Monday, December 02, 2013

The 5% Wage Heist. Guest Blog by Norma Rae

Mayor Carlos Gimenez is not quite hearing the unions, balancing the budget on their backs.

Mayor Gimenez is trying to take 5% of our wages as a permanent source of revenues for the county. Four years ago, when the bottom dropped out of the local economy, the employees of the county agreed to contribute 5% of their wages to help the community get through a rough spot. In our collective bargaining contract, it says the contributions will end on January 1, 2014. Now, Gimenez wants us to keep giving up our wages - supposedly for the health care coverage - that we already pay a hefty amount for.

One of my co-workers is earning $48,560 a year after 19 years on the job! She pays $287.77 for family coverage every two weeks, and "contributes" another $93.38 from every paycheck to the Gimenez's Healthcare Surplus Fund. That is $381.15 every two weeks. Who do you know that works for an employer that offers health benefits that has to pay $9,910 a year for their family health coverage? That is 20% of her income for insurance before adding in the co-pays and deductibles she has to pay every time a family member goes to the doctor and fills a prescription.

The Kaiser Family Foundation did a national survey and found that employees across the United States pay about 29% of the premiums for family health coverage. This is the average contribution paid by employees working for large companies with at least 200 employees. Well, Miami-Dade County has about 25,000 employees and an employee that has family coverage through the County pays 39% of the premium. We are already paying more than most workers in the United States for our family coverage. Then, on top of that, Gimenez wants us to contribute 5% of every dollar we make to supposedly pay for healthcare.

Most of the money Gimenez has been taking has been piling up in an Insurance account he controls. There was $89 million of surplus sitting there last year, and we have seen reports that the surplus is now over $120 million. He is taking 5% of our wages and putting it in a surplus account. Who knows why he is so fixated on having that surplus?

I hope the Commissioners tell Gimenez that if he can't balance the budget without taking money out of our pockets, then he needs to find a new line of work. Next time we need to elect a Mayor who knows how to run things, not ruin things. The Commission meeting is this Thursday, December 5th at 9:30 A.M. in the Chambers.

54 comments:

Geniusofdespair said...

Before you start leaving a bunch of stupid comments on union workers getting rich...they are the middle class. Respect that.

Anonymous said...

Has the union looked at comparisons with the cost of plans offered by ACA? Rather than giving an additional 5% of your salaries, maybe one of the ACA plans fit in with what you are currently paying for healthcare. Maybe there could be an option. Some would go to ACA and others stay with the county and pay the additional 5% of their salary for county provided healthcare.

Anonymous said...

This is a huge problem with Miami Dade County. Every time they need more money to waste, they go to the working class government employees and soak them blind.

There are lots of places where the County can save money instead of burdening government employees. One of the biggest sources of waste is in procurement but they will not do anything about that. Why? Because they provide “set asides” and, if investigated, you will find that this money goes directly to their friends in their districts.

It is a well-known fact that the county pays double for just about everything they buy. The laptop computer that you and I pay $500.00 for on the open market, they pay $1,000. Bus tire prices are doubled, equipment is doubled, office supplies are doubled. It is the biggest misuse of taxpayer funds I have ever seen.

When anything is bought in bulk isn’t it supposed to be cheaper? Everywhere else it is except in Miami Dade County. Instead, we are forced to feed the greed of their districts by soaking County employees.

Yet, nobody even talks about this menacing problem and, more importantly, nobody does anything about it. I strongly suggest this is a topic for deep and serious discussion.

Another thing, I understand that commissioners are allowed to use “discretionary” funds (which are nothing more than taxpayer funds) to pay for constituent services. It is my understanding that some, if not all, will buy tickets at certain “district events” for their constituents and place their political paraphernalia on the tables with their names big as day on them. Everywhere else, in every political jurisdiction this is prohibited. It is known as making a political gift of taxpayers’ money and it is illegal. Why not in Miami Dade County? Because they don’t know what the term “constituent services” means and, with them having no public administration experience as to how those services are to be conducted, they simply dip their grimy fingers into our pockets and make a gift of our money.

From the mayor on down they are nothing more than a group of criminals who think that being elected means they can do anything they want. Nice work if you can get it.

Anonymous said...

Another option to consider, is assuming the county pays a certain percentage of the cost of healthcare for employees, give that percentage directly to employees in the form of a healthcare supplement. And that supplement could help defray the cost of the selected ACA plan. It takes the county out of healthcare but gives some assistance. You decide if you want to spend five more percent of your income on healthcare not the county. Someone from the union should look at the numbers, and various alternative options and share their findings with members.

Anonymous said...

The fact is that Gimenez wants to be a BIG important player in state politics. The only way he can do this is by being a fiscal conservative. Of course, being perceived as a union buster isn't a bad thing in Florida either.

I know that some of the police are giving back over 15% or more of them income in reduced wages, benefits and healthcare costs. If you put your butt on the line, then people need to rally around to keep you in a home.

Anonymous said...

Someone from the union should call HHS directly and let them know they represent 35,000+ Miami-Dade county employees and want someone to directly work with to explore some options with the FL providers. You also might want to ask if there are any additional subsidies for public employees.

Anonymous said...

It's all about lo looking good for the bond markets so they can keep borrowing for favored projects like the airports, port, roads and infrastructure that promote real estate development . Also, they like to throw all our tourist tax money at the arts the global rich say they absolutely NEED and sports stadiums. Forget about public parks and libraries - those can crumble and close because those are used by locals.

Anonymous said...

Juan Kuryla schemed himself to a massive County Director's salary while the current Port Director remains in his job and while all other employees get cuts. Kuryla's background includes reassignment from his Public Works post to a remote field location because of improprieties, personal bankruptcy, coworker love affair leading to divorce, shady dealings with potential port vendors and clients resulting in Inspector General investigation, scheming to get PBSJ a port contract at the same time PB was being indicted for fraud, an embarrassing episode in Dubai on County business, inability to show up for work before 10am, aggressive behavior toward law enforcement at traffic stops and other unstable episodes. He is favored by this administration and commission because of his ability to cater to their needs, including numerous junkets to foreign locations using a $500,000port budget item. The 2014 Port budget also includes a $5million item for payment in a legal judgment against the County for a judges ruling that the Port of Miami has a way of doling certain business permits illegally protecting incumbents -- ``creating a handful of entrenched privileged companies". The judge said evidence showed other ``established, qualified, competent and trustworthy,'' companies were denied permits even as some incumbents who didn't use their permits received automatic renewals. Kuryla works the backchannels and selection process, where privileged insiders are awarded business while those who are not tied into the system of lobbyists, commissioner aides and certain County staff are denied. Kuryla should be fired, not promoted. Divide his salary among honest employees. Stop the travel junkets for friends and family, save millions.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't the unions lobbying the federal government for fixed health care costs? They can lobby for Walmart type prices on gauze, saline, IV bags, Tylenol, patient belonging bags, tissues, gloves, cup medicine, marking pen, cuff, oral admin. fee, overhead light in operating room, swabs. Doing that should cut bills in half. Premiums should go down substantially.

Anonymous said...

if Gimenez was in private practice, he would be fired. he is more show than substance. not much of an administrator. what some leaders fail to realize that the poorer they treat the workers, the more workers resist by not doing their jobs effectively and efficiently because they have no reason to do so. thus, it winds up costing the taxpayers more money. Gimenez needs to learn that, if he's capable.

Anonymous said...

Gimenez told the employees that if they continued to give up 5% of their salaries for 2 years, then he could fix the budget and the economic downfalls would no longer exist. Well, it's been more than 2 years and Gimenez hasn't come through. Time to let the working class families get their money back.

LaLa said...

I can't believe this government worker has the nerve to complain about the cost of her health insurance. In fact, every Miami-Dade employee is provided with FREE AvMed High Option individual health insurance courtesy of Miami-Dade taxpayers. FREE as in $0 contribution. FREE as in no premiums. They also receive FREE dental insurance paid for by Miami-Dade taxpayers. The greed of these government union employees knows no bounds.

Check out the FREE individual health and dental insurance deals that county employees receive

HERE
.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the lead article?

Maria said...

Miami-Dade employees are among the highest paid government employees in the nation. Just last year, 3,698 Miami-Dade employees made more than $100,000 annually. Show me another government entity (or even a corporation) with those outrageous numbers. Look in the want ads and count how many $100k+ jobs you see in the private sector. Not many.

To suggest that overpaid Miami-Dade County government employees are "working class" is an insult to those of us who work our tails off everyday to eek out a living. "Government class" and "working class" are two very different things.

Anonymous said...

Lala,

5% of your base salary does not equal free. Every County employee is required to make this contribution---even the part-time ones who are not eligible to receive health care benefits.

If the employee has a family, they pay significantly more than zero for health care; reading the chart does not show the true cost. Reading AND comprehension is critical when participating in a debate

LaLa said...

To the last anon, indeed you do receive free individual health and dental courtesy of the Miami-Dade taxpayers. The 5% deduction to the health insurance fund has NOTHING to do with health insurance. It would be deducted even if you chose not take the county's health insurance plan.

So why is there this deduction? The so-called health insurance deduction is a scheme arranged by your union as an alternative to a 5% pay adjustment which was necessary because of years of out-of-control automatic pay raises.

Your union preferred it for the following reasons: 1.) Because it is a deduction instead of a paycut, your pension is calculated at an artificially higher rate. 2.) The 5% deduction is less than a 5% paycut because it is pre-tax. 3.) Your overtime calculation is higher, and 4.) when you try to qualify for a loan or look for another job (unlikely), you can report a higher salary.

If you would like a 5% paycut instead of the bogus 5% health insurance deduction, please tell your shop steward because your union negotiated it. A simple pay cut would also be a lot easier for county payroll managers to administer.

Geniusofdespair said...

County brass is writing up a storm...

Anonymous said...

Nothing seems to be what it appears to be. All smoke and mirrors.

Insider said...

LaLa is correct, although I would add a couple points. First, the 5% health insurance deduction was initiated by disgraced ex-Manager George Burgess and disgraced ex-Mayor Carlos Alvarez, not Gimenez. It was done in the summer of 2009 to address the sharp downturn in tax revenue which resulted from the housing crash.

Second, it initially was implemented as a 5% pay cut for non-union employees (I was one of them). It wasn't two months later before some of the unions struck the arrangement to substitute the health insurance deduction for the pay cut. They gave non-union employees the same deal (which was good).

LaLa listed most of the reasons for the deal, but she missed the biggest one: a pay cut is permanent; a healthcare insurance deduction is temporary and more likely to be reversed in times of plenty.

Geniusofdespair said...

It wouldn't irk me so much if I didn't suspect Lala was making about $200,000 plus.

Anonymous said...

The average worker in Miami-Dade makes $31,000 per year and that worker gets no health care and no pension. Miami-Dade workers, at least the vast majority, are Upper Middle Class. Like everyone in America they should be lucky they have jobs where they cannot get fired.

Geniusofdespair said...

And you think 31 thousand is okay? Instead of trying to change that you compare it to another meager salary with a few more benefits. Let's keep everyone in the gutter. Shame on you. No one should struggle. Because unions eek out a few more crumbs for their members you begrudge them? You are drinking the Kool ade of the wealthy and buying into their talking points. Putz.

Anonymous said...

...not when the county brass make 6 figures!

Anonymous said...

In September, this blog reported that the median take home salary with fringes for county employees was a generous $67,471. So why are you now suggesting county employees only make $31,000 which is less than half the true number?

Anonymous said...

Whoops! My bad. Non-government employees make $31k. County employees make $67,471. No wonder those county employees are whining!

Anonymous said...

The comparison of average salaries across the county and average income of county workers is pointless. Payscales for positions are set based on market criteria for each county job. Should the Medical Examiner's Assistant be paid the same as a sales clerk at Macy's?

The 5% payroll deduction is not intended to equalize pay scales with the private sector. The 5% deduction is a scheme to move dollars through the system , to make up for bad management. It is time to have a clear and transparent county budget without all the tricks.

Whitney said...

What is middle class:

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, released Sept. 13th, showed the overwhelming majority of the public — 90% — defining a “middle-income household” as families with total income at or below $100,000.

Americans have a strong inclination to consider people in their own income brackets to be middle-income. Among households earning $40,000 to $50,000, 48% put the middle-income marker at $50,000 and 9% said it’s below that. Half of all households earning $50,000 to $75,000 said their income bracket counted as middle-income; a third of those households earning $50,000 to $75,000 put the middle-income marker below them.

Among households earning $75,000 to $100,000 a year, 39% said being middle-income means earning within their own income bracket. More than half of that group put the marker below their own incomes.

Anonymous said...

And Mr. Mayor spends lots and lots of taxpayer money investigating why libraries exist and why there are librarians.

For example here's a resolution from 12/3/13
File Name: COMPARATIVE STUDY ON LIBRARIAN QUALIFICATIONS
Introduced: 10/18/2013
Requester: NONE
Cost:
Final Action:
Agenda Date: 12/3/2013
Agenda Item Number: 11A
Notes:
Title:
RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE COUNTY MAYOR OR THE COUNTY MAYOR’S DESIGNEE TO CONDUCT A COMPARATIVE STUDY REGARDING THE JOB DESCRIPTIONS AND QUALIFICATIONS OF LIBRARIANS IN THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM AND THE LIBRARY SYSTEMS OF OTHER ENTITIES OF A SIMILAR SIZE AND SCOPE OF OPERATIONS

How much are we paying for this? Or how about the rfp 10/31/13 for an outside consultant to see if the special taxing district can be tossed aside to roll the library into the general fund. So is this worth $70,000??

And best yet...a survey company! Expect a telephone call to ask what you think a library is or isn't. Another $20k of taxpayers money?

He needs the 5% that he poorly negotiated as a bone to his friends who were about to retire and so their base pay wasn't reduced. Calling this a medical fee was inept and as thus, as the contract was agreed upon, deserves to be returned.

Even outsiders rate his poor management and leadership skills. This must be why he so irritable and Moody!

Roy said...

Actually that study can save us a bundle. Once we learn how ridiculously high county librarian wages are compared to every other city and county, we can then lower them to reasonable levels. A small investment in a salary survey will yield big dividends for the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

People who want to downgrade the compensation for public workers should stop and think about what they are asking for. Should every everyone drop out of high school and be content with an average paying job?

When kids look at careers (civil engineering, criminal justice, nursing) they want to know they will earn a decent income. If they graduate high school, keep their nose clean, earn a degree in a particular field, and maybe do an internship with a public agency, they should expect to secure an entry level position and enjoy a rewarding career.

These trolls who want to make sure no public sector worker earns anything above the average for the entire population (which includes a lot of new arrivals learning the ropes, high school drop-outs, people with criminal records, and the intellectually challenged) should get a grip.

What's wrong with wanting to be a fireman, a cop or a nurse? And if you jump all the hurdles to land one of those jobs, what's wrong with making a decent living?

Anonymous said...

Gimenez thinks a librarian is nothing more than a glorified store clerk. He fails to appreciate the tremendous service librarians provide to the citizens who are actually curious about a wide range of subjects. Librarians are highly qualified specialists who guide the curious in their research, and identify sources for any topic that might intrigue a library visitor. Of course, for people who know everything, why would you ever need to ask a librarian a question. And Gimenez does know everything.

Anonymous said...

Who wants a minimum wage employee to be responsible for chemically treating your water supply during the night shift at the water treatment plant? I want a trained, capable and responsible public employee on the job.

Would you fly an airline that paid their pilots minimum wage? I wouldn't think so.

If Gimenez wants to contribute 5% of the over $400,000 in public money that his household pulls in (his mayor salary, his pension from Miami, and his wife's School Board job), maybe we can talk. Otherwise, it is time to stop docking the pay of every county employee.

Anonymous said...

Public sector employees are vastly overpaid. At least the vast majority are vastly overpaid. Ever hang around County Hall. See all the employees saunter in at 9:45 pm. Take 2 hour lunches and then leave work at 3:45 pm? Yup. For that 3,500+ make over $100,000+ per year?

Geniusofdespair said...

Last comment: putz

Anonymous said...

The county will never do a good comparative analysis of what these 3,500+ county employees who make $100K plus do at the county level versus the private sector because all it takes is one look at the port or airport directors budgets/employees to see how overpaid those people are. They will never take a look at the Mayor's administrative budget to compare it with a private employer with the revenue/expenses to see how glaringly unbalanced his own office is compared with the private sector and how over paid these people are in those departments. Those are just three off the top of my head. Please stop picking on those making somewhere in the $50K range or under. Their backs are where the people making over $100K are using. As to the library, there are different positions within that system, it's easy enough to check with let's say New York or other "world class city's " to find out their comparable pay then factor in the cost of living which is about double there. It will never happen because no one likes facts inside county hall from the BCC to zoning attorney's to lobbyists. If they actually worked with facts and in the real world these budget issues wouldn't be such a mess and the small guy trying to feed his family of four on $50K a year while we have 3,500 people inside county hall living large off our tax dollars is insane!

HR Manager said...

Since most library and water treatment employees throughout the nation are paid at about half the rate of Miami-Dade county employees, does that mean all those other employees are incompetent? Of course not.

The county should do a salary survey and pay at the middle of the range. There is no reason we need to pay the highest government wages in the nation.

Outofsight said...

That anon with the 2 hour lunches must have alot of time on his hands.... Other than his story is a lie, He must be a former employee or a lobbyist shunned.

Anonymous said...

@LaLa you failed to mention that the police department union only accepted that 5% "insurance deduction" after Mr. Gimenez sent out pink slips to about 200 officers or roughly 10% of the sworn force.

The truth is the mayor fired 200 officers then rescinded it when the unions gave the 5%. He promised to give it back, which of course he won't since it gives him leverage over them.

Anonymous said...

Please read the news. The high pay and benefits of public sector employees has become a serious nationwide problem. Cities have filed for bankruptcy. Residents have fled. Detroit residents vacated. Overly rich pay and benefit programs are often named as the cause.

Anonymous said...

How did we get to comparative salaries? I thought this was about payment of rising healthcare costs?

Anonymous said...

With the BCC and Gimenez on a spending frenzy, I'd really rather have a court appointed receiver in charge of our tax dollars cleaning house because otherwise, the cycle continues. Bankruptcy isn't a bad idea because the bonds could be paid off with property tax revenue, it's just the pensions and unions would be screwed. The problem with Miami Dade County is the cycle will never be fixed, no matter who is in charge. Cleaning house takes cooperation and we have a divided house just like our county residents where the split between rich and poor (see Art Basel post) is just getting bigger. We are so third world only the politicians in charge can't see it. For fun, I'll just keep repeating it - cut the benefit packages for everyone making over $100K. Let's start there for "cooperation" first.

Anonymous said...

Want to be another Detroit? Just keep overpaying the public sector employees and just keep giving them Rolls Royce benefit plans.

Maria said...

With nearly 3,700 employees making over $100k annually, Miami-Dade County pays higher than every other employer in the area. The bad news is that the high paying plum jobs go only to friends and family of existing county employees. Every Deputy Mayor, Department Director, and Deputy Department Director was hired by Gimenez without a competitive recruitment process. It's a disgraceful practice and it needs to stop. The taxpayers deserve the best qualified public servants available. Being a crony of Gimenez or Alina Hudak or Jennifer Glazer Moon should not be a prerequisite to becoming a county executive.

Anonymous said...

Detroit! Front page of the NY Times. Detroit is bankrupt because greedy overly ambitious elected officials caved in to powerful union bosses. The same problem has happened in municipalities nationwide. In fact, it is a world wide problem. Small minded elected officials get drunk by a taste of power and they do will do anything to get re-elected. You cannot use the taxes of hard working private sector workers to overpay public sector workers. Detroit!

Anonymous said...

Picking on lower level staff when bad decisions abound is a way to ignore major economic issues such as the port and the county's falling bond ratings. Focus on issuing bonds for more stadiums (soccer, football), ignore the debt service mounting up, double up the Port Director positions, create chaos with last minute budget changes, use CDT funds for operating county museums, and top that off with a mean-spirited disposition. What a leader!

Sabrina Chocron said...

The salary Report is an empowering tool that is designed for employers, expats and for those who are frequent flyers to give them access to cost of living allowance in 140 cities and 93 countries across the globe.

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to be another Detroit? Just keep overpaying the public sector employees and just keep giving them Rolls Royce benefit plans. "


You're naive if you think that is the issue behind Detroit's fall. In the 1950's Detroit topped out at a population of 1,800,000 residents, by the 2000's they were down to 750,000 residents. When you lose almost 60% of your tax base you will have budget problems.

Anonymous said...

Every time employees salaries become the topic of conversation I'm reminded of a fable my grandfather used to tell me- it's about what crabs do when you put them in a bucket; as the ones on top try to climb out of the bucket the ones at the bottom keep pulling them down. La Ley Del Cangrejo- shouldn't we as a community be working towards helping others make more money rather than advocating taking money away from those perceived as making too much? The Crabs and Marxism have a lot in common.

Anonymous said...

The 5% health care issues and the library issues are just smokescreens to divert attention from the REALLY big money thievery going on (e.g. airport and seaport).
WHY a mayor, or ANY leader would spend time and money on miniscule fractions of the county budget is just plain stupid and horrible leadership (UNLESS there is a good reason, hence the diversion).
Let's call for a cap in salaries for all county government administrative positions. In this world, most jobs have a salary range and the applicant knows what that range is. The applicant decides whether to take the job or not. Government administrators should have that same salary range and it should be reasonable, not the excess that we have in Dade County.

Anonymous said...

Why did they leave?

Anonymous said...

Detroit. Residents left Detroit because as the auto industry made bad decisions local elected officials did not heed the warning signs. Instead of planning for a reduced population and paying attention when whites left Detroit after the Detroit riots elected officials kept overpaying City employees. So less and less residents were forced to pay escalating taxes and more residents left town. Instead of reducing the number of public sector jobs elected officials kept piling on more pay and benefits. Gimenez needs to reduce expenses at the Airport and at the Port of Miami. The easiest way is to reduce pay and benefits.

Anonymous said...

The problem is a lot of family and friends are packed in the airport and port. Where would they go?

Dan said...

:)

Anonymous said...

YOU FORGOT TO MENTIONED THAT JUAN KURYLA GOT ONLY 150K MORE THAN THE CURRENT DIRECTOR. THE PORT IS IN THE WORST FINANCIAL SITUATION THAN EVER IT IS A MAKE BELIEVE ENTERPRISE...LOL IT DEPENDS ON MR. ED MARKEZ TO SIGN ALL OF THE PORTS BORROWING IN 30 YEARS AND THEY REFINANCE AND REFINANCE ON THE TAXPAYERS BACK.... THE GUY NOT ONLY COMES IN LATE BUT GIVES IN TO ALL OF THE TENANTS BY HIRING ONE OF THE TENANTS SON AT THE PORT...YES SIR...NOW THE TENANT'S SON MR. BAKER IS WORKING IN DOWNOTW...SHHHHHH. KURYLA DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO NEGOTIATE A CONTRACT AND DOES NOT MAKE A DECISION...DID I TELL YOU HE HIDES BEHIND REBECA SOSA....HE HAS NO CLUE...THE PORT IS SINKING AND VERY FAST....