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Public employees aren't the enemy

To the Editor:

The response by the usual conservative ideologues to a recently released study comparing public sector and private sector salaries is predictable and off-base to say the least. The idea that the data from this study should be interpreted to mean Rhode Island’s problems can be solved by piling on public employees is nothing more than ridiculous right wing propaganda. I would expect nothing less from the likes of GoLocalProv.com writer Travis Rowley, who dedicated his Saturday, Dec. 1 column to the issue.

In his response to the study, it is more than curious that Mr. Rowley conveniently leaves out the paragraph in the Providence Journal article highlighting the information where Mike Stenhouse, the director of the group responsible for the study, makes the point the numbers do not necessarily indicate overpaid public employees but perhaps underpaid private sector employees here in Rhode Island, due to a struggling economy.

The irony that a staunch conservative the likes of Travis Rowley who repeatedly lobs accusations of class warfare at democrats would openly advocate for any citizen of our state to receive pay cuts is glaring, and only serves to further discredit his soundly rejected views. Months after conservatives in our state took yet another beating at the ballot box, and the citizens of our state once again rejected the “scorched earth” policies of the right, Mr. Rowley continues to push his anti-worker agenda to a populace who clearly reject it. Contained in all of the literature, talking points and propaganda is one common theme: attacks on working men and women, specifically public employees. For the handful of men and women in Mr. Rowley’s camp, occasionally hidden under the surface, but most times right out in the open, is a deeply seeded disdain for working men and women. Public and private sector, blue collar and white collar, union and non-union, we are all workers and taxpaying citizens of Rhode Island. The divide and conquer agenda that has been so soundly rejected time and time again will not bring our state back to prosperity. Pitting one worker against another is counterproductive and simply a distraction from the task of getting Rhode Islander’s back to work.

Over the last several decades, the labor movement has taken the lead in working with private enterprise and state government on training programs, educational opportunities for workers, helping to support legislation leading to job creation, and worked tirelessly to protect good and decent working conditions for Rhode Island’s workforce. While Mr. Rowley spends his energy trying to tear down and erase Rhode Island’s strong working class roots, the labor movement has continued to roll up our sleeves and work with our state leaders to get R.I. back on track.

What conservatives with an anti-public employee agenda fail to understand is a Rhode Island worker is a Rhode Island worker. In the labor movement, we are committed to see all workers earning decent wages, receiving good, fair health care, and being given the dignity of a secure retirement. Our message is clear: together, working men and women built this great state, and together and only working together we will rebuild our economy. What will not help in our collective effort are radical conservatives attempting to shoehorn an agenda of disdain for public employees into the equation. I reject the notion that the solution for Rhode Island is to bring every worker down to the lowest common denominator when it comes to pay, health care and retirement security. I reject the notion the working class must continue to be squeezed so the most fortunate among us can continue to enjoy unprecedented wealth accumulation. The only way forward for Rhode Island is to reach out and pull our working families up, up to a job with a decent wage, up to a job with respectable and affordable health care, and up to a job that comes with retirement security.

What conservatives like Mr. Rowley need for their vision is an enemy to attack and attempt to destroy for the “good of the entire state.” It is clear public employees are the chosen enemy and in this world there can be no progress in R.I. unless it comes with a heavy blow to the tens of thousands of hard working public employees and teachers throughout R.I. Luckily for all Rhode Islanders, this vision has been soundly rejected time and time again.

We are your neighbors, your friends and your family. We are taxpayers, we are members of the community and we care deeply about our state. We are proud to be a part of the Rhode Island workforce, and we are committed to working towards good jobs for all working men and women throughout Rhode Island.
Blue collar and white collar, public sector and private sector, union and non-union, we are all Rhode Island workers and no amount of propaganda in print, on the radio or any other medium can change that. It is the resolve, determination and cooperation between all parties that will see us through this difficult economic time and move R.I. forward.

I close with a quote from President John F. Kennedy from a speech given in August of 1960 discussing the role of labor in America and the importance of workers having a voice in the work place:

“Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.”

Mike McDonald
President Local 528
West Kingston


Comments
14 comments on this item

Mr. McDonald what you are failing to realize is that wealth is created through labor making something of value. Government cannot make or create wealth. Government is similar to a service industry in that it creates nothing. Yes it provides needed services and now what many consider unneeded services.

I want Government to provide police, fire and roads. I even want public schools. What I don't want is the waste and corruption and neither do you. I feel for the pension battle that is going on now. Politicians spent the money instead of investing it. ENRON did the same thing and some of them went to jail. Ms. Raimondo's billionaire buddy from TX I believe has ties to ENRON. Politicians are trying to privatize pensions 'cause their buddies are running investment firms.

So we need leaner Government providing only needed services, get Government out of charity work. We need politicians that understand business, without business there is no need for Government, not the other way around. The taxes, fees and regulations in RI are driving business out.

Our biggest enemy is the unethical untruthful politician.

Public employees are NOT the enemy. The politicians who stole their pension moneys are. They and they alone should be held accountable. Fiscally and criminally.

Mike writes a very articulate letter and has good points. Unfortunately, he has failed to address the biggest problem facing us all. WE ARE BROKE! The Prov police union just voted to cut their pensions for ten years to help save the city. That's how bad off Providence is. I've been in a union my whole life. Unions are, when run by righteous people, good things. The recent thuggery displayed in Michigan does nothing to help unions. It in fact hurts unions.The pensions have to be adjusted. I believe they should only be adjusted for the people who haven't been hired yet, whenever possible.

Davebarry109....... and why are we broke ???? Is it the fault of these hard working people? The answer is of course NO. The way I see it the problem we are into is because of a few MAIN reasons. First, politicians stealiing the money from the budget. Second, the non-accountability regarding early disability retirement. For example, the stories of the firemen or cops who are collecting on their pensions yet are at GOLD's gym pumping iron. That is just a slap in the tax payers face !! Third, the unprecidented recession we went through. Fourth, RI sucks. The economy sucks and half the population is collecting and not working! So many lazy, non-work ethic people in this state. That is why I side with the union workers because at least most of them are working ! The union employees have really been hit hard the past few years and I'm surprised they all aren't on stress leave ! No where else has the pay, and benefits been so quickly and drasticially effected in a negative way and the attacks continue !! I don't think people realize what they are doing when they are attacking the unions. It allows big business to win. Big business such as Walmart than can do what ever they want. Which means very negative things for their employees (working holidays, long hours without compensation, etc..) Mean while the CEO's continue to make their crazy salaries. I'm personally disgusted with how much money CEO's of companies make and they really don't deserve that type of income while their employees are struggling just to put food on the table. This really comes down to the continuation of the self=destruction of America. As you know things aren't getting any better, in fact it's getting worse. We are imploding as a nation due to a hoist of reasons but it all boils down to society, the aclu, democrats and republicans, and greed. Society is the worst I've ever seen it. Guys getting girls pregnant,than not sticking around, or the 50 percent divorce rate, broken families, lack of religion, living above their means, excessive alcohol and drug use, bad parenting...to name a few. The politicians are the worst I've ever seen. None of them can agree on anything and nothing is getting done except for spending our tax money on the lazy population that doesn't want to work. The ACLU is probably the worst organization that ever was created. It suppose to be for equal rights or something like that. All they have done is aided people who are anti-social, anti-religious, anti-everything. They defend the 51% not working in this state. Greed is the worst of all. Money is the root of all evils. Examples are the politicians, the CEO's, professional sport players, and the unemployed living off the system. But, MOST union working employees are just trying to make a living in this cruel world. The media has warped the image of the majority of union employees. A few bad apples who should have been dealt with swiftly that still have a job also doesn't help the image. As a tax payer I'm tired of hearing about the few bad apples down at the "City Yard". Those criminals need to be fired. I think there has been 2 or 3 that stole from the city that we know about, whether it be loam, tools, using city equipment etc.. Why do they still have a job ? There seems to be a problem with how things are being managed down there at the Warwick DPW for this to continue to occur. But, does that mean the employees down at the library should be grouped togeather? The obvious answer is no.

Thank you, Mike. Every Rhode Islander needs to know that the Unions are not the enemy. People like Travis Rowley are obstructionist and impede the forward movement of the recovery of this state by promulgating divisiveness. The State Pension system has been plundered and abused for decades by our state legislators, to accommodate special interests and friends. That is NOT their money. It is our money!! We, as state employees, paid into that fund our whole working lives. We watched as special elite groups were given full retirement benefits without ever paying into the system - people who made very large salaries compared to those of us who paid into the system. We watched as the state failed to make their contribution to the system year after year, yet did not hesitate to use this fund as their "piggy bank". We agreed to pay extra money into the fund every 2 weeks so that we could retain our COLA's. It's time for the State to honor their commitment to the members of the State pension system and that includes our teachers!! We paid for our pensions - more than almost any other state worker in every other state in the nation! Mr. Rowley appears dishonest when he picks and chooses what parts of this study he wants to present to the public. Only by disseminating facts and truths, will the people of this state be able to work together to move forward.

Rowley never mentions the more than generous pension his father gets from the State that he never contributed a dime to.

Public employees are allowed to unionize...Union leadership collects dues from said employees...Over many years unions start to finance politicians through campaign funding... Private sector union leadership teams up with public sector union leadership...Union leadership then starts fielding and electing union employees and union leaders as candidates...They then get elected because of massive funding and organization…Union leadership then aligns with poverty advocates...They take over the General Assembly…Union-controlled politicians start passing unrealistic and unaffordable laws and rules that benefit themselves...Poverty advocates demand more...Union leaders give more to poverty advocates...Union leaders pass even more smoke and mirrors legislation to the detriment of private sector taxpayers...Suddenly HHS grows at an unsustainable rate...Pension funds get misused to meet demands of poverty advocates by union leaders with fake promises by elected union politicians...Unfunded pension liabilities grow at an unsustainable rate...Rhode Island becomes uninhabitable by businesses because union rules and the resulting taxes and regulations make R.I. the worst place in America to do business...R.I. loses business tax base...Union-financed politicians start raising tax rates at an unsustainable pace on citizens while not providing real reform or relief...Citizens start to leave in droves...R.I. has the second lowest population growth in the country for the last decade as a result...Less taxpayers, less businesses, most generous benefits, highest unfunded pensions...Third highest unemployment...Even more producers leave...Home values crash...Suddenly the emperor has no clothes...Union leadership then starts to violate the law to help win elections...Union leadership starts to threaten violence on elected officials and private citizens...R.I. goes bankrupt...The people that the union leadership say they care about and defend have their retirement and future destroyed by their leadership…The only people left in organized labor that have 90 percent funded pensions, great benefits and outrageous salaries are those in leadership and their family members.

Sean that is quite the fairy tale !!! If the economic problems of RI were only that easy. Public employees that are being underpaid, overworked, and given no benefits or poor benefits have the right to want to join a union to better their lives.

My Grandmother from County Leitrim used to say 'If you had a boil on your butt long enough you'd get used to it.' Rhode Islanders have had a figurative boil on their butff for decades, and have simply grown used to it. The state remains one of the highest taxed states in the country, in exchange for deplorable pubic services from an alarmingly bloated state beaurocracy. The 1% income tax enacted in 1947 was to be "temporary". Ditto the "temporary" 1% sales tax. As Reagan said, nothing is as permanent as a temporary tax. In addtion to confiscatory taxes to fund this bloated government, RI has the second lowest medain level of education among it's adults. Hence, RI-ers can't really figure out that they're being hosed. RI is also second among New England states in the percent of it's adult population that was born and raised here and never left the state. Result: People don't really know any other way. It's all a demographic recipe for financial disaster, and that's exactly what's happening. Major American corporations avoid RI like the plague due to it's corrupt business practices, tax structure, and under-educated work force. I do not blame public sector unions for this climate of malaise, but rather cowardly politicians who not only enable it, but encourage it for the purpose of collecting labor union dollars and endorsements. At some point, Rhode Islanders need to consider the following: What specific state services are you receiving for your state income and sales taxes that citizens in New Hampshire do NOT receive? When you can't anwer, think of the boil on your butt.

Public sector unions and collective bargaining are the enemy. End of story.

Apparently Sean has never heard of the Koch brothers who's sank/sink millions into republican/tea bag party candidates every year. It's not unions Sean. How about the Walmart lobbyist. They pay workers crap yet four family members are in the top ten richest in the world... Daddy's money... Yea unions are to blame...

Sean you tea bag loser... No one likes your party . You got smoked in the election go back to Cranston and hide with the the rest of you tea bag losers. The world is changing and the quicker you lunatics understand it the better.

The still unanswered question...Why should taxpayers who on average have $40,000 or less to retire on ,support the public worker who works for the taxpayer with a million dollar plus guaranteed retirement? ok , i get it ...the damage has been done..but why do we persist with defined benefit plans for public workers.? Why are they guaranteed health care luxury policies?

Mgr2012 The key points you like many good hard working Americans are missing is a good, quality and affordable health insurance package is not a luxury. All of America's working families should have this as was the case for the most part 25 years ago. Some where along the line the vast majority of working families lost this and in the process were brainwashed by the right, backed by their big business benefactors into thinking good quality, and affordable health insurance was a luxury. Instead of attacking the last remaining bastion of middle class left in America (Public Employees, Teachers, and Public Safety) we should be working together to organize private sector workers and advocating for a return of a strong and vibrant middle class (decent wages, secure retirement, good affordable healthcare). The second point I beleive you are missing is similar to the first. Defined contribution plans were never intended to be a sole source of retirement income. Again somewhere over the course of the past qaurter century the big business backed right has by hook and by crook shuffled the vast majority of Americans away from the secure, reliable and dependable retirement workers earned to a unstable, unreliable, and injadeqaute defined contribution system. This is what has caused the crisis American workers now face as they look towards retirement. Again it is no coincidence the majority of Americans who continue to cling to retirement security are well organized public employees. Instead of the tired old misery loves company argument let's organize our working men and women and fight to correct this terrible injustice which has played out over the last quarter century and return America's working men and women to dignity.......

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