State Workers Not The Problem
State employee compensation has been blamed for adding to Michigan's budget woes. Lawsuits filed recently by the UAW and other unions have reignited charges that state workers care about their wallets, whatever the cost to taxpayers.
In late September, the Legislature amended state employee retirement law to add an early retirement incentive and require active employees to pay 3 percent of their wages into a retiree health care trust. Contributions began Nov. 5 and continue to Sept. 30, 2013.
The lawsuits' aim isn't to obstruct perceived budget fixes or insulate state employees from shared sacrifice. They were filed to protect the Michigan Constitution and bargaining rights and processes implemented nearly 35 years ago by the Michigan Civil Service Commission. Most don't know that Michigan's Constitution gives sole authority to the commission to determine state employee compensation and rules governing state employee bargaining.
The Legislature violated the constitution when it required state employees to pay into a retiree health care trust. The lawsuits seek to restore the constitution's integrity, keep compensation decisions with the commission, and allow the state to honor its labor contracts.
Despite the claims of labor's detractors, state workers and their labor representatives are ready to work with Gov.-elect Rick Snyder to re-imagine state government. The UAW and Snyder have already discussed meeting to begin sharing state employee ideas to help government operate efficiently and effectively.
Our members have tried to share fixes with management to little effect. We welcome the overdue chance to collaborate with those who can affect operational change.
Those complaining that state employees don't care about taxpayers and make more than their private sector counterparts are misinformed. State employees pay taxes and their spouses, children and other loved ones work in the private sector. Studies show that many make less than those in the private sector. Dividing employees is a classic ploy to support worker pay cuts.
The UAW believes that all workers deserve fair compensation and working conditions, consistent with our historic and current role in helping grow a solid middle class in Michigan and throughout the country.
State employee unions worked with Gov. Jennifer Granholm when she asked for help to meet compensation budget goals. In 2009 and 2010, state workers accepted proposals that cut their pay by about 5 percent. They also agreed that employees hired after April 1, 2010, pay 20 percent of their state health care plan costs. These changes occurred through voluntary negotiations in exchange for the state honoring union contractual compensation provisions until Sept. 30, 2012.
State workers care about providing good government service. They want a financially secure Michigan for themselves and their families. Dividing employees and advocating compensation cuts won't create a better Michigan.
State employees have always been ready to work with management willing to listen to their smart solutions for change. Those who claim otherwise are out of step with current reality.
Cindy Estrada, Vice President of the International Union, UAW, and Director of Public Sector and Health Care Servicing Department.