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President’s Message, First Quarter of 2011

As most of us anticipated, this past year was filled with an array of tough decisions, difficult obstacles and a few surprises. Yet during the most challenging of times, we came together as a union and strengthened our resolve to fight for what we know is right and just.

This hasn’t always been easy, especially when San Diego’s media outlets consistently demonstrate their subjectivity and biased nature, and many of the citizens we serve go along with the politics of the day. Although the media doesn’t provide us with the same proportion of air time and sound bites as certain politicians, we continue to find creative ways to get our message out. You can also help to communicate our message that “Nobody Does it Better” by continuing to serve San Diegans with your dedication, integrity and attentiveness.

We have also had to endure Carl DeMaio’s incessant rants which have vilified City employees, spewed inaccuracies and monopolized airtime with what we all know to be his campaign platform for his 2012 mayoral run. In order to sway voters and to paint himself as the savior elected to “clean up” the City, DeMaio will continue with his questionable tactics and attacks on City employees. Yet just as Michael Aguirre swooped in (with the support of the Union-Tribune I might add) as the white knight ready to slay the corrupt City beast (and then swooped out with a lopsided re-election loss!), I strongly believe that the electorate will not be fooled twice by the same misleading guise.

2011 will bring some new and old challenges for our union to address. This year’s budget shortfalls are going to force the Mayor and Council to once again fill the gaps by making cuts to City services. We commit to fighting for every single position and keeping you abreast with the most updated information. You are also encouraged to contact MEA if you have any questions or concerns throughout the entire process. We know that budget deliberations bring doubts and concerns which tend to be heightened when rumors are more abundant than factual information in the workplace.

Retiree health benefits will continue to be a contested issue in 2011. Although some have attributed the debacle to “greedy labor unions,” the truth is that the benefit was created in 1981 by then-Mayor Pete Wilson who needed to plug some holes in the City’s budget. Over the past 30 years since that decision, it has gone through various enhancements by almost every Mayor including Mayor Hedgecock and Mayor Golding. The 40-page retiree health report that was released in September and produced by both the City and the labor organizations document the detailed factual history of the benefit and discuss various legal positions of the City and the unions. Negotiations with the City on retiree health should begin soon, so stay tuned for updates from Ann Smith and the rest of your negotiating team.

This past year, we also agreed on a Managed Competition Guide which represents more than three years of tough negotiations and successful litigation. The agreement details the rules that will govern the implementation of the 2006 ballot measure. Although we do not support outsourcing and managed competition, we do believe that this guide represents our best chance of a fair fight. As it has been demonstrated in other jurisdictions like the County of San Diego, our City employees will win the majority of competitions conducted on a level playing field because we are already the most efficient, leanest and most effective providers of City services.

Although 2011 will be another challenging year, 2010 showed us once again that we are a hearty group that has not, and will not, back away from obstacles and trials. We will address any challenge head on and will maintain open lines of communication to ensure that we are one united front. At the end of the day, we’re in this together and we will get through this together. Thank you for your support and stay strong!