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Published September 02 2013

Forum editorial: Labor Day honors all who work

The men and women in the American workforce who have been most abused and unappreciated the past few years are public employees. The people who do everything from processing drivers’ licenses to plowing snow to teaching children have been easy targets. Anyone who might have a gripe with government at any level can find an excuse, however flimsy, to take it out on a public employee, or – more dishonestly – blame the system in which they work.

It’s an ugly trend that ought to remind us on this Labor Day that most public employees are doing their jobs the best they can, often in conditions that would not be tolerated in the private sector – and often for a paycheck that is lower than for similar work in the private sector.

The harsh critic of public workers is quick to remind that “they work for me,” the taxpayer. That’s true, but it is not a license to unjustly criticize or otherwise denigrate a public employee. The individual taxpayer, while contributing to the salary of public workers, is not justified in tossing all public employees into a category of overpaid incompetents. Just as in the private sector, some workers are less competent than others.

Labor Day honors those who work at all sorts of jobs. That can range from the small-business person to the plumber to the executive to the coal miner – and, yes, to the public workers who plow snow, protect the neighborhood, guard the public health, issue a fishing license, handle a Social Security claim, and more that we tend to take for granted. To diminish their work simply because it’s so easy (the stuff of simpletons, really) to take cheap shots at public employees dishonors the spirit of Labor Day.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.