In Joe Markley’s recent letter to the editor, Markley: Claimed Savings Rest on an Outrageous Assumption, he makes the claim that $9.7 billion in negotiated wage freezes over 20 years doesn’t count as a financial sacrifice for state workers, and therefore should be excluded when calculating state savings in the wake of the 2017 SEBAC agreement. Well, I can guarantee you that I, along with the roughly 50,000 other public sector employees working in the state of Connecticut, believe that no wage increases for 3 years, let alone over the span of 20 years, is an enormous financial sacrifice.
It’s easy to throw around huge numbers that are difficult to conceptualize, but let’s take a moment to break them down in a way that most people are able to digest and understand. Markley states that going without raises is not a financial sacrifice made by workers, that making the same amount of money year after year — while the cost of taxes, goods and insurance premiums continue to rise around you — is not a financial sacrifice made by workers. When put plainly, it’s not difficult to understand how absurd this claim is.
The issue of wages is something that all workers have to face, not just those of us in the public sector. The important thing to remember is that when workers experience a wage freeze, the entire community suffers when we start to see these issues negatively affecting employee retention and overall morale.
I also find it laughable that Markey invokes this excuse while state workers are constantly being threatened with wage cuts for raises which have already been promised. Workers were dragged for not giving back their first collectively bargained raises promised to them in years during a pandemic that the vast majority of us all continued to work through. Because the state of Connecticut couldn’t have continued to run without the Dept. of Labor employees to help people file unemployment claims, the Dept. of Transportation employees that continued to keep our roads plowed and safe, among thousands of others. Because the work done in the public sector benefits every single person that lives in our state.
But rather than increase taxes on the millionaires and billionaires in our state even one percent, Governor Lamont asked the working-class state workers to make further sacrifices during a pandemic where the top 1% have seen their wealth multiply greatly off of the backs of working people. To claim this isn’t a financial sacrifice to these workers comes from a place of privilege I hope to never understand.
William “Dan” Stebbins
Stebbins works for the Norwich Department of Social Services, AFSCME Local 714