Bureaucrcy, How Things Work, Teachings

Let’s Be Clear, Most Public Employees are Not “Workers”

Did anyone ever call an airline pilot a “worker?”  How about an actor, a member of the Screen Actors Guild?

OK, these are both private sector professionals in unions. But how a cop? Is a cop a “worker”? A fireman? Call a Wisconsin school teacher or professor a “worker” and you’ll get your eyes scratched out. The women there can get sort of bitchy, too.

Do “workers” get thirty days a year paid vacation from Day One of employment? Do “workers” rent cottages at Martha’s Vineyard in the summer? Do “workers” drive Volvos and Beamers? Do “workers” get controlled-reserved parking at the office? Do “workers” take 1040-Schedule A clothing allowance deductions?

To be truthful, in fiscally solvent states and local governments, most of these things don’t apply to their employees either. But they do in Washington, D.C. They do in California. They do across the breadth of  union sectors in the federal government. And they do in the teaching sector. They apply to far more white collar state and federal employees that you can imagine.

Still the vast majority of them make nothing except piles and piles of paper. To be sure, some deliver vital services to the American community. I know, lawyers write regulations, clerks clerk and teachers teach, but have you looked at teachers’ performance levels lately? Try the past 30 years for starters. Only don’t compare teachers against each other, e.g, Texas versus Wisconsin, but against a standard of expectation by the people who pay their salaries, the taxpayers. Why can’t my kid read? Compare them against the standards set by teachers’ employers in one-room schoolhouses 90 years ago.

Inside government there are always cadres of people who actually do real things, necessary things: police, firemen, even teachers, and as many as 50% of the highway departments. And in most places outside of New York City they even try to show up and plow the streets after a snowstorm. Some are even “workers”.

But if the cops need new pistols, they buy from a private company that makes them. Their uniforms, too. And if fire houses need a new fire truck, they have to go to a private-sector automotive company that makes them. And while states have crews who go out to patch holes in the roads they designed, when that road is originally built, they have to hire private companies to grade it and pave it.

All those private companies have “workers”. And where given the chance (Right to Work states) those workers, by a margin of 94%-6%, choose not to have unions represent them. Those workers don’t get anywhere near the kinds of benefits federal and state employees get…yet they pay all their salaries.

When I was in high school I bagged groceries. I was a worker. When I was in college I stocked books in a book store. I was a worker. And for six months in 1979, I stuck my degrees inside my sock, punched a clock at 7.17/hr in order to learn a manufacturing business from the ground up, just like they do in Japan. I lifted that bale and toted that barge, 8-10 hours a day, on hard concrete, and for a brief period I was once again a worker.

Workers make things. Workers build things. Tell me a thing employees in government build. Workers dig holes in the ground, then pour in a concrete foundation, then work it up from there. Workers sometimes dig ore from the earth, or drill for oil. State employees stand around at the work site and tell workers their hard hats aren’t properly fastened.

Workers fix things, mostly things that other workers built. They service things that other workers built. Some state employees sit around and make rules for those things that cost the workers time and pay, which add even more state employees standing around at the job site or looking over the engineers’ blueprints.

Karl Marx said “Workers of the world, unite!” and you know what? They did. Only they didn’t do it his way, they did it the American way, by building things, including their own lives, from their boot straps up.

“It is always the sound of workboots going up the steps, and the sound of bedroom slippers coming down.” (Paul Harvey)

What Karl Marx really meant to say was something else, more like “Envious couch potatoes of the world, unite…and get even.”

So, would someone please ask President Obama to come out on a stage and ask his teleprompter to tell us once again why “employees” in his administration, from file clerk to office manager to department head,  are so much more important to America than the “workers” who pay their salaries?


Contact:           VassarB@gmail.com                Twitter: BushmillsVassar

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Books:                Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays

                            Donald Trump, the Common Man and the American Theology of Liberty   (2016, pre-election)

(Both books in Kindle format only at Amazon.com, would love to add chapters,  and turn into print copies. Publishers welcome.)


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