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Thompson: Union Wages Among 'Biggest Contributors' to Spending Issues

Lakeville Republican State Senator Dave Thompson discusses union wages in a guest column on Lakeville Patch.

Editor's note: The following is a guest colmun from Republican State Senator Dave Thompson.

The joint legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations recently rejected the contract proposals recommended for two public employee unions by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB). Therefore, the parties to the contract need to go back to the negotiating table to try and craft a compromise that is acceptable to the legislature.

As everyone knows, wages, salaries and benefits have stagnated for most employees in the private sector. And of course many people have been laid off and are unable to find any work at all. Nevertheless, MMB proposed a deal that would have resulted in significant pay increases for members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 5 (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE). In addition, members would have maintained 100 percent health insurance premium coverage for employees, and 85 percent coverage for dependants. 

Everyone agrees that public employees should be fairly compensated. However, those same public employees should not do far better than the folks who pay government’s bills. The average annual Minnesota state government employee’s salary is $55,822, compared with $45,260 in the private sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employees pay an average of 21 percentof their own health insurance premiums. Minnesota state employees pay just 9 percent of their premiums. Despite these compelling numbers, the Administration agreed to raises for AFSCME and MAPE employees of between 7 percent and 9 percent! And employees would not be required to contribute any more to their own health insurance.

Even without this new contract, approximately half of AFSCME and MAPE employees will receive a raise of 5 percent to 7 percent over the next two years.  These increases were built into the previous contract. Only employees that are at the top of the salary range for their positions will not receive a raise.

Republican legislators remain committed to bringing the cost of state government under control. Public employee benefits and salaries are among the biggest contributors to spending growth that is unsustainable. Rejecting these contract proposals is one more piece of the puzzle that must be in place if we are to work toward a government structure that can be maintained into the future, and facilitate the economic growth necessary to keep all Minnesotans employed.

Charlie Quimby September 06, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Sen. Thompson is comparing state employee average pay with public sector workers' pay, but not jobs with jobs. Until the state employs a lot more fry cooks, shop clerks, call center service people and convenience store checkouts—and fewer analysts, accountants, managers and attorneys—these "average" numbers aren't comparable.
Richard Flamm September 06, 2012 at 07:50 PM
...not to mention scientists, physicians, engineers, statisicians...
Colin Lee September 07, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I agree with the above comments on average pay. Thompson has committed to making government ineffective and unable to hire talent with training needed to solve our problems. Thompson's job before he was a legislator was breaking unions as a lawyer. He does not see the issue as a neutral observer. Today's Star Tribune covers the issues in a more balanced manner. Governor Dayton is seeking union contract reforms that are more fair than Thompson's, reforms that lessen the disparity between public and private sector benefits. Whether you agree or disagree with this contract, workers still have not been paid back for the longest U.S. state shutdown in the last ten years while Thompson continued to collect every cent of his pay and optional per diem with no receipts required. Public workers have suffered many years of pay freezes. Many retired or resigned from the fundamental disrespect proven by the shutdown. In this discussion, they deserve basic fairness as any human being does. Let's hear both sides of the story and consider our actions with moderation, not shameless radicalism. http://www.startribune.com/opinion/editorials/168840816.html
Billy September 27, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Senator Thompson is not getting my vote this year even though he got it the last time he was elected. Why? One simple reason: He voted no for the Vikings stadium in an attempt to protect his re-election efforts. Instead of putting the state and his people first, he put himself first. Shame on him.
Bartemous Black September 28, 2012 at 04:39 PM
"If you ever injected truth into politics, you would have no politics.” Senator Thompson needs to check his facts.

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