The past few years have been marked by attacks on the public workers. In states such as Wisconsin, Republicans attacked the right of state employees to collectively bargain; in states such as Massachusetts, the Democrats did the same. Federal employees faced a two year pay freeze, despite rising wages in the private sector, followed by a hike in pension contributions for new employees, including those that have been federally employed for up to five years. The United States Postal Service is looking at turning back services and potentially laying off 80,000 workers due to a manufactured budget shortfall. The Socialist Party USA ticket of Stewart Alexander and Alex Mendoza say that this is part of a larger attack upon the working class for the benefit of the wealthiest 1%.
"The Democrats and Republicans have brought an odd twist of values to America's political discourse," claims Alexander. "Millions of men and women serve the American people day in and day out -- these men and women make sacrifices, financial and otherwise, in order to serve -- but unless they carry a weapon they are vilified instead of honored. We have our teachers who bring enlightenment to our children and postal workers who deliver our mail without profit and public sector workers sitting behind desks and performing mentally challenging work at a lower rate than the private sector just so their objective can be to do what is right instead of what is most profitable. They want us to vilify these selfless servants instead of applaud them."
One way, according to Alexander, that the political establishment vilifies public sector workers is by misrepresenting their pay. Many a person has read about how the average federal worker is paid more than the average private sector worker, but for comparative work they are paid 26.3 percent less than their private sector counterparts according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is because federal workers, much like public sector workers in general, are more likely to be performing skilled labor and hold college degrees.
Mendoza gives another example. "It has become cliché to speak of public sector workers in terms of "I pay their salary.' Yes, they are paid with tax dollars to do their job, but when I go to the local grocery store, don't those workers get their pay from the money I spend there? Don't I pay for the profit the owners see in their pockets? We all pay each others' salaries, but by framing only public sector workers in this manner, people are invited to expect them to do more for less and hold them to strict standards while forgiving the massive bonus checks of corporate executives paid for - at some level - by their labor."
The other major technique, Alexander says, is by underfunding public agencies so they cannot effectively perform the workload laid before them.
"By creating a false image that public employees are inefficient, they are able to gain support for eliminating agencies that perform vital work for the public well being or encourage the use of contractors or even outright privatization. When I talk to people in the private sector, their employers have them on top of the line equipment to keep them as productive as possible; when I talk to people in the public sector, they often complain about using outdated systems that make their jobs harder because Congress or state legislatures aren't willing to invest in their infrastructure even though it would be cheaper in the long run. This isn't a failure on the part of public sector workers, it's a failure on the part of elected officials"
Alexander also believes this is the intention behind tacking on $5.5 billion in extra liabilities on the Postal Service. Though the Postal Service does not receive taxpayer money, it is still a non-profit organization, meaning no one is idly profiting from it.
"If there is a way to make a buck off of something, corporate America wants to make that buck. Fed Ex and UPS have to compete with this huge non-profit organization in package delivery and they struggle with it. The Postal Service has social obligations to provide sufficient services in areas where it is unprofitable, private industry does not and they ship their packages using our Postal Service through those unprofitable areas. With the Postal Service out of the way, or privatized into a for-profit competitor, they can charge higher prices, get into the mail delivery business, and leave those remote areas without an affordable postal service."
However, there is more than the immediate profit in sabotaging public programs, claims Mendoza. He claims there is a reason why there is rhetoric about how government cannot create jobs despite the federal government employing nearly 4.5 million workers according to the Office of Personnel Management -- down from 6.6 million in 1968 when the population was only 2/3 of today's population.
"Public sector work is done without a motive for profit. They want people to think that government is inefficient, and profit-driven corporations are efficient, to keep the American people from concluding that if public, non-profit solutions work better, then why not take the profit motive out of everything -- democratically run the entire economy without profit and establish socialism. That is why every instance of government waste is blown out of proportion, social programs are underfunded, and federal workers are demonized."
The candidates promise to fight for public sector workers in many ways, such as:
Scaling back the Hatch Act to allow federal workers to enjoy all the same political rights outside of the workplace as private sector workers
Properly funding all federal agencies to do the job requested of them including investment in modernization of systems
Paying federal workers exactly what their private sector counterparts are paid by simply not declaring a state of emergency, as has been done every year since the passing of the Federal Employees Comparability Act of 1990
Giving all workers, including local, state, and federal government workers, the right to strike
Guaranteeing all federal workers back pay for periods of unemployment due to government shutdowns
Mandate by executive order that all federal agencies give employees structures of self management within legislative and constitutional boundaries
Move towards full employment by creating jobs directly, putting Americans back to work producing and servicing in federal employment