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November 2000

Greed Wins Out In County Management Raises

By Karen Nakamura

Once again, the upper management of the County of Marin has allowed its personal interests to hold sway over the common good. In October, the Board of Supervisors approved pay increases aimed at department heads that range from 2 to 5 percent. The reason, ostensibly, was to create "equity" with the market. This might not be so bad if it weren't the 3rd or 4th raise this body has awarded itself in the past 12 months. In January, top management will receive another 3 percent, which is being awarded then to juggle the books.

Granted, these raises come under different labels; equity, cost of living or whatever and should be considered part of a larger wage package. In other words, management has for years, whether in one piece or under separate cover, been receiving total raises of approximately 6-9 percent per year while workers have been receiving an average of 2.5 to 4 percent.

In the meantime, Seiu-Mapes, local 949, the union representing most Marin county and city employees, had to engage in a noisy strike in 1998 to get even an average 3.5 percent raise per year from the County. Including '98 numbers, it will take until 2001 for many members to reach a 12 percent increase. By that time, if wage rates continue to rise at the same pace, management will have received hikes of close to 28 percent . What that means in hard cash is if a technical assistant earned $30,000 in 1998; by 2001, she'll be earning $33,262. In the meantime, management, using an average increase of 7 percent a year, will have gone from, say, $100,000 to $131,038. The average management increase is approximately the same amount as the technician's entire wage.

But wages aren't the only perk being distributed unequally. Here again the worker is getting the short end of the deal. Their standard Kaiser/Delta Dental coverage isn't as extensive as most of management's superior Blue Shield package. They also have to pay for family coverage out of their own pockets. Kicking in an extra $150.00 for the family is a much higher percentage of income to the technician than to the manager.

Add to that the epidemic of rent increases, often enacted by the same upper income types in their landlord role, that is undermining the very fabric of the county. While the working class is making between $20,000 and $50,000 a year and receiving 3-5 percent yearly raises, it's not nearly enough to keep pace with the 15-40 percent rent increases. Management's concern about whether it's getting $150,000 or $157,000 a year pales in comparison.

Kris Organ, Executive Director of Marin's Seiu-Mapes-local 949, had this to say about the discrepancy. "With inflation increasing in the Bay Area even as it decreases statewide, raises interest every employee, including managers. Rank and file members can only hope County management recognizes our dire situation and sets aside resources for those who earn less than the $28.06 per hour it takes to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Marin County."

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