My reasoning is there is not enough relief in Measure L and they are starting with the low hanging fruit and will move up the tree as needed. A test to see if they can succeed and then move forward as needed. The trouble with this idea is you have the citizens running this part of the City business/budget with a very narrow focus in mind. To add to the trouble they are so zealous they don't think or care about the final outcome. I did enjoy your comment concerning measure L and you said it best when you said how can the union actually "meet and confer" with the general public. At the end of the day the system of City Counsel and Union is the only reasonable way to complete this work. As I think we will all see in the near future when a torch carrying throng is allowed into the mix it will result in dismissal in court. That's what happened in Vallejo however the City was so insolvent due to past poor practices by that point they were out of gas. Check out what they did to their public employees. I'm sure seeing the attitudes I see here this group would have no trouble doing the same, see link.
Posted by Menlo Park, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm
Seriously Blue - you're digging a really deep hole. Stop digging. You're over your head. If you've been paying attention, the only way Menlo Park can go back on its previous agreements is to change its legal form of government. Not going to happen. Your gloom and doom is missplaced. The only thing the unions are going to garner form this lawsuit is even more anger from the tax payers that pay your salary. It's stupid and it's arrogant.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm
I wrote: "The big jump in labor costs came in 2007/2008 after Council approved the increase in retirement rates, following the lead of the state and in order to remain competitive with other cities."
You responded: "I challenge the last part of your statement. I hear this refrain repeated over and over again by city officials and union leaders that "we have to remain competitive." Or what, Steve? Has anyone ever tested that thesis? What will happen? Do you really think that any attrition won't be replaced by other qualified people?"
POGO, if you read the next paragraph you'll remember that I did point out that in the following year (08/09) salaries for police officers were increased to reduce the attrition rate of over 50%. What was happening was that Menlo Park was paying to train the new recruits and then losing them to other cities that paid better wages & benefits. Upping wages & benefits ended the high turnover. So to answer your question, yes this thesis has been tested and found to be true.
So yes, if you want Menlo Park to be the training center for police forces (or other employee groups) up and down the Peninsula, then I suppose we could go ahead and pay less than market wages. But I think residents of the city expect a fully trained and experienced force to be serving them, not one that's here only long enough to get the training that will qualify them for a better paying job in Palo Alto.
POGO - do you think the private sector would be successful in keeping their best employees by paying less than market rates? Of course not. They attract and keep their best employees by paying top dollar and by providing a stimulating work environment. Why should the public sector be expected to operate under a different set of market forces? If you want good people you need to be ready to pay for them, period.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm
You ask the question: "but the issue is was this a prudent purchase of services or could the same services be purchased for less."
The insinuation being that they probably weren't prudent and could have purchased the services for less.
Unless you have evidence that the city significantly overpaid its employees then I see no reason to suspect them of doing less than a good job in controlling these costs. It seems to me the numbers tell the story: our city government was able to maintain flat or declining personnel costs for the past four years by asking for, and receiving, concessions from their employees. This is something that should be celebrated, not disparaged.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 10:28 am
Steve states:"And once again you make the suggestion - with no references and no evidence whatsoever - that the city has been overpaying for the services of its employees. "
If you think that the current salaries are not well above market rate then you have not been paying attention.
According to the U.S. Census the mean FAMILY income in 2010 in San Mateo County was $82,748. The City's adopted budget does not even include the number of employees - that is unheard of in any well run organization! But assume the City has 200 employees (I think that it is less) then the average cost per employee is $134,648. And that is for a single wage earner, not a family.
If the city has 200 employees that would make it the 10th largest employer in the city.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm
Steve, we can very easily carry out an experiment to answer your question about whether public sector employees are paid the market rate. Simply offer a job opening at a given rate, and if the line of qualified applicants extends out the door, the rate is too high.
I believe you will find that we are paying twice or three times what is needed to staff these positions.
We should spend less time arguing about this with unions (they should be banned or ignored) and more time in the real world determining what is the market rate that gets taxpayers the best public services for the least amount of money.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm
Talk about mixing apples & oranges! Your statistics about average employee costs for Menlo Park employees and mean family income for San Mateo County is more like apples and celery. Almost totally useless for making any meaningful comparisons.
- San Mateo county has a 10% unemployment rate. By definition 100% of Menlo Park employees are employed.
- Most, if not all, Menlo Park employees are college educated, many with advanced degrees. San Mateo county includes many immigrants and poorly educated people earning minimum wage or less.
- Your average cost/MP employee includes the cost of their health and pension benefits. The mean family income does not include these payroll deductions.
- and so on . . .
If you wanted a real "market" comparison of MP employee salaries, you could easily look at what Palo Alto, Redwood City, etc. are paying their comparable employees. That would be a much more valid comparison and the information is all out there on the internet.
There are very few uniformed police officers in the private sector and no hamburger flippers in City Hall, as far as I know.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm
Just for reference, according to the Menlo Park Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY09/10, the city employed 241 FTEs, or 2% of the city's total labor force. This placed it 8th among the top 10 employers after Oracle, SRI, Tyco, Intuit, Pacific BioScience, Safeway, and the new Sandhill Rosewood Hotel. Web Link
The current 241 city employees is down from the high of 260 employees in 2003 and almost exactly the same number the city had in 2001.
For comparison with our nearest neighbor, Palo Alto had 1,100 employees on their rolls last year, which placed them 10th on their list of top employers. Considering the population of Palo Alto, at 65,000, is only half again as big as Menlo Park's, they have almost 5X the number of employees. Of course they also manage their own utilities, etc. Still . . .
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm
So you haven't learned anything from the high attrition rates of our Police Force of a couple years ago have you? You'd instead have Menlo Park start hiring employees at below-market rates, training them, and watching them jump ship to other cities that have better pay & benefits. That's a great way to have a dedicated, professional workforce here in Menlo Park - NOT!
As I asked POGO yesterday: "do you think the private sector would be successful in keeping their best employees by paying less than market rates? Of course not. They attract and keep their best employees by paying top dollar and by providing a stimulating work environment. Why should the public sector be expected to operate under a different set of market forces? If you want good people you need to be ready to pay for them, period."
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm
The private sector doesn't pay below market rates. But the "MARKET RATE" moves with the economy. That is something that public employees REFUSE to understand. If tomorrow morning we advertised for police officers at $60K per year we would get TONS of applications. However our "Market Rate" is being held at $80K artificially by the SEIU contract.
So if you want to measure the marginal utility of an employee it is what it would cost to replace them.
We have 100's of employees in my portfolio companies and I don’t have a single admin paid what this city pays for its admins. I don't an accounts payable person being paid what we pay either. So the marginal utility of an admin is below what MPK pays and the marginal utility (cost) of an accounting person is below what MPK pays.
So your assertion that it is a race to the bottom is false. It is only true if there is a high demand for that position. and currently there isn't. Several cities in the bay area have laid off sworn officers and those officers are looking for work (according to the article in SJMN)
Like I said. I dare the city to advertise for an admin at $40K and see how many applications they get. that would be a 35% reduction to our current cost.
The private sector is a stunning example of how supply and demand works and it's economic efficiency. and the public sector is the antithesis of that efficiency.
Posted by Productivity, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm
The private sector is the most productive per capita in the world, and has made and continues to make remarkable productivity gains, largely out of necessity due to global competition. Workers work harder and must continually produce more value to justify thier earnings. That is the market.
The public sector in contrast has been grabbing more and more from taxpayers and delivering no such productivity gains. It's unsustainable, it is a drag on our country, and the unions and their bought and paid for politicians who are responsible must be stopped. The sooner we can force some competitiveness, accountability, and efficiency into our bloated government, the better.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm
Interesting that you should point to admins in your companies being paid less than what admins in public employment are paid. Admins are typically jobs held by females and so are subject to sexual discrimination when it comes to pay comparability - the proverbial "gender gap" that currently has women in the US earning just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. I'd be concerned that that may be the explanation for the pay difference in your company.
Studies have shown that admin & secretarial positions are the exception and actually are better paid in government than in private industry. One explanation for this: government has often sought to be a "model employer" and institutes anti-discrimination measures when it comes to maintaining pay comparability.
Roy - would you compare pay for some of the more skilled positions in your company with comparable positions in local government? I'd bet those salaries are often greater than what MP employees get.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm
This may come as a surprise to you, Steve, but in the private sector we don't pay "top dollar." I'm not sure where you got that. If we did, we would just be chasing our tail and have runaway labor costs.
What we pay are market rates. Attrition isn't all bad, you know. We sometimes like to see employees leave, especially the ones at the high end of the price range. It's a fact of life. In fact, if attrition rates are low, it's a sure sign your paying too much.
I know you will say that Menlo Park was losing employees to other cities and that may be true. It's certainly true if these other cities were following your rule.
So, it would seem that there are two kinds of people. Those that think there isn't a problem with public employee pay, benefits and pensions and those that do. Fortunately, the scales seem to be tipping in favor of those that do.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm
Peter & Joanna -
You both are very vociferous in proclaiming that public workers earn more and produce less than their private counterparts. Yet when it comes to providing evidence for these claims you are both silent.
Can you please provide some evidence that might convince me? Otherwise I'll relegate your claims to the same "belief in fairies" bin that Joe Davis's claims belong in.
The best study I've seen concludes just the opposite - that public employees are underpaid compared to the private sector. It came out last just last year and is called "Out of Balance? Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation over 20 Years". Web Link
It looked at 25 years worth of monthly data from the Census Bureau (through 2008) and found that in California, salaries of state employees average about 10% less than those of comparable positions in the private sector. The differential with local government is not so great, showing a gap of only 6%.
Now with the recession, there may have been a softening in private sector wages in the past 2 years so the differences may not be so great. On the other hand, state workers have experienced furloughs that are equivalent to a 10% pay cut so the wage differential may actually be greater.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm
What is boring is claiming the same thing over and over without providing any evidence to support the claims.
Since I re-entered this dialog I have read lots of vociferous opinions from you but precious few supporting references or facts. You keep claiming public employees are overpaid relative to the private sector but you've provided zero evidence that that is in fact the case.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 8:11 pm
Read and weep:
Comparing Private Sector and Government Worker Salaries
Public sector offers ironclad job security and greater pension benefits
May 10, 2010
There has been much debate over whether public sector employees are overpaid or underpaid, relative to their private sector counterparts, and how to make an "apples-to-apples" comparison of the compensation received by each since job functions are oftentimes quite different. The following seeks to address this issue in light of a new report that suggests that state and local government workers receive less total compensation than comparable private-sector workers, and to examine how issues not addressed in the study might affect those conclusions.
Are Public Sector Workers Overcompensated?
Several analyses of average wages and benefits in the public and private sectors reveal that state and local government workers earn more than private sector workers. According to the most recent Employer Costs for Employee Compensation survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of December 2009, state and local government employees earned total compensation of $39.60 an hour, compared to $27.42 an hour for private industry workers-a difference of over 44 percent. This includes 35 percent higher wages and nearly 69 percent greater benefits.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau similarly show that in 2007 the average annual salary of a California state government employee was $53,958, nearly 32 percent greater than the average private sector worker ($40,991). In addition, as noted by reporter and Calpensions.com blogger Ed Mendel, in 2006 the state conducted a comparison of state and private sector compensation for the first time in two decades. While the Department of Personnel Administration survey did not include all job classifications, the analysis determined a number of benchmark job classifications and found that state compensation was greater than private sector compensation for clerical jobs, accountants, custodians, electricians, stationary engineers, and analysts, but lagged in medical occupations.
Moreover, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis illustrate that average state and local government compensation has been increasing at a faster rate than average private sector compensation over the past 30 years (see the graph on page 89 of this Cato Journal article).
Public sector workers also are significantly more likely to have traditional pension plans – called “defined benefit” plans. The latest data from BLS showed 20 percent of workers in the private sector have pension plans. In the public sector, defined benefit plan coverage is four times greater — about 79 percent.
According to a December report from the BLS, state and local government employers spent an average of $39.83 per hour worked ($26.24 for wages and $13.60 for benefits) for total employee compensation in September 2009. Total employer compensation costs for private industry workers averaged $27.49 per hour ($19.45 for wages and $8.05 for benefits), see chart above. In other words, government employees make 45% more on average than private sector employees.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm
Yes, I read that USA Today article too that lumped together the wages of all the lawyers, hamburger flippers, and janitors, along with everyone else in the private sector. They came up with an average private sector wage that was significantly less than the wage of the average public employee who is college educated, often with an advanced degree. Somehow people seem to think that was meaningful. It made a nice headline but the conclusion was bogus.
When you do an apples to apples comparison between similar job categories - as the study I referenced did and as the report you referenced did not - you find the private sector generally, though not always, pays more.
If you compare the wage of a lawyer in city hall with that of a lawyer in private practice, you find the private practice lawyer makes more. When you compare an admin tech in city hall to an admin tech in private practice, the admin tech in city hall makes more. The overall comparisons in the study I referenced endeavors to compare job category to job category and ends up showing public employees overall are still lagging private employees, even when benefits are included. If you disagree with that study's conclusion, please point out what part of their methodology is flawed. Otherwise it stills appears the best "apples to apples" analysis of this question that is available.
As I pointed out to you earlier, there are very few uniformed police officers in the private sector and no hamburger flippers in City Hall, as far as I know.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm
Yes, my view of the world is that a lawyer wants to compare his salary with that of other lawyers, not with an average salary that includes everybody from a hamburger flipper to a CEO. Is that so hard to understand?
When you do that you find the the lawyer in private practice commands a higher wage than that of a lawyer in public service. I don't think anybody would be surprised by or dispute this statement.
This is the sort of "apples to apples" comparison that needs to be done across the job categories that exist in both public employment and private employment. The study I referenced does that and finds that, on average, public jobs pay less the the equivalent jobs in private practice. It isn't always the case as Roy pointed out the Admins in government earn more than those in private industry and there are other categories as well where this is true. But, on average over all comparable job categories, govt employees still earn less, benefits included, than their private sector counterparts.
The biggest difference between private and federal employment lies in the proportion of jobs paying less than $25,000 a year. In 2008 more than 43 percent of private-sector workers earned less than $25,000 a year. In the public arena, less than 15% of jobs pay less than $25,000. Is this because public workers are overpaid or because their jobs require a higher skill & education level? I think the answer to that is obvious.
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Sep 29, 2011 at 1:06 am
Steve: you asked and Peter presented an abundance of data which confirms what most private sector workers who deal with their public sector counterparts already figured out long ago: the public sector is bloated and overpaid.
We're done underwriting a life of privilege for public "servants" that is not earned but rather extracted by union strong arm tactics and manipulation of the political process. The trough is finally closing. It's too bad it took a generational recession to make the private sector wake up and realize it was being pillaged, but if one good thing comes out of this recession its going to be the taxpaying public finally demanding some accountability and putting an end to the public sector gravy train.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Sep 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm
Steve, you state:
> And your belief is based on what exactly? Any actual facts to base this belief on or shall I give it the same weight as someone who says they believe in fairies?
I think that your beliefs about the market rate for public sector workers are wrong, and you think that mine are wrong.
However, the point of my comment was that we do not have to argue about beliefs. We can use an experiment to decide who is right - the kind of experiment that private business does every day when deciding who to hire and how much to pay, and observing how difficult it is to fill the given position.
> How about we assign you the job of doing the simple experiment you suggested?
If I was an empowered city manager of Menlo Park you can be sure that is the first thing I would do.
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Sep 30, 2011 at 7:59 am
Dear Menlo Voter,
I would consider it very noble of you to be Menlo Parks first volunteer fireman. Personally I would not risk my life for free and think Firefighters should get every dime they get paid. Including lifetime medical benny's etc. They are exposed to carcinogens and other hoarable chemicals on a daily basis. But hey free's good go for it MV, you da man!
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 8:44 am
if Menlo Fire District accepted volunteers I would probably do it. I am ex-law enforcement and I can tell you I was exposed to a lot more nasty stuff than fire fighters. Fire fighters have SCBA so they don't breath all those carcinogens. I was routinely exposed to body fluids and all sorts of other nasty stuff so, don't get upset if I'm not too worked up about what fire fighters get exposed to.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:28 am
You wrote: "I think that your beliefs about the market rate for public sector workers are wrong, and you think that mine are wrong."
As a wiser man than me once wrote, "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts." This is a discussion that should be based upon facts, to the extent that facts are available. You are very capable of stating your opinions but you don't do a very good job of backing them up with any supporting facts or references.
Excuse me for not taking your opinions very seriously but when factual studies are available, I'll go with the facts every time.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 11:59 am
I have put forward a hypothesis that could be tested with an experiment, which I described. Do you agree that performing this experiment would be a good idea, and should inform the compensation of public workers?
Posted by Pat, a resident of another community, on Sep 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm
Steve- THANK YOU for posting FACTS; there are so many people here trying to ignorantly misguide the voters, based on non-truths and false perceptions.
Perhaps Peter Carpenter should look in his own backyard- Menlo Park Fire- where he is a board member. There are several positions at MPFD administrative office (support staff) that receive 2.7 @ 55 PERS retirement - and they are currently creating new positions at that same rate! Shouldn’t he be setting an example for a 2-tier retirement for the very district he serves? The front page of the Menlo Park Fire website says they are extending this AFSME contract through 2012. They have also seen several raises in the last few years. Most of their salaries are WELL above the $82k he speaks so harshly of….. raises too?
Posted by Michael, a resident of another community, on Sep 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm
POGO: I will answer the question the public-sector union supporters will not.
Menlo Park, and just about every city in the bay area, would have hundreds of qualified firefighters apply for each opening at 1/2 the total compensation the current employees. Plenty of unemployed veterans out there who would make great firefighters. The surge of applicants for the San Carlos fire openings speaks volumes about this imbalance.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm
Michael, if what you say is correct (and I believe it is), then that is excellent news. We can cut the cost of providing these services in half, and the quality of service we citizens receive would not suffer one bit. I suspect it would even improve.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm
Don't you remember that we tried this 3 years ago when MP was paying less than market rates for police officers - though nothing near as ridiculous as the 50% pay Michael suggested. We had turnover rates in the department of over 50%. The city would spend 6 months and tens of thousands of dollars training new recruits, only to have them quit as soon as an opening in another police force opened up.
I'd say that the quality of service did suffer considerably as a result. Enough that the Council upped the pay to market rates, which promptly dropped the attrition rates back to normal.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm
I don't know what the impetus for socking it to our public employees is all about anyway, other than an ideological reflex from those who learned their politics at the foot of Ronald 'the Government is the problem' Reagan. Our City Manager & Council have done a good job of balancing the city budget for the past 4 years without requiring anything so drastic as has been proposed here, even while city income dropped as sales taxes withered with the recession and interest on reserves dropped toward zero. But by delaying some capital improvements, not filling some vacancies, and negotiating additional employee pension contributions with the unions, our city government has done a good job of maintaining both services for our citizens and a happy & productive workforce. From my perspective, they're doing an excellent job under very trying economic circumstances and should be applauded for being so responsible and so responsive to the people they serve.
Just look at the headcount and the annual budgets for the past 10 years that I printed above. The facts really do tell the story.
Posted by Pat, a resident of another community, on Sep 30, 2011 at 4:20 pm
Peter - that is a separate issue. I was speaking of the "Support Staff" at the Fire Departments- NON-FIREFIGHTERS; meaning Admins/Clerks, HR Staff, IT, etc. Pay increases were given in 2008, 2009, and 2010 as spelled out in the AFSME contract on the MPFD website. And now creating new positions with the same inflated PERS rate you speak of? Rediculous. I don't mind paying for the firefighters and paramedics- I personally have witnessed their live saving tactics right here in your district. I have payed more for a plummer and more for my A/C to be fixed than you are willing to pay for someone to save your life in a medical or other emergency.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm
Nice answer but that wasn't the question, was it? You are way too smart to think your answer was even remotely responsive.
There is no war on public employees. In fact, Steve, it is taxpayers that often feel there is a war declared against us! Government never wants to check its own spending or correct its sins, it just wants more and more money.
The "experiment" that you referred to three years ago represented a "market" characterized by all local public employers working in unison AGAINST each other. Our public employees sat back, watched, enjoyed and benefited from the chaos and self-destruction.
Here's the difference: those were very different times. Our homes were valued about 40% higher. Unemployment was low. The Dow was high. I remember paying $20 an hour assemblers $2,500 signing bonuses and could get a single applicant for a dozen job openings. Today, I get 20 applicants the day I post a single job opening... for $16 an hour. As I said, times change, Steve.
And even our elected officials and unions seem to have noticed. Just today, the San Jose Mercury News published an editorial noting the union concessions which include reductions for CURRENT employees. But we're not even asking for that and that's not part of this little "experiment" as you call it.
You see, there is no need to continue to dig our fiscal hole any deeper. What is proposed is to develop a new compensation/benefits/pension scale for NEW employees. You like to point to private industry, Steve - well this same plan worked quite well for the airline and auto industry about 20 years ago. A two tier system that grandfathers current employees and corrects this madness for new ones. What's wrong with that?
Perhaps other cities will take notice, regain their sanity and stop paying wages that far exceed the requirements for qualified employees. And that's the real lesson of private industry. You pay a lot WHEN YOU HAVE TO. You pay a little WHEN YOU CAN.
I'll let you figure out current conditions, Steve.
It would be nice if the compensation of our public employees reflected the economic realities that the rest of us have to live with.
Posted by Explain something to me, a resident of another community, on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:08 pm
Why are we arguing about any of this? There's supposed to be a "market" out there for people who can perform these jobs. I don't think Steve or BCPW are suggesting that taxpayers be forced to pay above market rates for employees. Are they?
And, I believe it really isn't possible to consistently pay below market rates for these employees either. As Steve has pointed out, if anyone is paid below market, it's just a matter of time before they get their market rate elsewhere. That's what's great about the capitalist system.
Are the unions "rigging" the market through union muscle to make it impossible for natural free-economy market forces to do what they do, and pay these workers the correct rate?
Is Peter Carpenter or for that matter any national stage politician who could (unlike Carpenter) "rigging" the market by forcing public employees to accept less compensation than what market forces dictate they should be making?
Think about it, and figure out which is easier to believe.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:57 pm
You wrote: "There is no war on public employees."
Well, call me overly sensitive but that is the gist of a lot of the comments on this blog alone. To quote from a few:
"Public unions must be made illegal"
"The unions have no place in local government."
"This should include outsourcing whenever feasable [sp]. The current city staff can then apply for positions with the new service provider at real world rates of pay and benefits."
"Generous pensions and disgustingly large salaries set by self-dealing folks deserve another look."
"Public unions should be banned outright due to the conflict of interest with the taxpaying public. They use collective bargaining to take as much taxpayer money as possible with no accountability to deliver value. Consolidate. Outsource. Privatize."
"If you don't like your job there are thousands of unemployed Californians who will take your place. People are tired of your gravy train and your wining[sp]. Taxpayers aren't going to take it anymore."
"How about we advertise for fire fighter openings at say $50,000?"
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm
You also stated: "Government never wants to check its own spending or correct its sins, it just wants more and more money."
Did you look at the 10 years worth of budget data I presented earlier? Did you notice that the Council has held our expenditures flat for the past 4 years. It's actually down during the current fiscal year.
Can't you agree this is an example of our local government doing what you say you want? Can't you bring yourself to agree that this is a good thing?
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:59 pm
Explain something to me -
"Rigging the market" is a very interesting term.
When public service employees are the largest campaign contributors and have the greatest impact on the election of the people on the opposite side of their negotiating table then, yes, I suppose that could be termed rigging the market.
I'd love to be an employee who could so adversely impact the future of the people responsible for my compensation. Some might even call that a conflict of interest!
At least voters and taxpayers are pushing back. Hopefully, our elected officials will get the message before we all sink under the weight of these unsustainable benefits. By the way, how did those pension plans work out for those airline (Delta, United, US Air, TWA, PanAm) and steel mill (Bethlehem, LTV, National) employees? Newsflash: the public employee pensions are in far worse shape than they were.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 11:10 pm
Just because a poster or two says something stupid or (admittedly) hostile doesn't mean that the populous has declared war on public employees. However, when the union who represents public employees fights every single effort at reform tooth and nail, I think one could make the opposite assertion.
And I don't believe that advertising for a fire fighters at lower wages is hostile. Put on those listening ears, my friend, no one is suggesting reducing current employee compensation.
Government has reduced spending? I almost choked on my dessert! On what planet?
I suppose you can find an example or two here and there and perhaps Menlo Park held the line during the past few years better than most. But government spending in real dollars has increased every single year since 1960. You know perfectly well that when politicians hail a budget cut, they are talking about cutting the rate of growth.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2011 at 11:14 pm
By the way, even your previous post that listed total spending by Menlo Park shows that, except for the current year (2011/12 that is not yet completed), spending actually INCREASED EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Admittedly, not by much during some of those years, but it never went down.
It's about time that spending took a breath. I'll reserve my judgment on 2011/12 when it is completed.
Posted by Let's Experiment, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Oct 1, 2011 at 7:58 am
First off, I believe the two tier Measure L is a useful experiment given all rhetoric and hyperbole that surround the topic of public vs. privates salaries and benefits (on this forum). It saddens me and hurts the unions' case that they are taking it to court. If it's as awful as some say it is, we'll have unfilled city positions.
At the same time advocates for both unions and a "market economy" have to get past the garbage facts and figures that seem to get posted here.
Public employees are fundamentally different than private employees in many ways so apples to apples comparisons aren't possible as some simpletons on both sides would like to believe. Public employees:
* Can't be measured on productivity and return the way it is done in the private sector. In fact, some of the mandated requirements such as minimum # of firefighters/shift or maximum class sizes run completely contrary to private measures of productivity.
* Unlike private enterprise, public employees are locked to the parameters of the community they work for and must service everyone. Teachers must educate all the kids of their community (unlike charter schools), and fireman must put out fires in all parts of town. Private industries can adjust and choose which segments they serve to maximize profit.
* We want our public employees to live in our community - public employees that are rooted in the community are more likely to be there rapidly for emergencies and go the extra distance for the community.
So let's stop the ridiculous, pointless comparisons and see how the new systems work.
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker, a resident of another community, on Oct 1, 2011 at 9:31 am
My opinon is there is not enough releif soon enough in the two teir program the reformers. So lets ask what is it they are looking for, will it be back to levels of contribution prior to 2005? Will it be back to contributions back to the time when the City did not have to contribute at all? No one to my knowledge has answered that yet. I am sure this is just the start. I have not run the numbers etc, but that is my gut feeling. Having said that I understand you truly believe it will stop here but greed is a funny thing. As far as the envy comment goes remember when all the Silicone Valley guys had brand new Corvettes and the public employees were driving their old 68 Chevy pick ups around your town? The answer is you can pay us now or you can pay us latter but at some point you have to pay people the going rate for the jobs they do. It just turns out it is now.............
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Oct 1, 2011 at 9:51 am
BCPW states:"My opinon is there is not enough releif soon enough in the two teir program the reformers"
If the second tier is a defined contribution retirement program then there will be sufficient reduction in the public's liability to have balanced budgets. Simply changing the terms of a defined benefit program would make little difference to the public's liability.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Oct 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm
Let's Experiment -
You don't think public employees can be measured on productivity? You are kidding, right? You must be very unfamiliar with our government!
Not measuring productivity would be news to the many public employees and managers who receive performance reviews every single year which include evaluation of many objective metrics. No they aren't the number of widgets that were completed on the production line - but even that is a very narrow, private industry metric. In the private sector we have lots of managers, engineers, clerks and professionals who's job output is not always numeric.
So what do we measure? How about response time, waiting time at the counter, number of errors on plan checks, on time performance, operating within budget, turnover, the number of inspections, graduation rates, test scores, department revenues, reducing expenses, proactivity, etc.? There are many more metrics besides the number of fires that were put out or the number of crimes in a year.
Your post reveals a stunning lack of knowledge about what our public employees do.
But to the point of this thread - it's about compensation for public employees. Indulge me for a moment. If your city could hire its next employee - a QUALIFIED candidate - for about a third less the compensation and a defined contribution retirement plan (not a defined benefit plan), would you favor it?
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Oct 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm
Actually I don't believe that taxpayer initiatives to reduce compensation, benefits and pensions will be limited to new hires. That doesn't mean I favor it.
What I don't understand is why public employees and the union opposes a two-tiered system. It is the only way to correct this problematic pension issue. This madness has to end and continuing to perpetuate the current system is equivalent to an ostrich burying its head.
Posted by Quant, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2011 at 9:36 am
Your are right about measurement of public employees. There are things that can be measured. But I think you miss the basic point of Experiment's argument. Even if one can measure activities related to public or common goods in the public sector, there is not a good way to put an economic value on them in the same direct way it can be done for private enterprises. Government deliverables aren't directly bought on an open competitive market, so for most metrics, the value and cost to deliver are the same whereas in private enterprise you can usually separate value/revenue from the cost to produce. There are some financial proxies for the value of government services - relative home prices is often used, but the productivity of government is very tied to policy.
As for your comment on managerial productivity in private enterprises - Most firms scrutinize productivity at a P&L / business unit level, so managerial productivity is typically analyzed as one of the factors in terms of team productivity, retention, hiring.
Look a little closer POGO and you will see differences that make it harder to accurately meaningfully measure the financial value, and thus, productivity of public sector workers.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Oct 2, 2011 at 11:57 am
I suppose that we'll just have to disagree. Fortunately, I have Ed Deming on my side who said that all tasks can be quantitatively assessed and improved. And, not that it is dispositive, I do have experience providing formal evaluations in both the public and private sector.
An example from the private sector that is difficult to measure in economic terms: A manager who provided a positive environment was repaid by having his employees contribute to the local blood bank during their lunch hour.
An example from the public sector that is easy to measure in economic terms: A town manager researched, recommended and ultimately outsourced specific jobs within the building and planning department resulting in more accurate, faster and more consistent service, savings from reduced headcount and lower personnel costs.
Keep in mind that Let's Experiment post makes assertions such as the public sector "Can't be measured on productivity and return the way it is done in the private sector. In fact, some of the mandated requirements such as minimum # of firefighters/shift or maximum class sizes run completely contrary to private measures of productivity." That misses the point that for firefighters you can easily evaluate success such as response times, efficiency, number of inspections, maintenance and for teachers you can evaluate absenteeism, test scores, graduation rates, and college entrance.
The data is there - sometimes you have to look for it. That said, I have no problem agreeing to disagree.
Posted by Pat, a resident of another community, on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:31 am
Peter- I will try to attend, I have small children and it's not always possible. I do live in the district, and I feel these are important questions for you and the board, as representatives of my district. You speak so much of Pension Reform- why not start with your very own board/district?