MSNBC Profiles Public Service Workers Under Attack

April 06, 2011

Ken Gilbertie
Ken Gilbertie, a dispatcher with the Westport, Conn., Fire Dept. and vice president of AFSCME Local 1303-387. (MSNBC photo by David Friedman)

As attacks on public service workers continue across the country, has posted a collection of stories — “Faces of the public sector” — examining how public workers are dealing with what has become an increasingly hostile climate.

The first story looks at Ken Gilbertie, a dispatcher with the Westport, Conn., Fire Department and vice president of AFSCME Local 1303-387 (Council 4), who knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in public service. And while he’s able to make ends meet, he’s frustrated by efforts to paint him and his fellow public servants as having lavish paychecks and cushy jobs despite what he describes as his solidly “lower middle class” lifestyle.

“I didn’t take this job to get rich,” said Gilbertie. “You take a job with AIG to get rich. That’s not why I took this job.”

Sanitation worker Roland Bell, a member of AFSCME Local 320 (Council 81), has been collecting trash in the city of Wilmington, Del., since 2006, and with budget cuts hitting his take-home pay his family is struggling to get by. He, too, is tired of being blamed by politicians and pundits for the economic downturn.

“They don’t know half of what our jobs entail,” he said. “We make $35,000 a year, and they want to throw stones at public workers.”

New Berlin, Wis., high school teacher Greta Voit is caught in the middle of high-profile efforts by Wisconsin politicians to strip collective bargaining rights from teachers and other public employees. The impact of sweeping changes that could cut her paycheck and increase her class sizes — not to mention being characterized as lazy and overpaid — have her wondering if she made the right decision when she followed her heart into a career in education.

These articles depict real public workers who are struggling because of efforts by politicians, pundits and corporations to vilify and scapegoat public employees to push their right-wing agenda. Visit the site to read their stories, and be sure to scroll down and vote in their poll to answer the question: Do you think the cost-cutting aimed at public union workers has been fair?

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