San Antonio:
Comment: City employees need their money now:
September 20, 2001

Express-News: Commentary
Comment: City employees need their money now
By Wade Rathke
San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted : 09/20/2001 12:00 AM

If you work, then open your next pay envelope. Imagine your feeling when you notice that you did not receive the amount you expected, but more than 24 percent less.

If you expected to see $1,000 in that check, you found $760 instead. If you expected $100 in the check, you found $76.

In fact, imagine that you had been expecting a raise. You had heard and read that you were going from what you had to a "living wage." Rather than get a 32 percent raise, you got zilch, nada, nothing.

Imagine that when you found your check way short and your raise long gone, that you raised this simple error with your boss. Perhaps it was a computer or clerical error?

Simple problem? Easy to solve? You would be wrong!

Local 100, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, and our members have raised this issue before the mayor, City Council, and directly with the City Manager Terry Brechtel and her staff. Brechtel has stated publicly that she intends to raise workers to no less than $8.50 per hour by Oct. 1. She has been silent on the issue of correcting the mistake for the last year. She told our union she was studying the problem.

In the adopted budget for the current fiscal year, 2000-01, there are 26 references to "all city employees" receiving a living wage in the budget, including in the introductory letter to the mayor and council from the city manager. Twenty-two of these references are found in the specific departmental appropriations which detail how specific allocations are being made to bring all city workers up to the proposed standard. There is only one reference in the adopted budget to paying the living wage to only full-time and part-time workers, and that reference contradicts the sentence found immediately beforehand in the same paragraph!

We wonder what is it about "all" that does not mean all? This is not hard. A mistake has been made, so it needs to be gotten right. This is what you would expect from your boss. This is what city workers expect from their boss. We do not need an apology. We do need the back money, and we do need this to be fixed now!

Turns out this problem of "temporary" workers and a minimum pay standard are the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of workers are affected. Many - in fact most - of them were out of compliance with the Civil Service regulations of the cty of San Antonio, and should have been converted from temporary to permanent status after 90 days.

Others are finally permanent now, but spent months and years inappropriately classified. All are owed back wages, seniority, holidays, and vacation. We work hard for the pay. We have the right to expect that the rules be followed. When mistakes are made, they need to be made right. That's the way you want it on your job, right? That's the way we want it as public servants of the cty of San Antonio!

Time is money, and it's time for our money to be paid correctly for our time!

Wade Rathke is the chief organizer of Local 100, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO.