General Manager’s Report, Second Quarter of 2010
A number of you responded last month when we sent out an e-mail soliciting questions to be addressed in this addition of The Viewpoint. If those who responded are indicative of the rest of MEA’s represented employees, then it is clear that one of the most significant topics on your mind is the future of the retiree healthcare benefit. About 80% of the questions submitted were along the lines of “Is my retiree health benefit vested?” and “What are the chances that retirees will lose their medical benefits in the next round of cuts?”
Like just about every other issue related to your compensation and benefits these days, the answers to those questions are neither straightforward nor clear at the moment. But beginning on page 5, MEA labor counsel Ann Smith walks you through the history of the retiree health benefit, its legal and contractual underpinnings and sheds some light on what MEA is doing to try to bring some certainty to the issue. Ann’s article is an incredibly important body of information for you to have because as a union we will undoubtedly be faced with important decisions on retiree heath in the next several months.
MEA is currently engaged in a “Joint Study Committee” on retiree health with the City and other City unions as outlined in Article 22 of MEA’s current contract with the City. After the Joint Study is completed (no later than this July), MEA will re-open negotiations with the City on retiree health. These negotiations will help determine the future of the benefit.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the City and MEA have two fundamentally different approaches to “fixing” the fact that for three decades the City has failed to properly fund its contractual promises with respect to retiree health. In a nutshell, the City clearly wants to relieve itself of its liabilities by going back on its promises, while MEA wants to ensure that the City keeps its promises and funds the benefit. It remains to be seen whether the negotiations will end in agreement or in litigation, but those seem to be the two most likely outcomes.
Ann Smith and your elected negotiating team continue to work tirelessly to provide you with the best options and the most accurate information in order to make an informed decision. Stay tuned in the coming months for more information on this critically important issue.
City Council Elections Coming in June
Residents of San Diego City Council Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 will be going to the polls on June 8. Incumbents Kevin Faulconer and Tony Young are running for re-election in Districts 2 and 4, and Districts 6 and 8 are “open seats” because Donna Frye (District 6) is termed out of office, and Ben Hueso (District 8) is giving up his seat to run for the California State Assembly.
MEA’s Political Action Committee, chaired by First Vice President Bob Cronk, has met numerous times in the past few months to review questionnaires, interview candidates and to make endorsement recommendations to MEA’s Board of Directors. On March 10, the Board voted to approve the PAC’s recommendations by endorsing Howard Wayne for District 6 and David Alvarez for District 8. The Board also voted to endorse incumbents Kevin Faulconer in District 2 and Tony Young in District 4.
This election cycle is extremely important for MEA and all City employees given the anti-public employee sentiment that seems to pervade the rhetoric of too many in our City and, for that matter, our State and nation as well. We must help elect candidates who understand the facts and who will be thoughtful, truthful, and who will follow the law instead of the politics of the day when it comes to issues that affect City workers.
Our efforts will be focused on helping to elect Howard Wayne and David Alvarez in Districts 6 and 8, since the incumbents in Districts 2 and 4 will likely be re-elected by wide margins. Howard is a former State Assemblymember with a solid record of accomplishment, and he would help to significantly elevate the dialogue in San Diego politics. David is young, very bright, and a hard worker, whose perspective and energy would be a welcome addition to the City Council.
Please keep your eyes open for invitations from MEA to participate in precinct walks and phone banks for the endorsed candidates. If you happen to live in Districts 6 or 8, you will likely receive a call from us to help with a yard sign at your home and to talk to your friends and neighbors about the importance of supporting Howard and David. When you volunteer to help those candidates or interact with them in your community, please be sure to remind them that you are an MEA member, and are there to lend your support! If you would like to get started volunteering right away, please contact Cathleen Higgins at MEA today.
Something else on the upcoming June citywide ballot will be an initiative aimed at making San Diego’s “strong mayor” form of government permanent. One of the other questions we received asked “What is MEA’s position on the ballot initiative for strong mayor?” At this time, the PAC has not recommended that MEA take a formal position. Most of the City’s other unions are also staying neutral at the moment, with the exception of the Police Officers’ Association which took a position in opposition to the measure.
Finally, one of the questions we received suggested that The Viewpoint looked a little too “expensive” and asked “How much is this new magazine costing us?” The answer is that in addition to MEA staff time and effort, each quarterly edition of The Viewpoint costs about $4,500 in printing and postage costs. Put another way, each issue costs every MEA member, fee payer, and retiree member about $1 four times a year.
Those costs are consistent with what the Board of Directors has approved in MEA’s annual budget for publications and postage. In addition, you will begin to see in this issue—and in more abundance in future issues—paid advertisements to help offset the costs of the publication. The goal is to have The Viewpoint substantially paid for by advertisers by the end of this year.
Independent of the advertising offset, we believe that the time and resources put into producing The Viewpoint represents money well spent. For the last several months, we have worked hard to improve the quantity and quality of communications with the people we represent. Together with the new MEA website (check it out at www.sdmea.org!), frequent e-mail blasts of news and announcements, and increased workplace visits, The Viewpoint is an important part of fulfilling our mission to keep you informed on issues that affect you the most.
Please keep your questions coming and don’t hesitate to contact me or Viewpoint editor Lora Folsom with questions, comments, constructive criticism or anything else that is on your mind!