I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Public Employees Are Not Slaves

Let me explain a few things to those of you who think that public employees should lose their rights as workers because you think you "pay their salaries":

1) You and I, as taxpayers, do not have unlimited rights over public workers. I don't care if we "pay their salaries" or not; all workers have certain rights, even though we seem to have forgotten that these days.

One of those rights should obviously be the right to some basic level of privacy in the workplace. While there are undoubtedly private sector employers judging their employees by arbitrary criteria based on the work of others, I don't see those evaluations being published for public consumption. It's obviously a bad business practice and antithetical to the best interests of private sector employers; there's no compelling reason it should be any different for public sector employers.

2) "You" do not hire teachers or cops or firefighters or public sector nurses. School boards hire teachers; police departments hire cops; fire departments hire firefighters; public health facilities hire nurses. That's their job; if they do a poor job, they or the politicians who appointed their leaders get voted out. But even though you "pay the salaries" of public workers, you are not their employers, and you are not entitled to view their evaluations.

3) Every time you erode the rights of public sector employees, you erode the rights of private sector employees. I know that's fashionable right now, and many of you drank the Kool-Aid and want to live in a world where Scrooge can give you Christmas Day off only if he feels like it. But maybe you ought to take a look at the miserable state of the American worker - even in the face of massive corporate profits - and ask yourself if the answer is to raise up the protections of the private worker, or destroy the protections of the public worker.

4) I know that Christie and Walker and Kasich and Corbett and Scott and Daniels and Cuomo and Emanuel and Bloomberg and all of their acolytes in the press have convinced many of you the public workers are living in some sort of accountability-free paradise. But I have to wonder - especially because so many of say you are against "big government" and the "liberal media" - since when do you believe everything a politician or the press tells you?

The fact is that public employees with a college degree make significantly less money than private employees with the same education. And teachers make less money than similarly educated workers, even accounting for the fact they work 5/6 of the year. Benefits don't make up the difference. Sorry, it's true, no matter what the latest stupid, think-tanky study says.

5) There is not an inexhaustible supply of qualified people willing to teach in poor neighborhoods, or strap on Kevlar vests, or run into burning buildings. The public worker bashers have played a seemingly paradoxical game of slashing compensation and protections while talking about how public service is a "calling," but the reason for that is clear: they want people to think that good public workers must act like nuns or priests, renouncing any ambitions to enjoy the American Dream.

I am telling you folks a hard truth now, and if you care at all for the future of this country, you'd better listen: young people are watching all this, and they are making decisions about their futures based on what's happening. They have seen mendacious politicians go back on their words to public workers, and they will not forget it. 

Yes, some will still become teachers and cops and firefighters and social workers and civil engineers and DPW workers and all the rest - but many will not. They will sadly come to the conclusion that they simply cannot afford to work in the public sector. They are not bad people for admitting this; they are realists. And most of these qualified, well-educated people will find jobs in the private sector. If you think they can't make it in the "real world," you're fooling yourself.

But those public sector jobs will still have to be done. So less qualified folks will do them, and the quality of services will erode. I predict that, if we continue down this path, within five years there will be serious discussion of hiring public school teachers without college degrees. Standards for acceptance into police academies will drop; requirements for all sorts of public service jobs will degrade.

And then we will have a huge mess on our hands, the economy will collapse again, and all of you who railed about how you "pay the salaries" of pubic workers will live in a country with inadequate safety, education, infrastructure, and public services. Let's hope you've all made enough to lock yourselves into gated communities with private schools and private health care.

And if you didn't? Well, don't say I didn't warn you...


NYC ATR said...

Jazzman, you bringin' it in this article!

czarejs said...


Duke said...

Thx, folks.

Teacher Mom said...

"I don't have a cow and my neighbor does. I wish my neighbor's cow would die."

I wish there would be an uprising of ALL WORKERS! It's horrifying how really any employee is being treated today. And they think they have to take it, or their job will be shipped overseas. CAn barely buy american anymore because hardly anything is still made here.

On a side note and totally unrelated. REcent article: LExus (a division of Toyota) most dependable cars. CHrysler ( a division of FOrd) least dependable cars. Me thinks Ford is cutting too many corners, and my last Focus was built in Germany, Go figure.