All across the country, right wing legislators are taking aim at Main Street Americans by attacking their collective bargaining rights. These lawmakers are stripping public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights and/or slashing their wages, benefits, and retirement funds.
Yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) appeared on Fox Business Network to continue this war on labor rights, using his time on the station to attack unions and claim their pay and benefits are too high. At one point during the interview, the senator began attacking “government unions,” saying they are “going to have to” contribute to their pensions and health care plans, just like Paul has to as a senator, and that Kentuckians back home don’t have any sympathy for government union workers because they pay for their retirements:
PAUL: Federal employees have almost double the compensation that private employees have. […] Maybe these government unions are going to have to contribute to their pension, maybe they’re going to have to pay something for their health care, like I’m having to pay, so when I hear regular taxpayers in Kentucky they don’t have a lot of sympathy because they’re paying high insurance premiums and they have to pay for their own retirements.
The problem with Paul’s assault on public employee unions is that it’s based on a false premise. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Meanwhile, their health care, just like Paul’s, is covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program, which also requires employees to share the cost with their employer, usually 25 percent of premiums according to the Office of Personnel Management.
State workers like those Paul and his right-wing colleagues have been scolding often have far less generous plans than federal legislators. Lawmakers only contribute “1.3 percent of their salaries” into their defined benefit plan, while “the midpoint for defined-benefit pension contributions from state workers” is actually almost 4 times higher, at 5 percent. In Wisconsin, state employees actually pay the entirety of their pension plans via contributions from their salaries. Health care plans vary by state, but in Wisconsin public employees generally pay 6 percent of their premiums.
Paul is certainly entitled to his own opinion on public employee unions, but to coin an old phrase, he isn’t entitled to his own facts.