I think it should be first of all noted that Councilmember Licata’s points [regarding widespread dissatisfaction at City Light] are very welcome, and I’m glad that the public has some access to the results of this survey. And I think at the very least, that information raises some valid questions about this so-called great performance by the CEO, which is being used to justify this exorbitant pay increase.
Please note that on the Monday, when Council voted unanimously on the historic $15/hour minimum wage ordinance, the Council also pledged to reduce income inequality. And just two days later, a committee on the Council voted on increasing the salary of the highest-paid City-employed executive by up to $120,000. Mr. Carrasco already makes $245,000. After this vote, he could make up to $175/hour.
Mr. Carrasco has also received lavish bonuses four times during his tenure at City Light, on top of his annual salary. His bonus in 2009 was worth $40,510.29, more than the average worker of Seattle makes per year, and more than I take home from the six-figure salary the Council pays me as a workers representative.
I want to make it very clear that my no vote on this subject does not imply any justification of right-wing arguments against the public sector, or against unions. My vote does not imply that I am in favor of privatization. My vote certainly does not imply that I think CEO pay being even higher in the private sector is somehow okay. In fact, I am arguing against this culture of paying outrageous salaries and bonuses to executives, which comes from Wall Street. These are the very same executives who sunk the global economy into a financial collapse and the worst recession since the Great Depression. Elected officials need to represent working people and should be fighting against this Wall Street-style executive excess, not condoning or promoting it.
It should be noted that around 800 City-employed public-sector workers, meanwhile, are still waiting for the $15/hour promised to them by the Mayor in his executive order in January.
Here is a statement emailed to my office by a worker at City Light: “I ask that you re-evaluate the decision to give Jorge an increase, as a city employee we are being offered a 1.8% COLA, and, for that, we had to struggle … They keep cutting our staff. In 2008, we had 90 projects, in 2014 we had 954 projects. We are handling that with the same staff load. Office supplies budget was cut as well.”
I also want to note, just for the record, that just because this was agreed on by both McGinn and Murray, that does not make it consistent with the opinion of the majority of workers in this city.
The question of a pay hike for Mr. Carrasco came to the Council Committee following approval from the Mayor’s office. During the committee discussion, the Mayor’s Personnel Director, Susan Coskey, said that Mr. Carrasco is currently “underpaid.” This is a strange term to be used for someone who is making nearly $250,000 per year as a member of the 1%.
But ultimately, this question today is not about a CEO, but about the City Council. As elected public officials, whom do Councilmembers represent? Do they represent the vast majority of working families, who are facing ever increasing rates and ever increasing costs, and are struggling to survive, or does the Council represent the 1%?