County Makes Concessions To Union In Effort To Spur Economy

In the face of troubling local economic signs, the county board of supervisors this week made a move to boost the paychecks of county workers.
The jury is yet out on whether that move to artificially buoy the local economy will have the desired impact, or whether greater governmental commitments to employee salaries and benefits will deprive county residents of services and assistance they need to negotiate what some prognosticators are saying will prove leaner financial times just ahead.
Alarmingly, San Bernardino County’s unemployment rate, which had dipped to a near historic low of 3.3 percent this spring, in just over four months has zoomed up to 4.2 percent.
Those working, while not exactly in the poorhouse, are doing comparatively worse than virtually all of their counterparts in the country’s top 50 municipal areas. San Bernardino was next to last when it came to weekly wages before taxes and other payroll deductions – $931 weekly. That was a mere $4 above those in dead last at number 50 – the $927 paid to worker in adjoining Riverside County south of San Bernardino County’s boundary. In contrast, over the county’s western border, in Los Angeles County, workers there bring down an average of $1,282 weekly, putting the County of the Angels at number 22 among the Top 50 U.S. municipal areas. Orange County workers are faring even better with average gross wages before taxes and deductions of $1,287 per week, making it Number 20 among the country’s 50 leading municipal areas.
Meanwhile, the county’s residents who rent rather than own the premises in which they live and like the rest of Americans are dealing with a 2.6 percent inflation rate, have seen rental rates increase by 5.1 percent over the last year. A two-room apartment now runs the average renter $1,550 per month.
From the beginning of Spring 2017 to the very end of winter 2018, the combined economy of Riverside and San Bernardino grew, if not phenomenally, then very well, at 4.5 percent, the ninth-best improvement among municipal areas nationally in that timeframe. Nevertheless, between the beginning of Spring 2018 and the end of winter earlier this year, that red hot growth had cooled to a 1.6 percent rate. Though that was better than flatlining or a decrease, there were yet 65 other metropolitan areas throughout the country with economies growing more rapidly.
When it rains, it pours. The first week of September, employees of Haralambos Beverage Company learned that last month the company had informed the state’s Employment Development Department that beginning October 11, it will lay off 53 workers at its Redlands facility, including 36 sales personnel, 15 employed in operations and two managers.
In an effort to make an inroad against the deteriorating financials besetting the county, the county’s governmental structure announced this week that it has come to terms with Teamsters Local 1932, the collective bargaining unit for slightly more than half of the county’s approximately 22,000 employees, to provide those represented employees a 2.5 percent uniform wage increase effective tomorrow, Saturday, September 14, 2019, to be augmented by a matching 2.5 percent raise as of July 18, 2020, a third 2.5 percent accretion on July 31, 2021, followed with a 3 percent across-the-board hike on July 30, 2022.
Where it can, the county will also allow those employees reaching an accumulation of a specified number of hours at a given pay grade or level to move up in remuneration, receiving what is called a “step raise” immediately upon registering the designated number of hours. Those employees in positions for which the qualifications are forbidding, thus making them difficult to fill, will see even more generous increases.
Altogether, the deal with Teamsters Local 1932 is to set taxpayers back some $345.7 million beyond what the current projected personnel costs are to be for the county between now and June 30, 2023.
While it is hoped the extra money in the hands of slightly over half of the county’s workforce, increasing that segment of the county population’s disposable income, will have a “trickle-down” positive effect on the San Bernardino County economy as a whole, the diversion of that money into the pockets of the county’s public employees will in some measure detract from the county’s ability to provide services for its residents, including some of those whose circumstances under the challenges of the current dip and what is projected to be a more massive fiscal contraction beginning in 2020 will be most heavily impacted.

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