Setting the Record Straight

October 27, 2010

On October 12th, columnist David Brooks attacked public employees with incorrect facts, misplaced blame and shortsighted policy prescriptions. In response, Pres. McEntee sent the following letter to The New York Times to set the record straight:

To the Editor: In his Oct. 12 column, David Brooks relies on a study from an anti-union political scientist to contend that public employee salaries are higher than those in the private sector. Recent research by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence concludes that state and local public employees make 11 to 12 percent less in salary than those in the private sector, when education and experience are considered. State and local public employees’ total compensation (including salaries and benefits) is approximately 7 percent less than that of private sector workers.
Even in the wake of the terrible stock market of recent years, public employee pensions on average have more than 80 percent of the assets necessary to meet their obligations. Full funding can be achieved in the decades ahead through added contributions of less than 2 percent of state and local budgets. There is no need to falsely suggest that state and local governments “will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives.”
Finally, Brooks errs in stating that President Franklin Roosevelt opposed public sector unions. It’s true that Roosevelt believed that public servants have special obligations to the public and the government that employs them. So does our union.
However, FDR encouraged public employee membership in unions. As he wrote in a 1937 letter to the National Federation of Federal Employees: “Organizations of Government employees have a logical place in Government affairs. The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry.”
Gerald W. McEntee
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
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