The COVID-19 pandemic is over. It has been over for quite some time, and now we are beginning to see what kind of damage some of our bad government decisions have done to our economy, to our society, and to our workforce. The government shutdowns that occurred during the days of the pandemic have done more to harm the United States of America than any other emergency situation since 9/11 some 22 years ago. Historians will likely remember the COVID-19 pandemic as the most important and significant catastrophic economic event of the first half of the 21st Century.
Gov. Jim Pillen has now been placed in the very awkward position of having to deal with the aftermath of these poor government policies of which he never played a part. Gov. Pillen now has to put the pieces of a puzzle back together that he never took apart. So, on November 11, Gov. Pillen began the process by making the hard decision to issue an executive order calling all state employees back to the office by January 2. So, no more working from home.
Without skipping a heart beat the state employee's union rode in like the cavalry to save the day for all of the state employees and made an immediate demand for negotiations. Soon after Gov. Pillen made his executive order, a press release went out by the Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE), appealing to their contract with the State. NAPE demanded that any "changes in working terms and conditions are mandatory subjects for bargaining and cannot be imposed without first negotiating with the union." Unions always know what's best, right?
Many Nebraska state employees don't realize how good they have it. In January of this year NAPE negotiated the highest pay increase for state employees in 35 years. In addition to their good rate of pay, state employees all get 13 paid holidays every year plus vacation time. They also get superior medical, dental and retirement benefits. They travel in state vehicles, never pay for their own gas when traveling for the state, and get to stay in high end motels on the state's dime.
Certain problems naturally arise whenever state employees are allowed to work from home. When state offices are not being manned, others suddenly find that they cannot readily get the information, the documents, or the services they need to effectively do their job. One elected official I know needed information for an important decision that needed to be made but couldn't get it in time because the state employee was working from home.
Certain temptations also creep up when state employees are allowed to work from home. One such temptation is to moonlight on the job. Nobody who draws a paycheck from the state should be working a second job during regular business hours. Another person I know purchased merchandise through an online marketplace, but when he went to pick it up, he discovered that the person selling the item was a state employee working from home.
Many of the arguments I've heard in support of working from home don't make much sense to me. One such argument has to do with the lack of available office space. Try telling that to the residents of Sidney, where the old Cabela's office complex continues to sit empty year after year. There is no good reason why state agencies, such as the Game & Parks Commission, should have to continue working in Lincoln, which is far away from where their problems lie. Nebraska has plenty of office space.
Some argue that they would have to make certain adjustments in order to return to the office, such as paying for daycare or buying a car so they can commute to work. These are commonplace problems that most people in the workforce have to deal with. There is nothing new or unique about these kinds of problems. In the long run the State may find that it can get more done with fewer people.