"Please understand that we are at war, a war of survival and a right to exist, and we will not go lightly into the night," [Andrew] Padilla wrote in a recent AFSCME newsletter. "Everyone must be prepared to assist the union in this most dire of situations."Sounds a lot like a line from the movie "Independence Day." More importantly, the highly charged rhetoric is ill-advised and factually inaccurate. First and foremost, Mayor Berry is not challenging AFSCME's "right to exist." In point of fact, the union's existence isn't being challenged or threatened in the least, but rather public employees' ability to continue living as if the Great Recession didn't exist.
Three years ago, Albuquerque's unemployment rate was 3.4% according to Workforce Solutions. Now, the Albuquerque's unemployment stands at 9.2% (New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions). In three years Albuquerque has gone from what is considered to be full employment to almost 10% unemployment. So what has been happening in the public sector workforce over the last 12 months?
Government added 1,100 new jobs for an increase of 1.3 percent. The lion’s share of the growth came from federal government, which was up 700. Local and state government gained 200 jobs each. Many of the new federal government jobs have come from the decennial census.Other winners during the current economic disaster are health care workers and you guessed it... teachers. Educational & Health Services added 600 jobs. Meanwhile, construction (-2,100); manufacturing (-1,500); professional & business services (-3,000); retail trade (-1,200); transportation, warehousing & utilities (-800); financial activities (-100); and miscellaneous other services (-200).
It's clear that the private sector has been hemorrhaging jobs while the public sector not only enjoys job stability but increases. Now, instead of being thankful for relative stability of their members' jobs - the organization charged with representing these lucky workers is marching to "WAR!"
Hmmm... we wonder just how well AFSCME's "war" will go over with the public when almost 1 in 10 of them are out there trying to find a job?
Like it or not, government workers do not create wealth. Government workers consume wealth created by others in the private sector. Each government job depends on the healthy existence of hundreds of private sector jobs. At a time when the private sector is shrinking, it's morally wrong and fiscally unsustainable to increase the burdens placed on a shrinking number of private sector workers and businesses.
They say it's wise to pick your battles. With 9.2% unemployment and 18 months of negative job growth, AFSCME is simply outnumbered. Mayor Berry and the City Council would do well to stand with the public that elected them and pass the mayor's proposed budget. This is a battle that AFSCME is unlikely to win in a "war" that should never be fought.