As part of its examination of Issue 2, the Columbus Dispatch published an article yesterday enumerating several perks enjoyed by public sector workers as a result of collective bargaining negotiations that are not generally available to those in the private sector. Examples included a paid day off for election day, having a say in the temperature of a classroom, a $160 bonus for perfect attendance and “longevity” pay increases based on years of service.

The article failed to tell the other side. The private sector offers an incredibly long list of benefits public sector workers can only dream about.

I know this from personal experience. Before working for City and State governments, I spent almost ten years, first as a web developer, and later as a project manager and research analyst at several internet and software companies. In the private sector, I was not in a labor union, and with the exception of my very first position, was always an “exempt” employee not able to collect overtime pay.

As a service to those who may never have worked in the private sector, here is a look at things on the other side of the fence.

Benefits I experienced first-hand in the private sector

  • employer 401(k) matching contributions
  • 6.2% employer contribution to social security (many public workers get a pension in lieu of social security benefits)
  • employee stock options
  • employee stock purchase plan (stocks purchased through payroll deductions at a guaranteed discount to the price paid by average investors)
  • signing bonuses for new hires
  • referral bonuses for employees who refer a friend who is then hired
  • annual and quarterly bonuses based on individual and company performance goals
  • domestic partner benefits (for straight and gay couples)
  • paid paternity leave
  • paid adoption leave
  • corporate credit card
  • on-site gym and/or gym membership discounts
  • Lake Tahoe ski cabin (I’m not kidding. You had to pay to get there, but the lodging was free if you reserved the dates)
  • employee game room (pool table, foosball, ping pong, air hockey, pinball, xbox, etc)
  • unlimited free coffee, hot chocolate, candy and soda
  • free breakfasts, lunches and/or subsidized corporate cafeteria
  • bagel friday, birthday parties and staff happy hour (all free)
  • take-home laptops, smartphones and employer-paid cell phone plans
  • business class flights (for management employees and/or flights longer than 6 hours)
  • airline lounge memberships (no waiting with the riff-raff at the gate)
  • accumulated airline miles resulting from work-related travel
  • on-site daycare
  • free parking
  • magazine subscriptions and dues to professional membership organizations
  • paid trips to industry conferences
  • employee retreats and sales annual meetings at luxury resorts
  • free professional development, including online training and/or continuing education courses; some employees received assistance when attending MBA programs

Perhaps lesser benefits that I am grateful to have enjoyed, in retrospect, that aren’t available in the public sector:

  • taking a taxi, and not public transportation, to a meeting across town
  • making a purchase online or when traveling without prior approval and being able to submit a receipt for reimbursement
  • filling up a car at any gas station and submitting a receipt instead of carrying around a gas card and searching for an “authorized” gas station

Never mind the fact that my private sector salary and bonuses added up to about 40% more take-home pay than my best year in the public sector. Most public workers give up these benefits and perks willingly to have a hand in implementing important programs and serving the public. But to say that the ability to have a warm classroom or get $160 for never missing a day of work is somehow superior to the benefits enjoyed in the private sector is laughable if you’ve experienced both.

[UPDATE ] I noted in the comments, but will add a word here –  this is obviously not meant to describe the average corporate job, and no single employer offers all of the above. It’s simply a compilation of perks I received at a number of jobs, or saw working at other private sector clients (the Merrill Lynch cafeteria in the World Financial Center kicks ass and is dirt cheap).

But I’m also willing to bet most public employees don’t get to dictate the temperature in their office as a provision of their employment, so that was side cherry-picked as well. In any case, it hardly seems fair to pick a few luxurious benefits available to public workers without talking about examples like the Tahoe ski cabin and the annual meeting in Scottsdale as the counterpoint.

I’m curious – those of you who have worked on both sides of the fence – how did the pay and perks compare in your experience?

 
  • My last private sector job had Pop/Water/Snacks for all employee’s.  Pizza atleast every other Friday on the company’s dime.  “Break Room” with a 52 inch TV (in 2006), media center, XBox, leather recliners, and the company took you out to lunch on your birthday.

  • Anonymous

    I should note that the above is obviously not meant to characterize the average corporate job, and no single employer offers all of the above. The list is a compilation of things I received at a number of jobs, or saw working at other private sector clients (the Merrill Lynch cafeteria in the World Financial Center kicks ass and is dirt cheap). 

    I’m also willing to bet most public employees don’t get to dictate the temperature in their office as a provision of their employment, so the other was side cherry-picked as well. In any case, it hardly seems fair to pick a few luxurious benefits available to public workers without talking about examples like the Tahoe ski cabin and the annual meeting in Scottsdale as the counterpoint.

  • This is a very misleading article, I’m not sure what the point of it really is!  A lot of the “perks” mentioned in this article are just that, perks provided by the private company.  The line-items that are brought about by issue 2 are due to the public being taxed for such perks and things like retirement and healthcare provided to government workers. In other words, when a private company offers you perks it comes out of THEIR pockets not other tax payers.

    Your perks provided to you (or not) by the private sector aren’t at the hands of tax-payers, so your argument is really a personal opinion argument of “Should the public pay for a police officers Donut and Coffee in the morning”?

    Companies have the CHOICE to provide you with 401k matching, employee stock options, company credit cards and things like “Unlimited free coffee, hot cocoa, candy and soda” mentioned in this article.  If your argument is that issue 2 is problematic because you’ve experienced more perks in the private sector, I would say that is a good argument only to further privatize these sectors not tax the public more.

  • You pretty much covered it. I’ve worked both. People who’ve NOT worked the public sector side are mistaken about public sector employees’ benefits, et al.  What ticks me off is that so many of them have fallen for the GOP/conservative/right-wing propaganda that public employees are the enemy. They seem jealous, are envying public sector employees… and envy, you know, is a sin. Just sayin’…

  • Uh, public employees pay the same taxes as everyone else. Hmmm, following your logic, does that make them ‘self-employed’? 🙂

  • My first job in teaching in the late 80’s payed 18 k and I had a PhD.  A friend of mine, with the exact degree I had, went into the private sector and started at a six figure income.  Currently I am doing much better than my first job, but, if I wanted, I could go work at a large corporation …doing marketing research and crunching numbers…and make considerably more than what I make now.  As you say one example does not generalize to all public sector workers, but when somebody starts telling me how the public sector is overpaid, I have to set them straight.  No regrets teaching instead of a career in business….I love my job, but, once again, don’t tell me that I am over paid or receive unfair benefits.

  • Anonymous

    The dispatch has always loved to omit what doesn’t fit the company storyline, but one would hope that many of their readers (a dwindling number, to be sure) actually have jobs themselves, or have family members or friends, etc. who have or had jobs.

    It’s somewhat stunning that the writers of this hit piece are that tone deaf. But, then again, they may well be.

  • VOTE NO ON ISSUE 2!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I worked as a lowly security guard for a major grocery chain and we got the same bonus that all employees got at the end of the year if the division met their EBT goals – one year I got a check for a $600. Also each Thanksgiving we got a free frozen Turkey and we also got free Prescriptions filled at the stores. We could also get our paycheck cashed for free.

  • The post was pointing out that Dispatch missed the other half of the story – the private sector perks. There is always the idea that any perk for public employees is some how wrong or not cost effective.

    The thing is that those public employee perks are in the contracts. It takes two sides in agreement to approve a contract. SB-5 wants to make that one side and that is management (tax payers)

  • Anonymous

    Private sector businesses do indeed cost us the customers and taxpayers for the perks given to their employees through higher prices, and also through higher taxes due to their tax deductions, credits, exemptions, and tax abatements. If you include the massive publicly-financed infrastructure that these private businesses use, the price we have paid is huge.

    Private sector businesses don’t exist in a vacuum.  Also, government is a large part of the economy, like it or not. Government employees serve the economy, and they help it grow. To think otherwise is short sighted.

  • Anonymous

    I worked for the state for over 31 years. Never had a paid election day off. Never knew any one else who did. Same goes for the $160 bonus.

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    you say : In other words, when a private company offers you perks it comes out of THEIR pockets not other tax payers.

    uh  sorry  — if I buy their service or product I am paying for that perk and I am a taxpayer. 

    Privatizing always costs more money in the end — read up on it! read “Selling America to the Lowest Bidder”by Al Bilik   but I doubt you do he is associated  with AFL-CIO
    Privatizing puts people out of work.

    The point was intended :theres always things that are left out by the news media.
    Dont talk to me about pensions and healthcare costs……
    I pay 10%  to my pension and have been paying that and am paying over 17% of healthcare … and was way before SB5!!! 
    You know they keep spouting that the private sector pays up to 30% of healthcare — I have yet to find one person who does.

  • John

    Yes, “the taxpayers” pay the wages of public servants. That’s the idea. “Government” is just one facet of the division of labor necessary in any society larger than a 100 member clan.  The point is, as “employer” of those citizens hired to perform these tasks for the benefit of all of us, do you choose to be a heartless overseer, bent on extracting the most work for the smallest pay possible, or do you want to be a decent employer, willing to pay a living wage and decent benefits.  We all know where John Kasich and the Republicans stand. Just as they hate unions and empowered workers in the private sector, they hate them in the public sector. It’s all the same to them — bust the unions, drive down wages, eliminate taxes, and maximize private wealth.

  • Oh ye of little brains, were do you think the private sector gets the money for these perks? Two places one from those who use the products and services they offer. You know like you and me?! If they did not have all those perks the service or goods they provide would cost a h%^& of a lot less. The second place is from the very government who wants to make us public sector workers feel bad for any perk at all that we may receive. You know like the money just given away so corporations who were going to “move” out of Ohio stayed in Ohio or the money given away so they could “create” more jobs. Really now. Think before you speak.

  • Anonymous

    No on 2.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget that many public sector workers are professionals with college degrees. They are underpaid relative to the private sector. They work for us because they like their jobs. It would be great if we could pay them some respect. But the R’s hate work and the people who do it. They have managed to get the middle class to vote to slit their own throats and fight over moldy crumbs.

    No respect, no respect at all.

    No on 2.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your dedicated service Cluster Foxtrot! I’ll bet the grunts on the ground loved seeing you.

    I have been saying this for awhile now, these new Republicans claim to “own” patriotism, but only a handful of them have served more than jury duty, and they balk at that.Although I served during wartime my unit never went to combat…. I like to joke I’ve been shot at more times at my public sector police job than the whole time I was in the Army, which is true.

  • Anonymous

    FACE!!! well said, so very true. Take that malouviere! Nice cop/donut joke too.

  • Malouviere just doesn’t get it!  Who does he thinks pays for all the perks, and freebies given to the employees in the private sector …. the head honchos are taking it out of their own pockets with a big smile on their faces????  It’s the tax payers, me and you that they pass the cost of all those lovely perks on to!  What a naive fool to think otherwise!

  • dlw

    Neither I nor any of my public sector friends get a paid day off for election day or a bonus for perfect attendance… nor do we control the temp of our workspace.

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