Editor's note: The following is a column from the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) in response to an op-ed published on Lakeville Patch on Sept. 5 written by Republican State Senator Dave Thompson titled ""
Senator Dave Thompson’s recent column on the state employees’ contracts was unfortunately full of inaccuracies that we would like to clear up. We acknowledge that Senator Thompson does not support the recent negotiated state contracts and we respect his right to disagree, but we would hope that his criticism was based on the whole story rather than selective or misleading information. Minnesotans deserve the whole story.
For starters, although the joint legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations did recently reject the negotiated state contracts, the parties to the contracts will not return to the bargaining table as Senator Thompson stated. Instead, the state contracts will go before the full legislature for a vote sometime after the legislature convenes in January 2013.
Also, Senator Thompson failed to mention that public employees have also faced wage and compensation stagnation in the past several years. In fact, state employees took voluntary wages freezes for the past three years to help with the budget deficit. And, over the last four years, total compensation for state employees has remained flat. As taxpayers, state employees made sacrifices to help with record budget deficits.
The only raises that are automatic in our proposed contract is 2 percent wage increase, which is according to Culpepper and Associates, a leading compensation survey data company, is right in line with what U.S. Businesses are budgeting for their employee raises in 2012.
I also want to add that in the past 13 years, while serving as the Executive Director for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, I know that state employees were laid off every year. Again, it is important to tell the whole story.
State employees sacrificed $65 million in wages when the state shut down in 2011 and they were not reimbursed for a shutdown they did not want. During that time, Senator Thompson continued to take paychecks to cover his full salary - $31,141.00, as well as collect per diem.
Per diem is an optional taxpayer funded revenue source to cover the costs associated with being a legislator. What is interesting and lacking in Senator Thompson’s recent column on “spending issues” is that when it came to his own paycheck, Thompson failed to state he took the maximum amount in optional per diem, $8,772.00 in just 2011, which inflated his paycheck to $39,913.00 for five months work or $95,791.20 annually.
Senator Thompson’s actions with this own paycheck do not seem to be in sync with his 2010 campaign promise to heavily cut government spending.
Senator Thompson’s public/private employee wage salary comparison is not quite right, either. It is important than when comparisons are made, they are made on an apples-to-apples comparison. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics information, when you compare wages between private and public sector employees at the same job and educational level, state employees make 20.3 percent less than their private sector counterparts.
Finally, when it comes to health care, the current state contract had $8 million dollars in health care cost savings that the state will not see because the contracts are on hold. In addition, state employees are paying higher out of pocket costs which Senator Thompson failed to tell you.
What Senator Thompson also failed to acknowledge is that he receives the same health care coverage as a legislator as state employees. If he does not like the coverage, he can opt-out, so it is interesting that in his public criticism Thompson fails to let his constituents know whether or not during his latest legislative term he has opted-out of health coverage he believes is wrong.
We feel that the state employee health care coverage is fair and similar in comparison to businesses that employ 39,000 people.
After reading Senator Thompson’s column, a quote from Will Rogers came to mind, “If you ever injected truth into politics, you would have no politics.”