The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 31, 2011
New report says public employees aren't overpaid

110331 Compensation chart.JPG
A new report concludes that public-sector employees' compensation lags that of private-sector workers when education and experience are factored in. The trade-off: Public-sector jobs remain more secure, and health and pension benefits are generally better than in the private sector.

"Getting It Right: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications From Research on Public-Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining," by David Lewin, of UCLA's Anderson School of Management, and Thomas Kochan, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, also includes research from a half-dozen professors from around the country who are part of the Employment Policy Research Network.

For example, the chart above comes from page 5 of the report, refers to work by Jeffrey H. Keefe, associate professor of labor and employment relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. His work countered Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's claim that state employees there are overpaid.

Still, the paper recognizes that states face serious budget problems and that labor-management dynamics need to change. Among the researchers' suggestions:

  • Perform an evidence-based analysis of wages, benefit costs and funding arrangements for state employees.
  • Use the findings for state public-sector summit meetings to clarify and define the issues and problems that need immediate attention, and use problem-solving tools such as interest-based negotiations and mediation-arbitration to agree on statewide "grand bargains" that address the most critical budget problems and are fair to both taxpayers and employees.
  • Charge a broadly representative group to carry out evidence-based analysis to modernize public-sector collective-bargaining practices

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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