Editor's note:"It's Our Money" is a project run by the editorial board of the Daily News. Occasionally, members of the board will be posting their individual comments on important issues facing the city and its budget. These posts do not necessarily represent the editorial position of the Daily News, but provide a good glimpse into the lively conversations we have in determining those positions. This one is from cartoonist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Signe Wilkinson.
The New York Times, which left uncovering the NYC Sanitation union's role in that city's slow snow removal to the New York Post, ran a front page January 2 think piece about citizens blaming public workers for municipal budget problems throughout the country. Deep into it, the Times article said:
"A raft of recent studies found that public salaries, even with benefits included, are equivalent to or lay slightly behind those of private sector workers with similar education."
So public service workers are NOT underpaid. They are also not involved in"service" which implies that there is some sacrifice being made on their parts.
Other tax paying workers get grumpy because, when things get bad, they DO sacrifice not only getting reduced pay and benefits at their own work but
having to pay more in fees and services to support the government workers. The unionized work force is immunized from that. For example, Septa's 2009 contract calling for an 11.5% wage hike over 5 years is infuriating given the stagnation or decline of the wages and benefits of its riders and of the taxpayers who help fund operations whether they ride SEPTA or not.
Because public workers (about 22,600 working for Philadelphia city government) are well organized and speak together, as they should, we in the media tend to concentrate on them. They also are instrumental in electing our politicians so the politicians concentrate on them. We often forget that there areanother 560,000 (or so) who work in the city at non-municipal jobs whose voices aren't so well heard.
No one is talking about inflicting pain on the unions, just inflicting reality.