Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Future of Morro Bay in public’s hands

Morro Bay city employees and their union, SEIU Local 620, are embroiled in a battle with city management for the future of Morro Bay.

The city is demanding a two-tiered retirement plan and reduction in pay and benefits, and it has essentially refused to support the rank-and-file employees.

Yet the management staff members who are planning to take from the rank-and-file are — as indicated in the article “Morro Bay’s 50 highest-paid city employees” (Aug. 21) — some of the highest-paid city employees. In fact, per capita, Morro Bay city managers are some of the highest paid in the state. They are also the very people who neglected to plan for the decrease in revenue from the economic downturn resulting from changes in the power plant and commercial fishing.

Unfortunately, Morro Bay city management is riding the wave of public sentiment perpetuated by misleading media coverage as expressed in your Aug. 21 editorial referring to the front-page article on municipal employee compensation. What was not mentioned in your lead article is probably most important for the general public to see.

1. Many of Morro Bay’s employees are some of the lowest-paid in the county. In fact, some of the safety officers (e.g. harbor patrol officers) are also some of the lowest-paid in the state.

2. City employees do not pay into Social Security, and their entire retirement rests on the CalPERS retirement plan to which they contribute out of their own salaries.

3. A two-tiered retirement system will not solve the city’s budget shortfall but will result in low employee morale and a lower standard of future employees.

4. Overtime compensation to public safety employees is the result of management decisions and in many cases is, as stated in your editorial, putting an unwanted strain on safety personnel.

Your “Our Take” paragraphs indicate that the budget burden can be reduced by a “scale back on benefits by raising retirement age or requiring employees to pay a larger portion of their benefits.” If one does the math on the two-tiered plan, it is obvious that this solution is not valid.

On a positive note, if we look at where the money is going, the long-term solution is simple. The management is taking the lion’s share of the city’s payroll and retirement budget. Why are they being allowed to ride the wave of misleading media and attempt to balance the budget by taking from the lowest-paid employees? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Let’s not forget who comes to help us when we call 911. It’s the very people who you are saying make too much money.

It is the very people who risk their lives to help strangers like you. And the next time you take a shower or flush the toilet, think about all the city employees who have the low pay and thankless jobs that make it possible.

It may be worth your time to think about the people who work hard to make your life safe and healthy before you advocate reducing their pay and take away their benefits. Every benefit that the public employees and SEIU Local 620 have is the result of negotiation and sacrifice.

The future of Morro Bay rests in the hands of the public it serves, and we ask The Tribune staff to please be responsible and take the time to promote balanced and fair articles on this issue.

The writers are Morro Bay residents and Local 620 members working for the city.