Seven lifeguards in Los Angeles made more than $300,000 a year including benefits, and 82 made more than $200,000, government watchdog group OpenTheBooks found.
The top-paid lifeguard made $392,000 in compensation in 2020, and 31 lifeguards made between $50,000 and $131,000 in just overtime.
Lifeguards can retire at age 55 and get 79% of their pay for life.
OpenTheBooks founder Adam Andrzejewski attributed the largesse to the strength of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association union.
“How is it possible that your hard-earned tax dollars are spent like this? Answer: Public-sector unions — in this case, the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association (LACOLA). Consider it the teachers union for Baywatch. Since 1995, the union has collectively bargained for better wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. By all measures, they’ve succeeded in gaming the system for their membership,” he wrote.
The per capita income in Los Angeles is $36,044, according to Census data, and it has higher-than average poverty, at more than 13%.
California has a shrinking population and a massive public employees pension load. The state received $26 billion in federal money as part of the coronavirus bailout.
Even so, lifeguards in sunny Los Angeles were far higher compensated than those in New York, where the highest-paid lifeguard made $168,000. Despite the inflated costs, in 2009, the city of Santa Monica entered into a 10-year, no-bid contract to use the county’s lifeguards.
Andrzejewski wrote in The Wall Street Journal:
Over the past five years, lifeguard captain Daniel Douglas brought home $630,000 in overtime alone. His total employment costs in 2019 were $368,668—$140,706 base bay, $131,493 in overtime, $21,760 in “other pay” and $74,709 in benefits.
The finding comes amidst bipartisan concern about the role of public sector unions, as teachers unions worked to keep schools closed despite little evidence that it was required by public safety. Teachers unions demanded that teachers be prioritized for the coronavirus vaccine, and then in some cases, shifted the goalposts, declining to commit to reopening schools even after they had been inoculated. In the meantime, at-risk children dropped off the grid, and youth suicide surged.
Related: ‘Parents Union’ Blasts Teachers Union Influence On Biden School Closures, Calling CDC ‘Infected’
After lobbying by teachers unions, schools ultimately received more than $128 billion in coronavirus money, even though much of it will not have to be spent for years, indicating that it was not actually about the virus.
Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, makes $518,000 per year. The second major teachers union, the National Education Association, is the largest labor group in the country, and counts first lady Jill Biden as a member.
OpenTheBooks provides state-level checkbooks so you can see how money is spent in your state.
In 2019, it used its expertise with government data to document a different problem in California: More than 118,000 instances of human feces on the streets of San Francisco.
Related: California May Soften Gun Crime Laws, Citing Impact On People Of Color
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