This morning, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Board of Directors voted to give MTS CEO Paul Jablonski $36,000 in bonuses, which results in an annual net compensation increase of $13,344 when healthcare insurance costs are factored in. This number is astonishing in and of itself, as the median individual income in several cities in San Diego County is less than $36,000.
In other words, the MTS Board just agreed to increase the CEO’s salary by an amount greater than many San Diegans earn in a year. To make matters worse, Jablonski’s existing compensation package is already well over $500,000.
The MTS Board meeting began with the public portion, with the typical attendance recording and agenda confirmation that accompanies these sorts of events. The next portion was for public comment, which allows members of the public to offer their concerns or questions to the Board of Directors. Most of these comments were regarding personal problems related to public transit in San Diego, but one particular comment stood out. A representative from the local IBEW union spoke about the union’s desire to negotiate pay increases for the mechanics working on the new million-dollar electric buses being used by MTS.
There’s certainly nothing unusual about unions pursuing higher compensation for employees, but there was one more thing the representative shared with the MTS Board. While sporting his “Proud Union Member” hat and “Feel the Bern” button, the union rep voiced his support for increasing Jablonski’s pay. It’s a pervasive misconception that unions are benign organizations simply fighting for the well-being of workers who would otherwise be viciously exploited by employers. The notion that Jablonski is owed an additional $50,000 to his already half-million salary—all on the taxpayer dime—is a tough sell, to say the least.
When the IBEW rep announced his support for Jablonski’s raise, nearly the entire Board laughed and smiled along in approval. MTS Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who sat next to Jablonski for the duration of the meeting, was especially cheery at the proposal. This is deeply ironic given Fletcher’s ostensible support for working San Diegans struggling to get by, who will now have even more of their tax dollars going into Jablonski’s wallet.
It’s no secret that Fletcher’s political career has been a complete 180, going from a fiscal hawk to a staunch labor union supporter. His wife, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, was a notorious labor union lobbyist who has devoted her legislative career to furthering union interests.
The “power couple” has a prolific habit of putting union and bureaucratic interests—which are functionally the same thing—over the interests of working San Diegans. Bureaucrats agreeing to give each other raises has seemingly become the norm in San Diego politics, with taxpayers being left with the short end of the stick each and every time.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Jablonski’s total compensation is increasing by $50,000. While the reported bonus of $36,000 is correct, increased healthcare insurance costs reduce the value to a net increase of $13,344.