It’s shocking, I know. People who work for the State of Alaska are Alaskans. We live right down the street from you; we may even be related to you or your friends! We have mortgages to pay or rent. We have children to feed and clothe, we have car notes, insurance payments and we may even go to the same church or participate in the same spiritual practice as you.
If the term “state worker” or the number “17,000 plus” somehow allows you to distance yourself from us, I would like to suggest that you reconsider. While it is true that some people who work for the state are highly compensated (as are employees in similar private sector jobs) many are not, many work more than one job, many are the sole support for their households. We are not enemies.
People who work for the state get up early and plow the roads in winter so you can get to your job. Nurses, personal care attendants, cooks, janitors, physical therapists that take care of our elders are all state workers. Troopers, attorneys, correctional officers, public defenders, magistrates, clerks of court — people committed to upholding our common community standards — are all state workers.
The office assistant who ensures your paperwork is filed for your marriage certificate or business license is a state worker. Public health nurses are state workers. For the second time in three years, people who work for the state are receiving a one-month warning to inform them their jobs may be ending. Whether or not it actually happens, the anxiety is real, the sleepless nights, real; job searches, real; sense of loss, real; the unjustness, real. Stand up for us, stand with us, not against us. We are not enemies.
I daresay politicians are also Alaskans. They are part of us too — our friends, neighbors, relatives. Each person stepped forward and in essence said, “I am willing to take time from my usual activities and represent my community so as a collective we can strengthen our state.” They are not “those guys down in Juneau,” they are us and we are them.
Politicians are in their home communities many more days than in the Capitol. Take the time to talk, explain your concerns, show them your business — help them be prepared to share your vision for a strong Alaska with their colleagues. Call on them to be statesmen and stateswomen — Alaska is bigger than political parties, better than bully pulpits. Call on them to work together and then support their efforts. Give them the chance to exert their political will to end this current impasse and help them see a way to keep layoffs from happening again.
We are all Alaskans and we all have a vested interest in how we move forward as a state. The power is in each of our hands. We cede it to politicians for certain periods of time and we can always choose someone else to share our power if the first person doesn’t meet our expectations.
We each hold responsibility for the people we elect to serve — they are us and we are them. Government is not separate from the people if we don’t let it be.
• Lauree Morton is the former director of the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. A Juneau resident, Morton is currently a State of Alaska employee with the Department of Health and Social Services.