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Public unions must line up with private sector

Public employees are finding it difficult to convince local, state and federal government that their higher pay and benefits that far outweighs those given to employees in the private sector are fair. Why is this?

Perhaps it’s because union bigwigs have been pumping municipal, state and federal officials for bigger and more costly compensation packages — especially retirement benefits for employees that have served more than 20 years.

Is it the fault of the public employee? The answer is yes and no. Yes, in that they have threatened walkouts and strikes even when their contract contains a no-strike clause. And, no, usually the union heads are the ones threatening strikes and government shutdowns.

So what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal is the number of public employees that are taking retirement packages at or near what they were making as a full-time employee. With an economic downturn that is pressing all levels of government to the tipping point there must be some compromise. Some cities, especially in states that are facing extreme shartfalls due to declining tax income, will be forced into bankruptcy or forced to cut benefits. Lump in the housing bubble bursting, the unemployment numbers and the ever receding tax base and there are those governments that are near collapse or have collapsed.

Is there a solution? Of course, but short of doing what Gov. Scott Walker did in Wisconsin to save that neighboring state from fiscal meltdown, the medicine is not going to taste good.

Concessions are never welcome among workers that are faced with the realities of a governmental entities’ shortfall. However, how many private company workers have had the brutal reality of being laid off, losing one’s 401k, or worse, finding that the pension funds offered by the company are no longer being offered. So then, how is it that public employees are exempt from such realities? In fact, they are not. Even if concessions have not been made in those communities facing difficult times, even public union leaders will be faced with the fact that money coming into the governmental entity has slowed, in some cases to a trickle of what it was when times were booming.

We all have had to make concessions. Now is the time for public employees to stand along side private employees and allow for rollbacks of their packages. If not, look for more communities, states, and eventually the federal government to slide into insolvency. (In fact, the United States government is now incapable of serving the tremendous debt that some financial experts peg in excess of $100 trillion.)

Let’s work together to bring public employee compensation and retirement packages into line with private sector employees. Who knows, maybe we can all survive the ugly economic disaster that is looming over our nation’s cities, states and even our federal government.

—Keith Hansen

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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