|Bonecrusher Baratta with his cutman, Jill Cicero|
I had heard earlier in the day that battle lines were being drawn between Merciless Morganelli and Bonecrusher Baratta. These two guys are actually quite friendly. Baratta was Morganelli's First Assistant many moons ago. They both like to get to work early and can often be seen together early in the day, drinking coffee. But both are fearless advocates for their own departments, and tend to take no prisoners. So I loaded up on popcorn and waited for the show to begin.
In the DA's office, only 24 employees are left who don't belong to one or another of 11 different unions. Even the Detectives have their own union. Morganelli's 20 assistant DAs, two victim advocates and two secretaries are all that's left of nonunion employees in his department.
Earlier in the budget season, Executive John Brown met with Morganelli and asked him to limit his raises for these employees to just 2.5%. He was assured that all non-union employees would be getting the same raise. Wanting to be a team player, he agreed.
But that's not what happened. Nonunion judicial employees got a 4.5% raise instead of the 2.5% doled out to everyone else. Brown had apparently made the same request to Baratta, but the judge thought his nonunion workers deserve more.
When he spoke, Morganelli made clear that he thinks Judge Baratta's 4.5% request is "justifiable" and "understandable." But he was under the impression that "non-union employees were going to treated equally. ... I'm in favor of the 4.5% that the judge is asking, but I think it should be across the board." He warned Council that his assistant DAs could decide to unionize, as has happened in several other counties. He said there should be "consistency."
Morganelli's points were well made and he actually complimented Baratta for doing a better job of persuading Brown than he did.
Hayden Phillips has asked our new HR Director, Amy Trapp, to run the numbers on a 2.5% raise in Morganelli's office v. a 4.5% raise. He also wants a county-wide report on the difference.
"Why don't we just do 4.5% across the board?" asked Ken Kraft.
Brown stated that about 500 employees, 25% of the county workforce, are non-union. He warned that a 4.5% increase across the board would crate a "precedent" and "set an expectation." He said every percentage change in salary costs the County $1 million. So 4.5% across the board salary increase for non-union workers would cost $4.5 million, and in addition, would cost the County $2.5 million in benefits.
After Morganelli finished, he took off while President Judge Baratta had to sit and wait as Council went through several other departments. Recognizing that an independent branch of government should be given a little more deference, Lamont McClure asked Peg Ferraro to take the courts' budget ahead of when it was scheduled for review.
"I feel like the race started about an hour ago, and I'm just allowed to start running right now," he complained. Baratta explained that he made it clear to Brown that he wanted a 4.5% increase for his non-union staff, and Brown told him he could make his case to Council.
Baratta immediately went on the attack, claiming that Morgnelli just got a 4.5% wage increase for his secretaries in April. "Now they're also going to get 2.5, which will give them a seven per cent increase that the other non-union secretaries don't get. So I'm really not sure why it is that he takes offense to my coming here trying to protect my non-union employees." He went on to say that there is an "incredible salary compression" between nonunion and union employees. He said that Juvenile Center Supervisors, the equivalent of Lieutenants at the jail, have gone years without a raise. Unlike those Lieutenants, they must be college graduates and are start at about $38,000. A Lieutenant's starting salary is $48,000, according to Baratta. Union employees supervised by these Juvenile Center Supervisors make more money.
"It's not like we're being greedy or acting as though we're special," he said. "I think it's a little unfair of [Morganelli] to stand up here and try to take the high road and say we're being pigs about this."
I don't know what planet Judge Baratta was on when Morganelli was speaking, but it wasn't Earth. The DA only argued for consistency, and actually praised Baratta. For some reason, the PJ construed a request for parity as an objection.
He finished by saying he would be doing a disservice to his own staff if he failed to advocate on their behalf "for what I feel is a reasonable increase."
Judge Baratta has approximately 78 non-union employees. A 4.5% salary increase to non-union workers will cost the county $68,000.
Actually, the real problem here is not Morganelli or Baratta. It's a Human Relations Department that has failed to implement new pay scales on the basis of periodic salary studies In addition, it is an inexperienced administration that has been too willing to let union contracts be decided at arbitration instead of negotiating.. That's what causes the salary compression mentioned by Judge Baratta.
Still it was great fun to watch these guys go at it. I'd declare Merciless Morganelli the winner by decision. He kept his cool while Bonecrusher Baratta lost his. But if I see Baratta, I'll tell him he won and that Morganelli was very unfair. .