Florida Public Employees
December 19, 2013
By: LADRA – Political Cortadito
Three months ago, when the Miami-Dade Commission restored a 5% concession to the county airport and sanitation employees, Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa repeatedly said that she could not give to one group and not the others when their time came.
She even used the analogy of her children, saying she couldn’t give one milk and deny it to another.
Well, apparently, she can.
Despite voting in favor of returning the 5% additional healthcare contribution — part of 16% in concessions that employee unions agreed to in 2009, by the way — Sosa became the swing vote Tuesday in upholding Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez‘s veto on that Dec. 5 decision. Because a veto override needs a super majority of nine votes, an 8-3 decision was overturned by five of 13 votes.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez during the campaign.
Some local labor leaders are as incredulous as Ladra and the PBA has filed a lawsuit on the matter, saying that while Gimenez can veto a commission vote, he cannot as strong mayor veto the vote of the commission acting as a quasi-judicial body in an impasse hearing. Who ever heard of one party in a dispute having the power to tell a judge or mediator to blow it out his ear because he doesn’t like the decision that was reached? That’s what we got here, basically.
And the commission should have rejected the veto based on that alone, leave out the pesky little checks and balances thing, which is why everyone on that board — including the majority that voted in favor of restoring the workers’ pay, twice, by the way — are elected to represent the people.
It was a bit of a surprise to many people who expected another veto override, just like the one Gimenez got in September when he vetoed the pay restoration — which was always intended and is in the contract to go back to them on Jan. 1, 2014, by the way — to the other workers. Even the mayor’s office was not sure how it would go. One staffer indicated to Ladra Monday that they expected an override when he said Gimenez vetoed knowing “on principle.” But spokesman Fernando Figuero said he thought the mayor felt good going into the meeting.
“I’m not so sure the Mayor was so surprised since he made a very compelling argument in his veto message to the commission and he felt we would have the five votes needed,” Figueroa wrote me in response to emailed questions.
“The Mayor did say in general to the media that he was grateful to the five commissioners who voted to sustain his veto because now the administration can continue focusing on closing the current fiscal year budget gap without having to worry about the bigger gap that returning the 5% would have caused,” Figueroa added.
Some county workers and labor union leaders did not expect Commissioner Juan Zapata, who missed the original Dec. 5 meeting and maybe shouldn’t have been voting, union leaders say, unless he reviewed all 13 hours on video later (he can always say he saw it on the video afterwards). Some did not expect Sosa to switch but others suggested she has not been consistent on labor issues.
Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa
“Nobody is perfect and I make mistakes like everybody else,” Sosa told Ladra late Tuesday afternoon. “But I make my decisions on good faith and based on the benefit for all.”
She said she made three conditions exceedingly clear when she voted for the restoration on Dec. 5: (1) no dipping into reserves (2) no impact on services and (3) no line of credit to destabilize the county’s bond rating. She said she had to change her mind when she was told people would be laid off and parks might go without regular cleaning.
“I know it’s a sacrifice but everybody is sacrificing,” Sosa told me. “We did say they were going to get it back when the economy improves and I am hoping that they will have it in this coming year’s budget. We want this restored in the budget we get in July.
Zapata and Sosa were joined by Vice Chair Lynda Bell and Commissioners Steve “El Bobo” Bovo and Sally Heyman in voting against the veto override.
The only one who changed her vote, however, was Sosa.
She had originally voted two weeks ago to restore the five percent that most county employees have been contributing toward group group healthcare — this is in addition to their own healthcare premiums, by the way — but said Tuesday that she couldn’t move forward with that plan if it would cost dozens of jobs and cuts in services and public works, as Gimenez warned in what has become his go-to scare tactic: the increasingly common doom and gloom scenario.
“She believed the house of horrors laid out by the mayor,” said Terry Murphy, a former aide to former Commissioner Natacha Seijas who now works as a consultant for labor unions.
More than 100 employees would have to be laid off, Gimenez threatened. Yeah, I know, that wasn’t it. These people were willing to fire firefighters and librarians months ago. It was the sidewalks that wouldn’t get poured and the grass that wouldn’t get cut, oh my! These would be the harsh consequences if his veto was overturned in order to make up the $56 million hole that the pay restoration would cause, the mayor said.
But think about that in reverse for a minute? Because it is a $56 million hole regardless. Right now, as it stands, it is a $56 million hole in the homes of some 25,000 employees — your neighbors, your friends, the parents of the kids your kid goes to school with, the guy who lets you merge in front of him on 836, the woman who sits next to your mother on the bus. And it is $56 million taken out of their pockets and basically lost in a $4.4 billion operating budget that includes paying millions to consultant “friends” for projects that never see the light of day.
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