A little birdie told me the mayor’s chief financial officer, Jay Goldstone, attended a meeting Thursday morning at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and ended up getting “ripped a new one” by Jerry Butkiewicz, the president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
That didn’t sound pleasant.
So I asked Butkiewicz what happened.
He said my little birdie was correct. Not necessarily that Goldstone now has a “new one” but Butkiewicz said he did unleash on mayor’s top finance guy.
“I have to be honest with you, I was pretty upset,” Butkiewicz said.
The union chief said he was upset with the way the mayor and Goldstone were presenting their demands to the city’s unions. Goldstone had apparently made a presentation to what he thought was going to be a mostly friendly audience at the chamber. According to Butkiewicz memory of the presentation, Goldstone said something like this:
“If the city’s unions don’t get back to the table to renegotiate or give back concessions as it relates to retiree health benefits, then we’re just going to deplete their membership through layoffs.”
I will, of course, have to check with Goldstone about what he remembers telling the chamber.
But it set Butkiewicz off.
“I’m not use to sitting there and being threatened,” Butkiewicz said.
He said that when companies are in trouble and need to secure concessions from their labor unions, they do it in a much more private fashion without public threats and without “hanging posters around the shop saying we demand the union get back into negotiations to talk about reducing wages, benefits and pensions.”
Butkiewicz then relayed a story about Dick Vortmann, the former head of the National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. Butkiewicz said that when NASSCO faced financial hardship and needed to desperately secure concessions from its unionized workers, Vortmann worked it civilly with the unions.
“The last thing Dick Vortmann would have done is hang posters around and threaten his workers publicly before even talking,” Butkiewicz said.
Obviously, Butkiewicz, the local chief of the so-called “union of unions,” is most worried about one specific group of workers – those represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Local 127. It is the smaller of the two city general employees union, but unlike the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, AFSCME is part of the umbrella of unions that Butkiewicz holds up.
AFSCME does the blue-collar city work – trash pick up, landscaping etc. The MEA performs the clerk and low-level supervisory duties.
Butkiewicz said that the mayor is threatening to cut AFSCME workers and that isn’t going to solve the city’s problems.
“The jobs of people who cut the grass in the park are going vacant and the services to neighborhoods are not being completed, but at the same time, the mayor is bringing in more suits and ties to be these low-level supervisors. I thought we were going to be a leaner and meaner city and everyone was going to have blue jeans and work, but they’re just planning to cut the guy who mows the lawn where your kid is going to play soccer,” Butkiewicz said.
I’ll call the mayor’s guys and get their take.