By the end of 2008 most Americans recognized that our country was in real financial trouble. In the ensuing months we watched as the politics and corporate greed led to runaway unemployment, a huge bank bailout and a growing unrest culminating in the current Occupy Wall Street movement.
Meanwhile, back in Tacoma, we should all be pleased to hear that the implosion of our national and state economy over the last three years has yet to trickle down to the coffers of the City of Destiny.
As crazy and sarcastic as that sounds, that seems to represent the reality for Tacoma’s unionized city workers.
This situation is best exemplified by the raises recently given to the city’s fire and police chiefs. In close second come other higher-ranking officers (non-union positions in most agencies) who reportedly have garnered 10% wage increases during the current recession. Even the rank and file police and fire unions, who have not profited like their superiors, nevertheless failed to lock arms with affected city employees by accepting even a minuscule pay cut during this national crisis.
For the rest of us in the workplace, from construction sites to pharmacies, from the cockpits of airliners to the E.R., the pay curve has fallen. Or at best, flatlined.
That includes many of us likewise employed in public service. My police guild has spent the last two years coughing up money and benefits in heaving gasps. On the heels of giving up an agreed upon raise, we have spent the last year negotiating strenuously for the status quo.
True, it sucks. But on the flip side, at least we have a job.
The same might not be said for many of Tacoma’s current city staff, according to a recent Trib article. According to Tuesday’s story, approximately 130 non-union employees are at risk of losing their jobs due to the current unanticipated budget shortfall.
Leaving aside the troubling fact that a projected $26 million somehow never showed up, there still remains this: The jobs of 130 municipal employees are at risk while city unions are either holding their current salaries or piling on more.
None of us likes to give up money. But the loss of 130 jobs represents a living wage for the families of employees who will soon be trudging to the exit with their pink slips. To do nothing in such circumstances is the workplace equivalent of cannibalism.
Since none of us has a Ouija board we should assume that the current crisis isn’t done. Given the potential for future cost-cutting it would be wise for city officials to reconsider pay raises for high-ranking officials.
Call it sour grapes, but it would make me feel a whole lot better if the police guild would offer to forgo even a symbolic amount of compensation. That would tell me, as a taxpayer, “We’re with you, in the good times and the bad.”
And why not? Sour grapes are the flavor du jour.