Are We All in the Same Boat, Here?

As though anticipating former Senator Chafee’s answer to WPRO’s Matt Allen,

Matt just asked about whether the unions will have to give more concessions. Seeming to ignore the public/private sector distinction, Chafee said — unbelievably — “Everybody’s in the same boat, here.”

in his column Tuesday, Ed Achorn enumerates the ways that we are not.

And [accumulation of] sick days are only the tip of the iceberg.
Similar “buybacks” are available to employees who decline to take health insurance. See if you get that in the private sector. Then there are the extraordinarily munificent health benefits, negotiated co-pays that are based on static dollar amounts rather than percentage (meaning the taxpayer gets hit with 100 percent of the cost of any increases in premiums), step increases on top of pay raises, longevity pay, early retirements with remarkably generous payouts and health care for spouses, etc., etc.

And in yesterday’s Valley Breeze, Arlene Violet (great job questioning the current AG on Lively, Arlene) points to more dissimilarities in compensation between the public sector and the private.

fat contracts which reimburse sick days, holidays not taken, seniority boosts, automatic cost of living increases, etc. Taxpayers should not be paying for advanced degrees for state or municipal employees. As it is, there are salary increments for advanced degrees, but it is a “double dipsey do” when the very degree or courses are paid for by taxpayer, Joe Blow, who still has to shell out tuition for his own kids.

Yes, in one regard, we are all in the same boat, a boat which is about to capsize from decades of very generous, unnecessary and unfunded promises of questionable moral legitimacy.
As to the underlying premise of Matt’s question, however – who has benefited and continues to benefit from those promises – it seems pretty clear that we are in two distinct boats.

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michael
michael
11 years ago

I have a good job with good pay and benefits. It happens to be a public sector union job. Lots of people have good private sector jobs with good pay and benefits. Lots don’t. Some people are making millions. Some are homeless.
There are a lot of boats out there. This endless have vs. have nots is a waste of time. Health care vs. Christmas bonus. Longevity vs company car. Paid unused sick time vs. stock options. And on and on.
We may be in different boats but we are all floating, or sinking in the same ocean.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

I’m disturbed by the things I hear all over about this. A lot of people on the left are under the impression that the way out is to make the public sector jobs -so great- that they ‘set an example’ for the rest of us. There’s a large segment of this state that honestly believes that they can spend themselves out of debt, that we don’t have to compete with our neighbors over issues like taxes. We can just award ourselves paychecks and benefits from some invisible oracle, and by doing so, improve the economy.
Seriously, I heard a guy at the bar last night telling the bartender that she should start a card-drive, because she could be making a good, steady wage with a pension in the SEIU.
The fact that the bar would be closed in a week apparently escaped both of them.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

Michael, I think an analysis of the total compensation vs. the output would show that the public-sector jobs here in Rhode Island compensate -far- better than their private counterparts.
I know excellent hard-working people who deserve more than their contracts provide, and I know those who deserve to be looking for a job, but there’s an inequity here in Rhode Island that is causing the state to be uncompetitive, and draining the private sector of jobs.
My Dad always told me there were three things to think about when looking for a career:
1. Good Pay
2. Great Benefits
3. Job Security
Most people pick one of the three. Those of us who are skilled often get to pick two of them. In Rhode Island, our public sector, which underperforms as a whole, gets all three.
You might say, “the government and the union provide all three! We should all get onboard!”, but they’re provided to you by making it harder for the rest of us not in your boat to hang on to our one or two.
I’m not going to denigrate unions as a concept, and I won’t say that all public sector employees in the state are poor performers, but a quick drive to Connecticut or Massachusetts shows that a highway can be maintained for about half of what we pay per-mile, and it’s in far better repair.

michael
michael
11 years ago

Mangeek, nothing is “provided” for me, nor would I accept such an obscene standard of living.

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

I didn’t mean to offend, just to point out that the cost of having our state jobs come with above average salaries, generous pensions, low health care premiums, and above-average job security come at a very real price, and the price is reflected in private industry choosing to not provide ANY of those things within our borders.
Perhaps I should have chosen my words more wisely, saying that ‘in order for the state to reward you for earning’ instead of ‘provide’. I’m also not saying that public sector workers are living high on the hog, freeloading their way to success; just that over the years normal wages have been flat (and health care costs have come out of our paychecks) while the state’s employees’ have continued to track upwards. The end result is a group of people who are getting what’s fair to them, but at a cost that is unfair to the rest of us.

mikeinri
11 years ago

Monique, I happened to catch most of A Lively Experiment last night (which is amazing because the last time I watched it Steve Kass was host). Did you notice that AG Lynch kept saying that he would not initiate an investigation into CF Mayor Moreau because he believed it inappropriate because of their personal relationship? Arlene Violet incredulously asked if he would direct a subordinate to look into the matter, or if necessary a special prosecutor, and Lynch continued to claim his friendship with Moreau made it inappropriate. So was he saying that if he and Moreau were not friends then he might initiate an investigation? I guess being friends with Lynch has its benefits. Was I missing something or was that what he was saying?

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Mangeek,
By no objective standard do public-sector workers get what’s “fair.” By a variety of subjective standards, sure, but then again, anything can be fair or unfair by subjective measures.
For some semblance of objectivity, ask yourself whether public sector workers would be so well remunerated were it not for the direct political power wielded via unions and campaign contributions, as well as politically directed activism. Of course not. By pure market mechanisms, the same jobs would offer a much lower “fair” compensation.
Which is not to say that my own subjective judgment is that certain jobs should pay less, and it’s not to deny that politics is a method of balancing subjective judgments or that politics will inevitably play in public employment. Michael, for example, has been out of work due to injury; were I in his position, I’d be finished, and I don’t see his position as unfair to me.
But there’s a limit. When 57-year-old teachers are retiring on pensions that are 125% of the average personal income in a state with a collapsing economy, only to join the state legislature and vote for perks that affect themselves and their union pals, “fair” is far from an accurate description.

Mangeek
Mangeek
11 years ago

Justin, I agree. Ideally we would all have Mike’s deal. Really, we all should. Unfortunately trying to bring the average up by boosting those directly connected to the government makes it that much harder for the rest of us. Our representatives disagree.

MadMom
MadMom
11 years ago

Check out the publication “Rich States, Poor States”. RI public sector employees have the 4th highest total compensation in the USA. RI private sector employees have the 23rd highest compensation in the USA. Enough said.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

As former Warwick mayor Joe Walsh said in the early ’80s when that recession hit, “We’ve all got to tighten our belts a little bit.”
He was a successful mayor because he didn’t turn it into Lord of the Flies, like most people in power do today. There’s a lot to be said for teamwork…but that concept doesn’t play well in this environmen, I guess.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

But there’s a limit. When 57-year-old teachers are retiring on pensions that are 125% of the average personal income in a state with a collapsing economy, only to join the state legislature and vote for perks that affect themselves and their union pals, “fair” is far from an accurate description.
Posted by Justin Katz at January 15, 2010 9:17 PM
“join the state legislature” Do you mean VOTED into the state legislature
and here’s Katz again:
Michael, for example, has been out of work due to injury; were I in his position, I’d be finished, and I don’t see his position as unfair to me.
Haven’t you heard of TDI? Finished? How melodramatic.

michael
michael
11 years ago

For a bunch of conservative minded free market champions the word “average” rears it’s ugly head here way too often.
“The “average” private sector wage, the “average” public sector benefits, the “average” cost of living, the “average…..
Why don’t we just lump all compensation for all work into one big pile, and come up with an “average,” and pay people that.
It would be utopia, janitors making what doctors earn, firefighters in line with architects, teachers and laborors equals at last!
Teachers, proffessors, consultants and other high paid positions are “averaged” in with cooks, laborors and other low paying jobs giving the illusion that the “average” public worker is making sixty grand a year with unlimited benefits. It’s absurd.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

I’d love to hear somebody, be it on a talk show or in our government, acknowledge that we ALL need to tighten our belts a little bit.
The Democrats who pushed through the tax cuts for the rich (gee, THAT was really effective) sure didn’t.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

I’d love to hear somebody, be it on a talk show or in our government, acknowledge that we ALL need to tighten our belts a little bit.
The Democrats who pushed through the tax cuts for the rich (gee, THAT was really effective) sure didn’t.

Tim
Tim
11 years ago

Speaking of utopia….if only we could be assured the “average” unionized worker produced even an “average” work product. Sadly that is not the case at all yet they seek above average wage and job protections from their mob for their mediocrity.
rhody do you think it’s a good idea to quote a Dem party operative and lobbyist with money stained fingers from wheelin’ and dealin’ with the Gen Ass like Joe Walsh? And rhody since you Dems are so envious and jealous of the rich why don’t you work hard and become one? What’s holding you back? Brains or brawn? Or both?
So Cynthia Stern is now the “spokeswoman” for Pat Lynch’s good friend CF Mayor Chuckie boy am I in hot water over my free furnace Moreau.
Is that the same Ms. Stern who worked on….errrr for a married Patrick at the AG’s office?? Let’s ask Spiderman’s ex. She would definitely know. lol

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

The Walsh I knew (and my father worked for) was the pre-1984 gubernatorial primary defeat one. Anthony Solomon won with one of the sleaziest primary campaigns ever, which prompted my first-ever vote for a Republican. After that experience, yeah, he sold out.
And Tim, I am not a Democrat (although I was registered as such for awhile in the ’90s). I am disaffiliated, and have voted in primaries of both parties.

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