Opinion

State employees should be willing to take a pay cut

It was very heartening to read in the local daily paper that the ferry unions were willing to renegotiate their contracts in order to forgo pay raises in light of the extreme budget problems the state is facing. Good for them. I truly hope that more people – union, management, unaffiliated – will think of doing the same.

While cynics may see this as self-serving, it is also self-sacrificing. These people are willingly giving up more income that they are legally entitled to in order to keep not only their jobs but to ensure that their fellow employees will keep theirs as well. That, to me, is being unselfish. It is a position, as I’ve said, that I hope others emulate.

This economic situation will truly tell us whether we are our “brother’s keeper” or we are only in it for ourselves. I find it hard to understand people who would rather take a small raise and see other people lose their jobs because of it. How does that help our economy? More people employed with some money is better than fewer people with much. One need only look to the heyday of the middle class in the 1950s to see that. Now we have a middle class that is continuing to waste away waiting for the trickle down of investments and jobs that the rich are supposedly providing with their tax breaks and wealth accumulation. It has been more than a quarter of a century since Reagonomics and the disparity between rich and not rich has grown, not shrunken. Wealth generation at all levels is what makes an economy hum along.

I was also pleased to see the ferry employees have been participating in Rep. Larry Seaquist’s Plan C meetings. That, too, shows forethought and understanding that all eyes and brains are needed to forge a workable solution to this huge problem. It is a far cry from their tactics in the early 1980’s of striking and causing untold grief and aggravation for everyone. Being involved in the discussions is a much better way to approach problem-solving.

Kudos also go to Rep. Seaquist for taking the leadership on this and bringing everyone together. Doing this takes a lot of work and to do it during the session is even more impressive. It certainly has been clear from all the reporting in the press that Plan B deserves to be dead and buried and that Plan A is barely adequate. It is good to see that the WSF seems to have gotten that message.

Still, it is paramount that people continue to be involved in the process. Once Plan C is put together, it will take even more work to get it heard and approved. In some way, the hardest work is still ahead.

It is also the kind of work many people seem unwilling to do. That is unfortunate as it is necessary to move one’s ideas or proposals forward. Interacting with politicians and the political process is not harmful to one’s health. In fact, it is a very patriotic thing to do – after all, it is the system our founding fathers created.

My only recommendation in that regard is that all those involved make sure they get as many people from the other side of the pond and the mountains to support them. Let relatives and friends know that our access to our boats is as important to us as their access to good roads and clear passes during winter. The ferries are not a quaint old form of transportation. They are a mass transit system, a marine highway and the number one tourist attraction to boot.

The more people pulling for our citizens’ plan, Plan C, the better. If you want to help, go to the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton Saturday. From 9 a.m. to noon, those folks who have stepped up to come up with a better alternative to Plans A and B are gathering to continue their work. It is not too late to join them. And, when the ferries are given the support and attention they deserve, you will be glad you helped.

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