Inappropriate Editorializing by the AP on WI Public Sector Wages

Blog, Public Sector, Ben Eisen

Just read an AP story, reprinted in The Globe and Mail about the standoff in Wisconsin between Governor Walker and the state’s public employee unions. The story correctly asserts that this is the first of many battles that will be fought in the coming months and years over whether and how the government wage bill can be reduced in the American states.

Much of the story is OK, but when the author stops to describe the stakes in this conflict, he editorializes inappropriately.

Under attack is a system where, in return for earning a smaller salary than they could get in the private sector, teachers and other public employees often have greater job security, better pension benefits and pay less for employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.

This is certainly the union position on the current state of affairs, but it is a highly debatable assertion. How the heck does Todd Richmond know that teachers and other public employees could earn a higher salary in private sector jobs? Some researchers assert this is the case, but others suggest that public sector employees have higher salaries than comparably skilled and experienced workers in the private sector as well as better benefits and job security.

It’s a hugely complicated issue, and I won’t go into it in depth here, but reporting as a matter of fact that the American states currently have a system in which teachers and other public employees earn a “smaller salary than they could get in the private sector” in a news story is not even close to justifiable.