Many New Yorkers and others across the country have lost their jobs or had their hours scaled back.
Many have been furloughed. Many have had their pay cut. Some of the companies they work for may eventually be forced to cut back staff long-term or close their doors for good.
Many individuals who have been laid off are having trouble getting through to the state website that allows them to apply for unemployment benefits because so many are in need.
On top of that, the coronavirus outbreak has devastated state finances, leaving New York $10 billion to $15 billion short of anticipated revenue, threatening state aid for schools and forcing municipalities and school districts to ponder the possibility of program cuts and tax hikes.
Virtually everybody is making sacrifices.
Yet despite the deleterious impacts that the coronavirus have had on all elements of society, thousands of state workers and their union representatives are whining about the possibility that they might not get scheduled pay raises for the next couple of months.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday confirmed that he is using his emergency powers to freeze the pay of about 80,000 state workers for at least the next 90 days. The move would save state taxpayers about $50 million now — more, obviously, if the freeze is extended.
We’re not talking about cutting pay. We’re not talking about laying off or furloughing workers. We’re talking about holding off on increasing their pay for a few months.
If you work in the private sector, you’re used to not getting pay raises. Many companies, due to economic circumstances, have frozen pay altogether, sometimes laying off staff to preserve current pay levels for others who remain with the company.
The alternative to making these painful cuts and freezes might be going out of business. And that would mean all the employees would be gone.
It’s not an easy decision.
Yet state employees unions have used strong language to condemn the governor’s actions, which would deprive many union workers of a mere 2% pay raise.
“It’s inexcusable to require our workers to literally face death to ensure the state keeps running and then turn around and deny those very workers their much-deserved raise in this time of crisis,” said the president of the CSEA.
The head of the union representing corrections officers and other state agencies told Newsweek that they “won’t stand for it,” calling the pay freeze a “slap in the face.”
Well, you know what a real slap in the face is? Losing your job is a real slap in the face.
Taking two weeks of unpaid leave so you don’t get laid off is a real slap in the face.
Not seeing your pay increase for years just so you can have a job is a real slap in the face.
You know what’s also a slap in the face?
Seeing your state and local taxes increase because the state doesn’t have the money to fund vital services.
Seeing municipalities cut back on plowing and fixing potholes and upgrading sewer and water pipes because they don’t have the money.
It’s seeing school districts lay off teachers and aides and reduce funding for special education, food for poor kids, computers and extra-curricular activities.
The financial impacts of the coronavirus is a collective slap in the face to our society, to our children’s education, and to everyone's financial, social and mental well-being.
If state workers can’t accept not receiving a modest pay raise under these extraordinary circumstances, then maybe they should take their chances in the real world.
Good luck with that.