Don Roach: Does Anyone Care About Cranston School Secretaries?
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
I say no one cares because the secretaries will be taking on about $221,000 in cuts including working five days without pay, losing five paid holidays, amongst other things. I’ve written ad nauseum about how unions need to also bear some of the burden that the rest of us working folks have had to endure during this continuing economic downturn. Several years ago the Cranston Police department agreed to salary freezes. In Providence, David Cicilline and the Providence Fire Department were at a political impasse over concessions (or politics whichever you prefer).
My point is, unions definitely need to and we’ve had examples where they have made concessions due to the economic times. But secretary salaries are probably amongst the lowest of unionized workers and I’m left asking myself if there’s something wrong here. Secretaries Union President, Lori Ryan, asked the City Council to approve the contract in order to avoid restarting negotiations which could have resulted in even deeper cuts.
Perhaps you’re reading this and feel nothing for the secretaries. Perhaps you’ve gone through your own hell in the last few years and are thinking, “at least they have a job.” I totally understand that feeling.
But, what you also must remember is that the school administrators in Cranston just received a pay raise. So, the folks at the highest end of the pay scale received a raise and those at the lowest end are taking on significant cuts. Something seems – I hate to say it – unfair in this equation.
Is there an overall union strategy?
But more than unfairness, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent strategy when it comes to union negotiations for police, fire, teachers, secretaries, etc. In other words, each group appears to negotiate in a vacuum. Are we to assume that because the secretaries took a cut the teachers will also? No. I believe the Cranston Police contract has negotiated salary increases in the coming years. At first glance, that’s a head scratcher. But did you know that their last contract froze salaries.
It’s all such a hodgepodge of cuts here benefits there. There doesn’t appear to be a unified strategy. Now, you can’t blame the individual unions for not coming together (although the whole concept of a union is collective thinking) because union bosses are really negotiating the best deals for their constituents.
But you do have to ask yourself why school committees, city/town councils, and mayors/administrators aren’t developing city-wide strategies to tackle the various union contracts they are involved in approving. Well, that appears to be part of the problem too – I’m not sure in all cities and towns the same parties approve all contracts that are paid for by those same cities and towns. If my memory is correct, the Cranston City Council only recently gained approval authority over contracts negotiated by the School Committee.
Because of such a disjointed process, it’s hard for me to see that there could be any process that is ‘fair’ or equitable to any of the unions. Should the Cranston police officers suffer because the school administrators got a pay raise and the secretaries took cuts? Should the Cranston secretaries not have to take cuts now?
Tough questions to answer if we’re honest with each other. But I don’t think we can answer them without an overall union strategy in all cities and towns. In cities and towns that like to do things independently, is this at all possible?
I just think that we’ll read about this union getting that and that union taking these cuts again and again unless we somehow develop a more holistic view of contract negotiations.
Am I being naïve? Is there something I’m missing? What do you think of the abstract solution I’m offering?
Don Roach can be reached at email@example.com . He can also be reached on Twitter @donroach34.
Rhode Island’s Highest Paid Mayors and Managers
The Rhode Island Department of Revenue's Office of Local Government Assistance, for the past 23 years, has conducted an "annual salary survey" of municipal positions in the state.
Below are the salaries reported for chief executives -- Mayors or Town Managers ranked by municipalities (with the position) in 2012, from lowest to highest. According to the survey, the amount "does not include fringe benefit data."
Positions appointed are indicated with an (A); positions elected are marked with an (E).
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