The average state or local government worker in California makes nearly $70,000 per year (ref. U.S. Census 2010 State Payroll – California and U.S. Census 2010 Local Government Worker Payroll – California). The average state or local government worker in California, if they work 30 years, will retire with a pension that averages $66,864 per year, and the average public school teacher in California, if they work 30 years, will retire with a pension that averages $68,316 per year (ref. CalPERS Annual Financial Report FYE 6-30-2011, page 153, and CalSTRS Annual Financial Report FYE 6-30-2010, page 149). Bearing in mind that most private sector workers spend at least 40 years performing full-time work – for example, from age 25 until age 65 – it is germane to note that a public school teacher in California who works 40 years will receive an average retirement pension of $103,128 per year.

In addition to pay and retirement benefits that greatly exceed private sector averages, California’s state and local workers are invariably granted health insurance benefits where the vast majority of the premium payments are covered by the employer.  In the private sector, it is a privilege to be offered membership in a group plan, i.e., to even be allowed to have health insurance, much less have 80% (or more) of the premium covered by the employer.

The typical state or local government job in California usually includes 12-14 paid holidays per year, along with paid “personal” days, paid vacation that levels off at 20 days (or more) per year by mid-career, sick leave that accrues without limit and can be cashed in, and “comp time” packages such as the “9/80” program, whereby if a government employee works nine hour days for nine days, they get the 10th day off with pay. That is, show up slightly early and skip a few breaks each day, and you get a three day weekend every other week, with pay.

Let’s not forget that on top of these benefits that only “millionaires and billionaires” can enjoy in the private sector, the average public sector worker pretty much has a job for life. In a mere two years, for example, a public school teacher acquires “tenure,” and cannot be fired without a due process that is obscenely expensive and outrageously prolonged – even if they have committed serious crimes. Similar protections exist for most all government workers in California.

But it isn’t enough.

As reported on February 13th in the Sacramento Bee, in an article entitled “California lawmaker writes ‘Public Employees Bill of Rights’,” Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, has introduced legislation that would “give unionized state workers more workplace discipline protections and first dibs on state government work.” And as one might expect, SEIU Local 1000 and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists support Dickinson’s AB 1655, the “Public Employees Bill of Rights Act.”

Anyone familiar with public employee labor organizations or has read through any of the labor agreements negotiated for state and local government employees by these unions knows that California’s government workers are already among the most over-protected, over-paid workers in the history of the planet.

Ultimately, the problem with even more rules that bankrupt our governments at the same time as they restrict the ability of public managers to run their agencies efficiently are not the fault of the workers. Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? The root of the problem is the agenda of public sector unions, which is invariably to increase their membership and negotiate ever higher compensation packages, which translates into more dues revenue for these unions. The inevitable result of this agenda is more government programs, more government spending, higher taxes, and budget deficits. The inherent agenda of public sector unions is at odds with good governance and the public interest.

One of the most astute commentators on the issue of public sector sustainability is David Goldman, a relatively obscure columnist for the Asia Times who has, for years, offered seminal insights on politics, economics and demographics. Goldman pours cold water on the notion that those who call for reform of the public sector unions are being manipulated by corporations and billionaires. In a post last fall entitled “The Economics of Polarization,” he writes:

“America is engaged in class war, but not of the sort one reads about in the mainstream press. The truly indigent have little to do in this war. Large corporations for the most part are bystanders as well; they will make their peace with the victor. This is a war of survival between the productive middle class on one hand, and the dependents of the state on the other.”

“Public sector employees unions rode the real estate bubble along with homeowners, and local governments awarded them unsustainable concessions in the form of pay, pensions and health benefits. Their political power waxed with state and local spending power. Today the public sector unions are the backbone of the Democratic Party. They man the phone banks, staff polling stations, and round up voters to the polls.”

One may consider it partisanship to quote a pundit who identifies the Democratic party as in partnership with public sector unions. Or perhaps it would merely be accurate reporting. Assemblymember Dickinson and all of those in his position – Republicans among them – need to decide what is truly in the public interest. Taking money from public sector unions whose sole agenda is the expansion of government, while corporations sit on the sidelines, represents a profound political imbalance that cannot endure.

9 Responses to California Legislator Proposes “Public Employee Bill of Rights”

  1. Tough Love says:

    Quoting …”Ultimately, the problem with even more rules that bankrupt our governments at the same time as they restrict the ability of public managers to run their agencies efficiently are not the fault of the workers. Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? The root of the problem is the agenda of public sector unions, which is invariably to increase their membership and negotiate ever higher compensation packages, which translates into more dues revenue for these unions. The inevitable result of this agenda is more government programs, more government spending, higher taxes, and budget deficits. The inherent agenda of public sector unions is at odds with good governance and the public interest.”

    Public Sector Unions are CANCER on Society and should be outlawed.

  2. Charles says:

    I worked 40 years for the State and I know that this $66,864 per year for a 30 year employee based on a %70,000 per year income is nothing but horsefeathers.

    The absolute max a State miscellaneous employ who started at the age of 33 and worked until 63 (thirty years) could receive would be 75% of salary. That would be $52,500.

    This article says he would receive 97%. Since the first paragraph contains a bald faced lie, I suggest you ignore the rest of it.

  3. Tough Love says:

    Charles, You’ve repeatedly said you’re a retired engineer …. with some grey matter between the ears. The article did state the 2 two facts you repeated; (1) The average state or local government worker in California makes nearly $70,000 per year, and (2) The average state or local government worker in California, if they work 30 years, will retire with a pension that averages $66,864 per year.

    From these facts you concluded that (2) must be erroneous BECAUSE it would represent a 97% of pay pension.

    Being a thinking person, you should realize that the Average pension is based on the pay AT RETIREMENT and the the $70K in (1) above is the average salary OF ALL WORKERS, NOT the average salary of those at retirement. Clearly the average salary AT retirement would be considerably higher.

  4. Rex! says:

    TL, Charles is not that bright, dont bother him with facts

  5. SeeSaw says:

    I absolutely do not believe that the average government worker, in CA, makes $70,000/yr. I worked, in the public sector, for 40 years, and was making $50,000, at the time of my retirement. There were many who made much more than me, and many who were in the under $35,000 range. It takes quite a few elite managers to bring that average up, and they are much fewer in numbers, than the rank and file. The average pension benefit, amount for all CalPERS members, who retired, at the conclusion of fiscal year, 2011, is $3065/mo. and the average age is 60. Wash your mouth out with soap, Rex. Charles was an engineer, who is responsible for a lot of the infrastructure you enjoy in CA. He is a lot smarter than a dog!

  6. John says:

    SeeSaw,

    The average pension number you quote includes those that did not work a full 30 years and those that retired long ago. The relevant number is what does one obtain if retiring today after a 30 year career. And that is number is 66K per year. You can go to the CalPers annual report and see this for yourself.

  7. Tough Love says:

    John, Goods points, but the real target (now that “cash pay” in the Public and private sector is just about equal), is to compare the value of the expected future pension (expressed as a lump sum … i.e., the present value of expected future pension payments discounted with interest and mortality) on the date of retirement. It is necessary to make the comparison this way because virtually all Public Sector pensions are annually COLA-increased, while such COLA increases are almost unheard of in Private Sector Plans.

    Given the SAME rate of pay, the SAME years of service, and the SAME age at retirement (e.g., 30 years of service retiring at age 60) the Taxpayer paid-for share of the TYPICAL Public Sector pension is 2-4 times (6 times for safety workers) greater than the pension of the Private sector counterpart. In addition, while Retiree healthcare is often free or heavily subsidized in the Public Sector, this benefit has almost disappeared in the Private Sector.

    The upshot of roughly equal “cash pay” but far far greater pensions and benefits in the Public Sector is far far greater Public Sector “total compensation” (pay + pensions + benefits). This is unnecessary to attract and retain a qualified workforce, is extraordinarily expensive and unsustainable, and is grossly unfair to taxpayers whose contribution (and the investment earnings thereon) routinely pay for 80-90% of Public Sector pensions.

  8. junbug20 says:

    Did you read the entire article you haters, when looking for employment you LOOK for things like; benefits, retirement etc…public or private sector, so why the boo hooing now?? and it’s false that state workers do not get fired, management needs to manage up so there wouldn’t be so much waste and stress. Thank you

  9. junbug20 says:

    And YES state workers pay PLENTY of taxes!

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