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Public employees not immune to sacrifices

April 10, 2010
Morning Journal News

When the economy is bad and everyone is expected to bite the bullet, no one should be excluded - not even public employees. When workers in the private sector learn that their employer has hit upon rough times they know what to expect - no wage increases, perhaps an increase in their share of health insurance costs and in very dire times, wage cuts and layoffs.

Why then, shouldn't public employees be willing to accept the same when they know the economy is bad and tax revenues have decreased?

Instead, when the inevitable happens and layoffs occurred as they have during the past month in Salem, we see staged public outcries at council meetings and laid-off employees lashing out at public officials who have been entrusted to make these unpopular decisions.

And, now, the Columbiana County Developmental Disabilities Employees Association, which has been without a contract since the end of 2008, has issued an intent to strike notice.

The 106-member union represents nurses, custodians, secretaries, clerical specialists, workshop specialists, bus drivers, bus aides, food service workers, personal service attendants, habilitation specialists, a maintenance repair worker and custodian-truck driver, all employed by the Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Current wages for the various permanent positions range from $10.50 to $26.76 per hour. The employee contributions for health insurance are $90 per month for a family plan and $45 per month for a single plan. Employees receive at least 19 paid days off in addition to vacation time and three weeks of paid sick leave per year.

County BDD Superintendent William Devon said, "I think they're paid very well," and we agree. Many Columbiana County workers in the private sector can only dream of having such lush benefits. But these people aren't happy and they've issued an intent to strike notice, even though they claim they're not actually ready to strike. They say they're waiting to receive a counterproposal from management. Then they'll meet and decide what action to take.

They're also planning an informational picket at the board office off state Route 45 from 11 a.m. to noon today, but we doubt they'll garner much sympathy from taxpayers who work in the private sector, especially those who have experienced layoffs or cutbacks themselves.

So why can't public employees accept that you can't get blood out of a turnip? What makes them think they can drink from a bottomless well? They need to learn how to weather tough times like private sector workers and stop expecting public officials and taxpayers to come up with money that just isn't there.



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