Tony Maldonado | A Strategy for Change

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

In a revealing article from June 19, The Signal highlighted a concerning statistic: nearly one-fifth of College of the Canyons employees feel unwelcome at their institution. This story, titled “Survey: Nearly 20% of COC Employees Feel Unwelcomed at College; Concerns Over Retaliation, Safety, Inclusivity,” has not received the attention it demands. The COC administration has failed to provide clarity on the matter, and the board of trustees’ retreat into private meetings has left the community with unanswered questions. 

The situation at COC is indicative of a larger issue plaguing public institutions across the Santa Clarita Valley. The growing discontent among our local government workforce is a critical concern that has been ignored for far too long. 

In recent years, the city of Santa Clarita’s City Council and city manager’s office have been inundated with workforce complaints.  

The city conducted employee surveys in June 2023 and May 2024 to gauge workforce discontent, yet the results of these surveys have been kept from the public eye. The city’s silence on these matters, coupled with a lack of substantial improvements, suggests a troubling disregard for the issues at hand. 

Why does this matter to you? The public service workforce forms the foundation of Santa Clarita’s functionality. When they operate in less-than-ideal conditions, it impacts every resident. An undervalued and dissatisfied workforce leads to subpar service, delayed responses and lackluster support. 

A considerable segment of the city’s workforce is made up of part-time employees, earning between $17 and $19 per hour, limited to 19 hours per week (with some library employees able to work up to 27 hours). These individuals do not receive the vacation or paid leave benefits that full-time employees enjoy, nor do they have many opportunities for career growth, resulting in a static and demoralizing work environment. 

Moreover, while the city (pays) wages just above the minimum wage, expecting a full range of services, local fast-food establishments like In-N-Out Burger are offering higher wages, starting at $22 to $24 an hour, along with benefits and paid leave. This wage gap is particularly striking when considering the skill level and educational background of many city employees compared to the typically younger, less experienced staff at fast-food outlets. Such disparities undermine the value of city workers, leaving them feeling undervalued and disrespected. 

The consequences of the city’s inaction are becoming clear, as employees increasingly depart for other municipalities that offer better compensation and more supportive work environments. 

Research consistently shows that fair compensation and positive working conditions correlate with greater job satisfaction, enhanced productivity and reduced turnover. Job satisfaction, particularly in the public sector, is intimately connected to benefits and career growth opportunities. 

It is imperative for the City Council and city manager to take decisive action. Ignoring the issues within the city’s workforce is unsustainable. A thorough investigation into the allegations, genuine engagement with employees’ concerns, and the implementation of substantial reforms are necessary. 

Essential reforms include: 

• Competitive Wages: Elevate part-time employee wages to match those in the private sector and other cities. 

• Proportional Benefits: Extend pro-rated vacation and paid leave, along with health benefits, to part-time workers. 

• Advancement Opportunities: Introduce mentorship and personal development programs, as well as clear paths for career progression. 

• Supportive Work Culture: Cultivate an environment of respect and inclusivity, where every employee feels appreciated and integral to the team. 

• Open Communication: Pledge to transparently address workforce grievances and openly inform the public about the measures being taken to rectify the situation. Publicize the employee survey results and outline the actions derived from these insights. 

Santa Clarita’s public service employees merit a work setting that is supportive, equitable and conducive to professional growth. By proactively tackling these challenges, Santa Clarita can foster a workforce that is engaged, effective and committed to delivering the exceptional service our community relies on. The moment for change is here. 

Tony Maldonado

Canyon Country

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