Editor's notes

Our biggest employer is not in the private sector

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tredmond@sfbg.com

The private sector that Republicans see as our economic savior has been creating jobs. Not a lot, a few hundred thousand a month, but some. And yet the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.

There's a reason for that, one politicians from San Francisco to Washington D.C. don't want to talk about. But the New York Times put it nicely in a Dec. 5 editorial:

"While the private sector has been adding jobs since the end of 2009, more than half a million government positions have been lost since the recession..."

"The cutbacks hurt more than just services. As Timothy Williams of the Times reported last week, they hit black workers particularly hard. Millions of African Americans — one in five who are employed — have entered the middle class through government employment, and they tend to make 25 percent more than other black workers. Now tens of thousands are leaving both their jobs and the middle class."

Remember: Most of the biggest employers in this city are not corporations; they're government agencies. The City and County of San Francisco, the University of California, the State of California, the United States Postal Service, City College and the San Francisco Unified School District drive the local economy more than any one private company. Between them, those public-sector operations employ more than 60,000 people. The largest single private employer, Wells Fargo, has fewer than one sixth of that number.

Most of the those public-sector jobs are unionized and offer decent benefits. They are such an important part of the city's economic development future that it's impossible to talk about jobs in San Francisco unless you start the conversation with the public sector.

Mayor Ed Lee is about to enter negotiations with unions representing 24,000 city employees. His office is already indicating that cost savings will be a big part of the discussion. I know there are cost savings out there — you can't spend $2 billion on payroll and not have some waste somewhere in the package.

But if he's serious about his campaign mantra — jobs, jobs, jobs — I hope he remembers what the Republicans don't: Government jobs count, too.