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Unique Salary Cap Inititiative Approved in Santa Clara

 

Voters Pass Measure M Limiting Pay to Hospital Executives

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

This one caught our eye.

Of the different ballot measures taking place in California, Santa Clara County’s Measure M was the more interesting, intriguing, and groundbreaking development decided by voters Tuesday.

Highly paid public officials and union employees everywhere may want to take note.

Voters in Santa Clara County approved a ballot initiative — Measure M — that will cap the salaries and compensation packages of executives at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, the San Jose News reported today.

After votes were counted in all of the county’s 108 precincts, about 51.9% of voters supported Measure M, while 48.1% rejected it.  It’s not quite a done deal yet as absentee ballots remain to be counted, but it’s heading in that direction with the votes already cast.

The measure stems from a labor dispute between the hospital and Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West (SEIU-UHW ), which represents some of the lowest-paid workers at El Camino’s two publicly owned hospital campuses.

The dispute was triggered earlier this year when the hospital imposed a contract requiring workers to pay more for their health care benefits.  SEIU-UHW collected signatures to put Measure M on the ballot.

Under Measure M, annual salaries for El Camino executives will be capped at twice the California governor’s salary, which is $173,987 annually. Currently, El Camino CEO Tomi Ryba earns $695,000 annually– and is eligible for a bonus of up to 30% for meeting specific professional goals.  That’s a million dollar executive if he does his job well.

Chris Ernst — a spokesperson for the hospital — said that compensation of at least nine other hospital executives also will be reduced under the measure.

Suprisingly enough, Kary Lynch — a psychiatric technician and union official for the SEIU-UHW — said that Measure M originally was intended only to influence the outcome of labor contract talks with El Camino.

Lynch said, “Truthfully, the measure was initially proposed as a bargaining chip in the negotiating process,” adding, “We picked salaries because it was something that resonated with the voters.” 

The end result on Tuesday was better than labor organizers and hospital employees had hoped for, as a majority of Santa Clara County voters sided with their position.

Hospital officials had contended that capping executives’ salaries would hinder the hospital’s ability to attract and retain talented leaders.

Ernst said that the board of directors for both the hospital and hospital district likely will consider whether to challenge the measure in court.  He said that hospital officials “questioned the legal premise from the very beginning.

* * * * * * *

It sounds as if voters were tired of high public salaries for the fortunate few at the top of the ladder while looking out for the lowly plebes scraping by at the bottom.  The bumping of the highly-paid status quo by ballot initiative will be decided, ultimately, in a court of law. 

Measure M could have wide ranging ramifications should the unique salary-capping victory spread to other counties, municipalities, and union organizers through their own ballot initiatives.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

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