I want to thank the Empire for running the well-written article of Sept. 17 explaining Administration Commissioner Nordstrand's logic and justification for the pay hikes for 74 state agency directors.
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Nordstrand wrote, "The reason for the raises is to better attract and retain people for those positions within the executive branch." I believe this good argument for higher pay for staff retention stops regretfully short of extending that logic to include all state employees in every job class. Thousands of state employees were lied to regarding the lack of funds for pay raises. The commissioner's comments and the budget surplus render this argument indefensible.
Alaskans are bombarded with the rhetoric supporting new jobs in mining, construction and a gas pipeline, but we hear nothing about supporting the entire existing government infrastructure needed to make these jobs possible.
Our governor approved the pay raises for the directors. Will the newly elected officials support a better quality of life with pay raises for those state employees who work through administrations, funding manipulations, layoffs, and internal restructuring? How else can we attract and retain a dedicated, well-trained and fairly compensated work force?
Any candidate who wants to be the next governor of the good people of the great state of Alaska needs the union labor force as a voting block. And this voting block needs to be recognized and supported by the Legislature. We are losing good, capable people to private industry because they cannot support their families on these noncompetitive wages. Some state employees and their families are eligible for federal and state assistance because their state wages are insufficient to maintain their households.
Please imagine a large brick wall as the barricade between state employees and equitable pay, family friendly workplaces and retirement benefits. Every elected official has their name on a brick in that wall. We need to encourage each of them to take the brick with their name on it and put it at their feet to create a path to a better future for existing union labor and for future Alaska state employees.
I am proud of the fine services that we state employees provide to our neighbors and friends. I am union. I vote. I am not alone.