An Attack on Pensions in San Francisco
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s much-publicized proposal to have city employees pay more of the cost for their pensions and health care plans is a surprising, and irresponsible, move coming from this city. Against a backdrop of chronic budget deficits, Proposition B calls for city employees to contribute up to 10 percent of their wages into their pension funds and to pay 50 percent of their family’s health care coverage.
While Adachi claims to understand that public workers should not be penalized for the economic collapse and the recklessness of Wall Street, his proposal in fact does just that. Public sector pension funds are struggling not because unionized workers receive extravagant benefits, but because low investment returns have meant that the city’s general fund has been unable to cover the costs.
And where Adachi claims that San Francisco will save $170 million a year under Proposition B, the reality is that these “savings” will come from city employees at the lowest end of the salary range. An analysis conducted on behalf of the Public Employees Committee of the San Francisco Labor Council has shown that under Adachi’s proposal, the health care costs for public workers with dependents will significantly increase, and “could make covering dependents unaffordable for lower income employees.” Catherine Dodd, director of the city’s Health Service System, echoed the same sentiment in a memo that noted that payments would spike for employees. Furthermore, as Proposition B would lower the amount that the city contributes to health care, San Francisco would no longer be eligible for $23 million in federal funding over the next four years.
Most recently, San Francisco’s largest unions filed suit to stop the measure from appearing on the ballot in November, and the Board of Supervisors President and even Mayor Gavin Newsom have voiced their opposition to the proposal. They recognize that Adachi should have not circumvented the normal legislative process, and that the burden of the economic crisis should not be laid upon the backs of city employees.