Members of big L.A. public union have too had raises; Times is wrong

Members of big L.A. public union have too had raises; Times is wrong

seiu_agreement_faq_smallWhenever you see a story about a public employee union seeking an across-the-board raise because members “haven’t had a raise” for X number of years, feel free to groan. You’re almost always witnessing union spin filtered through journalistic incompetence. We have a fresh example in the Los Angeles Times. The headline says members of SEIU 721 haven’t had a raise in five years. The story quotes without context a union official as saying the same thing:

“‘We want the county to come to the table and really negotiate with us,’ said David Green, treasurer of SEIU 721, which represents 55,000 county employees. ‘The offer they put forward would essentially be a pay cut for our workers, who haven’t had any salary increase in more than five years.'”

But the expiring SEIU contract is typical of public employee contracts. It includes five levels of “step” pay which provide for automatic annual pay increases just for showing up. Yes, most SEIU workers appear to be at the top step. But it’s ridiculous that LAT reporter Seema Mehta in a lengthy article doesn’t even mention “step” raises and how they affect public employee pay.

‘Many state employees have received raises all along’

Jon Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee is way better than most reporters in providing “step” pay context. Here’s part of a piece he did in June deconstructing the argument that pay raises granted by Gov. Jerry Brown to 95,000 state employees who belong to SEIU Local 1000 were the first raises the workers had gotten in years:

“Many state employees have received raises all along. California state workers receive ‘merit salary adjustments’ when they join state service or get promoted. The step raises generally increase pay by 5 percent annually and top out after five years.

“Estimates of how many employees are below the top step range from 20 percent to 44 percent. And for most of those topped out, a sixth step kicks in July 1. It’s 3 percent for SEIU workers. …

“Step raises cost untold millions of dollars. From fiscal 2005-06 through fiscal 2010-11, state workers’ step increases cost $602 million before accounting for inflation … .

“During the sunny days of fiscal 2005-06, the state paid $72.3 million for the automatic increases. By the Great Recession of 2008-09, step-raise costs had mushroomed to $124.9 million, then slid down to $111.8 million the following year.”

The wondrous California media strike again

Good for the Bee for offering an explainer of the “step” pay basics. Every article about government employee pay should mention “step” increases — and every article about teacher pay should mention “step” and “column” increases. “Column” increases are granted for the accumulation of meaningless graduate coursework that doesn’t even have to be on the subject a teacher teaches.

What? Never heard of “column” increases? The wondrous California media strike again.

Related Articles

Courts: Maybe public pensions can be cut

One theme has covered over the years is that public pension programs are not sacrosanct. Although the general interpretation

State government’s computers so primitive they’re tough to hack

The hack of Sony Pictures by shadowy types believed associated with the North Korean government took another twist on Christmas

Your Taxes Already Up $700

John Seiler: Jerry Brown’s $12 billion tax increase, which he wants on a June ballot, comes to about $1,000 a