Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – In what one Humboldt County supervisor described as a “super uncomfortable” action, county supervisors have approved pay raises for themselves.
The base salary for the position of Humboldt County Supervisor got a boost at the Jan. 8 Board of Supervisors meeting.
According to the Transparent California website, county supervisors now earn between $84,000 and $88,000 a year. That will be increased by four percent over the next two years.
The raise is also based on re-defining supervisors’ workweek from 37.5 hours a week to 40 hours and is tied to the salary increases that county employees get in their union agreements.
But newly-seated Fifth District Supervisor Steven Madrone requested that the salary increase be pulled from the meeting’s consent agenda.
Saying that he’s not against the increase, Madrone aligned himself with the county’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers and their lobbying for wage increases.
He said he won’t vote for a supes raise until IHSS caregivers get one. “They’re working at minimum wage doing some of the hardest work that you can imagine in this community,” he continued. “Working at minimum wage for this kind of work does not work for me.”
There was a peal of applause from the IHSS workers at the meeting when Madrone finished speaking.
Regardless of what supervisors do, the IHSS caregivers will be paid more along with other minimum wage workers. California’s minimum wage increased from $11 an hour to $12 an hour on Jan. 1 and state law sets yearly increases to 2022, when minimum wage will reach $15.
Only three people commented during a public comment period, including an IHSS worker who said she doesn’t want to deny supervisors salary hikes but urged them to do the same for IHSS care providers.
Noting that IHSS wage negotiations have been ongoing for two years, she said, “We are still asking that you be fair” and added that there are over 1,200 IHSS workers and “they do all vote.”
Stronger comments along those lines were delivered by self-described “public meeting enthusiast” and regular commenter Kent Sawatzky.
“This is a political decision that will end political careers,” he said, adding, “The consequence of this is that I can come here every single meeting and make someone’s living hell if they want to go ahead and do this totally unbelievable thing.”
But Supervisor Estelle Fennell described the decision as “a question of fairness and equity.” She said that all other county employees are getting raises and many department heads and managers earn more than supervisors do.
On the IHSS pay, she told Madrone that “when I first came on board, I had very similar sentiments to you and in fact, we got a raise for the (IHSS) because we changed the makeup.”
Responding to Sawatzky, Fennell said, “I don’t take kindly to bullying and threats, it just doesn’t work for me – bring it on, as far as I’m concerned.”
Supervisor Rex Bohn said he won’t be taking the raise, although he believes it’s justified.
Supervisor Mike Wilson acknowledged the uneasy situation of voting on one’s own salary.
“This is one of odd parts about this job – it’s super uncomfortable and weird,” he said. “Imagine yourself having to publicly talk about your wage in this context.”
He also commented on the demands of the position, which include being accessible whenever seen in public, working on weekends and the necessity of campaigning to get and keep the job.
“I’m not asking for sympathy, it’s just a very all-encompassing job – and it is a job,” he continued.
According to a written staff report, the total two-year compensation increase for the Board of Supervisors will amount to a $58,000 General Fund cost.
Supervisors approved the raise, with Madrone voting no. Supervisor Virginia Bass was absent.