My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at and I have a Facebook page.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Secular Job in City Hall

Dear Blog Visitors:

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you are certainly aware of my ministerial activities. For the most part, any ministries I partake in are voluntary. The one exception is my role as a wedding officiant, for which I charge a standard fee of $100.00 (to cover preparation, meetings with couples, rehearsals and ceremony).

My primary source of income comes from my secular job, which I have held for the past twenty-one years. In the context of this government job, I thought I would share with you a brief essay I wrote, in advance of a feature article that will appear soon in Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle. In this article, the newspaper will be focusing on charges from the public that are often articulated, whereby some tax-payers feel government employees have better benefits and salaries than those in the private sector, and there is occasionally an assumption that workers in the private sector work harder than government employees represented by unions.

In my brief essay, I try to defend the work ethics of most government employees. Using myself as an example, I could probably earn more in the private sector with the same type of job, and I certainly won't be rich in retirement (hope to retire within two years). Yet, the rewards of being a public servant are many.

So, without further delay, here is my essay:

by Ray Grosswirth

March 12, 2010

As a Civil Service employee with the City of Rochester for the past twenty-one years, I have been represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The local chapter of AFSCME has consistently worked very hard toward satisfactory working conditions and benefits for all union-represented City employees. However, there seems to be a public perception that City employees are overpaid and have better benefits than their counterparts in the private sector. At best, this is a misrepresentation that needs to be corrected.

In my present capacity in City Hall, I am supervisor of the accounts payable sector within the Accounting Bureau/Department of Finance. It is fair to say that I work to the point of exhaustion each week, and as I compared my salary ($40,000 annually) with persons in similar positions within the private sector, I could certainly do better financially with a corporate enterprise. Additionally, I would perhaps be less likely to suffer a heart attack in a private sector job than in my current fast-paced circumstances. However, I chose a career as a Civil Service employee, because I value the opportunity to serve the public and to engage with co-workers who are wonderful people, in terms of their collective work ethics and determination to see that the Mayor’s goals for the City are carried out expeditiously.

Speaking for myself, I am certainly not getting rich as a government employee, and I will certainly not be living a life of luxury as a retiree in the near future. In fact, my level of commitment is such that it is extremely rare for me to take a lunch hour, and I have given up countless weeks of vacation, due to the demands and pressures of my job. (I get five weeks vacation per year, but generally take one; unused time can only be carried over for one additional year, so I have lost countless weeks.) I have also put in countless hours of overtime without pay, because of my determination to clear my desk of vital paperwork each day. If I were to add up all the hours I have literally donated to City Hall, they would easily add up to a year of work for which the City had to pay me nothing. In addition, I have only utilized sick time once, and that was in 1996 (was extremely ill on a few occasions, but came to work anyway). I share this information to simply emphasize that most City employees I am in contact with are similarly motivated to do their very best as a matter of routine.

If taxpayers are to be disgruntled over paychecks issued to government employees, perhaps this anger should be aimed at some of the upper management with three-figure salaries, who are often paid for simply delegating work, as opposed to engaging in the difficult hands-on responsibilities of union workers.

City employees continue to share in the sacrifices that are expected of all in tough economic times. For example, the latest agreement between our local union and the City administration reflects the fact that instead of the usual 3.5% salary increase for the average employee, the increase in 2010 is instead 2%.

This has been an attempt on my part to defend the integrity and hard work that are characteristic of the vast majority of union workers within the City of Rochester employment base. Are there slackers within this enterprise? Most certainly. However, for the most part, we, as City of Rochester employees, are persons who work diligently on a daily basis to make sure that the public-at-large is serviced in the very best possible way.

In the future, I hope those in the private sector who criticize government employees will take the time to look at all the facts before making unsubstantiated charges relative to salaries or benefits.

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