Site menu:


February 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-4


Iowa's Privileged Class: State-Government Employees





The purpose of this study is not to attack public-sector employees.  They are simply accepting the wages and benefits offered to them.  Nor is this an attack on the unions that represent those employees.  The job of union officials is not to improve the state’s schools or to build better highways; it is simply to get as high a wage and as many benefits for those they represent as possible.  No, this study contends it is the system that is wrong, a system that often excludes Iowa taxpayers from having a seat at the table when unions negotiate contracts on behalf of state-government workers.  Iowa’s collective-bargaining laws have stacked the deck against taxpayers.  This situation is made even worse when a Governor is sympathetic to unions, especially when that Governor is on his way out of office after an electoral defeat and no longer concerns himself with being accountable to the taxpayers of Iowa.


Some, particularly those working for the state government, may say it is not state-government wages that are too high, but rather private-sector wages are too low.  While those of us working in the private sector would always appreciate higher wages, the difference is that in the private sector, a business cannot raise the prices of its goods and services and compel its customers to pay the higher prices.  Consumers have the choice to shop elsewhere or not to pay the price at all by not buying that product.  However, if the state government needs additional funds to pay its employees, it has the option of raising taxes, and its “customers” — the taxpayers of the state — must pay those higher taxes. 


Those attempting to justify the nation’s largest Pay Gap between state-government workers and private-sector workers in Iowa are often those who benefit from that Pay Gap — state-government employees or those they can convince to make their case and who obviously have a self-interest in preserving the Pay Gap.  Many have made a “straw man” argument based on false claims about what our study said and then attempted to “discredit” the false claims, but no one has ever been able to discredit our actual study, which is based on the government’s own data.


In 2015, Iowa’s state-government workers received an average wage that was 149.76 percent of what the average private-sector worker in Iowa was paid.  Given Iowa has the nation’s largest Pay Gap, isn’t it time we take a hard look at state-government employee salaries and the collective-bargaining laws that make them possible?




Click here for pdf copy of this Policy Study


All of our publications are available for sponsorship.  Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government.  For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at