Critics of Senate Bill 5 often resort to the argument that public workers are underpaid. Every day, we hear rhetoric about “saving the middle class” and are told that SB 5 will destroy working families. Although these arguments apparently energize the left-wing base, they have no factual foundation supporting them.

A recent report prepared for the Ohio Business Roundtable found data that works in direct opposition to many of the government unions’ claims regarding the salaries of public employees. The report concluded that, over the course of their lifetime, public employees on average make 43 percent more in compensation than their peers in the private sector.

As opposed to earlier research, the roundtable report accounted for factors such as retiree health benefits, retirement pensions and job security. Although public employees earn slightly less in salary than private workers, their benefits after retiring are more than twice as good.

But union bosses prefer to ignore these statistics because the facts work contrary to their goals. In order for them to successfully negotiate for elaborate benefits, they must always be perceived as being underprivileged and under-appreciated. As union leaders try to paint the picture of their rights being under siege, they are intentionally ignoring economic reality. There is a key difference between how public workers and private workers earn their salaries.

Private workers’ salaries depend on market demand. The size of their paychecks depends on their ability to bring a product to market that people want to buy. That is, they must compete for a consumer’s business. Public sector workers, on the other hand, do not play by the same set of rules and, thus, do not generate wealth. Their salaries must first be earned in the private sector and then paid by the taxpayers.

If private sector earnings—the source of all government revenue—take a hit, then it makes sense for all beneficiaries of that wealth to also share in the sacrifice. The money coming in cannot keep up with the money going out. Despite what unions and others on the left would like us to believe, this system simply cannot be sustained because there is too much strain being placed on dwindling funds.

Never would it be responsible, nor economically competent, to allow expenditures to surpass revenues. The consequences of this brand of governing should be obvious. You can’t milk a dry cow.

But some union leaders and politicians remain committed to their talking points that imply that the middle class will meet certain death should Senate Bill 5 be instituted. They should be reminded that the vast majority of Ohio’s middle class—which does not work in the public sector—is already hurting in part because of the actions of irresponsible negotiating between government and unions.

Senate Bill 5 provides ways for local governments to once again manage their budgets and eases the strain placed upon them by unyielding public unions. This, in turn, will actually save public sector jobs because employers will no longer be forced to choose between providing workers elaborate benefits and dropping them from the payroll altogether, which often unfairly harms young workers. Opponents of Senate Bill 5 will continue launching attacks about how Republicans want to destroy middle class families, while failing to understand that they are greatly to blame for the destruction that is already taking place.


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