by The Oregon Transformation Project
Judging from the opening offers in contract negotiations between Gov. Kitzhaber and AFSCME, the state’s largest public employee union, neither side seems to fully understand that Oregon remains mired in a deep recession.
The Governor offered what amounts to an increase in total compensation of 3% in each of the next two years to AFSCME member employees. The union, calling the Governor’s proposal “Draconian,” countered with an offer for AFSCME member compensation to rise by 18.31%.
“When is the last time most Oregonians saw an 18% pay increase?” asked Allen Alley, Co-chair of the Oregon Transformation Project. “The inability of either side to face reality is really quite remarkable. Wages and benefits in the private sector started dropping in 2008. Here we are in 2011, and the state’s largest union is essentially telling Gov. Kitzhaber that too much is still not enough.”
The union demanded that the state provide their members with cost-of-living increases plus 2%, fully paid health insurance premiums, step increases, an increase in vacation leave, increased bereavement leave, the Friday after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday, as well as a continuation of the 6% PERS pick-up.
AFSCME’s recent demands and the Governor’s willingness to support public sector pay increases at a time of fiscal crisis reinforce the impression that government is unwilling to adapt to the hard economic realities that the private sector has faced the last three years.
While other states are asking public unions to share financial sacrifices with the private sector, here in Oregon public unions continue to overreach at the expense of private sector workers.
The Oregon Transformation Project, co-chaired by Rep. Dennis Richardson and Allen Alley, promotes fiscal responsibility, budget transparency and private sector growth.