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.

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