Meister: Get off the bandwagon, Willie

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City employees and working people generally need all the friends they can get in these perilous times. Willie Brown is not likely to be one of those friends in need.

By Dick Meister

(Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century.)

As former Mayor Willie Brown suggested in his Sunday Chronicle column on Jan. 3, “it’s time for politicians to begin an honest dialogue” about civil service. For starters, Willie should get his facts straight and get off the anti-public employee bandwagon that so many politicians are riding these days.

Brown said, for instance, that “the deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.”

Not so, Willie. Public employees were paid less because, if they were qualified for their jobs - as shown by civil service tests and other means - they were more likely to continue working for the government and were willing to accept long-term benefits – primarily health care and pensions – in lieu of higher pay.