Clarification about the unions

To clear up some things that seem contradictory between my “public employee apology” and my recent “OUS is ripping us off” posts, I offer a few bullet points.

But first, check out what software engineers get paid to understand why I feel OUS underpays us. The general IT positions are even lower, of course, but I don’t have as much of a frame of reference for those pay scales vs. the private sector.

Note that developers have many of the same expectations as in the private sector, and often more. To do my job well, I need to know about a variety of programming languages, unlike a private-sector Java shop might. I need to be able to get familiar with multiple frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails, Django, Drupal, and such. I consider this a very good thing, as one-trick developers usually absolutely suck when they’re even slightly out of their element (“Ty”, from my post about private-sector incompetence, was a wonderful example)… but it does mean we have to be at least mediocre if we’re going to do any good for the university. And sadly, due to the pay structure, most of the IT people in the university are just that: mediocre at best.

Also note that the absolute best-paid software engineer in the entire university system tops out at $96k a year. This is a decent salary, don’t get me wrong, but it takes at least ten years to reach it (assuming no wage freezes), and a senior engineer in the private sector can earn a lot more. In 2010, I applied for a development position (not a senior position, mind you), and was offered $78k to start. And that didn’t even include overtime pay (even though it was an exempt position, the boss was offering time-and-a-half for all OT), and possible bonuses.

But I do still have some anti-union thoughts:

  • I still believe a 4.75% raise is very high and I wouldn’t have a problem with a 2% – 3% annual boost if our pay scale were sane.
    • But with IT salaries being so low, I can understand IT people griping.
    • Additionally, all IT positions have the concept of a “control point” after which the standard 4.75% does in fact change to 2% – 3%. This detail is very important once you’ve been working for a while. For an AP2, getting from that point (about $70k a year) to the top (about $86k a year) can take a very long time if you only get 2% a year.
  • I still have no idea how non-IT jobs compare to the private sector, and I won’t try to make any claims about those. It could very well be that some positions are way overpaid. I just don’t know.
  • I still fully support a tougher health-engagement model. When I see union functions where unhealthy garbage is used to entice members to get involved, I can’t help but feel ashamed. If we want health insurance costs to fall, we ALL have to get the hell off our asses, exercise, and eat right. Those who are driving up the costs with preventable conditions can go #$%& themselves for whining about it.
  • I still feel our benefits are very good… for now.

Good benefits are the one saving grace we have… but that’s not seeming likely to stick around. There are constant talks about reforming PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) and other things. If our benefits stayed as they are today, I’d say we’re great. But if we keep seeing them erode, while our pay continues to be well below the private sector, everybody with any talent is going to jump ship, leaving the universities with crap for IT staffing.

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