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Tait’s Usually a Lone Vote “No” Against Anaheim’s Public Employee Unions

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait (Photo: Chris Prevatt)
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

Last fall, we documented how Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait lent his name to a ballot measure aimed at reforming pensions for public employees. The measure, begun by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, would essentially allow public employers to unilaterally cut the retirement benefits of school teachers, police officers, firefighters, even school bus drivers and custodians. It’s believed this measure could retroactively cut pension deals already negotiated with unions.

Tait referenced his pension fight in his recent State of the City address:

While we’re talking about tough issues, this might be the time to bring up pension reform. My wife loves it when I bring up pension reform at cocktail parties. But seriously, here’s the kind of statistic that keeps me up at night: our city’s cost to fund pensions has almost tripled in the past ten years—rising from $20 million to $58 million per year. That’s every year. That’s real money and means that as the cost to run government increases, the services we can provide decreases. It is as simple as that.

I continue to advocate for meaningful pension reform for our city. Real reform would protect our ability to provide important services, such as fire and police services. Just as important, real reform would protect people’s pensions. Without it, we will not be able to avoid the impact our pension obligation will ultimately have on the city’s long-term financial health and to our ability to honor existing contracts”

The Anaheim City Council, for the most part, votes unanimously on contracts with the city’s various labor unions. But since Tait became Mayor in 2010, he’s voted no on five of 10 Labor MOUs or LOUs affecting the city’s municipal employee union, firefighters and police. The Mayor is often the lone vote “no.”

On March 22, 2011, Tait voted no on a LOU with Anaheim Municipal Employees General/Clerical/PT which temporarily reduced their hourly pay by 5 percent in addition to a 5 percent reduction in salaries for all unrepresented employees as well. This was a deal cut by the union with the city to save jobs. Tait didn’t think it went far enough. Lorri Galloway, the only Democrat on the council then and current candidate for Mayor, voted yes.  For Labor, what’s particularly galling about the Mayor’s opposition to this LOU is that this agreement is considered to be  the single greatest compromise between the city and the union to cut the city’s financial shortfall in half.  But from published reports, the Mayor takes full credit for balancing the city’s budget.  The credit here goes to the the city staff, the city council and the union who worked together  to balance the budget.  This was a significant sacrifice by the city’s employees – including the non represented staff from the City Manager on down that matched the AMEA agreement – to help balance the budget. But it serves as another example of Tait’s  “my way or the highway’” approach to leadership and he alone  opposed this concession by the employees.

On June 5, 2012, Tait was a no vote on an agreement with the same union that extended an AMEA LOU and provided two lump sum payments with no layoffs and no outsourcing provisions. Lorri Galloway voted yes.

In September 2012, Tait was again the sole “no” vote on the first MOU for the Anaheim Police Management Association, which froze wages for 3-1/2 years with full compliance for PEPPRA. Lorri Galloway voted yes.

In November 2012, Tait voted no on a 3-year MOU (and a one year option) with the Anaheim Firefighter’s Association Local 2988 for compliance with PEPRA, changes to staffing language, no wage increases, a second tier pension plan for lateral transfers and funds for additional training. Lorri Galloway voted yes.

In April, Tait was again the lone “no” vote on an MOU with the Anaheim Police Association which would provide compliance with PEPRA, no net wage increases (a 12 percent wage increase over the 2-1/2 year term of the MOU, with an option of two six-month extensions, offset by a 12 percent employee contribution towards PERS. Lucille Kring, Tait’s Republican opponent for Mayor, and Jordan Brandman, the only Democrat on the Council, voted yes.

Tait did vote with the rest of the council to approve five other MOUs/LOUs with Anaheim’s Service Employees International Union, Teamsters Local 952 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. During his time as mayor, the Anaheim City Council has had a 4-1 majority in favor of Republicans, but even conservatives like Gail Eastman, Kris Murray and Harry Sidhu, in addition to Kring, consistently voted on agreements negotiated with unions with Tait‘is “even stevens” at best.

In Tait’s view, police and firefighters don’t pay enough into their pensions, but the employee at city hall with the sweetest pension deal is believed to be his executive assistant who pays a small percentage compared to other city employees.  You have to wonder why that’s OK for this staffer but not others who work for the city?

And while pension reform is certainly a topic for discussion, Tait’s “my way of the highway” approach clearly place him at odds with Anaheim’s city employees and public safety workers. Something for the unions to remember when it comes time to endorse one of the three candidates for Mayor.