By Doug Porter
More than a decade of demonizing public employees in San Diego appeared to be coming to close yesterday, with the announcement of a tentative deal between the City and six labor unions.
Previous administrations have exploited concerns over pension indebtedness and budgetary shortfalls caused by the great recession, using city employees as a public whipping boy for political gain.
One need look no further that former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ refusal to negotiate with the Police Officer’s Association during the Proposition B campaign to understand just how egregious these political games have been for everybody except a small group of politicians.
The proposed labor pacts will save taxpayers $60 million in pension plan payments in the first three years, according to Mayor Filner. You know it was a big deal because the press release coming from the Mayor’s office had three, count ‘em, three, exclamation points in the headline.
“This is the first time the City has ever achieved five-year agreements with any labor organization, and to achieve this with all six labor organization is historic,” the Mayor said. “This is a great day for taxpayers, for employees, for the City and for the City’s retirement system. We are going to use the money that would have gone to the pension fund on services, infrastructure repair and reducing our reliance on one-time funds to balance the budget.”
The five-year agreements would comply with Proposition B’s restrictions on pensionable pay increases, meaning any increases in compensation will not impact San Diego’s pension obligations.
“This deal accomplishes exactly what Proposition B had set out to accomplish when it was chaptered into the City’s Charter on July 20, 2012,” the Mayor said. “Even if it is struck down by the courts, we have accomplished the promised $1 billion savings!”
Here’s a copy of the deal. City employees are granted the right to re-open discussions about additional pay increases after the first three years have passed. After ratification by each labor organization, the contracts will be presented to the City Council for ratification.
Circling the Drain at UT-San Diego
‘Papa’ Doug Manchester’s minions tried their best to put a happy face on bad news yesterday, promising continued efforts at expanding their media investments even as they announced the shuttering of The Californian, a daily that once covered Temecula and southern Riverside County.
UT-San Diego bought the North County Times, which included ownership of the small daily, in September 2012 from Lee Enterprises for $12 million. Management promptly folded The Californian into the UT as a daily section and ran with the NCT as the U-T North County edition.
Estimates of the number of employees losing their jobs yesterday ranged from 10 (UT) to 19 (SD Reader). KPBS inewsource reported on an internal UT memo saying the layoff were part of the “process of finalizing its transition following the North County Times acquisition.”
A UT-San Diego account quoted CEO John Lynch:
“Upon our acquisition of the NCT and Californian, the U-T fielded extensive research that showed that the U-T was respected for its coverage and quality and was favored over the other brands,” Lynch said. “The fact is that the financial model for both the Californian and the North County Times was broken. We are interested in creating — and maintaining — healthy, sustainable multiplatform products for years to come.”
There are a lot of skeptics about management bravado regarding UT-San Diego’s performance. Despite previous boasts of increasing circulation under the paper’s new management the most recent audited statistics reported only small increases in some categories and actual declines in others. And these figures came about only by including NCT/Californian readers.
From Don Bauder over at the San Diego Reader:
…there have been layoffs above and beyond those North County and East County editions. Bobby Ignelzi, a writer who has covered many beats for decades, got laid off, along with Nathan Mix, a military writer. I don’t have a number of layoffs yet and will report that if I get it. Staff members as recently as three weeks ago were hopeful that layoffs had ended. The company had claimed that it is profitable — adding to the confidence of staffers, who are now badly shaken.
If you read the print and digital editions daily, as I do (so you don’t have to), it becomes obvious that the only gains being realized at UT-San Diego are those illusionary “ads” for Papa Doug’s favorite causes, like the film Obama 2016, which got tons of not-likely-paid-for space last fall. Or the full-page layouts for UT-TV’s Taylor Baldwin’s “Fresh, witty, and a touch of attitude” blondness.
The clock is ticking at UT-San Diego. It’s only a matter of time until its dead tree publishing ventures follow their tired editorial ideas into the dustbin of history.
But don’t worry too much about publisher Papa Doug Manchester. He’s already recouped $7 million of his investment via the sale of the NCT building in Escondido to a charter school. The deal was underwritten via school bond financing.
According to Matt Potter at the San Diego Reader:
The estimated $2.28 million annual payment for the life of the bonds, maturing in 2043, would come from a combination of public funds, including “block grant and categorical block grant apportionments,” and “a pledge of the gross revenues of the Schools.”
The Business of Feeding the Hungry
A study released yesterday by the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute of Point Loma Nazarene University seeks to put a human face on the over one third of a million people in San Diego County who depend on the local Food Bank for their meals.
While the popular perception may be that the homeless are prime beneficiaries of food distribution efforts, the report demonstrates that the working poor are the ones who depend on the Food Bank.
The lack of jobs or low paying jobs drive demand for the 18 million pounds of food distributed locally through 153 sites last year. More than a third of the households receiving food assistance have no wage earners, and two thirds of those who do have jobs have annual household incomes of less than $17,000.
From a KPBS news account:
“It turns out that the portrait of food bank recipients is a picture that very much looks like you or I,” said Lynn Reaser study author and chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Reaser said the face of hunger in San Diego County is working families who can’t make ends meet, seniors who have been laid off, and tens of thousands of children.
“As we’ve looked at the problem, it is a problem not of hunger and food bank assistance, but is a comprehensive problem involving poverty, education, employment, as well as hunger,” said Reaser.
Fighting to Close the WalMart Loophole
The Sacramento Bee reports that organized labor groups in California have launched a three tiered fight in support of Assembly Bill 880, also known as the ‘WalMart” bill. The proposed legislation, which has cleared committee, targets large employers, penalizing them if wages they pay are not high enough to keep workers off the soon to be expanding Medi-Cal rolls.
From the Bee’s Capital Alert column:
“We’re seeing that there’s a small number of large employers that are trying to game the system, and this is something that the Legislature, I think, has a responsibility to address,” said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation.
The campaign has collected about 12,000 petition signatures in support of Assembly Bill 880, bought online advertising expected to be seen by a million people before week’s end, and is bringing dozens of union members to the Capitol every day this week to lobby lawmakers, Smith said.
WalMart Guilty Plea on Dumping Draws Fines
Unsafe practices at WalMart stores dating back over a decade involving illegal disposal of chemicals made the news as the mega-retailer announced it would pay nearly $81.63 million to the federal government in fines.
The U.S. Department of Justice said that in cases filed by federal prosecutors in California, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at U.S. stores.
The world’s largest retailer also pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Missouri to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Wal-Mart said its plea agreements with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Northern and Central Districts of California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri and an administrative resolution signed with the Environmental Protection Agency bring an end to compliance issues that took place years ago.
OUR WalMart Walk-Out in Three States
WalMart workers went out on strike yesterday in Miami, Massachusetts and the California Bay Area. Organizers are promising these job actions will be the first “prolonged strikes” in the retail giant’s history.
Dozens of Southern California employees are rallying today in Pico Rivera with supporters including US Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), and workers employed in WalMart-contracted warehouses. The retail workers are taking part in the “Ride for Respect,” traveling from California to Arizona and New Mexico before arriving in Arkansas.
Supporters in communities from throughout the nation are jumping on busses, joining caravans, and riding to the annual WalMart shareholder meeting, where they will be calling on WalMart Executives and the Board of Directors to end retaliation against Associates who speak out to improve working conditions.
The union-backed labor group OUR WalMart says that at least a hundred workers have pledged to join the strikes. Some workers are pledging to stay out at least through June 7, when WalMart holds its annual shareholder meeting near Bentonville, Arkansas.
From The Nation:
“This represents the first time in WalMart history that workers have made the decision to go on prolonged strikes,” said United Food & Commercial Workers Union official Dan Schlademan, a key strategist in the OUR WalMart campaign. Schlademan called the workers’ willingness to escalate to prolonged strikes “another example of the depth of leadership and commitment that this organization is building.”
I Guess This Means It’s Official
Rumors about Carl DeMaio’s intention to challenge Democrat Scott Peters in 2014 appear to be coming closer to reality, as the following, ripped from the pages of the interwebs, shows:
On This Day: 1913 – Igor Stravinsky’s composition “The Rite of Spring” premiered in Paris. 1922 – The Supreme Court ruled that organized baseball was a sport, not subject to antitrust laws. 1932 – World War I veterans began arriving in Washington, DC. to demand cash bonuses they were not scheduled to receive for another 13 years. General Douglas MacArthur commanded infantry and cavalry, supported by six tanks, to break up an encampment they’d set up. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.
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