This really angers me. I have personally spoken with City Controller Michael Lamb, City Councilperson Bill Peduto and City Council President Doug Shields among others, ALL of whom have promised me that City County merger would not mean that City employees (or potential employees) lost benefits.
The problem? Well, the City of Pittsburgh, including most unions, offer domestic partner benefits to unmarried, partnered employees. I'm going to have dig up the data but the number of heterosexual employees who utilize this benefit is vastly higher than the number of LGBT employees. Like a 10:1 ratio. The County of Allegheny does NOT offer these benefits to their employees. The last time someone went on the record was at the Big Gay Endorsement mtg sponsored by the Allegheny County Democrat Committee in 2006 at which time a representative of Chief Executive Onorato said it was too expensive.
Ahem. In the magical world of make believe, consider if every unmarried employee left the County and they were replaced by good Catholic people with families and children. The County would HAVE to pony up the cash to cover those benefits, so this is a very hollow argument. Not to mention the hard data that shows what a small impact this benefit has on most companies.
Then there is the oft cited Richard Florida perspective that going gay-friendly attracts the best and the brightest. The HRC data agrees.
In growing numbers, both public and private employers across the country recognize partner benefits as an inexpensive option to attract and retain the best employees and to promote fairness and equality in the workplace.
So it doesn't really cost more and could help strengthen the workforce (and the region). The economic arguments all say that the County is behind the curve in meeting the best interests of their employees and the residents of Allegheny County.
Finally, there are the unions. I was told by LGBT leaders (and labor lawyers) that it “very complicated” because the a union member has to ask for the benefit so the union can bring it up at the bargaining table and blah, blah, blah. Are you kidding me? The process is the problem? What complete and utter bullshit. You can't tell me with a straight face (so to speak) that Dan Onorato, would be Governor, can't have a conversation with the appropriate union folks to make this happen. I refuse to believe it and if it is true, the man isn't fit to be a leader. We are talking about GIVING people more benefits. Since when is it inappropriate for government to extend benefits to people, especially their employees? If Dan Onorato suddenly decided to GIVE County employees an additional holiday, would there need to be an AFL-CIO convention to make it happen? No one convened a special union meeting when President Obama extended domestic partner benefits (except health insurance) to federal employees. Governor Ed Rendell pulled it off (with health insurance) for state employees. Or maybe they did have the meetings, but the point is they led. They didn't point fingers or cry about how mean the SEIU is.
And it is fine if the LGBT folks want to get angry with me for airing the dirty laundry. You should all be ashamed that you remained silent when the 911 merger took place. You should have and continue to be screaming from the rooftops. This is the year 2009 in case anyone forgot. I think it has been TWO DECADES since the City made this happen. The resounding silence from the LGBT community speaks volumes. Shame on us.
What's that? Oh, back when the City and County decided to merge their 911 centers into one consolidated County run program, all the City employees lost their domestic partner benefits. They also lost their civil job protections, but Amanda Green righted that travesty this summer. I don't know how many people that impacted, but City leaders who oversaw that merger should hang their heads in regret that they allowed ANYONE to lose benefits, including potential employees. You let your employees down and that's just sad.
So what's the big deal? Well, the folks most likely to be merged into the County system are probably the lower paid clerical/menial labor staffers, right? It isn't like City Councilperson to be Daniel Lavelle and County Councilperson Matt Drozd are sharing a desk. It is the people who can least afford to lose benefits that are most likely to do so. It shouldn't happen period, but it certainly shouldn't happen to the lowest paid employees.
But here we go again, according to the Post-Gazette. They City and County are coordinating tax collections. Hey, that seems like a smart, cost-saving move. No word on whether any jobs are being shifted around. I'm betting the folks on this end of the process aren't exactly raking in the big bucks. Is some clerk somewhere losing his or her job? Is a vacant position lost forever in the consolidation? Will anyone make this information public?
I'm not anti-merger. The jury is still out on how that would look in the big picture and I'm okay with sharing services in principle. I'm not, however, okay with unmarried people being penalized to work for Dan Onorato. It is a discriminatory step and someone needs to address it.
So, either we have leaders that can put this pesky problem to rest by extending DP benefits to County employees or we have politicians who play the blame game and allow people to lose a hard-won benefit because they can't work out a simple HR issue.
Any gay person who supports Dan Onorato for Governor while he remains a good, Catholic boy on this issue is a fool, a self-loathing bigot and an embarrassment to your community. And our so-called allies like State Senator Daylin Leach aren't doing us any favors by promoting useless marriage equality legislation while endorsing the dp-benefit deficit that is the Onorato campaign.
And I, apparently, am a fool for trusting that someone who comes to Pridefest will honor their word. I'm sure they are going to claim this particular merger didn't impact jobs, but that isn't the point. You are going to back end us into a merger and then tell us it is too late to address the HR issue. Every service merger is a lost opportunity to have this conversation.
I won't make that mistake again.
Major “fail” on the part of the City Controller, City Council and County Council for lack of action and leadership when it comes to this issue.