Harold Schlechtweg, business representative of Service Employees International Union Local 513 in Wichita, makes the case that Wichita needs to keep employing its present park maintenance staff, even though it appears there is a way to get the work done at a lower cost. (Cutting park jobs will hurt city, June 30, 2009 Wichita Eagle)
The city has a responsibility to its citizens to operate as efficiently as possible. If it is possible to have work such as park maintenance done less expensively, the city should do so. It should have done so long ago.
Schlechtweg says that if wages and benefits are cut, the community suffers. Let’s remind him who pays the wages and benefits he’s trying to protect: the taxpayers of the city of Wichita. If the city can reduce their taxes and provide the same level of service, Wichitans benefit.
The idea that it’s good for a city to have highly-paid workers such as those the SEIU represents is highly self-serving. It places the interests of a few union members above that of the entire city.
If a private enterprise wishes to pay its employees higher wages than is necessary, that’s their privilege. But in the marketplace, companies can’t do that for very long, or they won’t be competitive with other companies.
The City of Wichita, however, doesn’t operate in a competitive marketplace. If it pays employees too much, it doesn’t suffer very much. Citizens may not even be aware that the city is operating inefficiently until stressful events like the current budget situation expose the situation.
Since the city doesn’t face the discipline of markets, it’s very important that citizens keep an eye on the city’s spending.
Schlechtweg’s argument — that the city should keep paying more to maintain parks than it needs to — is ridiculous on its face. It likens city spending to a perpetual motion machine: pour in more taxes to support more spending, and you get more wages and benefits paid to workers. That, in turns, feeds more taxes into the machine. The world doesn’t work that way.
Schlechtweg writes: “The bottom line is that workers’ wages and benefits are not the problem.” Unfortunately for the workers he represents, paying more than necessary to get a job done is a problem for Wichita’s taxpayers. If Wichita can save money at the expense of apparently over-paid workers, the city needs to do so, and now.