Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Workin’ 9-5 (Plus a few hours of overtime)

I remember my first “real job” quite well.  Unlike my my actual first jobs (painting hog pens—swine flu!—and stacking cypress in a kiln to dry), this job was air-conditioned.  I was hired as a part-time produce worker in a local grocery store.  If I must say so myself, my rise was meteoric.  After a week, I became a bag boy, graduating to a cashier in two weeks and an Assistant Manager within two months.  I thought I was big time.  Little did I know my rise was attributable to a few simple factors—a) I showed up on time every day, b) my boss never had to bail me out of jail, and c) the labor market was somewhat tight in a small rural town.  I digress; however, from the topic at hand…

The grocery store was where I first learned the benefits of overtime—the financial benefits.  Time and a half was rather appealing for a 20-year old.  It was also something just about everyone in the store, from the cashier’s down to the stockboy’s, were quite familiar with.  The shelves never seemed to be able to be stocked within the required amount of time.  45 minutes after a cashier’s shift ended, she could often be found still working the register.  No one seemed to be able to squeeze their required work into their regularly scheduled 40 hours.  

My early days as a bank teller fourteen years ago were no different.  There were a few of us who were always ready to pick up an extra hour or so each day.  By the time Friday rolled around, we’d clue our Manager in that we either had to cut out by noon or we’d be on overtime.  Of course, no one could afford an unstaffed branch on Friday afternoon, so we’d all wind up with a few hours of overtime for the week.

Times changed in the private industry—at least the industry in which I have been a part—during the late 90’s.  Overtime was no longer the accepted norm—it became something that was strictly managed and eventually eliminated.  Despite the frequent claims to “run government as a business”; however, overtime seems to be the norm for Jacksonville’s City Government.  In David Hunt’s recent Florida Times-Union article, he details how the City of Jacksonville spent tens of millions on overtime—all in a year in which the City was gripped by a budget crisis.  He discusses how some employees more than doubled their salary, and ultimately, how one out of every six city hourly workers on the city’s payroll was paid more than $10,000 in overtime.  

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not making any assumption in regards to whether or not everyone truly deserved what they were paid.  I’m not accusing anyone of manipulating the system.  What I am saying is that the City of Jacksonville needs to get serious about addressing the issue of overtime—something that ate up over $32 million dollars in 2008.  The duties and responsibilities of positions needs to be carefully evaluated.  If positions need to be added, so be it.  Let’s determine the needs and properly budget for them.  But, this reliance on tens of millions in overtime wages is not healthy for any organization, particularly the government of one of the largest cities in the country.  

Read David Hunt’s article here.


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