Local News Since 1890 Now Online!

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Public Employee Protests Just The Beginning

In Business, Economy, Jobs, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, State News, Uncategorized on February 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm

By Gery L. Deer


A serious uprising is currently in progress against several state legislatures around the country. In capitol buildings around the country public employees are protesting en mass in response to a proposed bill that, among other things, would limit their collective bargaining power.

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that there would be an immediate vote on the bill, thousands of teachers, firefighters, nurses and other public workers descended on the capitol and entrenched themselves in dissent.

A similar bill has been introduced in other states, including Ohio, resulting in the same kinds of resistance. In an unprecedented and brilliant political publicity stunt former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland joined the protestors on Thursday, even donning their red-colored clothing. The red clothing is an effort by union members to steer opinion away from the belief that unions are purely democratic organizations.

While protests flare, the democratic members of the Wisconsin legislature fled the state in an effort to stall the vote. Both states are in a serious budget deficit and their republican legislative members are insisting that correcting the disproportionate benefit investment requirements between the public and private sector employees would help to shore up state coffers.

In addition, the Ohio bill would replace negotiated salaries for teachers with merit raises, which is how wage increases are granted in the majority of private sector jobs. Limiting the power of unions to engage in collective bargaining activities on behalf of public employees has sparked rage across the country, and now the Tea Party movement has jumped into the fight, showing the instability and unfocused actions of its organizers.

The Tea Party’s involvement in the collective bargaining debate serves only to contradict its own foundation. The Tea Party movement began because certain groups of conservative Americans were unhappy with the ways in which their legislative representatives were handling their interests in Washington, in effect, limiting their collective bargaining strength.

The point of a union is to work on behalf of its members to bargain with employers for the best possible working conditions and benefits. Representation of a group of constituents, whether they are made up of voters or union members, is essentially the same concept. In Ohio, Governor John Kasich is not only supporting the current bill but also wants even further union limitations.

If balancing the budget is really the problem, perhaps unions and legislators should do a better job at bargaining in the first place. Some salaries for public workers seem totally off balance with the position. The idea that anyone in a public school system, for example, makes a six-figure income should infuriate people more than anything else.

Consider the superintendent of Dayton Public Schools whose salary, as of July 2010, was $150,000. Why? The Ohio governor earns only $145,000, and that’s only the 14th highest in the country. How does running a school system possibly warrant more money than overseeing the operations of an entire state?

Besides the collective bargaining argument, there is also the debate as to whether public workers should be required to contribute as much to their retirement and healthcare plans as their private sector counterparts. The answer to this is a resounding yes. There is no reason that public employees should have their health care or retirement over-subsidized by the taxpayer when those same constituents already provide their paychecks.

Some teachers are underpaid and some are making too much, as do firefighters, police officers and health care providers. But in the end, they are taxpayers too and they should appreciate that everyone else has to ante up for their benefits and forcing the public to pay the majority of it is unreasonable.

There is no question that that there may be inherent union corruption and their power should be reasonably limited to work for the good of lower level employees, not to boost overinflated benefits of a few. Sadly, unions are still a necessary evil in the continuing effort to ensure fair labor practices whether public or private.  That said, if the governors of these troubled states are paying attention, there are only two words to keep in mind: remember Egypt.

Columnist Gery L. Deer is a freelance journalist and business writer based in Jamestown. Read more at http://www.gerydeer.com

Obama Administration Ignores Small Business

In Business, Economy, Jobs, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on February 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

Commentary By Gery L. Deer



President Obama addressed the United States Chamber of Commerce this week, receiving a less than warm reception. In his speech, the president stated that American companies are sitting on about $2 trillion and encouraged business leaders to spend that money on new jobs.

Escalating regulations, soaring tax increases and sharply negative rhetoric coming from The White House has kept relations tense between the president and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The anti-business agendas of congress and the president pushed chamber leaders to spend millions in support of ousting the democratic leadership.

According to their website, the United States Chamber of Commerce is, “The world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.” They go on to state their core purpose as to fight for free enterprise before all areas of government (domestic and international) including congress, the White House, the courts and regulatory agencies.

Many business leaders insist that the very nature of chamber organizations is contrary to most of the goals of the Obama administration. Any olive branch offered by the president is believed to be merely some type of distraction from the hardships created by the economy and exacerbated by government interference.

President Obama’s call to hire more workers is yet another indication of how out of touch he is with the current state of business in America. What seems like a lot of money just hanging out there waiting to be used is actually in the possession of only the largest U.S. companies. Apple, for example, holds approximately $50 billion, with the rest spread among about ten others.

Not so long ago, the president called upon business leaders to tighten their belts and do more with less, just, as he said, the American people were doing. Now, he’s suggesting that those organizations spend what little capital they may have preserved well before the economic crisis has actually passed. Once more, his lack of insight has him ignoring the largest group of players in the game – small business owners.

According to the Small Business Administration, U.S. small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, generating half of all private sector jobs. Concentration on the survival of these companies seems at least prudent if not essential but they have been largely ignored.

While Washington has handed over billions in tax dollars to rescue big business, government has done nothing to help small businesses secure credit and spur recovery and growth. Because smaller companies have a harder time procuring capital, either through investors or loans, they are unable to take on more employees.

In addition, most business leaders agree that belts should remain tightened until consumer spending increases. Before smaller manufacturers can hire more workers, there must be an increase in demand of their products, a statistic that is not evident in the well-spun economic figures spewing from The White House.

The West Wing might be rejoicing at growth numbers taken out of context but Main Street has to deal with the reality that the rough patches are far from over. Any stockpile of cash being hoarded by America’s largest corporations is useless to the overall growth of the country’s economy because it has no effect on small business.

Until the government begins to turn its attention to the struggles of the little guy, the country will continue to crawl to recovery. Fortunately, small business owners represent the best of America. Their entrepreneurial spirit, determination and ingenuity will carry them through these tough times – no hand outs required. That’s far more than any Wall Street executive can say.

Gery L. Deer is a freelance columnist and business writer based in Jamestown. For more visit http://www.gerydeer.com.