Dear fellow San Diegans,

I’m a senior management analyst, a 19-year employee with the city of San Diego, and a union member of the Municipal Employees Association. I cringe even as I type this because of all the negativity that has been plastered in the press about me and people like me over the last several years. Please, may I have a few minutes of your time to voice the truth?

Here’s the truth about my pension plan. Wage earners across America typically pay 6.2 percent of their earnings straight out of their paycheck into Social Security and their employer pays a matching 6.2 percent. But being part of the city’s pension plan, I can’t pay into Social Security but instead must pay 12 percent out of my earnings towards the city plan. In addition, most civilian wage earners and their employers each pay 1.45 percent of earnings into Medicare, but as city employees some of us can’t do that either. Instead, we were guaranteed a healthcare plan when we retired. Now we no longer have that long-promised retiree healthcare benefit.

Does “Enron” ring a bell?

Now for the truth about wages. Analysts, as a classification, have not had an across-the-board pay increase since 2002, 11 years ago. The only change to our salaries was a supposedly “temporary” 6-percent pay reduction implemented in 2009, which is still in effect today. If you don’t believe me, I would be happy to show any reporter my tax forms.

Currently, the city of San Diego and the MEA are in contract negotiations and the city’s negotiating team offered my union two stark options:

1) maintain my current salary indefinitely, or

2) reverse the 6-percent pay reduction over a period of five years with the stipulation that the city won’t have to use that 6 percent to calculate my pension checks when I retire, which is unlike the typical American’s Social Security check, which is based on their highest years income.

So, either stay at my current salary. Or, wait for it: In 2018 I could be back to my 2002 salary but my pension check will be shorted.

I, along with many other long-term employees, feel stuck, unappreciated, overworked, ridiculed and marginalized in the press. We don’t make the huge salaries and pensions that newspaper headlines inaccurately report and we are struggling with increasing costs along with you. Please! We are your neighbors, we pay taxes, buy gas and groceries, support our families, send our children to school with yours and pay mortgages — just like you.

I just thought you might like to hear the truth from someone other than a politician or the press.

Thank you for listening.

Megan F. Sheffield is a city of San Diego employee.

Want to spark discussion? Start a conversation by submitting a commentary at Fix San Diego.

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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