Right about now, it is pretty much a given: If you see it on television, then it has to be true. But wait a doggoned minute. What about CSEA’s TV ad having to do with Tier VI, the reduced-benefits retirement plan for civil servants just enacted?
Here is CSEA, getting all huffy in the ad, upset as all get-out, because the Cuomo people have afforded non-union public employees making $75 grand the very thing that was flatly rejected by the union for its members. “Boondoggle,” the ad cries out.
One of my favorite public employee unions in all of New York state is telling us that Cuomo & Co. are ripping off the taxpayers by giving these better-off political appointees a 401(k)-type retirement plan with “portability,” the right to withdraw the 8 percent contribution from the state after just 12 months on the job and take it elsewhere — like to the bank. “A big cash bonus,” screamed the ad. But this 401(k) stuff — “defined contribution” are the magic words — is exactly what was rejected by the unions, opting instead to continue with the “defined benefits” plan state workers have come to know and love. The benefits, of course, are reduced somewhat — 40 percent less, says the union, half that, say others — but still defined.
It’s kind of like Peyton Manning getting himself all in a snit because the Saints offered Drew Brees $90 million after Manning turned it down.
Who knows? Maybe CSEA (among my favorite unions) intended the TV ad as a kind of brain-teaser, a challenge to see if you are up on current events, to see if we’ve all been paying attention. It’s a kind of “what’s wrong with this picture” lesson in civic affairs.
Remember just several weeks ago when CSEA and the other public employee unions joined in sponsorship of another TV spot that seemed to suggest that CURRENT public employees — we were even shown pictures of them — would suffer grave harm if Tier VI were to pass? You knew, of course, that something known as the constitution protects current folks and that only FUTURE employees would be harmed (a battle for the hearts and minds of high school sophomores, if you will, who have been dreaming since childhood of becoming a public employee and retiring at 62, only to have that dashed). But the unions swore there was no intentional misleading.
Now comes this latest ad, and how can I continue to regard CSEA as one of my favorite seven or eight public worker unions in New York state when there seems to be just a hint of fudging in the message, ripping the poor governor for giving some folks the very thing the unions rejected?
“Your problem is you cannot see the forest for the trees,” said Steve Madarasz, CSEA spokesperson (one of my favorites for a public employee union).
Q: But Steve, your union could have chosen to go with the 401(k).
M: Yes, but there is a big difference between someone who comes in from Wall Street to work for the governor for a few years at $75,000-plus and is pretty savvy about investing and one of our members who is making $28,000 working most of their lives for the DOT. You cannot compare the two.
Q: But isn’t your rejection of the 401(k) like a put-down of the ability of state workers and others to do their own investing?
M: Look, we all like to think that we’re geniuses when it comes to the market, when the truth is we all need help.
Q: But isn’t a 401(k) pretty much what all corporations are giving their employees now, because they cannot afford defined benefits?
M: I hardly look upon big corporations as models of responsibility to their workers. They are more about multi-million-dollar payoffs to their CEOs than being concerned for the rest of the workforce. And mark my words, when the public finally recognizes this big payoff to political appointees who get to cash in at taxpayer expense, there is going to be a huge uproar.
So no apologies from CSEA for what seems to be a “pants on fire” advertising campaign from these latter day “mad men.” Wait a minute! Somebody’s trying to tell me something. What? These CSEA ads are helping to pay my salary?
On second thought, these spots appear to be perfectly legit. My bad.