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Editor's Voice: A celebration of labor?

Posted 8/27/13

 

It’s strange that Middletown Borough Council is celebrating Labor Day, a holiday created more than 100 years ago by organized labor, with a fireworks show while cutting its workforce and attempting to gain concessions from the organized …

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Editor's Voice: A celebration of labor?

Posted

Perhaps it would have been wise to ignore the holiday and not invite scrutiny. Or, perhaps, those who support the idea of paying workers, including those who toil for our government, a decent wage and benefits, can simply pretend the fireworks show is celebrating the contributions of hard-working men and women, while those who insist government workers, as a rule, are earning too much can simply pretend the holiday has been renamed Cheap Labor Day.

There are those who claim that conservatives have declared war on workers, and those who claim that organized labor has taken advantage of the public for a long time. We think the truth is somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

What disturbs us is rhetoric, claims without facts to back them up. While Mark Morgan, the borough’s financial consultant, charged a year ago that Middletown’s workforce was making more than its counterparts in other municipalities, there was no data offered – no study of salaries, duties and the seniority of the workers involved – to support the charge. Was it based on the sheer number of workers, or salary and benefit figures, and not years on the job and job duties? We asked the borough, through Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law, for a copy of Morgan’s written preliminary report and were informed that there was nothing in writing.

Since then, councilors have produced the overtime pay of its police force, an attempt to show that there are indeed excessive salaries being paid by the borough to some of its workers. There’s nothing wrong with managing overtime wisely, of course, and if new Police Chief Steven Wheeler can cut overtime without cutting vital police services, we will applaud him. Without proof that the pay has been unnecessary, we are hesitant to say it was.

Much of the borough’s financial situation – if you accept council’s contention that the borough’s budget suffers from structural deficits created by grossly overcharging for electricity – has been laid at the feet of borough employees. We don’t support wasteful spending, but we don’t support a butchering of public services to achieve the biggest savings possible, either.
 

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