by Max Brantley
In recent decades, layoffs were the standard procedure for shrinking labor costs. Reducing the wages of those who remained on the job was considered demoralizing and risky: the best workers would jump to another employer. But now pay cuts, sometimes the result of downgrades in rank or shortened workweeks, are occurring more frequently than at any time since the Great Depression.
State workers in Georgia are taking home smaller paychecks. So are the tens of thousands of employees in California’s public university system. The steel company Nucor and the technology giant Hewlett-Packard have embraced the practice. So have several airlines and many small businesses.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track pay cuts, but it suggests they are reflected in the steep decline of another statistic: total weekly pay for production workers, pilots among them, representing 80 percent of the work force. That index has fallen for nine consecutive months, an unprecedented string over the 44 years the bureau has calculated weekly pay, capturing the large number of people out of work, those working fewer hours and those whose wages have been cut. The old record was a two-month decline, during the 1981-1982 recession.
Pulaski County, of course, is flush with money. Its leaders not only need not cut pay and budgets like other governments in the county, they are ready to vote themselves a 4 percent bonus now and then a 5 percent raise in another three months. The part-time elected officials claim there are savings from unfilled jobs, not that they ever demonstrated all those jobs were vital in the first place.
But do me a favor would you, QC and Judge Buddy? Could you plug the holes in the courthouse dome that required seven leak buckets yesterday before paying out $1 million-plus in bonuses?