Proposing legislation to to end collective bargaining units in the State of California, and blaming the unions for the deficit, is a bit ridiculous, but so typical of politicians. They are a lot like magicians. Draw your attention away from the actual trick, start the illusion and then—aha, the prestige, as they reach around with the other hand and dip into the coffers themselves.
Let’s take a look at the University of California.The regents recently authorized a ten percent pay raise for three executive positions. One of which is the Director of Risk Management. That salary is just under one quarter of a million dollars. The other two positions will take those three to just about three quarters of a million dollars in annual salaries. Yet the administration cites problems in the budget and says it will have to increase tuition and seek more out-of-state students to counter the deficit problems, as well as not hire workers and close some positions.
The City of Santa Barbara decided that it was essential for the taxpayers to bear the cost of hiring some design company to come and study the need for bulb-out intersections. Now that idea is countered, and we pay for another group to examine the issue yet again. Never mind that it may have been more practical to just set the crossing timer so the pedestrian signal would last longer, or cut ramps in the curbs so wheelchairs would have better access to the sidewalks. There seem to be better ways to spend tax money rather than trying to blame the bargaining units for the problems.
Let’s look at the poor conditions of the park system. No money for the necessary work that needs to be done—but let’s blame the unions for that and not the pay raises for executives, and their perks, along with the “company cars” used for personal transportation. In fact the credit cards for fuel are used instead of having to pay out-of-pocket even when not on actual company, city, or county business. That couldn’t possibly have anything to do with deficit problems.
Another point: How about the fact that rather than hire a local member of law enforcement to be our police chief, the city went outside to hire a new leader of the department. Never mind that it would have cost less for a local, because that person would already be living in the area, never mind that the city gave the new chief a loan to pay for a new house in the area so he could move here, and never mind the fact that the sale of his home where he lived before brought him enough to purchase here. This all was made public and shouldn’t be a real surprise to anyone that pays attention to local happenings.
I just find it a sad commentary that there seems to be so much spending going on at the executive levels, yet the finger-pointing always seems to be directed at those who are lowest on the totem pole, with talk of how they are causing such a huge problem. I haven’t heard anything from the university executives saying something like, “We appreciate the regents trying to give us this raise, but to help the university and its budgetary problems we won’t accept it, so others can keep their jobs.” Nope, haven’t heard that.
Legislation against the bargaining units helping the workers that actually do the work in the fields, and scrub the bathrooms, and get the grease and grime of the city and county under their nails, is not the solution. Perhaps the real examination needs to be aimed a bit higher—at the bigger offices. Let us not forget how Bell, California had real problems that were successfully kept out of the public eye for some time, until it was actually too late. Oh, but perhaps that was the fault of the employees’ bargaining unit, and not the greed and outright thievery of taxpayer money by those who were elected and put in charge of looking out for the welfare of the city.
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Raven Whitehawk is a bus driver in Santa Barbara and a member of Teamsters Union Local 186.