Angry New Yorker

Sunday, January 11, 2009
Grabbing the Brass Ring.

When we were children, several decades back, it never entered our minds that our goal should be "to grow up and go work for the city." The fathers of several friends worked for the city - as sanitation men, fire fighters or in some unknown civil bureau. Other than a mentor who went to work for he NYC court system and the father of the friend who worked for the DEP on the NYC water system we felt mildly sad for those men went to work for the city; as if circumstances and some failing conspired to push them into the arms of the city civil service as a last resort.

Working for the city was for those who either weren't able to or couldn't finish college or find a "decent" spot in the private sector. The examples of people we personally knew who'd gone to work for the city included a childhood friend whose girlfriend got pregnant at 18 and who dropped out of college to honorably support his sudden family by joining the transit cops; a friend who couldn't make it at college and joined the fire department, etc.

In our view a city career was a safety escape hatch. You'd virtually always have a job, but you'd be limited to a small apartment over a deli or an attached house in a distance part of Brooklyn or Queens. Your day would be drudgery, your hours, conduct and promotions fixed by minute and dry rules and regulations.

Today, however, those who went to work for the city at the time we were in or finishing up college are retired and living off hefty guranteed city pensions while the value of our 401Ks have dropped like a rock. We're in our third career at the moment and get home each night around 9:30 now, after having been laid off twice in the past two years. The economic
news each day is paralyzing. And those people that we felt mildly sorry for as having to settle for working for the city had the last laugh. This is no way to run a railroad.

From today's NY Times:
City Employee Pay Is Outpacing Private Sector, Report Says. “Bolstered in part by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s spending, the average New York City employee cost the city $107,000 a year in wages, health insurance, pension and other benefits in the 2008 fiscal year, an increase of 63 percent since 2000, according to a new report.

City worker compensation grew twice as fast as that of employees in the private sector and elsewhere in the public sector during the same period. . . . The increase was driven by contractual raises that outpaced the inflation rate, and by the rising cost of health insurance and pension benefits, said the commission, a business-backed research group.

* * *

Critics also say that Mr. Bloomberg has not been forceful enough addressing soaring health and pension benefit costs. Those costs have jumped by 182 percent since 2000, according to the Citizens Budget Commission, in contrast to a 52 percent increase for other state and local governments, and a 40 percent increase for private industry.

Part of the reason that health benefits have jumped so much, the report said, is the city’s longstanding practice, unchanged by Mr. Bloomberg, to pay 100 percent of health insurance premiums for employees and their families, as well as for retirees and their spouses. The report noted that “Most other employers require their workers to pay some share of the premium.”

* * *

Over all, the report found that city employee pay rose to an average of $69,000 annually as of last June 30, up from $52,000 in 2000, an annual increase of 3.6 percent, while inflation rose an average of 3.2 percent during the same period. Average benefits now cost almost $38,000 a year, up from $13,000 a year.

Thanks to overtime and other supplemental payments, firefighters have an average annual compensation package totaling $186,000, the highest among city employees. Department of Education employees cost the city almost $99,000 annually."

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