Watsonville workers to council: End disparate treatment

Watsonville20130514Fed up with years of disparate treatment, Watsonville City workers told the city council on May 14 to end wage disparity and increase accountability and transparency to the public.

While Watsonville City executives have enjoyed $400 car allowances and wage increases ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 since 2009, frontline workers have greatly sacrificed financially to balance the budget and maintain services.

Despite four years of balancing the budget on the backs of workers, the city continues to seek deeper cuts from those employees who earn the least.

This is a growing and disturbing trend for Watsonville. Since the recession, managers already receiving six-figure salaries continue to see their salaries and perks increase throughout the years. Administrative leave for management now costs taxpayers almost $250,000 per year. A phone stipend for management costs the city an additional $7,200 per year.

It’s a different story for frontline workers, who are among the lowest paid city employees. Since 2009, frontline workers have taken the hardest hit in concessions, including pay cuts and furloughs. Many are living paycheck to paycheck.

“Four years ago when the recession hit I understood that we all needed to make sacrifices in order to avoid layoffs and continue providing services to the community. However, what a 17 percent cut means for me and my family is that we would continue living paycheck to paycheck.”
— Angelica Diaz, Watsonville City Library Assistant for 15 years

City management proposes to balance the city’s budget by significantly increasing health care costs for workers, continuing 10 percent work furloughs, and forcing other concessions on a workforce that already bore the burden of balancing the budget for the last four years.

“Our members, whom are among the lowest paid in the city staff structure, took a 10 percent cut in their salaries in an effort to help the city survive the economic crisis in 2008 and try to minimize the effect of reduced services to the community. It is irresponsible for the city management staff to seek a continuation of cuts without cutting from the top as well. SEIU will no longer balance the city management’s fiscal responsibility on their backs.”
— Veronica Rodriguez, 521 Santa Cruz County Chapter President, in solidarity with Watsonville workers.

Jim Heaney, member leader of the 521 Committee on Political Education, also urged city leaders to do the right thing, to support frontline workers, and to support the Watsonville community.

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