Video: Are Public Sector Workers Overpaid?

Public employees are the “welfare queens” of the 2010s. Just as 30 years ago everyone had an anecdote to tell about poor women getting rich on public assistance (our tax dollars), today the attack is on public workers—some of whom have the gall to still accrue pensions. Or, if they’re not on furlough, a decent wage.

As Bruce Boccardy, a Service Employees local president in Massachusetts, argues on this site, public sector unions are vilified everywhere as the cause of budget shortfalls and “the economic immiseration of all working people.” You expect this from corporate-funded think tanks that want business taxes cut even further, but it’s depressing when you hear it from other working people.

There’s a bad case of crabs in the bucket going around, each pulling another down. If I don’t have a decent job, they say, why should anyone else?

Two points: First, public employees aren’t living very high off the hog.

The video "Are Public Sector Workers Overpaid?" from the Real News Network shows Jeffrey Thompson of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst citing the facts: they earn less than their private sector counterparts when you account for experience and education.

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And those pensions that make everyone so jealous? Boccardy points out that most eye-popping public pensions go to managers, not the union rank and file. Even with management pensions included, he reports, the average monthly benefit to California retirees is only $2,101. Seventy-eight percent receive $36,000 or less per year.

That latter amount is what a Big Three auto union retiree receives—another group held up for scorn because they make too much. It’s the equivalent of $17.31 an hour.

Second, I have to agree with the interviewer from Real News. At the end he gets fed up: “Let’s say the public sector’s paid a little more. Let’s say unionized workers are paid a little more. What’s wrong with that?”

We used to be told it was the American Dream to make money, to be part of the middle class. Now folks who are well paid because of their education, their seniority, or their union are the villains?

I have a very close relative (my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law) who’s president of a police union. He says, “Public workers ought to set the standard that others can aspire to.” What’s wrong with that?