Step Up Please

New York State is wrestling a $9.2B budget gap.  In the face of that, public employees are set to receive a 4% raise as a part of their current contract.  Governor Paterson has proposed withholding that raise as a part of trying to close the gap.  The Civil Service Employees Association has filed a grievance.  I’d like to file mine.

I respect the value of unions.  I even believe that in the private sector the unions have largely been neutered in recent decades to the detriment of employees.  But in the public sector, unions are still demonstrating the greed and lack of empathy that caused them to fall from their heyday.  The point of unions is to protect workers from overly greedy and abusive management practices.  It is not to insulate workers from the economics of the industry in which they operate.

I’ve been a private sector employee for almost 30 years.  In that time I’ve absorbed all manner of hits to my personal income as a result of business downturns.   Everything from unpaid furlough weeks, to years without raises, to cancellations of bonus programs, to an across the board 7% pay cut.  While I certainly didn’t enjoy any of those things, I do recognize the business reality that caused each of them.  If my employer is having a bad year, then I share in the pain.

I think that’s why I’m having such trouble feeling any empathy for the public workers who wouldn’t get their 4% raise.  First, it is reasonable they share in the fiscal problems of their employer.  Second, 4% is a big cost of living raise in the current economy.  Last year my pay was flat.  We got a small COLA this year, but not nearly 4%.  I suspect you haven’t seen your pay grow much in the last 2 years either, unless you work for the state.

So step up guys.  Share the pain.

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