Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sacramento Bee: "Below market" compensation for government chemists in California

Via this ItP comment and this Sacramento Bee article, a report (PDF) detailing the compensation of state workers in California, including chemists. Apparently, state employed chemists (who are members of a small union?) make below market salaries:
...the total compensation for half of state-employed chemists is less than $8,985 per month ($5,715 in salary, plus $3,270 in benefit costs). That's 33 percent less than the median total compensation for federal chemists, nearly 13 percent less than the midpoint for local-government chemists and almost 6 percent below the private sector.
I'll bet there are two things at work here:
  • It's well known, for example, that some unions are more powerful than others. I clearly remember from my time as a resident of the Golden State that the correctional officers union was regarded as being very powerful. One presumes that the union for California state-employed chemists (California Association of Professional Scientists) is not nearly so powerful.
  • California is home to the Bay Area, which has plenty of top-notch chemists that are paid pretty well. I wonder if that figures into the "market"? If I were a chemist working for Sacramento, I'd be wondering about working for a Big Pharma... 
I presume that other people have much more knowledge about the situation... 


  1. I have a feeling that these numbers are significantly skewed by postdocs and research scientists who work at the state universities. Presumably they would be defined as chemists and are making well below pharma wages. This would significant affect the "average" salary of state chemists.

    1. I could be wrong, but I don't think they count as "state-employed" nor members of the relevant union.

    2. For comparison, at my state university (not in Cali) all graduate students, postdocs, and scientists are part of the union and considered state-employed.

    3. Page 37 of the report:

      SOC Code: 19-2031
      Federal Government Definition: Employees in the Chemist
      Occupation conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses
      or experiments in laboratories for quality or process control or to
      develop new products or knowledge.

      The State Employs:
       152 full-time equivalent employees in this occupation in 22 classifications
       This occupation represents 5 percent of employees associated with Unit 10

  2. They probably have a hell of a pension scheme. ;)

  3. All UC postdocs not on fellowships are state employees and part of the union in California, so I agree that might be skewing the data.