They’ve Earned A Raise

Leesburg Today reports that the County budget includes a 3% raise for County employees. “For now,” as they put it.

By taking no action to change the proposed FY12 budget, the Board of Supervisors last night left the proposed the cost of living and salary increases in place–but it is not clear whether every employee will see the full 3 percent increase in their pay checks. Some supervisors want to examine a graduated scale of increase based on an employee’s salary.

“I would argue that someone making $100,000 does not need as much of a raise as someone making money on the lower end of the scale,” Supervisor Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac) said.

While supervisors were told salary increases could be based on employee classifications, the board decided to hold off on that discussion until after supervisors decided school system funding. – Leesburg Today

I would like to be counted among those who believe that County staff have earned their first cost of living adjustment in three years. In this, I fully agree with Supervisor Burton, who said, “Health care contributions have gone up. VRS costs went up. They’ve been doing an outstanding job as an overall staff with diminishing, diminishing rewards. And the cost of living is becoming quite a problem.”

Sometimes, when the subject of cost of living adjustments for public employees comes up, there are people who oppose them. The argument seems to be, “if I’m not getting a raise, they shouldn’t get a raise.” That argument is uncharitable on its face, but it begs the question: Why aren’t people in the private sector getting raises?

In 2011, corporate profits are expected to be the highest they’ve been since 1993. You read that right, the highest corporate profits in eighteen years. Profits are so high that companies in the S&P 500 are increasing dividends rapidly, rewarding investors with windfall payments.

I’m proud that American companies are doing so well. It isn’t just a sign that the economy is improving, but also that U.S. companies are capable of competing and winning in the global economy that sees increasing competition from our neighbors in other countries. I’m also perfectly happy seeing those investors who placed bets on U.S. companies earn some cash for that faith.

That being said, I believe the people with the first rights to some of that profit are the people who made it possible. And I do mean made. The employees of those U.S. companies are the reason those companies are profitable. They made the decisions, built the products, delivered the services, worked the hours, executed the plans. They did their jobs, and did them so well that the companies realized more profit than any time since before Seniors at Loudoun County High School were born.

So I believe those employees deserve raises. If a company has enough free capital to increase dividends, it has enough capital to provide cost of living raises to its staff. Heck, if the company is more profitable than it has been in decades, it should be giving its staff more than cost of living, but also performance-based raises. So yes, it’s appropriate for people to be angry that they’re not getting a raise. But it is inappropriate to see that ire redirected at teachers, firefighters and government staff, when it should rightfully be aimed at their own employers!

So, not only should our county employees be getting a cost of living adjustment, but you and I should be getting them too. The county staff have done their jobs so well that budgets have been cut for three years and services (at least those that remain) are still being delivered at high quality. That deserves a reward. We do these public servants a grave disservice when we take frustration at our own circumstances and project it on them.

Give public employees their cost of living adjustment, and then fight for our own raises. America, all of America, has earned them.