Saturday, February 26, 2011

State and County Workers Get Paid Less than Private Sector Counterparts

I was listening to 93.1 WIBC's Open Lines segment hosted by Larry Downes about an hour ago. When I tuned in, I heard a caller repeat the misleading talking point that "government workers" make 30% more than their private sector counterparts.

This is misleading in parts, and flat out false in others.

Every lie and deception starts with a truth, that eventually gets twisted. Here is where this lie originated.

Throughout 2010, USA TODAY printed a series of articles that showed that several federal departments had substantially more workers earning $150,000+ (in pay and benefits) than they did even a few years ago. Somewhere in that series, USA TODAY wrote that this was about 30% more than the counterparts in the private sector were earning.

This lie has morphed into ALL government employees, and I can say it's honestly not true.

I have several friends, relatives, and associates who work in the state and city government. When I told some of them about this series of articles, they laughed and would say they wish they got paid that much. What state and local government often do is make up for the lack of salary by giving a halfway decent retirement package.

Finally, there are jobs in the public sector that just don't exist in the private sector, thus there's no proper comparison between public and private salaries. Police and fire, for example.

Is there reform that's needed in collective bargaining and public sector unions? It's a debate that should be had. But let's not take it out on the back of the majority of state and municipal workers who work hard doing the public good, and often for very little money.


  1. When Daniels got rid of the unions in state government, he adopted an executive order that was supposed to provide some protection to merit employees and non-merit employees with more than six months service. The State Personnel Dep't adopted some very fair regulations to carry out the executive order. Then the Daniels administration and the AG began to make a mockery out of those rules when it came to protecting state employees.

    Let me give you an example. Indiana regulations list about six classifications of non-merit employees. Two of them were excepted from the Governor's executive order. One of those was Executive Scientific and Medical (ESM)employees.

    I was an Executive Broad Band (EXBB)employee with the Department of Insurance. It was listed as a separte job category It was not excepted from the Governor's Order.

    The AG admitted I wasn't given the required due process to terminate me under the rules. But they argued that I wasn't entitled to due process because I was excepted from the Governor's Executive Order as I was an ESM employee.

    All the personnel documents said I was an EXBB employee. I filed for summary judgment and attached the Executive Order and the state personnel department documents listing EXBB as a separate job category. So what did the AG do? They went to State Personnel and got them to change their documents so that so that EXBB was a subcategory under ESM. The AG said it was a mistake. They then submitted this altered evidence to the court in opposition to my motion for summary judgment.

    To this day the AG has never produced a single document from state personnel or anyplace else showing that EXBB was a subset of ESM.

    With that one move that probably less than a handful of people knew about,EXBB workers in state government lost their right to due process.

    Unfortunately the Daniels administration and the AG's office has been very hostile to the statutory and regulatory rights that have been given to state employees. We have some good rules protecting state employee rights. We just need an administration and and AG that will follow them.

  2. Its all too true. Government workers are often derided as being unfit or unable to hold "real jobs" in the private sector. The true reason they hold lower paying jobs is due to the sincere believe their work helps follow Hoosiers.

    Also, if there is a benenfit to government work, it is those employee can enjoy a fixed benefit pension, which a lot of private companies gave up on 20 years ago as a cost cutting measure.

    When times were tough, those same private sector employees, who were looking their collective noses at government workers, were agast that government workers were suffering like the private sector. Then, asking the rhetorical question, "Why should mere government workers be doing so well? Should they not suffer as private sector?"

    Trust me, when the economy recovers and private sector salaries and security recover, the government workers will still be lucky to be employed given the lag time between increased tax revenue getting into the general funds of government units under our current public finance scheme.

  3. I think this reat topic to explore more as our economy spirals down. Lets take a timely example: snow plow drivers. A DCity DPW snow plow driver does not make a capital investment into a Chevy Sierra truck(new or used) and a blade. A city driver does not pay for the gas. A city snow plower does not pay for insurance, salt, or advertising. He will not pay employment taxes. A city snow plow worker gets paid year-round, not just when it snows. If a City DPW snow plow driver makes $20 per hour; that might be equal to a for-profit driver who makes $125 per hour. The for-profit driver has captial expenses that the DPW worker does not. So it is misleading to say "aha! DPW workers are poor, underpaid workers!" The DPW worker does suffer through the volatility of the market place. The DPW worker enjoys Peace of mind that they get a paycheck no matter what. The for-profit driver worries anout clients, the company books, the effectiveness of methods. I just ball-parked the numbers above, and I am totally open to someone with more insight in salary who wants to chime in. My point is that to say snow plow driver makes less than a for-profit plower is a no-brainer. of course, the DPW worker does not have the same business concerns or expenses as the for-profit plower. thanks for touching on this topic. I think this is of much interest to the public. I think iti would be interesting to look at other government jobs (w/ hard facts) with private sector counterparts. CPAs, Attorneys, Managers, Mechanics, Maitenance workers, Secretaries, PR people, and so on. Thanks for letting me post.

  4. Anon 9:18, I think you're making an uneven comparison.

    You're assuming every snow plow driver in the private sector is part of their own business and is making all the investments independently. You're comparing apples to oranges. Of course a employee isn't paying corporate taxes becuase they aren't running a business.

    I'd also like some evidence that DPW is actually employing year-around snow plow drivers and paying them during the warmer months.

    Salaries of government workers are public information and can easily be obtained through an open records request. I think the Star used to have a database for at least state workers. Most of the salaries won't be all that impressive except for school administrators and the like.

    Lawyering for the city/county depends on the work and if it gets contracted out or not. I know deputy prosecutors start out at approximately $45,000 annually. That's a decent salary, but I don't want the guy who graduated last in law school prosecuting people like the scumbag who shot Officer David Moore.

    I know it's the cool thing to rage against government workers, but if you want to find ridiculous amounts of money being wasted, look at some of the private contractors the city contracts out to. THAT'S where money is being wasted, not some file clerk

  5. Go to Job descriptions and salaries are posted. While some positions (at the top) are overpaid, try to support a family with the average wage. Cannot do it. Not mention local government jobs do not have security.

  6. Thank you for saying the most prescient statement regarding public employees I have seen written. Having been a public employee previously (both as a school teacher and government) and also having family and very good friends who have worked very hard for state government for thousands of combined years, I am ill from the abuse public employees have received lately. Governor Daniels' ignorant comments about public employee unions being "elite" and that public employees have done all right (presumably under him) is absolute bull.

    Let's look at the Department of Workforce Development (state salaries are at Commissioner Mark Everson makes over $105,000/year (his predecessors, co-commissioners Teresa Voors and Marty Morrow, made over $104,000 and $109,000, respectively). Below him are seven current (with an 8th currently not filled) "Deputy Commissioner" positions (none have been with DWD more than 5 years) who make between $85,000 and over $103,000. Everson used to be Daniels' #2 man at the federal OMB. Gina DelSanto, "Senior Deputy Commissioner" of DWD, was Governor Daniels' 2004 campaign policy coordinator -- and her job was newly-created for her to start in January 2009. DWD used to have 3 "commissioner/deputy commissioner" levels.

    Below the deputy commissioners are anywhere between 20-24 "Directors" (this number has grown by up to 4 or more from just 2007 alone); this group earns anywhere between $45,000 and $81,000 per year. Many of these people have only been with DWD less than 5 years. One former Director -- Marc Lotter -- made over $81,000 (he was also IOSHA's PR guy for a while, too, but he made $75,000 at DWD in 2009). He, of course, used to be one of Governor Daniels' PR men (2004 campaign and in the governor's early 1st term) as well as McCain/Palin's 2008 Indiana press guy. He now works for Mayor Ballard.

  7. Tell me -- why do 8 commissioners at DWD ALSO need a press guy (who also got a newly-created assistant press secretary, Valerie Kroeger, who had been a former House Republican Caucus PR woman with a DWD starting salary of over $40,000) when they should be answering questions themselves? Also, these highly-paid commissioners get the maligned, "lavish" pension and health benefits as well as time-off and holidays. If Governor Daniels were actually serious of saving money, he should eliminate at least 4 Deputy Commissioner positions and take away the benefits of the others since their pay is so good.DWD's unemployment program (which has been ruined by this administration and some of the well-paid people named above), does not pay its immediate people very well at all. There are "Claims Deputies" of the "Adjudication Center" who make the initial decisions to allow or deny benefits. A full-time Deputy 6 (DWD loves hiring part-time people so as to not pay insurance or benefits) starts at about $21,000; Deputy 5s start at about $23,700; and afterwards 5s or 6s can be promoted to a Deputy 4 at $26,000. If you are the family member of the Deputy Commissioner of Unemployment Insurance Mary Johnson, you can receive the promotion to a newly-created position that is a 3 level (earning over $29,000).DWD Call Center representatives start at $29,000 (and they typically have no unemployment experience). Claims Deputy's supervisors start in the low-to-mid $30,000s (4 new supervisor positions were just created there after DWD realized Indiana has one of the worst Adjudication Centers in the US). Members of Oversight and Fraud & Overpayments typically start at $29,000. For employees who have worked with DWD's unemployment program for 20-30-35+ years, the most you will make will be less than $45,000 per year (and typically only if you are a supervisor). Most of these long-term employees only average less than $35,000 per year.The governor is delusional to say all public employees are doing well. If he is saying knowledgable employees with over 30 years' experience who earn $35,000 are well-paid, I say he is full of crap. He needs to look at the well-paid/benefited "best and brightest" he has hired to run DWD with little experience -- the same people who have nearly ruined DWD -- and realize they are neither the best, nor the brightest, and they are not worthy of their pay or even of keeping their jobs.

  8. Your last paragraph is the nut of the problem. Negotiations between a union and a corporation are adversarial. "Negotiations" between a union and an elected body have, over the years, turned into a mutual admiration society. Both sides have every incentive to increase pay/benefits. The employee gets the money and the politician gets union election support. The taxpayer - the one with the most "skin in the game" - in not even at the table. And payment for the benefits part of the package gets kicked down the street to where the politician approving it is long gone from office.


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