Now is Not the Time to Scapegoat Workers

Over at the Bee’s “State Worker” Blog, Jon Ortiz outlines the arguments he’s been getting in his inbox for scapegoating state workers. Let’s peep through them.

1) State Workers make an average of $63 thousand dollars, and a median of $66K.

Well, this is pretty fun with numbers.  This doesn’t compare what workers make in similar jobs.  See, the thing is that there are a lot more low-income service sector jobs in the general economy than in the state government. Should it be shocking that the average is higher than the economy as a whole? Hardly.

The state generally pays somewhat under market salary. In return, employees get generally good benefits and hours. One comment on the blog summed it up pretty well:

When times are good my friends in the private sector mock me for working for the state. While they get stock options, profit sharing, 401-K matches, salary bonuses, expense accounts, corporate parties, Christmas bonuses and company cars; I get a base salary, a couple of more holidays and a pension. Then when the economy sours all of sudden the private sector folks who have been living fat for years think that my crumbs are now fair game. –SacBee user landparkparent

2) “State workers are pampered.” Meaning that they get one or two additional days off. Interestingly, Ortiz didn’t mention all the great furlough days that state employees have received. Yay, you get a day off…I hope you won’t mind that 5% I’m taking from your pay check. Now you kids go have a good time.

Again, this goes back to the above comment, and now with everything that’s happened in the last few months, state workers really aren’t getting the extra holidays. Proposals are already on the table, and look set to be approved to take away those holidays.

3) Retiree benefits. OMG! State workers have a government supported, “defined benefit” plan.  You mean like the ones that everybody used to have until the Republicans created the 401(K).  What this argument is saying is the same thing Republicans have been saying for years: it would be a great idea to privatize social security.

The thing is, America solidly rejected the privatization of social security. And, in a few places, we’ve held out privatizing retirement plans. That should continue.

4) State Worker Unions have too much power. You mean these people can band together to negotiate and advocate for their rights? Of all the nerve! That state workers are able to effectively advocate isn’t a bug of the system, it is a feature.  And of course, the same thing could be said about the rich, corporations, and pretty much any “special interest”. How dare the rich spend all that money on elections! Where’s the outrage that Chevron is constantly buying the system?

I don’t doubt that Ortiz is getting a lot of emails complaining about state workers. But just because somebody sends you something in an email, doesn’t make it true.  Otherwise, I’d be extremely wealthy, have unlimited stashes of cheap pharmaceuticals, and be living as the King of Nigeria.

6 thoughts on “Now is Not the Time to Scapegoat Workers”

  1. It is depressing that people always blame the workers.  Unions seem to always come under attack when mangers run something into the ground.  I have a feeling that the state employees didn’t get a say in the budget.  I will bet that the state employees wages are not where California went bankrupt.  Just like these big corporations that are failing, its the people in charge that either lacked the direction or the foresight to truly lead.  But go ahead blame the workers for all the misfortune, blame their salaries, blame their benefits, blame their pensions.  In this never ending search for blame maybe we should start with the people who make these decisions and not with the ones who provide necessary services for all of us on a daily basis.  

  2. #1 is the most salient point for me.  So many of the arguments for cutting state workers or their salaries are based on relative standards. Anyone who has spent time around state workers understand the trade-offs of their employment in the public sector.  

  3. for cities in the capital region. between potential cuts to k-12, UC, the state government, and the alt-a/prime wave of the housing collapse, davis is in for a Very Bad Year.

  4. I’d argue that most of the problem we have reflects how corporate interests became very radical in the 1960s.  Lewis Powell, who’s better known as one of Nixon’s appointees to the Supreme Court, wrote a very influential memo back in 1971 that shows these people knew exactly what they were going to do to the country over the next 30+ years:

    In August 1971, prior to accepting Nixon’s request to become Associate Justice of Supreme Court, Lewis Powell had sent to the leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the “Confidential Memorandum”, better known as the Powell Memorandum, and still under the radar of general public. It sounded an alarm with its title, “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System.” The previous decade had seen the increasing regulation of many industries and, as Powell argued, “The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism came from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” In the memorandum, Powell advocated “constant surveillance” of textbook and television content, as well as a purge of left-wing elements.

    In an extraordinary prefiguring of the social goals of business that would be felt over the next three decades, Powell set his main goal: Changing how individuals and society think about the corporation, the government, the law, the culture, and the individual became, and would remain, a major goal of business.

    We need to undo a lot of damage done over decades.  But I think the first step is understanding who did it to us and why, and then to communicate to the public why these people are culpable.

    Once people have a better idea of who was really responsible, they’ll be less likely to blame the wrong people, be they labor, liberals, or Latinos.

  5. It’s tradition to call their lazy, arrogant, good-for-nothing asses out all the time. They are the scapegoats for California, them and the lazy-ass, good-for-nothing, arrogant union members, who are constantly sucking the state dry.

    If it weren’t for State Workers and Union Members, this state would be a Paradise on Earth, the way it was meant to be.

    Everyone knows that.

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