The protests continue in Wisconsin over Governor Walker's legislation to strip collective bargaining from unions. He says this is necessary to balance the budget, but public employees have already agreed to all the financial concessions he wanted -- higher healthcare premiums and higher pension contributions. Besides the fact that the public unions that cost the state the most -- i.e. the police and firefighters -- are the only two unions exempt from these new policies.
Anyhoo, while I was educating myself about what was "really" going on in Dairyland, I came across this blog post by Jonathan Cohn, who put it all in a new perspective.
But I wonder if this whole debate misses the point. Suppose public workers really do make more than private sector workers. Who’s to say that the problem is public workers making too much, rather than private sector workers making too little?
For example, according to official Labor Department statistics cited in a recent National Affairsarticle, the average salary for a janitor working in government as of 2005 was $23,700, or around $26,700 in today’s dollars, while the average salary for a janitor working in the private sector was $19,800, or around $22,326 in today’s dollars. But does that mean the woman cleaning toilets at a county courthouse was making too much? Or that the one cleaning toilets at a corporate office was making too little?
Perhaps, like Jonathan Cohn says, the real problem is that everyone turns a blind eye to how little private employees are paid. Afterall, some of the most profitable companies pay their CEO's hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars while paying nothing in corporate taxes.
-----Public vs. private employees: is one's compensation too high? or the other's too low?