Today’s Baton Rouge Advocate has a very revealing piece on the public employee mentality confronting Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in his attempts to slim down state spending on budget areas outside of health care and higher education. It seems that the state’s Department of Civil Service has released a set of e-mails it received from state employees voicing their concerns about Jindal’s plans to freeze pay increases as the state attempts to reconcile a billion-dollar budget shortfall (with a $2 billion deficit projected on top of this year’s number for the 2011-12 fiscal year).
Break out your violin before you read any further.
Some highlights from the e-mails:
“It seems as though the administration will not be satisfied until it buries rank-and-file state workers and the services they provide,” wrote Tad Hardy, a state government worker who, like most of the 100 or so commenting, used his home e-mail account to write Civil Service.
“The administration is still hiring unclassified employees at salaries topping $80,000 plus and the Civil Service Commission wants the classified employees to give up a deserved raise. Something is wrong here,” wrote Preston Pecue with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
“Should others suffer unjustifiedly to achieve one person’s agenda?” employee Beverly Rush asked.
“If you want to save money, tell the governor to get rid of the unnecessary unclassified employees,” employee Stephen Guilbeau wrote.
“How do you expect the ‘average’ Civil Service worker to enthusiastically do his job with no reward while the Agency he or she works for continue to hire folk with excessive salaries, i.e., UNCLASSIFIED workers,” Alicia Birch wrote.
“How much more is going to be asked of some of the lowest paid employees in state service,’ asked Dean Morgan, a locksmith master. “Please remember that we also have families to support before you allow us to be denied our hard earned 4 percent.”
Other points the Advocate says are raised in the e-mails:
– The suspension of the pay raise would hurt the pension of employees close to retirement because their benefits are based on the last three years of pay.
– Many state government employees did not get a pay raise during the current year. Suspending next year’s raise would be unfair and put them further behind in the cost of living.
– State health insurance costs continue to rise annually so employees will be taking even more of a pay cut. The pay raises help offset the health-care premium increase, they said.
No one, not even the most rapacious and diabolical budget-slashers in Jindal’s inner circle, begrudges state employees honest pay for an honest day’s work. Nor does anyone suggest that the average salary of $41,000 per year paid to classified Civil Service employees is exhorbitant. And while most of the state’s unclassified employees are specialists with marketable expertise the state needs to run its operations, it’s a valid point that those employees aren’t faced with freezes – yet.
That said, perhaps the e-mailers in question don’t watch a lot of news or surf the internet for anything other than Asian porn or to get in on the latest Woot. Because if they did, they might realize that the economy is in the toilet and private-sector employees have long since dealt with layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and companies going out of business. One reason to work in Civil Service is that you generally don’t deal with uncertainty like that, and the governor isn’t trying to impose the full range of private sector vagaries on the state’s employees.
But when there are budget cuts to be had, those squeaky wheels among the Civil Service ranks will find little sympathy from the rest of us for their inability to score raises.
Because given current realities, what those complaining about salary freezes are saying is that either their raises are more important than preserving higher education or health care for the uninsured, or their raises are more important than jobs or salaries of unclassified state workers, or – perhaps more central to the point – their raises are more important than the maintenance, rather than increase, of current tax rates.
Either way, their complaining comes off as ugly, immature, self-centered greed. If you’re not satisfied with pay or working conditions at your job, then GET A NEW JOB. People do it all the time, generally without whining, even in a bad economy.
And the state’s employees are going to find that their “real-world” counterparts will have little patience for the attitude demonstrated in those e-mails.
UPDATE, 2:17 p.m. – This morning the Civil Service Commission voted in favor of the governor’s proposed salary freeze, five votes to one with one abstention. According to the Advocate:
Several state employees blasted the decision, arguing the commission was folding to the wishes of the Jindal administration and lawmakers who they said helped cause the fiscal problems.
A couple of quick points here. First, the Jindal administration and those lawmakers were elected, and as such represent the will of the people of Louisiana who these state employees work for. So it’s entirely proper for the commission to “fold” to their wishes, which are OUR wishes in a representative democracy.
And second, the reason these state employees say that Jindal and the leges “helped cause the fiscal problems” is that they voted to do away with the Stelly tax which essentially raped and pillaged the state’s taxpayers over the last 15-20 years while Louisiana bled residents to states without income taxes. Repealing Stelly was a very popular move – so for the state workers to scream about how it “helped cause the fiscal problems” is one more manifestation of the mentality which holds that they’ve got a stronger claim on your income than you do.