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Public servants struggle in modern America

Driver Priscille Hetzel inspects her bus before starting her route. Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

"For generations of Americans, working for a state or local government — as a teacher, firefighter, bus driver or nurse — provided a comfortable nook in the middle class," the N.Y. Times' Patricia Cohen and Robert Gebeloff write. But "[i]n recent years, ... the ranks of state and local employees have languished even as the populations they serve have grown. They now account for the smallest share of the American civilian work force since 1967."

Why it matters: "No less than automobile assembly lines and steel plants, the public sector ensured that even workers without a college education could afford a home, a minivan, movie nights and a family vacation."

  • "The 19.5 million workers who remain are finding themselves financially downgraded."
  • "Teachers who have been protesting low wages and sparse resources in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky — and those in Arizona who say they plan to walk out on Thursday — are just one thread in that larger skein."

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Eldon Johnson, 40, a state employee who cares for children with cerebral palsy and autism in Norman, Okla., eight hours a day, then works overnight at a better-paying private mental health center:

  • “There’s no way I could make it without a second job, unless I lived in a box, and maybe had a moped.”
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