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Working for Each Other



Spouted again are woes of trying to balance a budget while outrageous public employee retirement plans are bankrupting the county! ("Reckoning Day," May 7.) There's no mystery here: The county begins negotiations with each of its bargaining units and lays the groundwork to, again, balance the budget by pushing a continuing decline in its workers' standards of living.

Contrary to this characterization, "greedy" county employees do not cause the county's economic woes. Unions have collaborated with management to slow down expenditures. Four years ago, they agreed to lower starting wages and a lower-cost retirement plan for new hires. (Prior to the mandated cuts by the governor). Employees agreed to a hiring freeze that has, unfortunately, dramatically increased caseloads. Even with these union concessions and no salary increases, the county's five-year plan shows deficits every year, and the county is planning to give millions away in Measure Z funds to boot!

Humboldt County is the area's largest employer. Each dollar county employees do not spend is one less dollar to fuel our economy. The argument is often made that the taxpayer pays their salaries, so they should be able to manage their benefits. (Most employees are actually paid by a mix of federal, state, and county funds; and some programs are fully fee-for-service.) Therefore, an equally valid argument is the pay of public employees pays the salaries of local merchants who sell goods and services. One might say we employ each other.

There are solutions to the "unfunded liabilities" that don't involve a continued slide into poverty for all. The solutions involve increasing revenue — perhaps by finding ways to recoup lost revenue from corporate loopholes, having "job makers" actually create some jobs or pay fair taxes on the income they generate by cutting jobs. Not all solutions actually call for people to suffer.

Timothy McDermond, Eureka

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