$250 million in worker givebacks key to no tax, no borrowing budget solution
It is rare that The Appeal does what it is told to do by elected leaders, but we’re more than willing to make an exception for Mayor Gavin Newsom: the mayor signed a balanced budget on Thursday morning, balanced because of sacrifices made by the city’s labor unions.
It was the unions who agreed to layoffs, deferred raises and increased costs to the benefits packages, opened their contracts and ergo returned to the City and County of San Francisco $250 million worth of wages and benefits, aka “givebacks.”
“That’s an extraordinary story that needs to be told,” Newsom said. “We had a big shortfall, and the only way to get out of it while preserving the city’s social network” was for labor to give back, and give back big.
“Labor agreed to those things,” Newsom said. “It’s really quite remarkable…. almost every public employee has stepped up to the plate this year.”
Among the things to which labor agreed:
–613 jobs slashed (but no more than 425 layoffs, per labor’s deal with the city), reducing the city’s workforce to its lowest level since 1998;
–$17.7 million worth of overtime reduced from one year to the next;
–Increased employee contributions to health and pension benefits (though not from the Muni operators’ union, TWU Local 250A).
It was through these sacrifices that Newsom was able to present a balanced budget with no new taxes that still includes such perks as a city-provided college fund for public school children entering kindergarten, $50 million devoted to repaving city streets and $11.2 million for a new crime lab.
And it could have been much worse for labor, according to Bob Muscat, chairman of the Public Employee Committee, one of labor’s chief negotiators.
Newsom’s original proposal included a 37 1/2 hour workweek for city employees, a “very unfair” proposal that was dropped during negotiations once labor agreed to other concessions, Muscat said.
“That was more than city employees should have contributed,” said Muscat, who noted that the city’s unions voted to ratify the labor agreements “by 90 percent” margins.
“Everybody shared the sacrifice, from top to bottom, including the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, and that was really the cornerstone of the agreement.”
This also looks great for Gavin as he continues his long slow drive up Interstate 80 towards the lieutenant governor’s post: he did not raise taxes, he was tough on labor, and the city’s social safety network — usually a catchphrase for progressives — is largely intact.
He did raise fees on pretty much everything, but fees aren’t a tax.