Union vs. private sector in CT: Fact vs. fiction

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This is an open letter to the author of Hartford Courant article Oct. 27 “I’m a State Employee – I’m Not The Problem.”

You are right that any one state employee is not the problem. No one snowflake feels responsible for the avalanche. But union folks live in a bubble. I have a front row perspective; a CPA with 20 years public accounting experience servicing clients owning privately held companies and individuals of all net worth levels (very small to very large) tax returns , plus another six years working in CT Big Corp environment.

Let’s first acknowledge you are a union president. Let’s also acknowledge, as it is public information and has already been publicly written elsewhere, that your salary is more than $129,000, exclusive of health, pension and all other benefits.

Let’s also sanitize the argument by appropriately taking Big Corp America companies and the “wealthy” out of this discussion. This is between you (Unions) and us (CT non-Union taxpayers who pay you). Connecticut’s annual budget in 1991 was $7.9 billion. Today it’s $20 billion. It’s a spending problem; not a revenue problem. So your tax-the-wealthy- and-businesses-more argument doesn’t fly.

Starting in 2009, private sector mass layoffs occurred, regardless of your position or worth to a company. How does 20-25 percent in some of these Big-Corp companies sound to you? How about 10 percent, 20 percent 30 percent in smaller employers (10-300 employees)?

Now let’s analyze your statements:

Paragraph 8 – “I have sacrificed time and again” and “bludgeon of middle class state employees” and “steep economic concessions.”

Paragraph 9- “three wage freezes,” are “paying more for my health insurance,” and “on top of that contributing an additional 3 percent of my salary into a retiree trust fund.”

Let’s take a sanitized look at reality versus rhetoric.

1) Layoffs – Bloodbath in private sector, none in union sector.

2) Health Insurance – My story is common. By year end I will have contributed $9,506 towards my employer-provided premium, with a $4,000 deductible (2,000 each for myself and wife), and I still have to pay 30 percent of bills on certain items not fully covered. This year those items have tallied $4,500.

I do many 1040 tax returns; so you can’t snow me on the following huge point. I’m seeing zero or very little contributions on my state workers W-2’s for money taken out of their salary for health insurance! My state employee buddy just had triple by-pass; out of pocket zero. Three state employee neighbors retired at age 59 or 60 with free health insurance for them and spouse; sweet bridge to Medicare we can’t relate too. Sixteen cumulative years at estimated annual $20,000 totaling $320,000 tax dollars for a mere three retirees. Private sector folks are getting killed on medical costs!

3) Salaries – Hogwash that state workers make less! I know firsthand many folks making way more than they’d make in real world, due to longevity and automatic union raises. You complain about “3 wage freezes,” yet make $152,000 with great benefits! Private sector wages have been stagnant for years.

4) Pensions – What’s that?

    1. We fund our own retirement; into non-guaranteed stock market risk.
    1. My story is standard. I contribute $23,000 of my own salary into my 401k plan (most folks can’t afford even half of that!) My employer then contributes $1,950. I then put this $24,950 into investments I choose in a risky stock market. This is how I will fund my retirement years. My wife does the very same.

5) Most state union employees have a pension plan and access to a 403b (401k) plan. I’m seeing retired state workers collecting such nice pensions they don’t even have to tap into their other accounts. I guess they’ll be able to leave that to their kids. Your additional 3 percent contribution is peanuts. I’m guessing your pension, based on your salary, will be well over $100,000, with a COLA and guaranteed; no stock market risk.

6) Hours worked annually – I estimate private sector folks work anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent more hours. A lot of folks making your “wealthy” salary either own businesses or have responsible positions and work 55, 60, 65 hours a week a good portion of the year.

You decry corporate welfare; I would argue the unions are on it. The realities are that your salary and health and pension benefits are outstanding, your “sacrifices” are non-existent, and you certainly are not part of the “bludgeoned middle class.”

Jim Norris is a certified public accountant living in Tolland. 

What do you think?

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