Upset that the mayor's proposed budget eliminates too many low-level city jobs—and not enough manager positions—a massive coalition of city employees is planning a rally tomorrow at City Hall to grab the Seattle City Council's attention before a budget hearing.

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The city is facing a $67 million shortfall next year. The mayor submitted his budget last month to the council, which must modify and approve it by Thanksgiving.

"The mayor's proposed budget fails to save money by reducing contractors/consultants and reducing levels of management positions," says an orange flier distributed at City Hall by IFPTE Local 17, an engineers union that represents the largest share of union city employees. Calling to cut the high level-positions instead, the protest is being promoted in conjunction with the Coalition of City Unions, which represents 4,600 city employees. "As a result," the flier continues, "he is cutting direct services in parks, crime prevention, neighborhood service centers, and many other critical services to the community."

The largest share of proposed layoffs and cuts to positions—346 positions overall, 198 of which are currently filled—are taken from the lower pay brackets. A briefing paper prepared for the City Council last week lays out the problem graphically:


While staff making less than $50,000 a year are only 16.7 percent of the city workforce, they're slated to make up more than one-third of the proposed layoffs. But the inverse is true for employees who make between $75,000 and $100,000—they make up 36 percent of employees but only about 18 percent of the proposed layoffs.

"If you look at the past five years, you will see a very substantial growth in the upper level management positions we are identifying and not the growth of the front-line staff," says Adrienne Thompson, a co-chair of the Coalition. At stake are losses of service-desk staff, engineers, and others—including crime prevention coordinators. "In our opinion, it actually harms some of the community policing goals that Nickels and McGinn were trying to encourage."

For the council, this complaint from unions is a familiar drumbeat: cut the consultants and managers, not the front-line workers providing city services. And the unions are asking all their members to speak at a council budget briefing that begins tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.; the rally begins outside City Hall at 3:00 p.m.

But cutting from the top of the work pool is equally hairy. McGinn attempted cutting these managers, advisors, and consultants by executive order on his first day in office. The result was an intense backlash from those city employees called Working Seattle, arguing that it was a "direct assault on the concepts of civil service and the fundamentals of good governance." Since then many more city employees have unionized or taken steps toward unionizing.

Tomorrow's protest puts the council between a rock and a hard place, on one side trying to appease and retain front-line workers and on the other side employees in higher echelons, who have demonstrated they'll fight doggedly to stave off pink slips.

"They are scared," Thompson says of the group of high-wage earners. "It's not that they don't do good work, it's that it's a lot of overhead that doesn't provide direct services. We're not trying to pit anyone against each other."