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New Report: State Employee Salaries Rising But Lagging Private Sector

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 By David Law/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - SD, Contact
September 7, 2007

Pierre, SD – The 2007 American Federation of Teachers' Public Employees Compensation Survey was released this week. It shows state employee pay is still trailing the private sector, despite a slight bump in wages this year. Corey Landeen, with the South Dakota State Employees Organization, has some insight.

"Regardless of your position on unions, the information out there shows that people who live in states where there's a strong union presence, and where collective bargaining is at play, make higher wages. That also not only lifts up the individuals represented by those unions, but it also lifts up non-union members, because the other employers have to compete with those union wages. Right or wrong, that's the way it is."

Landeen says the median increase in average salaries for state employees nationally this year was 5.7 percent, whereas the highest increase for South Dakota state employees was three percent. He says those figures should clear up public misperceptions about state employee wages.

"The private sector sees what some of the folks in the top of state government make and the perception is, 'Wow, look at all this money!' It's too bad that the only salaries to get looked at are the ones that are sensationalized in the media; the vast majority of state employees make nowhere near that kind of money. It would be nice to focus on the people at the lower end and see what we can do to bring them up where they can compete with their neighbors in the private sector."

Landeen believes competitive public employee salaries are critical in efforts to recruit and attract new workers to South Dakota.

"Our goal is to bring all state employees along. It seems to me, that if the state of South Dakota wants to provide services that our citizens have come to expect, we're going to have to start offering higher wages to some of these employees to keep them in these positions."

Landeen explains his organization isn't a labor union, but rather, a "labor organization." It means members don't go on strike or conduct collective bargaining. He says that's another reason it's important for South Dakota state leaders to get involved in increasing public worker pay, to be competitive with wages in private companies.

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