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Don Roach: Does Anyone Care About Cranston School Secretaries?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

 

If the contract that the Cranston School Secretaries agreed to is any indication, then no, nobody cares about Cranston School Secretaries who salaries range between 34 and 39 thousand dollars annually.

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 don@donroach.org . He can also be reached on Twitter @donroach34.


Related Slideshow:
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).  

Prev Next

#33 Central Falls

Chief Executive Pay: $26,000 (E)

Finance Director: $87,125
 
Planning Director: $66,625
Prev Next

#32 Richmond

Chief Executive Pay: $51,500 (A)

Finance Director: $56,706
 
Planning Director: $50,218
Prev Next

#31 West Greenwich

Chief Executive Pay: $60,866 (A)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: $52,412
Prev Next

#30 Cumberland

Chief Executive Pay: $67,799 (E)

Finance Director: (Vacant -- PT)
 
Planning Director: $70,250
Prev Next

#29 Warren

Chief Executive Pay: $70,000 (A)

Finance Director: $62,424
 
Planning Director: $52,020
Prev Next

#28 North Smithfield

Chief Executive Pay: $71,289 (E)

Finance Director: $71,235
 
Planning Director: $58,394
Prev Next

#27 North Providence

Chief Executive Pay: $75,000 (E)

Finance Director: $52,000
 
Planning Director: $62,098
Prev Next

#26 Johnston

Chief Executive Pay: $75,000 (E)

Finance Director: $95,000
 
Planning Director: $69,746
Prev Next

#25 Lincoln

Chief Executive Pay: $78,677 (E)

Finance Director: $80,610
 
Planning Director: $67,709
Prev Next

#24 Woonsocket

Chief Executive Pay: $80,000 (E)

Finance Director: $90,000
 
Planning Director: $82,750
Prev Next

#23 Cranston

Chief Executive Pay: $80,765 (E)

Finance Director: $96,425
 
Planning Director: $75,247
Prev Next

#22 Bristol

Chief Executive Pay: $81,162 (E)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: $78,438
Prev Next

#21 Tiverton

Chief Executive Pay: $83,900 (A)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: Vacant
Prev Next

#20 Pawtucket

Chief Executive Pay: $84,253 (E)

Finance Director: $82,000
 
Planning Director: $72,269
Prev Next

#19 Hopkinton

Chief Executive Pay: $89,000 (A)

Finance Director: $73,043
 
Planning Director: $51,816
Prev Next

#18 Charlestown

Chief Executive Pay: $93,000 (A)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: $67,546
Prev Next

#17 New Shoreham

Chief Executive Pay: $95,146 (A)

Finance Director: $85,058
 
Planning Director: N/A
Prev Next

#16 Warwick

Chief Executive Pay: $100,000 (E)

Finance Director: $118,249
 
Planning Director: $97,648
Prev Next

#15 Smithfield

Chief Executive Pay: $100,940 (A)

Finance Director: $77,250
 
Planning Director: $65,920
Prev Next

#14 Jamestown

Chief Executive Pay: $106,957 (A)

Finance Director: $82,426
 
Planning Director: $71,481
Prev Next

#13 Burrillville

Chief Executive Pay: $110,520 (A)

Finance Director: $80,000
 
Planning Director: $80,000
Prev Next

#12 North Kingstown

Chief Executive Pay: $111,394 (A)

Finance Director: $82,442
 
Planning Director: $82,442
Prev Next

#11 Westerly

Chief Executive Pay: $117,305 (A)

Finance Director: $106,088
 
Planning Director: $76,812
Prev Next

#10 West Warwick

Chief Executive Pay: $120,000 (A)

Finance Director: $91,357
 
Planning Director: $69,000
Prev Next

#9 Coventry

Chief Executive Pay: $122,000 (A)

Finance Director: $97,150
 
Planning Director: $83,884
Prev Next

#8 Providence

Chief Executive Pay: $123,762 (E)

Finance Director: $140,000
 
Planning Director: $85,098
Prev Next

#7 East Providence

Chief Executive Pay: $125,000 (A)

Finance Director: $112,210
 
Planning Director: $97,350
Prev Next

#6 Portsmouth

Chief Executive Pay: $126,000 (A)

Finance Director: $95,819
 
Planning Director: $78,382
 
Prev Next

#5 East Greenwich

Chief Executive Pay: $131,005 (A)

Finance Director: $96,255
 
Planning Director: $77,835
Prev Next

#4 Newport

Chief Executive Pay: $135,000 (A)

Finance Director: $120,799
 
Planning Director: $100,531
Prev Next

#3 Barrington

Chief Executive Pay: $143,977 (A)

Finance Director: $106,194
 
Planning Director: $75,716
Prev Next

#2 Middletown

Chief Executive Pay: $147,350 (A)

Finance Director: $97,025
 
Planning Director: $89,436
Prev Next

#1 South Kingstown

Chief Executive: $153,853 (A)

Finance Director: $119,610
 
Planning Director: $93,181
 
 

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Comments:

Carole Marshall

Thanks for shining the light on this, Don. I agree, it's disgusting. We all need to get involved in our unions and make somebody care.

Jimmy LaRouche

Globalization will bring down salaries and income for most of us--especially the people with skills more common. It is simple supply and demand. Lots of people can type, file and answer phones. Fewer can teach, run global businesses, and write software. If you want to move forward, expand your skill set.

Before I read the tired "how can anyone do this with two kids as a single mother" excuses, let me state up front that life isn't fair. However, people need to understand that you get paid for what you can offer, not what you think you deserve or need. Like it or not, we are responsible for our choices.

Jonathan Flynn

Does anyone care about your column?

Odd Job

secretaries' union. lol can't make this stuff up.

Wuggly Ump

@ Jimmy LaRouche couldn't agree more, you get paid for your skills, training and experience.

I do think that administrators receiving raises and the those working for them getting cuts is unfair. If cuts need to be made everyone should get the cut.
When my kids were in elementary school the secretary there knew all the kids and was definitely the "go to" person. The bureaucracy is top heavy, lots of administrators and no one doing the work.




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