Two things I especially enjoy about my job are the opportunities for new experiences and the people I meet as a result.
A few months ago I had an opportunity to visit with two groups of Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) workers at the Des Moines airport. I spoke about The Salvation Army on behalf of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC,) a United Way of sorts for federal employees.
A representative of the CFC and I had to be escorted to the TSA facilities deep in the bowels of the airport. When we arrived shortly after 11 a.m. the 11:45 shift was being briefed on safety issues around nation and world. I spoke to them prior to their shift. A little before noon the 3:45 a.m. shift was just getting off and I had an opportunity to visit with them before they left for the day.
There had been a lot of news about the TSA in preceding months along with a good deal of public grumbling about going through the security checks.
As I spoke to the two groups I saw men and women who could have been my children, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my neighbors. The second group was exhausted after a shift that had begun at 3:45 a.m. that day, but they gave me as warm a welcome as the group that was just starting their workday.
On my way back to the office I thought about how quick we are to judge others. While we impatiently stand in line trying to get to our boarding gate these folks are working hard to ensure that we have a safe flight.
That led me to think of other public workers who can be the target of criticism. People joke about the DOT worker holding up a shovel at a road repair site, but no one complains when that same employee is working at 10 p.m. in a blizzard to keep the highways open.
Some folks tell donut jokes about cops, but when those same joke-tellers are in trouble those donut-eating cops are there to protect them. Few people understand the difficult situations our law enforcement officers deal with on a day-to-day basis, including putting their lives on the line to protect others. Ditto for firefighters and EMTs.
Many folks gripe about the Postal Service. Yet when there's talk about cutting Saturday delivery or closing a small Post Office, they scream like they can't live without it. I'm convinced there are dolts at the top of the postal system but most of the postal workers who serve us daily are hardworking men and women trying to do a good job.
Governors and legislators do an excellent job of marginalizing public employees often worse than individual citizens do.
Here in Iowa the governor's decision to close a number of Iowa Workforce Development field offices last year and replace them with computers in libraries and other locations effectively told IWD employees that a computer can help an unemployed Iowan as well they can. Bull hockey.
A year ago Wisconsin's governor and his legislator friends stripped most public workers of their bargaining rights and reduced their salaries and benefits. Now facing a recall election, Gov. Scott Walker said last week that being governor is not "that important to me" and that his wife would appreciate his leaving office so he could make "real money" instead of the $144,423 salary he draws as the governor.
Six figures not "real money?" It sure is to the public employees he screwed over last year, most of whom don't make nearly a third of the governor's salary.
No doubt our nation and the states need to bring spending under control. That is essential. But balancing the budget should not be done on the backs of public employees and other hardworking folks while the decision makers give up absolutely nothing in the process.
Are there slackers in the public workforce? Of course, just as there are in the private workforce. That's what gives me so much appreciation for hardworking people regardless of who they work for.