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  • Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

    Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government, New Data Shows

    For the first time in American history, a majority of union members are government workers rather than private-sector employees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday.
    This represents a pretty dramatic shift that shows how destitute private industry really is in todays economy, and how most of the good paying jobs are within the government these days. Also, how the benefits and salaries for government workers are massively higher than in the private sector.

    For feds, more get 6-figure salaries
    Average pay $30,000 over private sector

    The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.

    Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months — and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

    Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.

    The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

    When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

    The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises and new salary rules.

    "There's no way to justify this to the American people. It's ridiculous," says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a first-term lawmaker who is on the House's federal workforce subcommittee.

    Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association, says the federal workforce is highly paid because the government employs skilled people such as scientists, physicians and lawyers. She says federal employees make 26% less than private workers for comparable jobs.

    USA TODAY analyzed the Office of Personnel Management's database that tracks salaries of more than 2 million federal workers. Excluded from OPM's data: the White House, Congress, the Postal Service, intelligence agencies and uniformed military personnel.

    The growth in six-figure salaries has pushed the average federal worker's pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.
    So government employees on average make $30,000 more a year than the private sector. Wow, just wow. But the problem is also on the state and local level as well, as this article about California shows.

    Public Employee Unions Are Sinking California
    Months after closing its last budget gap, the Golden State is $20 billion in the red.

    Approximately 85% of the state's 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period. A Schwarzenegger adviser wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in the past few days that, "This year alone, $3 billion was diverted to pension costs from other programs." There are now more than 15,000 government retirees statewide who receive pensions that exceed $100,000 a year, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

    Many of these retirees are former police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year's pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state's pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven't been).
    Must be nice to retire at age 50 with 90% of your final years pay plus benefits. No wonder California is bankrupt.

    This problem has been going on for years and really blossomed under the Bush administration.

    Big Government Gets Bigger
    The Republican Party's oft-stated affinity for smaller government has not applied during the Bush administration. According to a recent study, not only is the number of federal civil servants on the rise, but so are the numbers of employees working for government-funded contractors and for organizations that receive government grants.

    Roll all of those together -- and mix in the numbers of postal workers and military personnel on the federal payroll -- and the "true size" of the federal government stands at 14.6 million employees, said Paul C. Light, the study's author and a government professor at New York University.
    President Obama has done no better and has expanded on this practice of hiring more government employees.

    As Deficit Rises, So Too Does Number of Federal Employees

    Thanks to the $800 billion stimulus package, and other huge government spending increases, the number of federal and state employees is projected to increase massively. The federal government’s payroll may grow by more than 200,000, and perhaps as much as 600,000, over the course of the Obama administration. Obama’s budgets, which would result in record deficit spending of $9.3 trillion, would add at least 100,000 additional bureaucrats during just his first budget, and perhaps as many as 250,000.

    This is going to be enormously costly, because federal employees are paid much better than private-sector employees, especially for unskilled jobs and jobs requiring only a liberal arts degree.
    I'm just speechless about this information. I think it creates an 'us against them' mentality, basically if you work for the government there is no recession. Why would you even care, your perfectly content in your over-payed-benefit-loaded lifestyle. The unions in the future will mostly be representing government employees, therefore creating a 'more government is good' philosophy in their already very powerful lobby in Washington. The government employees themselves would find it hard to vote for ANY candidate that advocates smaller government, because that might cost them their jobs.
    |TG-X| mp40x



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  • #2
    Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

    Originally posted by mp40x View Post
    ...basically if you work for the government there is no recession. Why would you even care, your perfectly content in your over-payed-benefit-loaded lifestyle. The unions in the future will mostly be representing government employees, therefore creating a 'more government is good' philosophy in their already very powerful lobby in Washington. The government employees themselves would find it hard to vote for ANY candidate that advocates smaller government, because that might cost them their jobs.
    Hmmmm, while I'm not truly offended, the phrase that comes to mind is "I take offense to that..."

    I'm a federal employee, and an active union member in my office. I'd be willing to bet money that the employees in my office would vote more conservatively, on average, than the members of this Sandbox. And by "conservatively", I mean for less government.

    Turnover is high enough in most federal jobs, that any significant cutback will not likely result in firing anyone. All that needs to be done is to stop hiring new employees. In fact, my agency has recently drastically cut back on hiring for their largest law enforcement position. My office has dozens of vacant positions that aren't going to be filled any time soon. With the exception of management, very few federal employees care whether or not hiring gets cut back. Unions don't care much, either, for various reasons.

    I'm surprised to hear that the average federal employee's pay is $71,206, as that makes me below average! Now I really want a raise! I make significantly less than non-federal workers in jobs similar to mine. I have been comfortable throughout this recession, though my pay in 2009 was over $10,000 less than I made in 2008 due to overtime drying up.

    I will say that I believe that some jobs are inherently governmental in nature and should not be contracted out. I want my union to fight to protect those federal jobs. I don't want some minimum wage security guard taking care of federal prisons, or transporting US Marshal fugitives, or escorting illegal aliens on commercial flights and representing the USA to foreign officials.

    Oh, and here's a test to post a pic:

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    • #3
      Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

      Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
      I'd be willing to bet money that the employees in my office would vote more conservatively, on average, than the members of this Sandbox. And by "conservatively", I mean for less government.
      This may be true in your case, but I still say that there are very few people that would vote for a candidate that they knew would willingly cut their government department or job, although there are exceptions I'm sure. That's not to mention the labor union, wich would probably never support eliminating government jobs that already existed. I realize that your minimizing the entire point because you yourself are a goverment employee, and thats fine, but you can't ignore the fact that the overall massive size and cost of the government is completely outrageous and not sustainable
      .
      Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
      I'm surprised to hear that the average federal employee's pay is $71,206, as that makes me below average!
      The average is a little artificially high due to the very high number of government employees that make a six figure salary.
      Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
      I will say that I believe that some jobs are inherently governmental in nature and should not be contracted out. I want my union to fight to protect those federal jobs. I don't want some minimum wage security guard taking care of federal prisons, or transporting US Marshal fugitives, or escorting illegal aliens on commercial flights and representing the USA to foreign officials.
      Sure. There are a couple areas of the government that I don't care to be privatized at all. One being military security contractors such as the awful example of Blackwater, the other being private prisons and corrections officers.
      |TG-X| mp40x



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      • #4
        Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

        Originally posted by mp40x View Post
        I'm just speechless about this information. I think it creates an 'us against them' mentality, basically if you work for the government there is no recession. Why would you even care, your perfectly content in your over-payed-benefit-loaded lifestyle. The unions in the future will mostly be representing government employees, therefore creating a 'more government is good' philosophy in their already very powerful lobby in Washington. The government employees themselves would find it hard to vote for ANY candidate that advocates smaller government, because that might cost them their jobs.
        I hate to say it, but you kinda got it right. My father is a six figure government worker. I can tell you, that (from at least the areas I am around), the recession around the DC area is barely felt. I might be incredibly sheltered, but compared to areas I've been through during the economic downturn; DC, due to the fact that everyone either works for the government, a government contractor, or works for a government servicing company.

        Actually, after seeing this thread, I brought the topic to my dad. While he is a political independent, he agreed that if he knew that a candidate would cut his job, he wouldn't vote for them. But in DC, there are so many government jobs, losing one wouldn't be the end of the world.

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        • #5
          Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

          Socialism FTW :P

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          • #6
            Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

            Yeah, its usually not a good sign when the government is the single largest employer in the country. But I suppose we have to staff the intelligence and military complex needed to support 2 wars, the welfare state, homeland security, and the thousand other federal agencies. Seeing as how this war on terror will likely go on for a long time (forever?), its probably a safe assumption it will never get any smaller.

            Libertarians are a pretty lonely bunch these days outside of a few here and there yelling into the wind.
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            • #7
              Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

              Originally posted by aeroripper View Post
              Yeah, its usually not a good sign when the government is the single largest employer in the country.
              Right. This report estimates that it will keep increasing:
              The federal government is the nationís largest employer, with more than 1.67 million full-time, permanent workers (excluding the Postal Service). This figure rises to 1.9 million if non-permanent and part-time employees are included.
              Our federal government is hiring tens of thousands of new employees at a steady pace, with job openings available for every interest area and at virtually every agency.

              Federal Hiring is Accelerating:

              Job opportunities are available in our federal government because of increased demand for services, priority program initiatives, retirements and normal attrition. In the next three fiscal years, the government will hire nearly 273,000 individuals for mission-critical jobs, a sizable jump from the 2007-2009 timeframe when agencies said they needed to hire 193,000 new workers for essential occupations. Source
              That report does not include the "hidden workforce" of course that drastically increases the overall numbers, as noted in this article.

              I never intented to knock anyone who has a government job with this post I might add. It's just amazing to me that there are so many government employees and their benefits and salaries seem to far outweigh those of the private sector. The people that work for the government are hardly responsible for the 'drunken sailors' in Washington that can't seem to stop the useless spending and never ending expansions of government departments and agencies that require all these employees.
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              • #8
                Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

                Originally posted by mp40x View Post
                This may be true in your case, but I still say that there are very few people that would vote for a candidate that they knew would willingly cut their government department or job, although there are exceptions I'm sure. That's not to mention the labor union, wich would probably never support eliminating government jobs that already existed. I realize that your minimizing the entire point because you yourself are a goverment employee, and thats fine, but you can't ignore the fact that the overall massive size and cost of the government is completely outrageous and not sustainable.
                No, I agree with you that the gov't is too massive. I disagree with you on what individual employees think about it. Changing the number of federal employees does not have to involve getting rid of current employees! Freezing hiring will do that quite quickly all on its own. I believe that if you were to tell gov't employees that you are a politician that will cut the size of gov't without affecting the people that are current employees, that you'll get a much different answer from current employees.

                I read that over half of the federal work force is going to be leaving federal employment in the next two years. That would be a VERY drastic cut in the size of our government, but it illustrates my point.
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                • #9
                  Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

                  Originally posted by mp40x View Post
                  Must be nice to retire at age 50 with 90% of your final years pay plus benefits.
                  WTF!? seriously? <sigh>

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                  • #10
                    Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

                    Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
                    I believe that if you were to tell gov't employees that you are a politician that will cut the size of gov't without affecting the people that are current employees, that you'll get a much different answer from current employees.
                    I am sure many would agree with that politician.

                    But what would they say when the amount of work required remained the same or increased but the number of people to do the jobs where halved?

                    Even if the people trying to do twice as much work agreed those being served would probably raise a stink. I think it would also lead to even more corruption.
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                    • #11
                      Re: Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government

                      Originally posted by El_Gringo_Grande View Post
                      I am sure many would agree with that politician.

                      But what would they say when the amount of work required remained the same or increased but the number of people to do the jobs where halved?

                      Even if the people trying to do twice as much work agreed those being served would probably raise a stink. I think it would also lead to even more corruption.
                      What kind of work are you talking about? Have you been to the DMV lately? Seen the lines at the Post Office? It's simple, if you don't have enough people to do the work, you don't get the same quality/quantity of work. <shrug>

                      You're still not going to see an outcry if you're not proposing to end anyone's career simply because you're unable to balance a budget any other way...
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