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Pawlenty endorses anti-union bill in Ohio

The latest state with an all-Repub lineup to join the movement to strip public employees’ unions of the power to collectively bargaining over most issues is Ohio and the latest presidential wannabe to praise the idea is our former guv Tim Pawlenty.

In Cleveland yesterday, according to the Columbus Dispatch, TPaw said the legislation is crucial in the effort to restore Ohio government to a firmer financial footing.

“The Ohio Republican Party and Gov. Kasich and the legislators who supported this bill are having the courage to tell the truth about a real problem that’s taken down the budgets of government at the state level,” Pawlenty said. “It’s not always going to be easy, it’s not always going to be popular, but it’s the right thing to do. … They’re trying to fix a real problem instead of ducking, bobbing and weaving.”

Pawlenty, 50, said public-employee unions have grown too powerful and now have wages and benefits that “in most cases are substantially better than their private-sector counterparts.”

“We need to make sure that public employees are not getting a better deal than the people who are paying the bills, namely the taxpayers, and right now, they are,” he said.

There’s a variation on an old gag that was making the rounds in Madison during the big fight there about public employees collective bargaining. Forgive me if you’ve heard it before. Goes like this:

A unionized public employee, a member of the tea party and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, “Watch out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/31/2011 - 10:37 am.

    I’m shocked.

  2. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/31/2011 - 10:55 am.

    There are nearly 400,000 union members in Minnesota. How many wealthy CEOs are there? A hundred? If we increase our plate of cookies then the CEOs take 1100 cookies. If each union member takes half then they have 200,000 cookies. Which one is emptying the bakery?

    Can anyone here make the case for why a public sector employee should enjoy a better compensation package than a private sector equivalent? The trade off used to be that they were giving up compensation for security. Now they get both sides of that deal, all payed for out of our taxes. I can see why they want all of that, it’s a great set up! But why in the world should anyone on the outside be happy with it?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/31/2011 - 11:16 am.

    Thanks for the joke, Eric. I’ve seen it before, but it’s a useful reminder that part of the right-wing strategy being pandered to here by Mr. Pawlenty is a variation on the classic “Let’s you and him fight,” divide-and-conquer ploy that has, unfortunately, too frequently been successful.

    Pitting public vs. private employees is similar to pitting white vs. black, native vs. immigrant, Indian vs. white, male vs. female, rural vs. urban – all of them essentially a distraction from what that CEO is doing – taking 11 of the cookies. Unions are pretty good at pointing out what the CEO is doing, which is one reason why they’re not at all popular on the right. Republicans in the Minnesota legislature are currently practicing the same sort of thing, not only with public employees, but also by cutting LGA funding to 3 of the 4 cities that drive the state’s economy and contribute the most to the state’s revenues, and preserving much of the LGA funding for smaller cities and towns that – here’s a surprise – send many of those same Republican legislators to the legislature in the first place.

    If you believe that cities are basically dens of iniquity to begin with, then cutting off state aid to them, while preserving it for the virtuous white Protestants of your own suburb or small town will seem quite sensible. It does appear sometimes that, no matter what state I’m living in, it’s a constant struggle to move the neighbors out of the 17th century and into a more modern era. The only exception, of course, is new technology. Everyone likes new toys, and nowadays, we don’t want to think too much about who’s producing them, and where.

  4. Submitted by Mike Ring on 03/31/2011 - 11:32 am.

    Peder:
    I don’t believe that anyone is making the case that public sector workers should have a better total compensation package than private sector workers. Public sector workers already have smaller total compensation packages than private sector workers in similar positions (once you take into account experience and education levels). As far as I can tell, mostly public sector workers don’t want to fall farther behind.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/31/2011 - 11:45 am.

    Peder–
    Given comparable education and job descriptions, public employees are NOT better compensated than those in the private sector.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/31/2011 - 11:46 am.

    Nicely done, Mr. DeFor! If you start with a false assumption and pile on some distraction, it’s pretty easy to make the numbers come out just about any way you want them to.

    I’ve no idea if you’re correct, but for argument’s sake, let’s say your 400,000 figure accurately represents union membership. How many private sector workers are there in Minnesota, by way of comparison?

    How did you arrive at the underlying figures to support your assertion that union members take half of whatever the increase in cookies might be?

    When you match up public and private sector employees by training or education and experience, how do they compare in terms of compensation?

    Having been a public employee for 30 years, as well as a private sector one for several more, I’ll offer only one rationale – not necessarily a “case,” but a rational reason – why at least some public employees might merit a better compensation package than a private sector equivalent. There are others, but this will do as a start:

    The public sector employee is working for the public.

    That is, s/he’s working for the benefit of ALL. The private sector employee is working for his/her own benefit, and if you want to be charitable and expand the benefit pool a bit, s/he is also working for the benefit of family and shareholders, which still may or may not be of benefit to the larger community.

    Even feeling the need to provide that rationale is a nice illustration of how the “let’s you and him fight” distraction works. While we argue over the justification, we let slide the assertion/assumption that public employees do, in fact, have a better compensation package than those in the private sector.

    I’ve never reached the level of “median” income in any community in which I lived, including this one. That’s just as true as a retiree as it was when I was working. It’s also true of the vast majority of former coworkers with whom I’m still in contact, so before I can accept your arguments as legitimate, I’ll need to see some factual support for them. “Factual,” by the way, implies that the information comes from an individual or group with no ideological axe to grind. That eliminates both union and most Republican sources.

  7. Submitted by Lora Jones on 03/31/2011 - 12:28 pm.

    Eric and Peder. It’s been pointed out that in order for that joke to reflect reality, there’d have to be 1,000 cookies, the CEO takes 999-1/2 and then tells the private sector employee that the union member was trying to grab the last 1/2 cookie.

    Peder, you’re dealing with thoroughly debunked non-facts. College educated and above public sector employees make LESS than private sector employees with the same qualifications and similar jobs. The only public sector employees who make marginally more than their counterparts are the high school grads.

    And WHERE do you come off believing that they have more job security? Have you been asleep these past 30 years or what?

  8. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/31/2011 - 03:26 pm.

    I love that you guys just love to yell ‘debunked’ and let that be that. According to the Dept of Education, public teachers (by far the largest set of public sector union members) earn about a third more than their private sector counterparts. And that’s before you take into account things like health and retirement benefits. Those vary from state to state but the WI teachers famously paid nothing towards their retirement until they were embarrassed into paying up.
    I got the nearly 400,000 union members in MN from the internet. I’m open to correction if someone can show that I’m wrong on that. My point is that those evil CEOs that take up all the money are really a small population while the number of union members is quite large. Comparing them one to one makes for a very misleading picture.
    And yes, I do believe that public sector union members have more job security. Do you know how long it takes to get a bad teacher removed in strong areas like New York or Chicago? Several years. What, did you miss all the debates over civil service protections over the last 30 years?

  9. Submitted by Eric Hanson on 03/31/2011 - 04:59 pm.

    The anecdote I prefer is the one where a bunch of unemployed manufacturing workers are in a bar. Bill Gates walks in and the bartender shouts “Drink up! On average we’re all suddenly millionaires!”

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/31/2011 - 05:33 pm.

    Mr. DeFor is very good at this distraction stuff. I give him that.

    For starters, what’s the private sector counterpart to a public school teacher? If I was earning 1/3 more than my “private sector counterpart,” what IS that private sector counterpart? Teachers are generally required to have a college degree in their field, be licensed by the state, have a spotless record, etc., etc. I have no idea who would fit that profile at a big Minnesota company. “Corporate trainer” is a title that comes to mind, but that describes a function, not a set of requirements, and I’d guess the corporation wouldn’t much care about things like licensing, etc., since the trainer would presumably be dealing with adults and not children.

    Throughout my teaching career, I was paid less than a garbage collector for the community in which I lived and taught. I’m well aware that trash collection serves an important and valuable public health function, but it seems fair to assert that the requirements for getting the job are… um… different. If I was being paid 1/3 more than my private sector counterpart, that counterpart doesn’t seem likely to be someone with any substantial degree of education or expertise, since I was being paid less than a trash collector whose initial training might take a few days, rather than a few years. And while I’m at it, the fact that the state requires far more of the teacher than the trash collector in terms of initial job requirements shouldn’t provide an excuse for the right wing to pretend that the trash worker somehow doesn’t need a living wage, as well as the teacher.

    According to U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics – sorry I don’t have the url handy at the moment, I saw this a couple years ago – though the raw numbers on my teaching contracts rose steadily, if slowly, my actual buying power over the course of my 30-year classroom career *declined* in inflation-adjusted dollars.

    Yep, teachers are sometimes hard to get rid of if you don’t like ‘em, and even if they’re not any good – although, as has been pointed out numerous times, every school district in the country has ample opportunity to discover if a teacher is any good or not *before* they acquire tenure. Failure to do so, and to evaluate every teacher in a timely manner, is an administrative failure, not a teaching one. In any case, it’s *supposed* to be difficult to get rid of a teacher who has tenure. Otherwise, a single parent could complain to the school board and get someone fired for no reason at all, or even more interesting, on the basis of a false accusation, just because that parent doesn’t like the politics of a particular teacher. If losing his livelihood that way seems reasonable to Mr. DeFor, I invite him to support local Republicans as they dismantle tenure protection, and then put his principles into practice by taking a teaching job in a public school… Good luck.

  11. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 03/31/2011 - 10:23 pm.

    Mr Schoch, any chance that those garbage collectors were unionized? And anyway, ask yourself this question, how much money would they have to pay you to go out and collect trash every day? Given my druthers I’d much prefer to teach kids.

    I’ve run into the idea before that administrators should figure out the good and bad teachers before they hit tenure. Sounds like a good idea if it works. It kind of depends on teachers showing the full value of their career arc within the first few years though. Which probably has some problems. Thinking back (years and years) to when I was in school I can tell you that some of my best teachers had been working for many years. All of my worst ones had been working for many years. People burn out, they go through life changes and sometimes they stagnate. But if they’ve hit tenure…well, I hope they don’t screw up too many kids.

    And why do you keep trying to declare a discussion about how much to pay public servants off limits? It’s not a distraction. It’s an important question.

  12. Submitted by will lynott on 04/01/2011 - 01:29 pm.

    “And why do you keep trying to declare a discussion about how much to pay public servants off limits? It’s not a distraction. It’s an important question.” -Peder DeFor

    Having looked again through the comments above, I don’t see where anyone is doing that. But, never mind. It is in fact a distraction, and not a terribly important question in the context of the really important issues of the day.

    We should all step back, take a breath, and remember that this has become an issue of late because some politicians have tried to use it as a wedge issue in the context of deficit resolution. They are immune to arguments that the amount of savings that result when you cut public employee compensation is often minuscule when compared to the size of the deficit, especially when set against the harm to working people and their families that result from those cuts.

    These politicians have found that they can create and/or stoke outrage among the private sector soreheads who were insufficiently wise and farsighted to go to college or trade school, get a good job, join a union, and collectively bargain for pay and benefits. Instead of working to achieve for themselves the situation of those who did those things, they seek to drag them down to their own level. Cynical politics at its best.

    The fact is, in the context of a budget debate, you’re not going to cut the deficit much by cutting public employee compensation. And before you go off on the “everybody has to pitch in” crap, remind me again how the wealthy are going to make their contribution. And don’t tell me we can’t raise their taxes because they can’t hire if we do. We’ve had 10 years of tax cuts for the rich, federal and state. Where are all the jobs?

    Regarding the public vs private thing, the studies I’ve seen that show public workers doing better than private workers are generally those that do not correct for disparities in education, responsibilities, experience, and other relevant factors. When those factors are held constant, the picture changes dramatically, either to show a public penalty or that there’s not much difference. I can’t be bothered to do your research for you, but if you Google “public vs private pay” you’ll find a lot on the subject.

    The idea that public employees are overpaid
    in comparison with private workers is a red herring, used cynically for political purposes, and Lora is right–the myth has largely been debunked.

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