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Public vs. Private Wages Analyzed in Massachusetts

By Charlie Deitz


Massachusetts – Lead: Public sector workers are getting paid significantly less than their private sector counterparts in the state of Massachusetts according to a study released this week by an economic think tank. WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reports that labor relations experts see the study as a necessary piece of information when it comes to contract negotiations.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center's executive Director Noah Berger says that while there have been several reports measuring the pay differences between public and private workers, many of them did not break out the data based on educational attainment.

Because state and local public jobs require advanced degrees for the most part, there's really no decent comparison to be made for those with only high school diplomas or less. The study found that those public workers with a bachelors degree take in about 17 percent less than private workers with bachelors, and master's degree holders see about a 20 percent wage loss in the public world. Even when the group factored in benefits like pension and health care, the public still was down a few percentage points. But that's just Massachusetts, Dean Baker is the co-director for the center for economic and policy research in Washington DC.

Baker is a frequent columnist for the British Guardian Unlimited and the Huffington Post. He says what's missing from labor disputes like the one swallowing up Madison Wisconsin, is good data.

Tom Kochan is currently serving as the George M Bunker professor of management at MIT's Sloan School of management. He recently helped Boston firefighters hammer out a decent contract and worked with the state to merge multiple unions and agencies into one transportation department. Kochan, who also hails from Wisconsin says his native state should serve as a model for what not to do when Massachusetts draws up its final budget and inevitably has to make cuts to personnel, adding that the two entrenched sides are making zero progress.

Kochan applauds Mass Budget for creating this public private wage report prior to any large scale labor disputes, and hopes the commonwealth will use the data to educate negotiations and the public at large, so as to not give the misperception that unionized public workers are faring better than most. Kochan is also a member of a national group called the Employment Policy research network, where he and his colleagues will be taking aim at labor disputes across the country.

Noah Berger notes that the lower wage private workers in Massachusetts and many other states are actually the ones suffering cutbacks, to their wages and benefits, which will have to be hammered out by public policy going forward.

MA Pension Report
Public Vs. Private Wage Analysis