Occupy Providence Outraged by State Staff Salaries
Friday, November 04, 2011
Protestors at Occupy Providence today were shocked and outraged over what the highest paid Rhode Island state staffers are making. GoLocalProv’s review of new payroll data earlier today reported that nearly fifty state staffers are making six figure salaries while the average Rhode Island family makes about $53,000.
“I think it’s obscene,” Providence resident and protester Chris Tidedo said. “These people are public servants. Aren’t they in the same position as teachers?” We expect teachers to do more work for less. It’s not fair; it’s ridiculous… Who are they to be King Tut?” Many of the protestors echoed this sentiment, angry that government staff should make more than other hardworking Americans.
Now more than two weeks old, the Occupy movement in Providence remains a force in the state and its voice doesn’t appear to be fading. All week, the group, which has vowed to remain in the park even when the city moves forward with eviction, has organized protests and rallies in and around the city. On Wednesday, that included protesting during the high-profile visit of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who the protesters believe supports corporate education.
This is Just Wrong
The group has also railed against big corporations and student loan debt, but has mostly stayed clear of local politics. That changed for some Thursday when they learned about the salaries some state staffers are earning.
One protester who has been in the park since day one -her pseudonym Artemis Moonhawk- was stunned.
“That is what’s wrong with the government," she said. "That’s what’s upsetting a lot of the people here… This is just wrong.”
Artemis said has been unemployed for ten years, her husband unemployed for three.
“I lost my job,but found my occupation,” she said. “I doubt these people care about the forgotten 99%. Maybe if they all came down and spoke to some of these people, the people they’ve forgotten about, they’d understand,” she adds gesturing to the homeless on the park benches nearby. “Some of the people here work two jobs, and still can’t find a place to live.”
More Moderate Reactions
Several people had more moderate reactions but expressed similar dissatisfaction.
“Good for them, but what about everyone else?” Michael McCarthy, an artist, full time student at Roger Williams University, and member of the Occupy Providence media working group said.
“Obviously they’re specialized people that have a right to be paid more, but the most important thing to remember is if the average income is about $50,000, a lot of people are making less than that. I’m not saying someone shouldn’t make a lot if they work hard. It isn’t about the millionaires or billionaires making more, it’s about all the people who can’t make enough to live. I’d like to hear from him what he thinks about those who aren’t making enough."
McCarthy continued, “There should be a system that’s reaching out to people to make sure everyone’s okay.” The protesters all had many different proposals for what Rhode Island government should do about the unequal salaries.
The movement continues. Tidedo said if he could change things he’s like to organize a way to show that everyone is equally.
Another protester nearby said the focus should be on the political process and proposed rallying voters. “We are the 99%; we all need to exercise our only voice in government and vote!”
The Occupy movement has yet to see legislative action answering their complaints or demands of government, but for now they remain in Burnside Park and around the world protesting for what they believe.
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