November 16, 2007

Whose Really to Blame for the Job Cuts?

Marc Comtois

Katherine Gregg at the ProJo gives us the sad stories of the state workers who have been laid off. I feel for them. But they're not the first to lose their jobs for reasons unrelated to their own job performance, contrary to what some may think.

As AFSCME Local 2884 president Salvatore Lombardi explained: “It’s embarrassing because …it’s like they’ve done something wrong. You know, people who do things wrong lose their job. …Not people who come to work everyday, put in their 7, 8 hours like they are supposed to, feed their family. “I mean the big shots up there on Capitol Hill, they are still eating steak and the people that are eating hot dogs every night are being punished. It’s horrible.”
Yes, it's horrible. I guess the $150,000 we put towards the AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program will be put to use. It's more than private sector workers get. But this isn't about misery loving company.

In the next few months we will be seeing a whole lot of bumpin' going on as those union members with more seniority take jobs away from a whole bunch of other people who have "done nothing wrong." It won't matter who is the better worker, only who has worked for the State longer.

In the private sector, competence is valued over seniority. If it isn't, then those making the decisions won't be long for their own jobs. Private sector big shots also may still eat steak while they lay off the hot dog eatin' proles, but that happens only for so long. Eventually, they will also get fired if they continue to under-perform. In government, regardless of performance, the upper level bureaucrats seem to just keep on keepin' on. I'm all for cutting them, too. Or voting them out.

The larger point is this. Maybe if the union leadership--like Mr. Lombardi--would have taken the Governor seriously and acknowledged that the state was heading for trouble, they would have negotiated smaller raises and less generous benefits with the result of saving some of those jobs. Instead, they let their union pride cloud their judgment because they didn't want to "lose" any of their previous "hard fought" gains. Win at all costs at the bargaining table, right?

They may have saved face, but the result is lost jobs for the rank and file. But rather than blame themselves, the union leadership will continue to blame the Governor. Unfortunately, my guess is that most of the average state workers will continue to buy it. Instead, maybe they should look at their own union big shots and consider the job they're doing.

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It's easy to blame the Governor. If they don't blame Carcieri, they have to pin the blame on the dozens of faceless legislators and bureaucrats who created too many state jobs and then spent money funding the jobs at an unsustainable level. So who are dislocated workers going to blame--a group of people that were responsible for creating and funding their jobs or the single person who gave them their pink slip?

I'd love to see the Projo do a story on the year-by-year budget breakdowns that led to this mess.

Strangely, the union objected to issuing a notice that advises workers that their jobs might be next. That might not be good for the union, but if I were a worker, I'd want to be given as much advance notice as possible if my job were on the chopping block.

I agree with the union on point. It would have been nice to wait until after the holidays before providing the notices.

Posted by: Anthony at November 16, 2007 9:44 AM

Lawyers and back-office personnel?
Sounds like Murphy and Montalbano went to the guv's office and had The Don take care of their boys before the pink slips went out.
Despite all The Don's anti-union rhetoric, I suspect he's taking care of M&M's chosen ones - the fat cats who really should be the ones culled from the herd.

Posted by: rhody at November 16, 2007 11:00 AM


Don't you know that we who work in the private sector are just a bunch of suckers who don't matter? Our only existence is to support those superior beings who work in the public sector. Funny how I never see comments in the Journal from workers who have been laid off from Amgen, G-Tech, Ratheon, Bradford Dyeing Plant, or Blue Cross. (Think Frank Montenerro, who rails against these public sector layoffs, but never said a thing about Blue Cross' layoffs, despite the fact that he's chairman of the board.)

The hypocrisy makes me sick to my stomach. The Journal's editorial board is a bunch of idiots. (With the exception of Ed Achorn.)

Posted by: Friedman at November 16, 2007 11:00 AM

In business they say that word of mouth advertising will make you or break you. Expatriate Rhode Islanders probably influence this state's national reputation for a bad business climate and political corruption.

For example, a friend (RI native and URI grad) who relocated to the West Coast over 20 years ago (primarily in response to the lack of opportunity here)sent me the following email this morning:

State workers sucking your economy dry? Tell them to disco and "do the bump." The ones from Cranston should have no problems.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at November 16, 2007 11:05 AM

"Funny how I never see comments in the Journal from workers who have been laid off from Amgen, G-Tech, Ratheon, Bradford Dyeing Plant, or Blue Cross."

Good point. Why is a public sector job more sacred and its loss more regrettable than a private sector one?

As to the ProJo, we also never see articles in the news section (editorials, yes) laying out the spending priorities of the General Assembly - maxed out social programs, gold plated benefits for public employees, an ill-advised, unwanted memorial courthouse in Lincoln, etc - which have made these lay-offs a necessity.

Posted by: Monique at November 16, 2007 12:14 PM

Wouldn't you just love to see an interview with Frank Montanaro that asks him why he supported lay-offs at Blue Cross, while at the same time he vociferously opposes the state lay-offs as cruel?

Posted by: Anthony at November 16, 2007 12:48 PM


If I read that I would be so shocked that a journalist in this state had both the brains and the balls to ask it I think I might have a stroke.

Posted by: Greg at November 16, 2007 12:57 PM

Great points made - the ProJo needs to be telling the stories of people who get laid off in the private sector. Only problem is, the ProJo has been downsized so badly by the Texans.

Posted by: rhody at November 16, 2007 5:28 PM

Ragin' Rhode Islander :
I wouldn't crow to much if I was your California friend. That state has been transformed in 30 years from a low tax paradise to a violent, high tax Third World cesspool.

Posted by: Mike at November 16, 2007 7:23 PM

--Ragin' Rhode Islander :
I wouldn't crow to much if I was your California friend. That state has been transformed in 30 years from a low tax paradise to a violent, high tax Third World cesspool.

True. And he knows it. It used to be a Republican leaning state (Reagan) and now is very much like RI: public sector unions and (in their case) Hispanic welfare lobby controls the Democrat Party, which has a lock on the legislature. And the Republican party there has been "moderated" and so is largely irrelevant.

If you want to destroy economic vitality just put Democrats in charge for a couple of decades.

As a result CA is now high tax, companies are moving out in droves, it has a huge unfunded pension liability. In fact the parallels to RI are quite strong.

Yet CA still has some "fat" to live off of - the companies that moved there in the 1950's - 1980's (whereas RI has been repelling employers since at least the 1970's). And CA doesn't have RI's pervasive political corruption. And the weather is better.

And my friend is far better off financially for having gone there over twenty years ago than he would have been staying in RI.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at November 16, 2007 10:36 PM

Ragin' does make a good if frequently overlooked point. On many occasions, both in the U.S. and abroad, I have seen very bitter former Rhode Islanders attempt to dissuade a company from moving to RI, for all the reasons we regularly read about here -- bad schools, anti-business labor rules and politicians, welfare programs run amuck, corruption and high taxes. Frankly, with all the attractive location alternatives that are available, most companies take one look at these factors and quickly cross RI off their list. And its not just anecdotes by former Rhode Islanders that have this effect -- the data very clearly tell the same story, and most businesses are quite analytical when it comes to making location decisions.

Sad, but true. The current $600 million budget hole isn't going to be closed by an influx of new business investment and high income taxpayers who can't wait to get soaked.

Posted by: John at November 17, 2007 5:11 PM
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