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Paul Buchheit
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 26 November 2012
“State government employees make up 3.6% of the U.S. workforce and receive 3.9% of the total compensation.”

Private, Public, Union, or Management: Who Takes All the Money?

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It's not public workers..

Start with local government, whose 14 million employees make up almost two-thirds of the public payroll, according to Census Department data. They make up 11% of the total U.S. workforce but receive only 10% of the total compensation. Their average salary is $43,000. 

State government employees make up 3.6% of the U.S. workforce and receive 3.9% of the total compensation. 

Federal employees, who make up just two percent of the total U.S. workforce, do considerably better, earning an average of $68,000. Their pay advantage is largely due to higher education levels and more advanced professional skills. The Economic Policy Institute, Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Congressional Research Service, and Congressional Budget Office all acknowledge this. 44% of federal jobs are professional positions (lawyers, economists, engineers), compared with 32% in the private sector. Close to 50% of full-time federal and state and local government employees have college degrees, compared to 35% for private employees. 

Overall, Census Department data reveals that government employees earn about 1% more than private sector employees. With all retirement benefits included, the 21.4 million government employees make up 16.7% of U.S. employees and receive 20% of the total compensation. 

It's not union members..

After years of declining numbers, union employees make up about 12% of the workforce, but their total pay (14.8 million union employees with a $47,000 median salary) amounts to less than 12 percent of wages, as reported by the Census Department

Unions are sometimes accused of excess, when in fact they keep employees from falling into substandard wage conditions. According to the State of Working America, the union wage premium exists, but it's a modest 13.6%. 

Unions also provide a degree of stability for a shrinking middle class. Retirement funding, however, is actually much less than perceived by union critics. The Pew Center notes that the latest available annual pension contribution by the 50 states amounted to just under $60 billion, which is about 1% of wages as reported by the Census Department

Finally, unions promote equal opportunity. A recent study at Harvard and the University of Washington concluded that "the decline of organized labor explains a fifth to a third of the growth in inequality." 

It's not, for the most part, even the private sector..

The average private sector worker makes about the same salary as a state or local government worker. But the MEDIAN salary for U.S. workers, 83% of whom are in the private sector, is almost $14,000 less, at $26,363. 

This striking difference reveals the degree of inequality in private industry, and leads us to the conclusion: 

CEOs and Financial Managers take much more than their share.

Corporate executives and financial employees make up just one-half of 1% of the workforce, but with nearly a trillion dollars of annual income (11.3% of $8.12 trillion), they make more than ALL 15 million unionized workers in the United States, and almost as much as ALL 21 million government workers. Much of their income derives from minimally-taxed capital gains. Meanwhile, the great majority of their private company employees toil as food servers, clerks, medical workers, and domestic help at below-average pay. 

While unions and government jobs promote stability and security, private industry, which is driven by the profit motive, leads to a "winner-take-all" philosophy that is steadily splitting our country in two. 

Have they earned it?

Again, consider the facts: 

1. They've destroyed jobs. According to Newsweek, "the CEOs of the 50 firms that laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis took home 42 percent more pay in 2009 than their peers did -- largely because cutting workers boosts short-term profits." 

2. They've made the country less productive. As noted by Frontline's Money, Power, and Wall Street, the financial industry is almost double the size of the manufacturing sector. 

3. They've taken massive bonuses for their failures. Again from Frontline's Money, Power, and Wall Street: Since the crash of 2008, banks have paid out more than $80 billion in bonuses. 

As an analyst pointed out on the Frontline documentary, the rise of financial derivatives led banks to start trading for their own gain, and not for their customers. So yes, they've earned something. Our lasting contempt.

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ABOUT Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

Another point to be made, one

Another point to be made, one which i've never seen addressed at all. Only corporations cause the amount of damage they do. Only corporations have the size, money, and production capability to poison the entire US food system with toxic GMOs.
Only corporations make enough petrochemical toxins to have (and they HAVE) literally destroy OVER one third of the oxygenation capability of the planet. That's right - we are missing over one third of the planetary oxygen we are supposed to have, and it's not because Bill & Martha put some rotenone on their rutabagas. It is Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont, and the other non-Ag chemical companies with toxic products/by-products.
Who makes enough air pollution to make a difference? Corporations like the coal companies, power companies, etc. Who makes enough water pollution to matter? Corporations. Who makes the Love Canals, the Bhopal's, the Fukushima's, and all those large explosions? Not Martha and her 63 cats.
Who killed unknown thousands of people in Nitro WV when making Agent Orange, or untold thousands in Anniston Ala where they illegally dumped PCBs and contaminated EVERY FISH IN THE WHOLE OCEAN along with innumerable Americans?
The same psychopathic corporation that brings you patented plant GMOs - Monsanto.
Now tell me of ONE UNION that controls congress, caused the economic damage of 08, and steals your tax money when they paid no US taxes? None of them, those are again, ALL CORPORATIONS.
Do you get the picture here?
OUR SYSTEM IS TOTALLY BROKEN, AND THOSE ELECTED ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. They are NOT a solution to the problems they enhanced, and passed as legislation, so STOP VOTING FOR EITHER REPUBLICANS OR DEMOCRATS.
Nobody else has had power so they have no-one else to blame. Them and the rich people they kowtow to all the time.

Actions do speak louder than

Actions do speak louder than words! Now that the facts have been stated in this article, where are the corporately owned mass media giants like ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX reporting on the facts stating that the top 1/2 of 1% of the population have ruined the USA economy over the past 30 years, but most in the past 10 years, why are the networks not calling out these "takers" to pay their fair share of taxes to fix the economy and our social safety nets?!!! Why are the financial sector executives and corporate CEOS still getting bonus after bonus and overblown salaries for RUINING THE USA ECONOMY FOR WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? Why are the network news station reporters (owned by large corporations) being obviously silenced by the corporate owners because the news readers are certainly not speaking up for WE THE PEOPLE!!! Oh, I guess then the tax code wouldn't get changed to make corporations and the top 1% pay their fair share!!! Congress, through special interests, have changed our economy through the tax code changes that have taken revenue from our government budget and instead sending most of that budget revenue into the pockets of the 1% that have the ability to pay tax accountants and tax attorneys to legally steal from the other 98% of the USA population by shipping their money offshore or investing it offshore, further damaging the US economy!!! See, ACTIONS DO SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS!!

Tell ya what corporations &

Tell ya what corporations & rich folk - you can keep your Bush tax cuts, just pay taxes on all the undeclared money you've stashed in offshore bank accounts, and pay your fines for tax evasion and we'll be good.

> It's not union

> It's not union members..

Tell that to the now-out-of-work Hostess employees. And while you're at it--you can tell us what happend to the American Steel Industry? And the American Car Industry? And the American Maritime Industy? And the American Railroad Industry?

Anyone who takes the time to think about this will see a common demoninator: UNIONS!

It's hard not to see American Unionism's long-term goal--destruction of the US manufacturing sector, one company at a time.

WMARTIN46 - You got that

WMARTIN46 - You got that backwards - its corporate management that is willing to export the entire US manufacturing capacity, one industry at a time, in order to bust unions that insist on living wages, safety for workers, and environmental protections. They'd much rather relocate their entire operations overseas where people are poorer and unorganized, and governments don't insist on inconveniences that unions want (above) which cut into corporate profits.

@wmartin46 But you don't


But you don't address the facts he gives. Please give us some hard facts supporting your ejaculation that: "American Unionism's long-term goal--destruction of the US manufacturing sector. . . ."

You forgot to add also, Child Slave Labor abolished, weekends, the 8 hour work day--UNIONS--the one common denominator!

The common thread is piss

The common thread is piss poor management of our government and corporations.

The American Steel industry was hung out to dry by allowing foreign government subsidized steel into this country. Who benefited, CEOs.

American Auto industry? Same thing. Ask yourself how much Honda pays in US taxes and what is the size of their welfare check both from the US and Japan. Oh yeah, then there is Senator Sellout Shelby who cut a welfare check to BMW for something like $186,000 per job. That plant is now closed.

I am not sure why the rail industry is on this list, they are thriving and growing and still union. The Maritime industry is better off than ever and is still union.

The Hostess example will be textbook How NOT to Run a Company for years to come. Two times before a bankruptcy judge in less than 5 years is 1 time too many. It is also pretty damn amazing that all the countries we are wishing we could compete with are heavily unionized or in the case of China, controlled by state approved mobsters and workers are little more than slaves.

For some reason, I will take unions over government approved mobsters running slave labour camps any day. Take a trip to China to see how the Fox workers making i-Junk for Crapple feel about forming a union to protect their health, safety, and rights.

as the company was preparing

as the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy earlier this year, the then CEO of Hostess was awarded a 300 percent raise (from approximately $750,000 to $2,550,000) and at least nine other top executives of the company received massive pay raises. One such executive received a pay increase from $500,000 to $900,000 and another received one taking his salary from $375,000 to $656,256.
"Hostess Blames Union for Bankruptcy after Tripling CEO’s Pay"
From the Nation of Change.....previous article

Hi Wmartin: I hesitate to

Hi Wmartin:

I hesitate to reply, as I can appreciate none of us want to see one person at the table speaking too much, but I would nonetheless appreciate if you would look more closely at your concerns about unions, and the facts presented in this article.

Look. I agree with you wholeheartedly that Unions are corruptible and have a history showing corruptions in which they screw employees while sometimes colluding with management, and other times going off on self-serving power-trips. I know this personally, as I was royally mistreated by the air traffic controllers union, NATCA, forcing a premature end to my 22-year FAA career. And I know it still more personally due to the nearly 12,000 pages (really!) I have slowly obtained in a five-year FOIA-requesting mission. And, I recently filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against both FAA and NATCA for the clear and malicious collusion revealed by this evidence (the Affidavit is posted at ...

As a guy in his fifties, a father, a homeowner, and an increasingly engaged citizen, I hate what NATCA did to me and my family (and I have uncovered ample evidence of many others who were similarly screwed), but I continue to recognize the need for unions such as NATCA. I would suggest, the key missing element is that Unions have no legal obligation to be transparent, thus are presently enabled to engage in collusion and/or power-tripping. This can be fixed. If all Unions had a legal obligation to retain all records, and were compelled to post those online, for full public review, unionized employees would become empowered to hold their union leaders fully accountable. Problem is, while our Congress has empowered Unions to usurp bargaining rights from individuals, Congress has thus far failed to compel Union transparency and accountability.

So, I would appreciate your considered response: do you agree, might Unions serve a valuable purpose, so long as they are compelled to be fully transparent and accountable?

Great article.

Great article. Black-and-white, stark reality of the gross inequities we have allowed to evolve in our country. Of course, another factual analysis would show this evolution has happened because those earning the highest fractional income are also exerting the most influence on elected officials via the largest campaign donations.

An important point is, the conflict here is not about Unions. In fact, this article points out the reality that the employers have a vested interest in stirring up an ongoing perceived conflict between union v. nonunion employees, so that we all muddle about ineffectively while the fiscal rape continues. History shows Unions fail as much as employers, both private and public; as such, Unions need to clean up just like employers. But, can we all somehow get past the union-nonunion sideshow and start addressing the core problem: excessive and unjustified wealth concentration upon an absurdly tiny plutocracy?

Thank you for this Fact based

Thank you for this Fact based article. I have sent it to my friends who rant and rave about Union excess.

I have bookmarked it. Canada

I have bookmarked it. Canada has a higher rate of unionization, still, than the US, and a healthier economy.

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