Attack On Public Employees Embedded Into Administrator’s Pension Story

SUNDAY COLUMN | On the same day this week reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle took to social media in protest of a proposed hike in health care premiums laid out by their management, the paper’s two star reporters wrote Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi essentially pulls down $800,000-a-year—not news–but that her pension will pay her over $400,000 for life. That was news. However, let’s pull back the curtain on what is really going on.

Sure, Muranishi’s compensation is a boatload of money, but its significance is greatly clouded by what was not mentioned and merely Phil Matier and Andrew Ross fanning the flames of conservatives hungry to further trample on workers.

While Muranishi, a county employee for 38 years, is also part of management, the headlines and editorials this week critical of her paycheck, make no consideration for the fact the meme of a government worker making a killing, whether it be the head of the fifth-largest county in California or one possessing a annual budget of over $2.5 billion, is purposely lost in the translation. In fact, the meme is designed to demonize all government workers at every level, a majority of whom earn paltry pensions barely large enough to survive month-to-month. Also, don’t forget many local jurisdictions, whether they be Alameda County or its cities, are heading into early budget hearings for the next fiscal year starting next week. Coincidence?

Here’s what is notable about the Chronicle is the flagrant lack of context. What does the top executive in Alameda County exactly do? Is her pay within range of other large counties in the state? Does she even do a good job, according to a general consensus? Of course, none of these facts made it into the Matier & Ross column, normally a haven for news items blatantly lifted from local bloggers without attribution.

The problem with these types of hit pieces aiming to maim public workers is they never offer alternatives. Instead of paying someone with extensive experience in public sector a wage commensurate with their talents, should we instead hire a 35-year-old with little know-how and pay them $150,000? If you’re Yolo County, maybe. If you’re Alameda County, in the heart of one of the most populated and dynamic areas in the world, you spend the money for quality and avoid problems inherent with running a chintzy, error-prone organization. It’s a catch-22 because once you hire that inexperienced executive and everything goes to hell, the same folks complaining about city employee salaries come back and yell, “What the fuck is going on with City Hall!?”

What this story does remind us, though, is the two barons who run all the papers in the Bay Area—Hearst Corporation and the Bay Area News Group—control the local media and possess stark anti-labor stances. And they are more than willing to undercut workers wages and benefits with propaganda. When protesting Chronicle scribes again walk the picket line, I suggest keeping an eye on Matier & Ross. They’re likely management spies.

“Unless these numbers go up, this is going to fail, this whole thing is going to go up in flames.”
Michael Sweeney, mayor of Hayward, Mar. 26, remarking about data found in a report on the city’s federal grant to improve its schools showing just 16 percent school attendance among ninth graders in its chronically poor Jackson Triangle neighborhood.

The Week That Was

Scott Haggerty

>>>It was not the best week for Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. It was revealed the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury is looking at complaints believed to be connected to claims made by Haggerty’s former chief of staff over a land deals in Livermore and Pleasanton in 2007. In another offshoot of the complaint, the Fair Political Practices Commission issued a warning to Haggerty over previous economic interests filings. However, the commission levied no fine.

>>>Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, also a Haggerty ally, is battling a low-level schism among South Asian Democrats in his 25th District. It was reported this week, a re-vote for the crucial slate of Democratic convention delegates lobbied for by Wieckowski returned no change in the list of winners from last January. Wieckowski needs to stay in his delegates good graces if he wants the party’s endorsement for a likely 2014 run for the State Senate. In the meantime, expect to see Wieckowski at many cultural fundraisers in the Fremont area in the next year donning full ethnic garb.

>>>Rep. Mike Honda now lacks only Bill and Hillary Clinton (maybe, FDR) as the biggest names in Democratic Party circles not yet endorsing his 2014 re-election in the 17th Congressional District against, as of yet, not a single soul. Ro Khanna, however is lurking over Honda shoulder, so this week, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with State Attorney General Kamala Harris added their support.

>>>San Leandro Councilmember Ursula Reed surprised many this week by announcing she will run for Alameda County superintendent of schools next year. Shelia Jordan, the current officeholder since 1999 is likely to retire, but Reed just won re-election to her District 2 council seat last November.

Tweet of the Week
“Curious: Does today’s “seeing red” protest include @sfchronicle columnists who’ve opined in favor of healthcare cuts to govt. workers?”
-@GonzOakland, Mar. 25, referencing San Francisco Chronicle reporters, who launched a social media campaign in protest of proposed cuts to health care benefits by its employer, Hearst Corporation.

Best Read
>>>Matt Taibbi, this country’s greatest investigative reporter, demolishes California’s “Three Strikes Law” and poignantly describes the insanity of jailing mostly poor and/or black men for stealing $2.50 socks, for instance, while Wall Street banksters continue to reside in gilded towers of ill-gotten means. (Rolling Stone, Apr. 27).

Voice of the People
“It’s quite hypocritical for the pro-homosexual marriage and pro-abortion crowd to have dinner honoring a Roman Catholic Saint. But, then stupidity is innate with Democrats.”
Anonymous, Mar. 28, commenting about Eden Area Democrats and their annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner in Hayward on “Corbett Shook Swalwell’s Hand; Lockyer Left Nadia At Home; Democrats Gossiped.”

23 thoughts on “Attack On Public Employees Embedded Into Administrator’s Pension Story

  1. (continued from prior post above)

    REMEMBER now, this article and thread was talking about the overall general idea of public employee pensions, not just the HUSD.

    It does appear that the HUSD contracts, pensions, and medical benefits are among the very lowest found in the entire Bay Area.

    Having said that. You must remember, that at the traditional, long time rate, of 2.0%, that is still a very excellent pension for a member who puts in a full time working job.

    You work from age 25 to 65, like the rest of us must do for Social Security, and you come away with a 80% pension for life.

    That is miles and miles better than Social Security.
    For many job positions that is lucrative.
    Even for that $49,000 custodian in the HUSD, it means about $40,000 a year for a full career.

    Now, you may say the average guy doesnt' work a full 40 years. WEll, yes he does, its just that he didn't work all that time for the HUSD, but he was working somewhere those other years.
    For that work he gets Social Security.

    No matter how you cut it, he does rather well compared to what others get from simple Socical Security.

    Perhaps not the overly bloated pensions we see in so many cities, but still excellent by comparison with the general public.

    Examples… provide me with a example where the pension plan is not much better than the general public gets.

    If you only work part of a career, or you only work part time hours, well there is nothing we can do about that.

    All said, I do admit, that in California, Hayward Unified contracts for some workers are at the lower end.

    However, if you go around the nation, in other states, you'd see that even the 2.0% is much higher than many other places.
    Its just that California went completely out of wack in the pasy dozen years.
    Their pensions ZOOMED out of site.
    That is part of the reason for the State's mess.

    BTW, nearly 100% of all Bay Area and California police and fire pensions are at the 3.0% mark.
    At 30 years you get 90% of very high salaries.

    In a few places you can easily get over 100%.
    As mentioned above, I know a fireman who gets over 120% of his highest base salary.
    That via the way they calculated his final year salary, throwing in stuff over base pay.
    Total abuse of the system.


  2. OK, to 12:06 and 12:20

    Here are some of the facts I saw, plus some other things I'll mention.

    The job I saw at 2.5% “classic” meaning for current employees and 2.0% for “new hires”

    There, read the bottom of that.
    Now, it is the HUSD, but as I read more closely it talks about the “Water Authority” so I don't know what to make of that.

    Anyway I saw a few jobs for HUSD with that kind of 2.5% pension thing. Why those are 2.5% I don't know.

    As you have been saying, it may well be that SAFECO and M&O members never got the typical boosts that almost all other public employees got back 10 years ago. So you remained at the long time (and proper level) of 2.0% that was in place before the pension bubble happened.
    Now, many cities and agencies are going back to the 2.0% level, but only for “new hires”.
    Admitting they blundered by jacking up pensions to unsustainable levels.

    However, many cities are only going back a “baby step”. Like Oakland, went from 2.0% to 2.7% and then only stepped back to 2.5% and only for “new hires”, leaving 90% of their work force at the jacked up 2.7% rate for the rest of their career.

    I also admit that not only did SAFECO and M & O workers apparently not get the jacked up rate, but it seems they also have one other unusual feature in that they pay ALL of their medical and yet are mandated to have health insurance.

    Seems very strange to be forced to have insurance when the HUSD pays none of the cost.

    These are very unusual features in the HUSD contracts.

    Compare them to the normal contracts such as those for the City of Hayward.

    All their employees, except “new hires” are still getting the 2.5% @ 55 pension plan. (The police and fire get 3.0% @ 50)

    For their medical (Kaiser) they pay only $67 for one, $114 for 2, and $174 for the entire family.
    Similar arrangement for dental etc.

    (continues on next post due to character limits)


  3. 2.5% & 3.0% usually goes for public safety positions such as EMT's, firefighters and police officers. If HUSD security is getting 2.5%, I am not aware of this as they are SAFECO ( security and facilities control employees). SAFECO and the M & O units have the same Union, but different provisions pertaining to the MOU.


  4. I would like to know what job you saw that 2.5% @ 55, as it may be a newly create Skilled Trades Worker job that might have slipped under the rader and they hired older people, over 55.


  5. We never were boosted, still @ 2.0% @ 55, and if you have 25 years of service, and are 55, and still have a mortgage, and other bills, rising medical costs, that come out of your salary. Could you survive @50% of what you made, with no pay raises since 2007?

    You have to remember that we pay into PERS rather than invest into 401K like Scwartznegger wanted. The employer matches these funds, but for many years didn't have to because PERS had a high return on their investments. Gov Gray Davis and Arnold both tried to dip their sticky fingers into our retirement funds and had them slapped. It is not their money, it's our our invested money. It's like the carrot in front of the horse, or in this case, the peanut in front of a Republican Elephant.

    Another point in mind, many people in food services have had hours cut and are not full time, so they basically are working just to cover medical, go figure. Can you offer something better? If not don't critisize people who are working to support our children and education. If you don't like the situation, move out of Hayward, or out of California. We are trying to make this a better and more equal place for all. Why do they want to get rid of dedicated people who have many years of service who care and scab out our jobs?

    Politics- we have carpetbaggers who want to pad their pocket, receive kickbacks and move on to do the same elsewhere, with no guilt feelings when they laugh their way to the bank.


  6. Listen here, if you the guy had been more forthcoming I wouldn't have had to hunt around.
    If you read my post you would have seen the following

    “I cannot determine 100% from that site if the CalPERS credit over the past years is 2.5%
    I saw that on one job, but it is not listed on others and it is not mentioned in the SEIU 1021, SAFECO labor agreements I see online.”

    Also, I do indeed know the newly revised pension plan is NOW at 2.0%…
    However, 95% of all workers in HUSD, are not “new hires” and as such I cannot determine if their original and continueing contract agreements gave them 2.0% or 2.5%.
    You see, back about 10 years ago, nearly every single city and agency got their pension rates jacked up from 0.4% to 0.7% to 1.0% above their prior rates.
    In those cities and agencies those jacked up rates remain in effect for all but “new hires” of the last year or two,.

    If YOU are the original poster, you could easily have told me more details instead of saying I was suppose to do all the work.

    HUSD may be one of those places where the retirement plan never got jacked up in the past decade. The city of Alameda never jacked up the 2.0% rate for their non-safety employees.

    HOWEVER, they are the rare EXCEPTION to the pension gold rush that took place after 1999.

    So, tell me, has the HUSD pension plan always been at the 2.0% for all M & O and SAFECO employees or was their a bump up 6 to 11 years ago?

    My original theme on this issue is that nearly ALL agencies, cities, and counties raised pension rates in the past decade. ONLY now, are those plans being lowered, and ONLY for “new hires”. Workers who won't be retiring for decades.

    So for SAFECO and M & O, didn't any of your members ever get boosted to 2.5% ?… which is the lower end of the rate that most got when the boosts were made. Oakland got 2.7%, as did Berkeley, Pleasanton, and lots of others.
    Piedmont got 3.0% at 60…
    And of course ALL police and fire got boosts up to 3.0% at 55 …and some got 3.0% at 50.
    Additionally some got even more because there were ways to throw in more than base pay into the final year salary.
    I individual in a fire department who's pension is 121% of his highest ever base salary. Tricks and gimmiks allowed him to throw all sorts of saved sickleave and other stuff into the final year.
    All legal according to the crazy contract.

    OK…Let me know about HUSD. Did they or didn't they boost pensions in the early 2000's like everyone else did.

    OH yes, and one other point. All those cities that jacked up the pension rates, did so retroactively. Meaning a worker at 2.0% after 29 years and 11 months, need only have worked 1 month under the new deal, and he got 2.7% for all of his prior years (during which he had agreed to work for 2.0%. Those were huge gifts to those lucky workers. Got huge pension boosts for life compared those who retired only months before.
    Amounted to from $200,000 to $1,000,000 extra over a normal retirement.
    Even now, as pension reform is instituted, those working at the higher rates get them for the future, even if their working life is 30 more years. Working side by side with the “new hire” at 2.0%.
    How is that fair? A pension bubble for sure and not fully funded by CalPERS.

    BTW, why should any normal employee get to retire at age 55 when those in the general public must work to age 66 or 67 to get full Social Security?


  7. HUSD classified employees who are in the M & O unit CALPERS retirement plan receive 2% @55, not 2.5%. I don't know where you got you're information


  8. One additional point regarding the HUSD.
    It appears that their medical, dental, vision benefit sucks..

    Perhaps I have it wrong, but they require employees to have medical, but they make the employee pay for all of it.

    Seems unfair to require it but not pay at least a percentage of it. Perhaps I am reading that wrong.
    Almost all cities, counties and such pay for some or all of the medical costs.

    Perhaps that benefit was cut in some lean year contract negotiation.


  9. 2:37 PM…

    YOU could certainly be more useful in giving us the facts regarding your pension plan.

    From what I could see on the HUSD site and else where you get a CalPERS pension. Aside from new hires in the last year or so it seems that you get a credit of 2.5% for each year of service.
    Thus if you serve a career of 30 years from age 25 to ONLY age 55 you would get a 75% pension

    I did read something in one place about employees being eligible for both CalPERS and Social Security, but the site is hard to use and I can't see that for every employee

    So if some one worked from age 25 to age 55 they would get 75% if they have been their for some years thus far.

    Wages, a custodian finishes his career at $49,375 a year
    A carpenter finishes his career at $71,400
    A painter tops out at $74,600
    Yes, some lower level food service workers are in the $35,000 to $42,000 range. I see that.

    75% of the painter's salary would be a $56,000 pension at 2.5%
    I cannot determine 100% from that site if the CalPERS credit over the past years is 2.5%
    I saw that on one job, but it is not listed on others and it is not mentioned in the SEIU 1021, SAFECO labor agreements I see online.

    Why don't YOU reveal that simple fact.
    And give us the figure for all the workers who have been in HUSD for more than 2 years, as recent agreement are different for “new hires”.

    A 75% pension after a career is not bad.
    BTW, since that is for 30 years, you would also get Social Security for the other 10 years of a working career.

    Correct me if you think I am wrong. I did my best on that HUSD site to find the facts.
    You could have made it easier if you wanted folks to read the real facts.


  10. Oh, by the way, look at what management and administration gets and wonder why there is such
    a revolving door for these positions, especially administration.


  11. @ 7:57 Hayward Unified School district, SEIU 1021 M&O and SAFECO. I need not say more, do the research.


  12. Steven,
    I had one heck of a time finding you on the net today. Typing in eastbaycitizen does not bring up this site as it did just a few days ago. It took some real searching.


  13. 7:30 PM, Name the position. Name the city or county or agency (BART, AC Transit)
    Tell us how many years you are factoring in.
    Tell us the service credit you get for each year.
    Tell us the base salary for a long time employee in that position.

    We can do all the math and arrive at what your pension will be after 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, or even 40 years such as the average American ends up working in their lifetime.
    Age 23 or 24 until age 63 or 67.

    You do realize that most folks must now work until age 66 or 67 to get full Social Security benefits.

    So instead of repeating the tired phrase that
    “We, the grunts, don't collect these fat pensions”, give us the factors and we can calculate the precise pension a employee will be getting.

    Again, the city or county, and the position.
    I can look up the rest and do the required math.
    All the information is public.

    Or instead, just keep telling us you only get subsistance wages and a paltry pension after working a full career. But no one will believe you without the facts requested above.


  14. We, the grunts, don't collect these fat pensions, We are blue collar workers earning a subsistance income.


  15. See how much Charlie Plummer ( retired Sherif ) is collecting. Alamed Co. + Hayward Policce Dept., + others.


  16. 2:12 PM — How about you give us a city, and a typical position that doesn't make that much nor get a generous pension.

    Take Oakland. If you work from age 25 to only age 55 you've been entitled to a 81% pension.
    If you work from age 23 to age 60, you got a 100% pension, plus $425 medical per month for life.
    Those examples are NOT for police and fire, but are for every day employees. Police and fire get more than that per service year.

    The same pension plan is seen in many other local cities. Berkeley, San Ramon, and on and on.
    Piedmont has a even higher system.
    Work from age 27 to age 60 and you get a 100% pension.

    As to the pay for a rank and file employee it is equal and greater than that found in the private sector and comes with a huge treasure of benefits aside from the lucrative pension.
    Go look at the data.. and you often find a low level employee, paid very well, and getting from $24,000 to $27,000 in medical, dental, and vision alone. All tax free.

    I know of a secretary for Alameda County whose salary is listed as $62,000, but whose total compensation package comes to over $116,000 when all the benefits are thrown in.

    Perhaps you just never spend any time looking at the data base where all the actual facts are kept.
    It is available to the public.

    Sure, if you only spend half your working life at some public agency, then you'll only get half a pension. That is the kind of data you use to suggest that pensions aren't lucrative.
    Either that or you are simply uninformed about the reality of the pension plans, salaries and massive benefit packages.

    Example after example is available if you'll only look it up.
    Go to Hayward for example. A simple “utility” worker, on the lower end of the scale in that department. Aveage pay before benefits or overtime, $65,000 a year. Add up the entire salary and benefit package and you come to about $105,000 per year.
    Work from age 25 to age 60 and you get a pension of $56,800 plus medical. Plus any Soc. Security acquired from work before age 25.

    How about you give me some examples of low pay and palty pensions where the employee has worked a full career?


  17. By MW:

    Please excuse my earlier rants, which were over the top even for me.

    I fell of my meds. again. My wife keeps telling me to let these things go. I need to start following her sagely advice.


  18. By MW:

    It is certainly quite possible that the Chronicle had an agenda that went far beyond Susan Muranishi, and perhaps even far beyond Alameda County pay practices, in deciding to publish its article on Muranishi's pay and future pension.

    However: one, Muranishi is extremely overpaid; and two, Alameda County could very easily find someone to do her job much better than she does it, and in fact also for far less money.

    But if the point of this particular article is to insult the Chronicle, then let me add some ammunition, since the Chronicle has a long history of regularly getting things totally wrong.

    Let's go back all the way to the 1970's when the Chronicle was among the very strongest supporters of Jim Jones (and later of Joenstown infamy), and also refused to allow any of its reporters to have published articles that insulted Jim Jones.

    And then there was the Harvey Hereford incident. Hereford was a San Francisco lawyer who while extremely drunk ran into two people. One of his victims was extremely seriously injured, and the other victim to the best of my recollection was not merely seriously injured but if I remember correctly was actually killed.

    However the Chronicle deliberately lied and described Hereford as a Santa Rosa lawyer. While it is true that Hereford had a house in San Rosa, however his law office was in San Francisco, SO HE WAS A SAN FRANCISCO LAWYER, and he definitely was NOT a Santa Rosa lawyer.

    And when I phoned the Chronicle concerning that, the response I got from Chronicle employees was, “We don't want to talk about that.”

    And I could also give other examples in which the Chronicle not merely refused to report the facts, but even deliberately covered up the facts.

    I would suggest that the Chronicle change its name to the San Francisco Chronic Liars.


  19. All public employees are not lazy. The pension abuse has primarily been with police and fire. Rank and file employees do not make that much and do not have high pensions.


  20. Tavares is an idiot. Don't you people realize that? He's a lazy, mouthpiece for government workers. He dreams about the day when he too can sit on his portagee ass, drink coffee all day and collect a paycheck, then get the same amount of pay for “retiring”. He is a pathetic and insecure little man with no drive, no amibition and a lazy streak that shows no bounds. Only an idiot, like Tavares would say that the outrageous pay packages of government employees is an attack on all workers. Hey idiot, where do you think the money comes to pay for all these government workers whose ass you kiss?


  21. While you are spot on about the ownership of the Chronicle and Bay Area Newspaper Group trashing employees, you go a step too far in saying the following—

    “In fact, the meme is designed to demonize all government workers at every level, a majority of whom earn paltry pensions barely large enough to survive month-to-month.”

    Perhaps should spell out what you mean by “paltry pensions”.

    Most of us work for a minimum of 40 years or more.
    Age 23 to 63 at a minimum. Now a good portion of us will be working until age 68.

    But lets not take 40 or 45 years of work.
    Just take 30 or 35 years.

    What is the public pension for that work in most jursidictions.

    Oakland- A worker, say a person who paints the lines on curbs and streets. If they go to work at age 25 and retire at age 60, they got a 94.5% pension, plus a extra $425 per month for medical, for life. That “street painter” salary, before overtime, $68,000 x 94.5% is $64,000 per year plus $5,100 for medical, for a total of $69,000 per year in pension. That at age 60.

    A Alameda County employee from age 28 to age 62, will bring in about 90% of their top wage.

    I know a Bay Area fire department member, not the chief or ever in charge of anything more than one fire station.
    Retired at age 57 (which is OK), his pension for life $140,000, which is actually sigificantly higher than his highest years base pay.

    Paltry pensions, ONLY if you worked a very short “career”, in which case you also have Social Security for those other years worked elsewhere.

    Teachers get a 100% pension if they work from age 25 until age 65 like the rest of us do.
    Calif STRS data shows the following about teachers who have retired in the past two years.

    Age 61
    Years of service, 26.8 (college to retirement, about 12 years spent elsewhere, at other jobs or not employed, possible raising children)
    Average pension for that 26.8 year career.
    Pension if they worked from age 25 to age 65 would be 100% of their highest salary.
    Currently the average teacher salary is over $68,000 in California and the average teacher salary in the final two years of service is over $75,000. The 100% would be based on that higher figure. Remember if you worked elsewhere for those other 12 years, you get partial Soc. Sec. for those years, added in addition to your $51,000 STRS pension.

    The average pension for Alameda County employees retiring in 2009 with 30 or more years of service was $83,000. Now, to be fair that includes many higher paid management and only includes those who passed the 30 year mark. But what is a real career? Certainly not just 20 years between the ages of 25 and 65.

    Bottom line is that if you worked for almost any local Bay Area agency for a true career of 30 or more years out of your 40 year working life, you came out very well indeed.
    30 years of service got you a 75% or higher pension in almost all cities and counties.
    Alameda was one of the few cities in the Bay Area to hold their regular workers (non safety) to the traditional pension plan of 2% for each year of service. Thus in the lowest place, Alameda, the 30 year employee would get 60% of their highest years salary.
    In some cities and agencies, workers were also able to collect Social Security for their service years.

    Many others, with 30 years of service and 10 years elsewhere were able to get Social Security for those 10 years, added to their 30 year pension, with only a small reduction due to the dual pension.

    Deal with the true facts about public pensions instead of labeling them “paltry”
    In fact they were so generous it will be a financial problem for the next 20 to 40 years in the future.


  22. You're an apologist.

    Way, way too exorbitant for anyone in government. Hell, even the president doesn't make more than $400,000.

    I don't know about you, but I hail from the REAL world.


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