State Pushing Cuts on Backs of ‘Grateful’ Workers

by Patricia Guadalupe  |  November 07, 2011

In these difficult economic times, some companies and elected officials are apparently counting on workers’ gratefulness for having a job that they won’t complain that their right to a decent wage is hijacked by the lowest bidder.

Take the case of the state of Michigan, which has been struggling with an 11 percent unemployment rate that is higher than the national average, and a state budget stretched to the limit.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s solution for finding money in the budget has meant a direct hit on the pocketbooks of some workers on the state payroll. He’s proposed outsourcing jobs at a state-run home for veterans to a private company. Workers for the outside company make $10 an hour, about half what the public employees at the same facility earn. One of these contract workers says she’s happy to have a job, but she needs to supplement her income with public assistance. How is that saving money?

Governor Snyder is a former venture capitalist who was accused of eliminating nearly 20,000 American jobs when he was president and CEO of the Gateway computer company, sending those jobs to China – but not before cashing out $14 million in Gateway stock. The company was eventually sold to a Taiwanese firm.

AFSCME Local 261 (Michigan Council 25) member Glenn Fiedler tells The New York Times that he couldn’t live on $10 an hour and he’s worried that lower-paid, inexperienced contract workers would provide inferior care.

“You get what you paid for,” he said in the article, which is part of a Times series, “Working for Less: The Pitfalls of Outsourcing” that shows the trend in several states to throw decent wages out the window.

In fact, it was that fear of inferior care that a judge cited as a reason for blocking this veterans’ home privatization, telling the state to look for savings elsewhere. Judge Paula Manderfield said her injunction was done “in the public interest.”

The state obviously disagrees and says it will appeal. 

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