In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of grief of someone who is dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.
This same analysis applies to all types of grieving and reaction to catastrophe and disaster. What is happening in public employment to wages and benefits meets the definition of catastrophe and disaster; therefore, the five stages may apply but with a Caveat Lectores twist.
• Denial is where too many employees and their union leaders have been for too long. Public employment is supposed to be secure and bad things cannot happen. “I earned my pension; they cannot take it away like they did to the private sector.” Yeah right. I see some but not all either have emerged or are emerging to the next step.
• Anger is where I see many public employees moving soon when they find out just how fucked they are going to be when their plans for a future have been stolen from them by the same politicians they thought they had correctly supported or did not bother to support. There will be much finger pointing and trying to find somebody to blame for this mess. The mirror is a good place to start if you are looking for someone to blame.
• Bargaining from the Caveat Lectores point of view is where some will be going soon. Some will be bargaining in the Kubler-Ross mode which is to try to make a desperate deal to save their collective future from crumbling before their very eyes. Others will do a better job in the proper public sector collective bargaining approach but not without a lot of pain and compromise.
• Depression both clinical and economic is where some will land when they finally recognize just how badly they got fucked. Some are already there because they missed the start of the action and are just waiting around for the finish to their careers. They are and have always been clueless.
• Acceptance will provide some peace to a few, but hopefully some will not give up and will continue to fight the fight. It took only 24 years to undo what the Florida legislature did to the FRS special-risk pensions the last time they had their way.
A lot of people who read Caveat Lectores are from states, counties or cities not in Florida, but this threat of catastrophe is happening in nearly every jurisdiction that has not already dismantled the pension system that once provided the possibility of a good future once a public employee retired. I am told Alaska has DC plans for their public employees. Check out how well that is going for them. If you are trying to remember what a DC plan is, you are hopeless.
In order to weather this Tsunami that is about to wash away your future, the people who can help public employees survive are going to need to make some good decisions on how to proceed and then do it right the first time. For many of you, there will not be enough time to do it again later.
No one has the one size fits all right answer. I have been predicting this catastrophe for many, many years. Not all ignored me, but many were not interested because they were comfortably in denial. It is too late to get into the fight in the early rounds, but it is not too late to fight with everything in you to save your future.
While it is possible to “get lucky” and completely defeat the current batch of bad legislation and proposals, that is unlikely. Nevertheless, it must be attempted. A winner take all attitude is courageous but dangerous.
Strategy for success is not something that should be posted in a public Blog like Caveat Lectores. Clear headed thinking is required and cannot be shared publicly because there are those who will just do whatever it takes totally deprive you of your job, standard of living, and future. Welcome to the world of the right wingnuts and teabaggers, the world of “conservative” politicians who want to reduce government but demand to control the lives of others. Those would be the politicians some public employees voted into office because they believed the lies.
Now they pay the price for ignorance.
And oh yes, Have a nice Day.
Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
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