Inequality of wealth series takes a look at labor unions

In the continuing series by regarding the inequality of wealth (which is a must read, IMHO) today’s story deals with labor unions affect.

I thought this was a pertinent story because whenever we write stories about public salaries, the state budget, and other money related stories, labor unions is a recurring theme from reader comments.

(Yes, we reporters read your comments. A shocking admission, I’m sure.)

In addition, I have raised questions regarding public (which is often unionized) and private (declining unions) pay in this blog (here and here

So, I thought I would tack on this story as an addendum to the conversation, as well as an interesting read.

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Is the private sector underpaying or does the public sector over pay?

That is a question I have been thinking about lately while covering the ongoing dispute between the city of Glendora and its municipal employees association as well as when looking at the salaries of various city employees.

Is the private sector employee rife against the higher pay and much better benefits public employees receive caused by an objective discontent with the misuse of public funds or is it just because their jealous?

When talking about merit increases, benefits, salaries, concessions, etc., many of the Glendora council members tried to make a case for their argument to impose concessions on the employees association by saying, basically, you still have it better than the private sector.

Getting raises for “satisfactory” performance wouldn’t happen in the private sector, Mayor Ken Herman said. And most people agree that government pensions are much better (in terms of compensation) than 401Ks or social security.

And make the argument all you want about the need for pension reform and how CALPERS is a drain on government, that is now what I am talking about here.

The question is this: Do private sector jobs pay for the work employees do? Think about it. How many people out there believe they are paid what they deserve?

No idea? That’s OK. Gallup has a poll for you.

In a 2008 Gallup Poll, half of Americans believed they were underpaid and only 3 percent believed they were overpaid. Middle and lower income earners made up a large portion of those feeling they weren’t getting their dues.

So, hypothetically speaking, if private sector workers are often underpaid, wouldn’t that distort our objectivity or perception when evaluating the pay of someone, who on average, makes more than us for the same job – such as public employees?

That makes me wonder: who has it right? Public pay or private pay?

You have to acknowledge the possibility – especially given the fact that private company CEOs, board members and executives pull in million dollar + salaries – that the public sector may pay its middle and lower wage employees closer to their worth rather than overpaying for the same jobs that pay less in the private sector.

If that is the case, should officials and the public make the comparison to private employee pay as much as they do, when being critical of high pay for public employees – or should it be vice versa? Should we be critical of private pay and look to the public sector as a (gasp!) good example?

I am not claiming to know the answer, but it is within the realm of possibility.

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Claims of liar may have been exaggerated at Glendora council meeting

Wendell Phillips, the attorney representing the Glendora municipal employees association, took a beating at the council meeting Tuesday night.

In the process of making a unanimous vote to impose contract concessions on the association, many council members questioned Phillips handling of the truth.

Watch for yourself toward the end of the council meeting video.

But Phillips may not have been fibbing about the motivation behind concessions made by the police officers association and police managers association last year.

Phillips has said that the POA and the PMA took the bullet for the employees association last year by making concessions with the understanding that the employees association would not have to.

At time time, Councilman Doug Tessitor called those claims “B.S.”

Well… I spoke with Police Officers Association President Michael Henderson and PMA President Sgt. Scott Strong and both confirmed Phillips’ claims to be true.

Henderson said that part of the motivation for agreeing to defer their salary increases as well as making other concessions was to avoid the employees association being hit. Henderson said they made their motivation clear to the city during negotiations.

After agreeing to those concessions, Henderson said they later learned the city wanted a 3 percent concession across the board.

Strong echoed those remarks, saying they made clear that they were making the concessions with the understanding the GMEA would not be asked to make the same concessions. Those negotiations were with City Manager Chris Jeffers, Finance Director Josh Betta and then deputy city manager Culver Heaton, Strong said.

Considering the council’s remarks from last night, Strong said there must have been some “misunderstanding.”

Councilman Doug Tessitor called me today and apologized for his remarks. He said he was wrong on that particular issue and planned to clarify that at the next council meeting.

“That was an error on my part,” Tessitor said. “I intend to make a public announcement at the next council meeting that I was in error and apologize for making that statement.”

Jeffers, in remarks to this newspaper, and in city staff reports regarding the negotiations, an argument made in favor of approving the city’s recommended concessions was that the employees association had not made concessions in the previous year.


The one thing that seems to be clear is, at least for this one, Phillips may have been telling the truth.

More on this story online tomorrow and in tomorrow’s newspaper.

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