Best way to THANK public employees? Congress can send aid to hurting states & localities
Last week was Public Service Recognition Week, National Correctional Officers & Employees Week and Teacher Appreciation Week. This week focuses on appreciating even more essential public servants, including our nurses and law enforcement personnel.
But a week of appreciation for our frontline workers and essential employees only goes so far when public workers don’t have the resources to do their jobs and don’t know what the future holds for the vital services they provide.
“Public workers need more than a ‘thank-you,’” wrote In the Public Interest this week in a piece entitled 'Front-line workers need more than thank-yous. They need Congress to save states and localities'. What they really need are resources and a real investment in public services, the article explains, and only the federal government can provide that RIGHT NOW to state and local workers in nearly every state in the nation. “They need these things because we—all of us—are counting on them to get us through this pandemic,” wrote In the Public Interest.
Without federal aid, states and localities would be forced to slash public services and let go of the legions of workers who provide them. That means millions more workers will join the record 20.5 million people—including 980,000 state and local workers—who have lost their jobs in April.
But, unfortunately, some members of Congress are sitting on their hands and refusing aid to states, with some blaming blue states and public employee pensions for the economic crisis. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) said last week that there’s “no real kind of rush to do anything at this point.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has even suggested letting states go bankrupt, saying that Republicans aren’t interested in “solving their pension problems.” (Even though public pensions are not net revenue generators for state and local governments.)
But this is not an issue of Blue States vs. Red States. Democrats vs. Republicans. Them vs. Us. This is an issue of true survival, and the best way to get our nation on track economically.
Federal funding would mean…
…personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources so that public employees can do their jobs right now.
…resources for states, like Ohio, that allow public agencies and their workers to serve, in good times and in bad, and be prepared for future pandemics and economic disasters.
…investments in unemployment and job programs, public utilities, transportation, congregate care settings for our veterans and disabled and so many more programs on which Ohioans depend.
Federal funding would mean...
…giving public workers and their families, and all Ohioans, a sense of financial security for the future.
…easing public workers’ minds about layoffs and furloughs, wage and hiring freezes and salary cuts, pensions and health care, so that they can actually focus on their jobs and not on whether they will have a job.
…removing any excuse for state and local officials to violate and dismantle union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements and use their workers’ hard-earned wages, raises, benefits and rights on the job as collateral during a crisis.
“The conditions created by the pandemic drive home the fact that we essential workers—workers in general—are the ones who keep the social order from sinking into chaos. Yet we are treated with the utmost disrespect, as though we’re expendable,” wrote one public worker in a New York Times Op-ed piece entitled ‘We Are Not Essential. We Are Sacrificial.’
“Congress has the ability and the responsibility to step in. The need for a bold package of assistance to state and local governments has never been more urgent. State and local aid may be the difference between a recession and a depression, and there’s only one way to reverse course and kickstart a recovery: Congress must fund the front lines,” said AFSCME International President Lee Saunders who continue to advocate for public workers in Washington.