An exceptional response to the attack on public unions

From this morning’s (Sat 6/25) New York Times:

An op-ed called “Public or Private, It’s Work” by Garrett Keizer contends that the (primarily but not exclusively) conservative attack on public employees is misguided at best, insidious at worst. You should read the whole thing, but I want to highlight two points.

In responding to the claim that public labor and private labor are qualitatively different, Keizer says:

The two-labors fallacy rests on an even shakier proposition: that profits exist only where there is an accountant to tally them. This is economics reduced to the code of a shoplifter — whatever the security guard doesn’t see the store won’t miss. If my wife and I have young children but are still able to enjoy the double-income advantages of a childless couple, isn’t that partly because our children are being watched at school? If I needn’t invest some of my household’s savings in elaborate surveillance systems, isn’t that partly because I have a patrol car circling the block? The so-called “public sector” is a profit-making entity; it profits me.

I don’t imagine that many of you who read this blog or its sisters haven’t made this argument before. The value of our work isn’t necessarily in the capital it generates, but in its good as a public service. Nothing new here, but the way Keizer puts it is powerful.

Another of those arguments that many of us have made repeatedly is that up against the extremely high pay that wealthy owners and managers give themselves in the private sector, who, exactly, in the public sector is being paid a lot? Or as Keizer says:

Right now C.E.O.’s of multinational corporations earn salaries as much as a thousand times those of their lowest-paid employees. In such a context complaining about “lavish” public sector salaries is like shushing the foul language of children playing near the set of a snuff film. Whom are we kidding? More to the point, who’s getting snuffed?

A healthy dose of perspective to kick off your (well, at least my) Saturday morning…

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Public employee unions, public employees

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