Announcing "Hug a Public Sector Employee Day"

05 Aug, 2013 Bob Wilson


I received an email last week after posting my column entitled "Vetoing Public Service Presumptions in New Jersey". In that article I discussed the veto of a bill in New Jersey that would have extended special workers' compensation benefits to public sector employees. I also conveyed my general frustration with some of the general benefits often bestowed on employees of government agencies.

The email I mentioned simply asked me, "Why do you dislike government employees?"

Let me state unequivocally that I do not dislike or hate government employees. We need public sector employees. I think many of them genuinely care about and contribute to their jobs and agencies in a manner comparable to their private sector counterparts. Many vital roles are filled by the people who hold these positions. The bottom line is, they are necessary, and I certainly do not dislike them.

My issue is quite simply that I dislike the special benefits and perks some of them get. Emergency rescue personnel aside, many public sector jobs require no special sacrifice or danger. They are not more demanding or more dangerous than equivalent private sector jobs. Yet because they are public employees, they generally have much better benefits and far more generous retirement plans than those in private industry. I just don't see what entitles them to this.

The crux of the issue usually lies with collective bargaining, where a public sector union negotiates with a politician who is not working with their own money. Additionally, the politician often benefits from that union's support at election if they have provided enough incentives for it to do so. It is an incestuous relationship that does not represent the best interests of the taxpayer footing the bill. Even Franklin Roosevelt opposed it.

Look no further than Detroit for a good example of this. The largest city ever to declare bankruptcy, it still has a $57,000 a year Horseshoer employed in it's Water and Sewage Department; this despite the fact that the agency has not had a horse in 70 plus years. The union will not allow the elimination of the position. I mentioned in my article last week that a 25 year Detroit employee was worried that he would not be able to retire with full benefits at the ripe old age of 50 due to the bankruptcy. That is not an issue many of us have to deal with or worry about.

I have public sector employees in my family. My sister, whom I love dearly, is a school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. You might recall that she and her union were ground zero a couple years back in the fight over collective bargaining rights for public employees. Needless to say we do not agree on this particular issue. Her union lost that battle, and she indicated that, while she understands that things have to change, it "hurts" when they had to start paying a small percentage into their retirement plan.

I understand completely. If I actually had a retirement plan I am sure it would hurt a bit to have to contribute to it. Fortunately for me I do not have such a plan. Instead I try to make payroll every two weeks. I do have a plan, albeit more metaphorical than financial. I am going to die at my desk. And of course, the private sector largely lost actual pensions twenty years ago or more, when most corporations, recognizing the unsustainability of them, opted for 401k's.

Nevertheless, public sector employees perform vital services. I will even add, where I live in Sarasota, FL, the county employees I have dealt with seem to have a fairly strong customer service orientation. This is something not always found in non-competitive situations. They generally do a very good job. I am a happy camper taxpayer indeed.

So, to summarize, I do not hate or dislike public sector employees, and in order to heal  any wounds and assuage feelings I may have inadvertently bruised, I am declaring today to be "Hug a Public Sector Employee Day". Take a moment to embrace your meter reader. Grasp that Sanitation worker as they haul away your trash (Unless they work for Waste Management. They are private sector and it is not Hug Your Private Sector Employee Day). If you get pulled over for speeding, get out of your car and give that cop a big ol' bear hug he'll never forget. One hint on that - keep shouting the phrase "Don't taze me, bro!" as you approach him. It will make your ingress much smoother.

That last one is a twofer, as you will also get to hug your Public Defender at the arraignment.

We should be able to discuss concerns about a group without making it personal. I want to make it clear that my frustrations may have been misconstrued. I am going to do my part to show my appreciation. As soon as I leave my desk, I am heading straight for the DMV.

This is gonna be great.....

Read More

Request a Demo

To request a free demo of one of our products, please fill in this form. Our sales team will get back to you shortly.