This was printed in today’s Racine Journal Times as an open letter to the public. Just as I did for the Gifford teachers, I will post it below and stand in boisterous applause!!
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN
FROM CONCERNED STATE EMPLOYEES/
EMPLOYEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-PARKSIDE
March 13, 2011
Over the last six months, candidates for public office and elected officials have made statements defining State employees as overpaid and overcompensated in their benefits (including retirement plans), thus making State employees the scapegoat for the economic crisis the State of Wisconsin currently faces. As State employees who have dedicated our careers to providing quality service to the citizens of Wisconsin, we feel it is time to clarify the facts and provide perspective.
Governor Walker has an interesting view of his dedicated band of state employees. “You are not going to hear me degrade state and local employees in the public sector,” Walker said. “But we can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots.” (Lee Bergquist and Jason Stein, “Walker Looks at Showdown with State Employee Unions,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/7/10)
Let’s talk about what we HAVE done:
1. All State employees HAVE paid taxes. We pay sales tax, income tax, property tax, all the same taxes everyone else pays. We help to ‘foot the bills’;
2. We HAVE endured irregular pay increases that do not always keep up with the cost of living increase;
3. We HAVE an annual salary that is approximately 5% less than what we would receive in the private sector (8-12% for University of Wisconsin-System non-classified staff and faculty);
4. We HAVE earned our pensions and retirement plans. Those benefits, along with our salaries, are part of the total compensation we receive for the services we perform. They are not “handouts” from the taxpayer. As Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Kay Johnston notes: “…state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system… They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin” (David Kay Johnston, “Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who “Contributes” to Public Workers’ Pensions?”, Tax.com, 2/24/11);
5. We HAVE taken 6-8 furlough days per year (during which many of us keep up our regular work schedule, for no pay). For all of us, this is equivalent to a three percent pay reduction for the past two years;
6. We HAVE given up a 2% legislatively approved salary increase from the 2007-2009 biennium, which has not been restored;
7. A large number of us HAVE been asked to provide more services – additional duties, overload, expectation of working more than 40 hours per week, coverage for other staff during furlough days, additional summer work – all with no additional remuneration;
8. After adding the reductions to benefits directed by the currently proposed Budget Repair Bill for Fiscal Year 2011, State employees will HAVE endured an approximate 10-15% reduction in income;
But what is most important is that we HAVE given good service to the State of Wisconsin! Here is a short list of some of the services we HAVE provided:
We give citizens – from babies to senior citizens – the education and training they need to compete in today’s global economy and earn family-sustaining wages.
We clean your buildings at all state-run facilities;
We maintain those same buildings to protect your tax dollar investment;
We maintain the infrastructure of our highways and places of public domain;
We offer people with disabilities a chance at full employment;
We provide health care for many who would have no other options;
We insure the health and safety of our citizens;
We uphold the laws governing Wisconsin;
We provide valuable research addressing state, national, and global concerns;
We plan for the future.
To provide these services, we have had to make many countless, undocumented sacrifices that are seldom reported. We have kept our doors open while we stagger furlough days so there is no noticeable interruption in the service we provide. Many, many state employees have to work more than one job to make ends meet. Our colleagues have had to retire before they had planned as they watch their annual salaries shrink. Many State employees have had to sell their homes to make ends meet. We are just like you.
The future does not look much better. There are many who will have to leave public service when these new cuts come into place. There are thousands that will stay and have to take on another job – in some cases, another 20-30 hours per week – in order to continue providing the service they see as vital to the welfare of the people. There is real concern that our entry level classified staff will have an annual salary dangerously close to the poverty line.
We are dedicated to the people of this state, welcoming its visitors, educating its citizens, and promoting the great way of life Wisconsin has to offer. Please consider how state workers HAVE contributed to the high quality of life in this state that has kept our doors “open for business.”