Sunday, July 04, 2010

Public Employees Earn Their Benefits

I read Bertram de Souza's column in the Vindicator today and saw that he had eschewed his usual targeting of Jim Traficant and fallen back on his second favorite subject, public employees at the trough.  This was surprising given reports earlier in the week that Jimbo's inept campaign may have failed to gather enough valid signatures to get on the ballot in the Ohio 17th Congressional district.

Bertram's Sunday screed revolves around public employees being paid for accumulated vacation and sick time when they retire.  His example is that Dr. Sweet was paid $100,596 for 50 sick days and 33 vacation days when he left YSU.  His conclusion is that public employees should not be able to accumulate such time and that days earned should be forfeit if not used.  As usual he attributes this practice to "greed on the part of public employees".  It's interesting that his example was the largest payout he could find.  You don't see many police officers or fire fighters retiring with six figure payouts.

I have been the beneficiary of this practice.  In the interest of full disclosure, my wife is a public employee who works in a hazardous environment every day while I work for a successful local private sector company.  When our sons were born my wife was able to use accumulated sick time to care for them.  It made things less stressful for us and helped us financially.  In order to do this she made great sacrifices for years before the boys were born.  We took short vacations and she went into work when she was sick instead of staying home.  Doing this didn't cost the county an extra dime.  They didn't have to pay her for the sick time during the years it was accumulated.

Bertram's main thrust seems to be that state and local governments can't afford these types of benefits so they should be ended.  My concern is that such an attitude assumes the state cannot do anything to alleviate the cost of these benefits.  It's not the public employees fault that tax revenues are down.  The state needs to do more to make Ohio friendly to business.  If the governor and the state legislature were doing their jobs properly they would find a way to put Ohioans to work and therefore raise tax revenues.

Public employees train for their positions.  That means they go to college, achieve competency in specialized processes and earn graduate degrees.  These employees are paid substantially less than than their private sector counterparts because governments cannot afford to pay them private sector wages.  They do, however, receive a decent pension (not lush or extravagant) and the ability to accumulate time off.  I know several public employees who could earn more in white collar jobs than they do in a jail, classroom or a patrol car but they have allowed their passion for public service to lead them down another path.  I think we are all better for it.  If the government decided to forgo a professional class of workers and simply paid minimum wage with substandard benefits we would all pay the price.  Excellence costs money, whether it's in a bank office or a classroom. 


doravito said...

Well said Mike. Of course you realize that the likes of Desouza and the other jealous anti public employee zealots will fail to understand what you have said because they operate under the notion of "...don't try to change my mind. It's already made up..."

Your main point about private sector jobs paying more than public sector will fall on deaf ears as well because of the economy. Nonetheless, true that when times were good, the private sector benefited and were happy to suppress public sector jobs. Now, they just want to do it more.

doravito said...

I also love how the Vindicator alienates a significant portion of the population with columns like Desouza's, then wonders why they keep losing subscribers. Duh.

Lou said...

I Work for a private company that has a generous compensation package. I get four weeks of vacation a year and can accumulate up to six weeks before it stops accruing. Sick time is not as generous, but is unlimited and several co-workers have months saved.

Does that make us leeches sucking at the private Corporations? I guess so.

I Never understood this argument except that it boils down to " Waah, they got something I don't"

BTW- Non-Union, before you ask. My Company is strongly anti-union. And PA is a right to work state, which means they can and do fire people without cause all the time.

Lou said...

Also- I'm pretty sure DeSouza will return to Traficant after his paid holiday. He probably turned in this article before the news broke and didn't want to come in on his day off.

Anonymous said...

Public employees - especially YSU - have been the target of the Spindicator, so it's a given that deSouza will follow suit. It's easier than coming up with an original topic.

Just once, I'd like to see what the Vindy employees earn, and what benefits they get. I think it's cheap and cowardly that the Vindy takes potshots at others without putting their own info out for public scrutiny.

doravito said...

It's real simple. Cancel your subscription if you are a public employee. I had been a vindicator subscriber for over 30 years, once they started their anti public employee diatribes, I canceled. For years, the vindicator was generally unbiased. This new crew is obviously not.

elecpenciljim said...

Mike thanks for bringing this up. If you think the Vindy hates public sector workers you should check out the Warren Tribune's editors views on the subject. The Trib is a corporate newspaper and like most corporations they think workers are peons and should be paid as little pesos as possible. The Trib's editor celebrates when private sector workers like Delphi workers set up second and third tiers and pay more and more of their health care. The Trib then wants those lower tiered private sector workers to hate the fact that the public sector workers make a livable wage and have benefits. Turn on WKBN and hear Dan Rivers and his callers attack public sector workers. It's a Machiavellian plan by the corporations and the media they own and it's working. It's a race to the bottom for workers wages and benefits and when our wages and benefits are so low that we have to jump up to reach the bottom the corporations will be happy.

doravito said...

Something else sinister about all this are the incessant attacks on the unions. Now do you unions need to be reasonable? Absolutely. But this attitude of throwing the baby out with the bath water concerning whether unions are needed is dangerous at the least and threatens the standard of living for the middle class in this country. Better be careful what you wish for. Any attempts to destroy collective bargaining are nothing more than attempts to control workers and thrust working conditions into 3rd world status by greedy corporate masters and political office holders who enable them. This is true both in the private sector and the public sector.