Cindy: Service Employees International Union, we represent workers internationally in health care sector, public sector and building services sector. We have approximately 2,000,000 members in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and we are labor union.
Minyao: What are the main jobs of public employees?
Cindy: Public employees work for government: state government, local government, and schools. Teachers are represented by the MEA, Michigan Education Association. So public is any governmental agency across the country. A state employee, a county road commissioner, and things like that..
Minyao: Does SEIU have any to data to demonstrate what is the current condition of public employees?
Cindy: We defiantly have data. We just recently, if you refer to the report issued by governor Snyder just last week, there was a seventh study released that shows public employees are not paid higher than private employees. So when you said we have data that is the kind of thing we have in our studies that have been conducted over last several years in comparing public to private sector.
Minyao: If compared with the report that released by the Governor Snyder, what is the situation in your research that shows the difference between the public and the private sector?
Cindy: The governor's report, which he admittedly said did not take education into account, hugely over exaggerates the pay inequities. A recent report that put out by Charles Ballard, who was at Michigan State in the economics program showed that when you compare education levels, State of Michigan employees, specifically state employees are under paid compare to private sector workers. Their benefits may be higher than private sector workers, but that is the off set that they all got paid less and the most recent study that was put out last week, which I do have on our website if you want take the link to look at that. That shows specifically that the state employees taking on the education factors are paid less, local governments are probably more similar in terms of comparison to private sector.
Minyao: Will the gap illustrate that higher pay matches higher benefits?
Cindy: I do not think necessarily. The healthcare benefits, actually pay has gone down for state employees specifically, because they have negotiated keeping the health care benefits, and costs have risen hugely for healthcare benefits. So state employees overall have accepted lesser wage increases in order to keep better benefits.
Minyao: Since the community health and the human services are the big proportion of the budget, the report said that the public sector made more salary compared with the private sector. Does that mean the public sector will have more health care and retirement benefits?
Cindy: I am telling you that we flat out disagree with that. We disagree with Snyder's report. His findings cannot be duplicated by any other researchers that have gone to his sources. The fact that state employee in his report. There is a picture, which I believe that shows state employee wages, compensations, FRINGE benefits, which is 10% of the budget. Cutting public employees, is not going to help them solve the budget problem. There is not enough there, from SEIU perspective.
Minyao: Could you explain more about the 3% healthcare contributions?
Cindy: State employees right now, if you were hired prior to 1997, they are in a defined benefit plan and defined benefit plan for retirement, which includes health care, coverage at 90% covered, that employee retiree pays 10% of the premium. After 1997, an employee hired is in the defined contribution plan, where they are just simply getting 4% deposit into a 401K and they accrue 3% (per year) of their premium at retirement for health care. They have to stay 10 years, so 10 years they have 30% of their premium covered. So there are two split plans within the state. There has not been a required contribution for the defined benefit plan, so the legislature came out with that we are going mandate every public employee regardless of which plan. We are going to have to contribute 3% pay per year towards an account towards retirement healthcare. Although there is no guarantees because they can take from that pot of money. But the legislature passed the bill that went to law to have a 3% contribution. But it just recently, last week, the civil service commission overturned it and for non-represent employees the union has law suits filed on, so it is probably going to be a while for Michigan's supreme court has whether not the 3% continues.
Minyao: How have the 3% healthcare contributions affected Michigan public employees?
Cindy: Well they are getting 3% less pay and it is going towards the fund that supposedly helps off set the costs to the state of Michigan for healthcare retirement. So the employee themselves, they are taking the pay cut.
Minyao: Around the Lansing area, are their any other labor unions like SEIU that represent public employees?
Cindy: Yes, there are lots. There is UAW, 6000. There is Michigan State Employees Associations (MSEA). There is a correctional officer organization, they are another SEIU local, they represent just correctional officers. There is an AFSCME Council of 25, represents some healthcare workers. That are state employees, specifically there are other unions that represent other local government groups. The UAW is the biggest, probably 22,000 employees. Correctional organization, probably have 10,000, now I think they went down to 8,000. We have 4,000.