Due to protesting government workers, the capitals of Wisconsin and Indiana are looking more and more like the capitals of Libya and Yemen these days. Workers are understandably upset that certain bargaining rights that they have always had may be taken away from them. I come from a family that has several public sector workers so I understand their concerns.
But what is lost in the shuffle is that they work for bankrupt organizations. In the private sector, when your company is billions of dollars in the hole everyone knows that several rounds of belt tightening and layoffs are coming. Why should it be any different in the public sector?
In the past, publics sector employees traded away receiving higher salaries than the private sector for job security. However, some recent studies show that government workers now have higher compensation packages than in the private sector. Usually lower risk leads to lower reward. But the rise in public sector salaries, along with healthcare and pension benefits, has turned the usual risk/reward ratio upside down.
The Republican Party likes to demonize government workers while Democrats coddle them in return for votes. The reality should be somewhere in between. Public sector employees do provide vital services to the citizens of this country. But the people who pay them—federal, state and municipal governments—are broke. It is time for these workers to put down the megaphones and recognize this new reality. The money they are seeking comes from taxpayers; many of whom are hurting themselves and don’t have the security of a government pension to look forward to.
These unions can disrupt state houses all they want. But they will not make any friends with the public they serve by doing so.