-By John Dillon
A now-timely cartoon in the UTNE Reader years ago showed a grim-faced human resources manager behind a desk strewn with resumes and looking down on prospective applicant in a small wooden chair sitting before him.
HR Manager: You will be given an unbearable workload, your colleagues will harass and abuse you, any materials provided will be insufficient, there is no time off, you’ll never find advancement, vermin will bite your ankles, and you get health care.
Applicant: Health care? I’ll take the job!
So, what actually makes a job a worthy exchange for your labor? Is it just the pay?
Novice Governor Bruce Rauner, who is girding up for his forced strike with the 38,000 AFSCME employees would drew a line in the sand concerning pay: “We have the highest paid state employees in America. We need a fair system.”
We can debate the beginner Governor’s concept of “fair” later, but do we really have the highest paid state workers in the country? That’s an interesting claim.
According to a recent American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy released by Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine, the answer is “not so much.”
The research “Overpaid or Underpaid? A State-by-State Ranking of Public Employee Compensation” provides a detailed review of how the cumulative packages of benefits, salaries, pensions, security, and sundry other elements add up in the fifty states which utilize public unions to provide for the general welfare of their people. It is clear from the onset that “highest paid” is a vague and nebulously emotional term.
Take a moment to read along: https://www.aei.org/publication/overpaid-or-underpaid-a-state-by-state-ranking-of-public-employee-compensation/
According to the authors, to say unequivocally that one state’s employees receive a higher or highest compensation is overly simplistic: “The compensation premium is not uniform across the nation. Many states pay government employees at market levels. Others pay huge premiums, and still others fall somewhere in the middle. Because there are large differences from state to state, broad generalizations and national-level analyses are not especially useful to the policymakers who must make budgetary decisions for their own states.”
Indeed, public sector workers like AFSCME in Illinois do not hold a “highest” or even “most expensive” position in terms of workplace benefits.
First, when we look directly at salary (Figure 1, p. 62) – as the Governor would adjure us to do – we will find as we always suspected that the dollar and cents premiums we provide our state workers fall significantly behind those working comparable jobs in the private sector. Well, that is, unless you happen to reside in Connecticut. Illinois does not lead the way, but public sector workers in Illinois certainly fare better than our neighbors in Indiana – a state that provides a model for Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda demands. Indeed. There exists an almost 10% differential in Illinois wages in contrast to Indiana state employees.
But if you have job security (think tenure or due process), doesn’t that move the advantage needle for workers in the public sector?
We find also Illinois still does not outpace other states. Note that in Fig. 13 – p. 74, “Total Compensation differential versus comparable Private Sector Workers – Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania lead the way in double digit numbers when contrasted with Illinois. We’re not only NOT the highest paid in Illinois; public sector workers like AFSCME fall significantly behind other states.
In another later graph, throw in the added value of “Job Security” and those same states accelerate past Illinois, along with California, Michigan, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
Finally, when we look at the same data but add in the values of a Defined Benefit, a Defined Contribution and/or a Pension, Illinois still does not exceed other states (Figure 3 – p. 74) . In fact, the states in which public sector employees receive a greater or same “integrated value for a year’s work” include the following 19 other states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.
So, why the hyperbole?