The Tulsa World recently ran an editorial entitled “State Should Be Open Five Days” in response to OPEA and the proposed alternative work week. The editors said: “if state employees are not happy with their five-day week, they should go find a four-day-a-week job somewhere else. There will be plenty of people to line up for their position.”
Following is the OPEA official response, as well as a letter from Representative Mike Shelton. OPEA members may send letters to the Tulsa World at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read the entire Tulsa World editorial, click here.
To the Editor:
We at the Oklahoma Public Employees Association were surprised, to say the least, at the Tulsa World’s recent editorial “State Should Be Open Five Days.”
As one of the state’s leading newspapers, you, of all organizations, should be aware of the plight surrounding Oklahoma’s 35,000 state workers.
Many of our employees feel compelled to public service and have dedicated their working lives to improving the state. However, some realize they could make a decent wage by going to work in the private sector, and many of them do.
That is why your editorial was so startling.
Your crass statement: “if state employees are not happy with their five-day week, they should go find a four-day-a-week job somewhere else” was insulting to the men and women who keep the state running. Our workers are leaving, and taxpayers are losing $85 million dollars a year because of high turnover.
State employees have not had a significant pay raise for several years and, like all Oklahomans, are struggling to make ends meet. These folks on the lower end of the pay scale are barely making it, and an alternative work week is an option that could save them a few dollars at the gas pump. Taxpayers could also benefit by having longer hours and increased access to government services.
Other states around the nation are already adopting these alternative work schedules. It’s time Oklahoma gets off the fence, stops arguing and takes action for its employees.
Connie G. Stockton
To the Editor:
The Tulsa World has always been a staunch supporter of state employees. Your reporters and articles have always been fair and balanced, and you have given your readers a glimpse of the problems our workers face as government employees.
How shocked I was to read your recent editorial, “State Should Be Open Five Days.”
State employees have stood by Oklahoma citizens, working long hours for low pay. In fact, Oklahoma’s state workers are some of the lowest paid in the nation.
Many have dedicated their lives to public service and we owe them our gratitude. They rarely ask for much, and are used to doing more with less.
But now they are asking for an alternative work week. Outrageous gas prices are putting the bite on everyone, and those on the lower end of the pay scale are falling farther behind every day.
If we can offer a respite, we need to do that. Not a month, a year or 10 years in the future, but now!
No one has asked taxpayers to sacrifice services, or for employees to work less than 40 hours. We are simply asking for a way to help state employees make ends meet.
Your comment telling state workers if they “aren’t happy with their five-day week they should go find a job somewhere else” was out of character for the position you have typically taken in the past.
Our employees are indeed going somewhere else. Many realize they can earn a livable wage in the private sector. High turnover costs taxpayers more than $85 million dollars a year. That is a disservice to taxpayers.
We are all in this together, and if the Tulsa World editors have constructive comments and ideas, we will gladly take them into consideration.
Oklahoma House of Representatives