Commentary

Patricia Suzanne | We Need Trump to Renegotiate These Contracts

When Donald J. Trump concludes his presidency in 2024, we could use his services as a contract specialist in the Democrat-controlled municipalities of California. It’s quite obvious that the bureaucrats in these places are incapable of negotiating favorable terms for their customers – the people they work for, the taxpayers.

In case you aren’t angry enough about escalating taxation, stop what you’re doing right now and visit
www.TransparentCalifornia.com. It’s an extensive pay and pension database where you can look up, by name, individuals working for a wide variety of public institutions. The data comes directly from government agencies, obtained through public records requests.

Elected officials, teachers, transit workers, prison guards, secretaries, you name it – their salary and benefits amounts are all there on public display. Pensions, too.

To see if the system actually worked, I looked up a friend on the website, a retired teacher who had taught 5th grade in Santa Clarita. I was quite surprised that his annual pension is $84,000. Seems like a lot. And there are many public sector retirees receiving more. The California Policy Center has established a website called “The 100K Club” (www.100kclub.com), where you’ll find the names of some 50,000 retired government workers receiving taxpayer money of $100,000-plus per year.

Can we afford this? Quite simply, no. The state’s two public employee pension funds, CalSTRS and CalPERS, face hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded obligations. Data from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office reveals that rising pension costs are hammering local school districts. According to the education advocacy group Pivot Learning, school districts paid $500 per pupil for pension costs in 2013. By 2020, they’ll be paying $1,600 per student. 

Where do those dollars come from? Cuts in other budget areas, of course. As a result, public school children are being systematically short-changed.

The “Transparent” and “100K” websites can come in handy to show liberal friends how misguided they are when they pontificate about capitalist greed and private sector “income inequality.”

Forget corporate America. Forget Wall Street. Greed and inequality are alive and well in bloated, mismanaged public sector bureaucracies. 

Look up a man named Ricardo V. Frias at the “Transparent” site. In 2018 this L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) security guard was paid $313,865 in overtime. Yes, you read that right. The man clocked 3,764 hours of overtime in 2018, an average of 70-plus hours of overtime per WEEK. How is this possible?

Well, it’s easy when your union negotiates absurd contract provisions. Some labor agreements at DWP, it seems, specify that working more than one hour of overtime immediately preceding a normal work shift dictate that the entire normal shift must be paid at double-time. Preceding? I’m not sure how this is possible or how it’s calculated, but it worked exceedingly well for Frias. He earned only $25,000 last year in regular pay. All his other hours were calculated as overtime. 

Now, I’m not picking on Frias. After all, he simply followed the “rules” cleverly negotiated by his union. And he’s not alone. Another DWP security officer earned $170,737 in overtime. Yet another earned $115,406. In fact, more than 300 DWP workers received overtime pay last year of $100,000 or more!

It’s the bureaucratic negotiators – the management at DWP – that deserve our scorn. 

Evidently, they failed to pick up a copy of Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” (should be required reading), or they missed the fine print in the union contracts about salary calculations. Could be they’re guarding their own wallets. Or they simply don’t care. After all, they’re spending other people’s money. The “other people,” in this particular case, are the DWP rate-payers, the poor chumps throughout L.A. County forced to obtain their water and electricity from DWP.

Meanwhile, in other bureaucracies, things aren’t much better. 

California cities shelled out six-figure overtime pay in 2018 to each of 1,743 workers. More than 800 of them were employed by Los Angeles alone!

All this amounts to a flat-out boondoggle for taxpayers. 

So, what’s a citizen to do? Well, you can read, investigate, educate your neighbors and friends. Protest, call, write letters and emails. Post, tweet, and share this information in every manner possible. Volunteer time and money to elect fiscally conservative candidates. 

And, of course, vote.

In the meantime, you might point the recent college grads in your family in the direction of DWP’s personnel office. With salaries like Frias’, they could retire their student loan debt in six months.

Patricia Suzanne is a professional writer, retired small business owner, and conservative Republican activist. She lives in a modest Newhall home, where the money required for annual property taxes could pay a full year’s rent on a two-bedroom furnished home in Arkansas.

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