Miami-Dade County workers decry ‘shrinking paychecks’


It is disappointing, though hardly surprising that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has proposed inequitable mandates for county employees. He should rethink his priorities.

Mayor Gimenez wants to continue taking the employees’ 5 percent “contribution,” as he calls it, for the overall cost of healthcare. Taken out of context, some may feel this approach is not inappropriate, but what our “transparent” Mayor didn’t tell readers of the Miami Herald in a recent opinion article is that the 5 percent “contribution” was no such thing — it was a specific demand from Mayor Gimenez that was taken from employees’ wages, and even taken from employees that the mayor knew full well did not even have healthcare insurance.

Most important, this 5-percent taking is just a very small part, overall, of the approximately 20 percent to 28 percent of wages and benefits that the mayor has taken from the shrinking paychecks of county employees in the last few years, as he continues to balance his budget on the backs of the little people by shredding or reducing wages and many other standard, earned benefits. These reductions in pay include, but are by no means limited to, “merit” increases for exceptional performance, “longevity” pay based on years of service, and eliminating virtually all “paid holidays” such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The list goes on and on.

These draconian, forced concessions have been in place since 2010, yet the mayor insists this is “not the right time” to give back the (latest) 5 percent wage reduction from employees whom he acknowledges “deliver excellence.” How many more years before it is the right time to stop this abuse?

The mayor likes to pit county employees against county’s residents, as if somehow the employees are second-class citizens. Does the mayor not know that county employees and their families constitute almost 100,000 residents of Miami-Dade County, many of whom bought homes and undertook other responsible financial obligations in recent years and now must struggle to somehow make ends meet with drastically reduced income?

Thanks to Mayor Gimenez, thousands of Miami-Dade County residents/taxpayers are now losing their American dream, and, how this benefits the community that the mayor is sworn to serve defies comprehension. The mayor insists that the unions want the five percent salary reduction to end so that “employees’ salaries are increased.” Common sense dictates that “restoring” money that was taken from you to begin with is not a salary increase — it is just making one “whole” again, with no increase whatsoever!

The mayor is not being candid with the public when he points fingers and lays blame for wage increases at the labor unions. He knows that under Florida law it is the county – and only the county – that has the final say as to what employees are paid through the collective bargaining process. The mayor’s attempt to deflect and twist the facts in this arena is a disservice to all.

In a related matter, Mayor Gimenez says he does not want to “raid” his healthcare “reserve,” but recent audits by impartial and reputable agencies have clearly demonstrated that the mayor has a substantial healthcare surplus that is rapidly ballooning and is well beyond what is required by law. So, while the mayor is drowning in healthcare reserves, his employees are just drowning, period. This is not leadership — this is political grandstanding and the pathetic gouging of his own constituents, instead of being creative and fostering policies and measures to reduce the waste and bloated managerial bureaucracies that still surround him.

Incredibly, senior county administrators have formally complained recently that productivity is down considerably, and that, of course, translates into less efficiency and substantially more costs to the taxpayers. They can lay this complaint and reality at Mayor Gimenez’s doorstep, where it belongs, as human nature is what it is.

He has added insult to injury and created a workforce that is horrendously demoralized, justifiably bitter and stripped of their dignity.

Clarence Washington is president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 291, AFL-CIO.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

Tony Lesesne


    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.


    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

Miami Herald

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