Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

In Show of Force, Fight for 15 Plots Its Political Path
By Justin Miller, August 16, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle
The Fight for 15’s first-ever national convention convened in Richmond, Virginia, this past weekend attracted diverse groups of low-wage workers from across the country in a stunning demonstration of the movement’s continued strength and ambition. While the Service Employees International Union has bankrolled this ambitious worker organizing project (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars and counting) with hopes that it will one day pay dividends by enrolling thousands of new dues-paying union members, the group is also hoping the Fight for 15 will help to transform the nation’s 64 million low-wage workers into a formidable, cohesive voting bloc. (read article)

Cleveland teacher strike would start just before Labor Day
By Patrick O’Donnell, August 16, 2016, Cleveland.com
The Cleveland Teachers Union will go on strike the Friday before Labor Day, unless it and the district can reach a new contract, the union announced today. Union leaders decided Monday night to issue the 10-day notice of a strike that is required by law, after three days of negotiations last week failed to bring an agreement. The strike would officially start at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1. That would make the Friday before the three-day Labor Day holiday the first school day affected. “It is our hope that the CMSD (Cleveland Municipal School District) and the Mayor will commit to using the next two weeks to resolve the contract,” union President David Quolke said in a written statement. (read article)

The New Landscape of Labor
By Steven Malanga, August 14, 2016, City-Journal 
It’s been a rough recovery for American labor. In the aftermath of the 2007 financial meltdown and the deep recession that followed it, unions have bled more than 1.3 million members. The Great Recession and the underwhelming Obama recovery have, in other words, reshaped the map of labor in the United States. Private unions began to rally somewhat in 2012 but thus far have regained only 42 percent of the members they lost. (read article)

City manager hits police union with unfair labor practices charge
By Chris Wetterich, August 13, 2016, Cincinnati Business Courier 
In a sign of escalating tensions between Cincinnati’s administration and the Fraternal Order of Police, City Manager Harry Black filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the union with the State Employee Relations Board on Friday, sources have told the Business Courier. The city manager’s complaint is in response to the FOP’s attempts to get Mayor John Cranley and the Cincinnati City Council to pass legislation that makes it clear the city’s elected officials will approve raises negotiated by Black of no less than 5 percent this year, 5 percent in 2017 and 4 percent in 2018. (read article)

California desperately needs affordable housing — but also a new blueprint for building it
By Michael Hiltzik, August 12, 2016, Los Angeles Times
A dollar buys less in California than in almost any other state, and housing costs are a major reason. So it’s proper that Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a solution to the crisis. But it’s unfortunate that his plan plays right into the concerns that many in the environmental and civic planning communities have with the governor, including his apparent willingness to sideline far-reaching policies for short-term or narrow gains. (read article)

Labor Dept. Pays $7M To Resolve Union OT Saga
By Brian Amaral, August 12, 2016, Law360
The federal agency that enforces the nation’s wage laws has agreed to pay $7 million to settle longtime claims that it failed to pay overtime to thousands of its own employees, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12 said Friday.  The U.S. Department of Labor’s settlement resolves allegations dating to 2006, when the AFGE first filed the grievance. The dispute had been in arbitration when it settled. “This is the agency that goes around fining all the private employers for doing the same thing that it just ended up paying $7 million to make go away,” said the union’s attorney Keith Kauffman of Snider & Associates LLC. (read article)

Longshoremen vote to start labor-contract talks with West Coast ports
By Riley McDermid, August 12, 2016, San Francisco Business Times
More than 100 union dockworker delegates voted Thursday to discuss a contract extension with their West Coast port employer group, avoiding another crippling slowdown of the region’s ports, including the Port of Oakland. In a statement given to the Wall Street Journal, the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said members were now interested in speaking to the Pacific Maritime Association about extending their contract. (read article)

Major labor union behind push for $15 minimum

By Sean Higgins, August 12, 2016, Washington Examiner 
Advocates for a $15 federal minimum wage will be holding a major rally in Richmond on Saturday, culminating in a march to the Virginia capitol. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, will kick off the event with a speech Friday. Federal filings with the Labor Department show that SEIU gave $5 million in 2015 and $3.8 million in 2014 to the Fast Food Workers Committee, the organization that runs Fight for $15, the activist group pushing the issue. (read article)

Nuclear fans want California Legislature to vote on Diablo Canyon
By David R. Baker, August 12, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle
Angered by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s plan to close California’s last atomic plant, Diablo Canyon, nuclear-power advocates now want the state Legislature to decide the facility’s fate. In a letter sent Thursday to Gov. Jerry Brown, supporters of the plant near San Luis Obispo argue that shutting it down would sabotage California’s fight against global warming. The Legislature, they insist, should choose whether to keep it open. But in their letter to Brown, nuclear advocates say the commission is the wrong forum for such an important decision. “Legislators should have the chance to weigh the evidence here — it should not be jammed through the CPUC,” said Michael Shellenberger, one of the letter’s authors, who formed the Save Diablo Canyon coalition early this year to rally support for the plant. (read article)

Union Bosses Are Out Of Touch, Vast Majority Of US Voters Say
By Ted Goodman, August 11, 2016, Daily Caller
A new Rasmussen Survey found that just 20 percent of likely U.S. voters think that most organized labor leaders do a good job representing union members. The survey shows that an overwhelming majority of voters, including current and past union members, believe that the majority of union leaders are out of touch with their rank and file membership. Fifty-seven percent responded that most union leaders are out of touch with most of their membership, and 24 percent were undecided. (read article)

The unions’ phony fight for $15
By Glenn Spencer, August 9, 2016, Richmond Times
Since 2012, a group calling itself “Fight for $15” has staged street theater protests in cities around the country.  Debate over the subject is certainly fair, but there is more than meets the eye to this group. While cleverly packaged as a genuine grassroots movement, the campaign is — in reality — a front organized and funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the country’s largest labor union. In fact, according to U.S. Department of Labor reports, the SEIU has spent roughly $55 million on these activities. (read article)

Florida’s state teachers union pays 43 employees at least $100K
By William Patrick, August 9th, 2016, Watchdog.org
The Florida Education Association paid 43 officers and employees over six-figures in 2014-15. A new year also means another round of dues for the state teachers union. The Florida Education Association is the largest labor union in Florida. It’s an affiliate of national powerhouses American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, and it has dozens of local affiliates under its statewide banner. The FEA promises to provide its 128,264 members “a voice on the job, strength in numbers and protection.” But representation comes at a price. Nearly half of the state union’s collected dues are paid to its own leaders and employees in the form of compensation and benefits. (read article)

Average "Full Career" CalPERS Retirement Package Worth $70,000 Per Year

“‘What makes the ‘$100,000 Club’ some magic number denoting abuse other than the claims of anti-pension zealots?’ said Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of 1.6 million public workers and retirees.”

This quote from a government union spokesperson, and others, were dutifully collected as part of Orange County Register reporter Teri Sforza’s eminently balanced reporting on the latest pension data, in her August 8th article entitled “The ‘100K Club’ – public retirees with pensions over $100,000 – are a growing group.”

In the article, Sforza’s team evaluated data released by Transparent California on 2015 CalPERS pensions, and reported the number of pensioners receiving $100,000 or more per year was 3.5% of total retirees, up from 2.9% in 2013. That truly does seem like a low percentage, but it ignores two key factors, (1) the total retiree pool includes people who only worked a few years and barely vested a pension, and (2) the total retiree pool includes people who worked many decades, sometimes 30 or 40 years or more, but they only worked part-time during their lengthy careers.

So if you restrict your pool of participants to those who worked a full career, and retired within the last 10 years, what percentage of those retirees would belong to the $100,000 club? As it turns out, there are 75,279 CalPERS retirees who worked more than 25 years and less than 35 years, retiring after 2006. And as it turns out, 9,763 of them, or 13%, are receiving pensions in excess of $100,000 per year.

Moreover, CalPERS doesn’t report the value of retirement health benefits and other retirement benefits, which almost certainly exceed $10,000 per year. If you make this reasonable assumption, you now have 14,901 CalPERS retirees, or 19% of our 75,279 pool of full career retirees, receiving a retirement package worth over $100,000 per year. Worth noting – we didn’t have the data necessary to screen the part-timers out of this pool. If we did, the numbers would be higher.

So if you use the appropriate denominator, the “$100 Club” isn’t 3.5% of the pie, it’s 19%, but so what? It’s still not a very big slice. Here’s where the flip-side of “full career pension” comes into play. Most people don’t work 25-35 years in public service. But most of them do vest their pension benefits, which can be vested in as little as five years. What happens when someone quits after five years, and only goes on to collect, say, a $20,000 per year pension? Someone else is hired, they work five years, and they also qualify to eventually collect a $20,000 per year pension. Then someone else, and then someone else – until you have three or four (or more) people who are all going to receive a $20,000 per year pension – for a job that one person could have performed if they’d stayed with the agency for a full career.

This is a critical point to understand. The significance of “full career” pensions is this: The taxpayer will fund pensions at that level of generosity, even if the benefit is split among multiple partial career participants – people who presumably worked elsewhere (where they also saved for retirement) during the majority of their careers. Should you expect a $100,000 per year pension if you only worked for five years? Of course not. But that’s what taxpayers are funding – whether it goes to one person, or to five people who worked a few years each to collectively fill one person’s full-career position in government.

This is why, when you are considering whether or not pensions are fair and affordable, the full career average pension is the only relevant measure. So what is the full career average?

For CalPERS in 2015, participants with between 25 and 34 years of work who retired in the last ten years, on average, received a pension of $60,277.  Add to that the value of their retirement health benefits and other retirement benefits and the average was probably closer to $70,000 per year.

Just for comparison, for Orange County (OCERS) retirees in 2015, participants with between 25 and 34 years of work who retired in the last ten years, on average, received a pension of $73,628.  Add to that the value of their retirement health benefits and other retirement benefits – information which OCERS also refuses to provide – and the average was probably over $80,000 per year. As for the OCERS “$100,000 Club”? Within the pool of full career retirees as described, and accounting for retirement health benefits, 31% of them were members. Nearly one in three.

Public sector spokespersons frequently point out that public employees don’t get Social Security. Actually, about half of them do get Social Security, but never mind that detail. Because the maximum Social Security benefit, which one must wait until they are 68 years old to receive, is a whopping $31,668 per year.

Calling critics of this double standard “anti-pension zealots” is lazy rhetoric. The problem with defined benefits is not that they exist. The problem is that we have set up a system where public employees operate under a set of retirement benefit formulas and incentives that are roughly four times better than what private sector workers can expect. Yet these private sector workers pay the taxes to fund these pensions and bail them out when the investment returns falter.

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Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

When Black Kids Don't Matter

Can’t understand why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Movement for Black Lives have issued proclamations opposing the expansion of school choice and Parent Power for the very black families for which they proclaim to care? The answer can be found in the annual financial statements of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions.

Over the past five years, the Big Two unions have worked zealously to co-opt black and other minority-oriented groups. Having been on the defensive against school reformers for most of the past decade, NEA and AFT used their considerable coffers to subsidize organizations in exchange for support for their agenda. For the most part, it hasn’t worked out nearly as well as the unions have expected. The $300,000 NEA and AFT gave to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in 2014-2015, for example, hasn’t stopped the controversial civil rights activist from being a strong supporter for expanding public charter schools, while outfits such as the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights have sparred with the Big Two over federal accountability rules contained over the now-abolished No Child Left Behind Act.

Yet the Big Two’s vast spending has managed to gain it some allies. One of the biggest: NAACP, which has long ago abandoned its admirable leading role on civil rights and school reform that included spearheading litigation that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s abolition of Jim Crow segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Between 2010-2011 and 2014-2015, NEA and AFT increased its contributions to NAACP and its affiliates by a six-fold (from $25,000 to $151,700); the outfit collected $380,500 from the two unions within that period.

For these paltry sums over that period (especially when compared to what National Action Network has received in one year alone), NAACP has repaid the Big Two with almost complete adherence to their agenda. This includes last week’s passage of the resolution calling for a moratorium on expanding charter schools, the most-popular option for black families otherwise forced to attend failure mills in their communities. Even with numerous polls showing strong support among black families for charters and other forms of school choice, overwhelming evidence that high-quality charters are successful in improving student achievement, and support for choice among some of NAACP’s own affiliates, the old-school civil rights groups has been all too willing to join common cause with those who don’t have the interests of black children at heart.

But the NAACP’s allegiance to NEA and AFT isn’t just about money. Among the influential members of NAACP’s 64 member board: Hazel Dukes, whose long (and often infamous) tenure as head of its Empire State affiliate included teaming up with the AFT’s United Federation of Teachers in an unsuccessful effort to stop the Big Apple from renting space in half-empty traditional school buildings to charter schools. Dukes is also notorious for accusing parents of charter school students of “doing the business of slave masters”.

 

Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP in New York, has long been notorious for both slandering charter schools and inhibiting their growth throughout the state

 

Another top NAACP board member is Adora Obi Nweze, the president of the group’s Florida branch, which joined the NEA’s and AFT’s Florida affiliate in its unsuccessful suit to end that state’s school choice program. Last year, the Florida NAACP convinced the national association to pass a resolution reaffirming its longstanding opposition to vouchers and other forms of choice.

The strong ties alone between Dukes (who remains NAACP’s most-influential board member) and AFT alone, along with the presence of Baby Boomer teachers in the outfits membership,  all but ensures that the concerns of black families are secondary to traditionalist interests. Even if Dukes and Nweze weren’t on the board, NAACP would be more than a tad willing to go along with NEA’s and AFT’s agenda. This is because the association’s board has strong ties to the unions that make up AFL-CIO, the labor confederation in which AFT (along with more than a few NEA affiliates) is an influential member. This includes James Settles, Jr.,  a vice president of the United Auto Workers; Robin Williams (an apparatchik with the United Food and Commercial Workers International); and William Lucy of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, a key AFT ally.

But as noted earlier, NAACP is one of the few old-school civil rights groups on which NEA and AFT can count on as a reliable ally. So the Big Two have had to cultivate new alliances though a strategy of wrapping themselves in the language of social justice. This includes working to co-opt activists within the criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter movements.

Certainly the Big Two unions are using their coffers to win at least some of those activists over. But it isn’t just a matter of money. As any civil rights-oriented school reformer can tell you, NEA and AFT have learned long ago that extending helping hands, from meeting spaces to using fax machines to simply endorsing a platform, goes a long way in winning alliances. This is something reformers, more-concerned with policymaking and institution-building, have never understood.

 

Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida branch NAACP, has been actively trying to eliminate school choice programs within the state of Florida.

 

That many in the school reform movement have either been reluctant or outright hostile about working with Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform activists on addressing issues that are tied to schools (including overuse of harsh school discipline and the penchant of traditional districts to refer children to juvenile courts), has also made it easy for NEA and AFT to win over some activists.

This partially-successful co-opting by NEA and AFT can be seen in the manifesto issued by Movement for Black Lives this week (which hasn’t been championed by such leading lights within the Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform movements as Deray McKesson). The declaration itself was written not by the Black Lives Matter activists within the coalition, but largely by two of NEA’s and AFT’s prime vassals.

One of the coauthors, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, has long been a front for the Big Two. Besides counting NEA and AFT among its members, the coalition includes vassals such as the Schott Foundation for Public Education (which collected $725,000 from the two unions between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015), and Center for Popular Democracy (a recipient of $1 million in teachers’ union money in that same period whose board includes AFT President Rhonda (Randi) Weingarten on its board). Another coauthor, Philadelphia Student Union, has been one of AFT’s lead groups in its effort to oppose systemic reform and school choice in the City of Brotherly Love; it collected $20,000 from AFT in 2013-2014.

Given the presence of these groups, along with the presence of Alliance for Educational Justice (another group backed by AFT), it is little wonder why so much of the “manifesto” focuses on opposing choice and Parent Power, as well as calling for districts to stop hiring recruits trained by Teach For America, the teacher quality reform outfit that has long been the bane of the Big Two’s existence. [This is even before you consider that, unlike NEA and AFT, Teach For America has actually recruited more black men and women into teaching, as well as supported the work of Black Lives Matter activists such as McKesson and Brittany Packnett (a Teach For America staffer).] The manifesto proclaims to raise questions about the role of black families and communities in shaping the schools that serve their children. But because it merely consists of NEA and AFT talking points, it spends more time making laughable claims about “privatization” of education even though most children still attend traditional public schools.

The fingerprints of NEA and AFT can also be seen in what Movement for Black Lives either ignores or barely touches on: Zip Code Education policies such as zoned schooling and restrictions on intra-district choice that force black families to send their kids to dropout factories that put them on the path to poverty and prison. The overuse of out-of-school suspensions, referrals to juvenile justice systems and other forms of harsh traditional school discipline that all but a few NEA and AFT affiliates strongly support. The near-lifetime employment rules through tenure and teacher dismissal policies defended by NEA and AFT that deny high-quality teaching to black children. The traditional district bureaucracies, often influenced by NEA and AFT locals through campaign donations, that do everything possible to oppose Parent Trigger measures and other tools that give black families lead decision making roles in the schools that serve their children.

Certainly no one should expect NEA and AFT to care about the lives and futures of black children and their families. They have long ago proven that their concerns are elsewhere. But there is no reason why NAACP and Movement for Black Lives are siding with the Big Two in perpetuating the educational genocide that has enslaved and destroyed the minds and futures of the black children for which they are supposed to be concerned. In the process, both (along with the reform movement itself) have wasted an important opportunity to reshape systemic reform in a way that puts black children and families at the center. What a shame.

About the Author: RiShawn Biddle is Editor and Publisher of Dropout Nation — the leading commentary Web site on education reform — a columnist for Rare and The American Spectator, award-winning editorialist, speechwriter, communications consultant and education policy advisor. More importantly, he is a tireless advocate for improving the quality of K-12 education for every child. The co-author of A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, Biddle combines journalism, research and advocacy to bring insight on the nation’s education crisis and rally families and others to reform American public education. This article originally appeared in Dropout Nation and is republished here with permission from the author.

An Attempt to Get Public Financing of Campaigns Through the Back Door

Sen. Ben Allen’s SB 1107 wants to allow public funding of campaigns, something voters prohibited years ago. A long time acquaintance of mine, David Keating who now runs the Center for Competitive Politics in Washington, D.C. had an opinion piece in yesterday’s Orange County Register blasting the attempt by Sen. Allen to overturn a vote of the people with what Keating says is an unconstitutional bill. The voters outlawed public financing of campaigns with Proposition 73 in 1988. As someone who signed the ballot argument in favor of Proposition 73, I agree with Keating’s assessment. If legislators want public financing, legislators can’t do it on their own—they have to ask the voters.

Allen and supporters of SB 1107 claim that they are following the rules of the proposition that allow for legislative changes that “further the purposes” of the initiative. However, as Keating argues in his piece, “How can a bill “further [the] purpose” of the law banning tax-funded campaigns by allowing for tax-financed campaigns? The answer is: It can’t.”

Senator Ben Allen believes that public financing of campaigns will eliminate the role of special interests in the election process.

As Keating rightly points out, the California Constitution only allows a vote of the people to amend a previous initiative passed by the voters.

The public financing piece of Proposition 73 was a critical distinction between that effort to reform the Political Reform Act and a like measure that appeared on the same ballot. Proposition 68 would have allowed public financing in certain circumstances. The voters said yes to both measures but they were stronger for the proposition that carried the public financing ban. Proposition 73 received 58% of the vote; Proposition 68 got 52%. The law governing initiatives allowed for the initiative with the higher vote total to take effect.

In the ballot argument I signed along with Dan Stanford, former chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, we stated that the measure “flatly prohibited candidates’ use of any tax money in order to campaign for office.”

We added:

Keeping government spending under control is hard enough. Imagine how much harder it will be to keep politicians from spending more tax money on the most important thing in their lives—getting elected and re-elected.

I admit over the years I have wondered if the political contribution limits detailed in Prop 73 are the best way to further the democratic process. The argument for no limits and immediate reporting has appeal.

I have also considered if public funding on a major scale would ever take hold. Critics who see dominant interests controlling elections argue that public funding is the only solution to eliminate all interests. Some have wondered if business, frustrated with the dominance of labor unions in Sacramento, would ever consider supporting the public financing option?

The problem is these arguments run afoul of the First Amendment and the right to speak on crucial issues. Likewise, the argument we made in the ballot booklet 28 years ago is still valid: public spending would grow for campaigns at the expense of services funded by the state budget.

Regardless of any academic debate on public financing, one thing is clear—if the legislature wants public financing they can’t do it by legislative fiat, they have to go to the voters.

About the Author: Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. This article originally appeared in Fox & Hounds and appears here with permission.

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Bill limiting campaign money to tax board amended to call for study
By Patrick McGreevy, August 9, 2016, Los Angeles Times
Faced with strong opposition from a member of the Board of Equalization, state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has for a second time amended a bill that would have imposed tough new campaign contribution limits on board members to avoid conflicts of interest. The new bill simply calls for a study of possible new limits. Hill introduced SB 816 after The Times reported that donors were circumventing a $250 contribution limit to board members by funneling the money through political action committees or giving several donations — 45 from employees at one tax firm — of $249 each. Hill’s bill originally would have prohibited any contributions from firms and individuals with business before the board. (read article)

Former Union President admits to embezzling nearly $300,000 from local he ran.
By Associated Press, August 9, 2016, MyStateLine.com
A Rockford man has pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling nearly $300,000 from the union of which he was President, Local 6 of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. In a written plea agreement, 49-year-old David Fleury admitted to committing the thefts over a four-year period up until May, 2015. Fleury as President was in charge of running daily operations, and was able to process an additional 153 salary checks and electronic deposits totaling $284,286 to be paid to him. Prosecutors say that in the plea agreement, Fleury admitted he used the embezzled funds to pay for personal expenses, for gambling at casinos, and for vacations. (read article)

Grand Jury Investigating Powerful, Clinton-Supporting Union for Allegedly Threatening Foes
By Jillian Kay Melchior, August 8, 2016, Heat Street
Pennsylvania’s attorney general is investigating whether Philadelphia’s most powerful union, a prominent backer of Hillary Clinton, has engaged in threats and intimidation against its foes. As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, the allegations of Local 98 intimidation and threats are hardly new. As of 2013, the Center for Union Facts had tallied multiple complaints filed against Philadelphia electricians’ union members, including allegations of “coercive statements,” “harassment,” “threatening statements” and “violence/assault.” And as early as the 1990s, the National Labor Relations Board said the union’s leaders were “masters when it comes to unlawful… conduct, intimidation, and coercion.” (read article)

CPS proposes $5.4 billion budget, teacher pact similar to earlier submission
By Juan Perez Jr. & Marian Renault, August 8, 2016, Chicago Tribune
Chicago Public Schools on Monday unveiled a $5.4 billion operating budget proposal that assumes the Chicago Teachers Union will accept a contract similar to one a CTU bargaining team soundly rejected earlier this year. CTU President Karen Lewis was quick to say the district is wrong to think her union will come around on the contract offer from January. (read article)

FBI raids IBEW union hall, labor leader John Dougherty’s home
By Daniel Craig, August 5, 2016, Philly Voice
Federal authorities on Friday morning descended on multiple locations in Philadelphia, including the offices of IBEW Local 98 and the home of labor leader John Dougherty. The FBI said agents were at the electricians union hall at 17th and Spring Garden streets in Spring Garden for an “ongoing investigation.” Federal agents searched Dougherty’s home in November 2006 as a part of a tax-fraud investigation into electrical contractor Donald “Gus” Dougherty, a longtime friend who is of no relation to the union leader. Gus Dougherty later pleaded guilty to 99 charges, including doing $115,600 of electrical work on Johnny Doc’s home for free. (read article)

Grocery strike averted: Workers reach tentative deal with Ralphs and Albertsons
By Shan Li, August 4, 2016, Los Angeles Times
Southern California grocery workers have reached a tentative labor agreement with the Ralphs and Albertsons chains. The move averts the immediate threat of a strike that could have roiled some of the region’s largest supermarket chains. Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said the company had proposed pay increases and changes to its pension and healthcare plans. She did not provide specifics on the deal. (read article)

Proposed labor contracts come with pay increases but total cost is a mystery
By Jan Murphy, August 4, 2016, PennLive.com
The proposed contracts that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has reached with the two largest state employee unions include more generous pay increases than the ones they received in their last four-year contracts. What the proposed raises for the approximate 41,000 employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13 and Service Employees International Union Local 668 will cost taxpayers remains a mystery for now. The tentative three-year agreements call for a total of five general or step increases that add up to 11.75 percent. (read article)

Nurses Union Has a Cure for Big Labor’s Disconnect from Membership
By Connor D. Wolf, August 4, 2016, InsideSources
The president of a major nurses union detailed Wednesday how having volunteer leaders has helped avoid the problem of becoming disconnected from membership. National Nurses United (NNU) is unique from other national unions in that everyone in a leadership position is a volunteer that works in the medical industry. The unions leaders say they know what their members need because they work alongside them and face the same problems. Labor unions elsewhere often become disconnected from the needs of their members, they say. (read article)

New Jersey lawmaker seeks probe of union contribution threat
By Hilary Russ, August 3, 2016, Reuters
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the state’s top elected Democrat, on Wednesday asked state and federal prosecutors to investigate alleged threats by a labor union that he said amounted to bribery and attempts to corrupt public officials. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) threatened to withhold campaign contributions until Sweeney and other lawmakers passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would boost the state’s public pensions, Sweeney said. “These threats clearly cross the line from lobbying to attempted bribery and conspiracy,” he said. (read article)

Portman gets support from another labor union
By Associated Press, August 3, 2016, Dayton Daily News
Republican Sen. Rob Portman won the support of another Ohio labor union Wednesday, fueling GOP optimism about hanging onto the swing-state seat and Senate control in November. The union endorsement also added to Democrats’ concerns about their candidate, former Gov. Ted Strickland. The endorsement from Local 18 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which backed Strickland for governor in 2006, comes after Portman also announced support from branches of the Teamsters and the Mine Workers, which also switched their allegiance from Strickland. (read article)

San Bernardino County sheriff’s labor union ratifies county contracts
By Joe Nelson, August 2, 2016, San Bernadino County Sun
After more than 18 months of hard-fought negotiating, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, the union representing sheriff’s deputies and other public safety officials, has entered into two labor contracts with the county. On Tuesday, SEBA announced it ratified two contracts for the ranks of deputy through lieutenant. The new contracts call for, among other things, a three percent raise annually for the next three years, higher starting pay for deputies, an increase in an annual uniform allowance of $1,200, and medical premium subsidy increases. (read article)

Preserving the right to work
By Trey Kovacs & Tyler Kovacs, August 2, 2016, Washington Times
Labor unions are aggressively filing lawsuits against right-to-work laws across the nation. Currently, in Idaho, Indiana, Wisconsin and West Virginia, organized labor is challenging workers’ right to choose whether or not to pay union dues as a condition of employment without risk of penalty. With the untimely death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, some fear right-to-work laws now in effect in 26 states are just one Democratic appointee away from extinction. Right-to-work laws free workers from forced union dues, so losing those rights would be a devastating blow to worker freedom. (read article)

ACLU Joins Unions to Attack California Charter Schools

About 6.2 million students attend California’s K-12 public schools. Of those, over 570,000 are enrolled in public charter schools. Most of these charter schools operate with a degree of management autonomy and teacher accountability that goes well beyond what is permitted by the union work rules that govern traditional public schools. These charter schools themselves are accountable – if they don’t deliver better academic outcomes cost-effectively, they are closed down. They are a laboratory for excellence in education and administration, and they’re working. And their success is a tremendous threat to teachers unions.

Enter the ACLU. In a study released earlier this week, the ACLU said it had identified 253 schools with “exclusionary policies,” and noted “this is just the tip of the iceberg.” The exclusionary policies were (1) exclusion based on academic performance, (2) discrimination against English learners, (3) pre-enrollment essays or interviews, (4) illegal parent/guardian volunteer requirements, (5) requirements that discourage undocumented students.

If you consider the ACLU case on its merits, there isn’t much to argue about. Traditional public schools receive funding to admit all students, and charter public schools must do the same. But the entire premise is flawed: schools should be able to develop unique identities in order to offer a diverse set of educational choices to our diverse student population.

Examples of such diversity are inspiring, and range from the Eagle Academy in Harlem, which is attended almost exclusively by African American young men, or the Detroit International Academy for Young Women. These schools deliver outstanding academic results, they cannot possibly admit everyone who wants to attend, and they are exclusionary.

Some of the premises underlying the ACLU’s case are easily contestable, because they are rooted in a concession to mediocrity that has taken over public schools. Instead of making charter schools change their policies, why not change the rules? For example, why aren’t all public schools engaging in “pre-enrollment essays or interviews”? Why don’t all public schools require parents to volunteer some time at the school?

As for violation No. 2 – our public schools are academically segregated as it is, with the high-achieving students exclusively taking AP courses that relegate their exposure to the rest of the student body to hallways and common areas. Should a charter school focus on attracting top students? And if some of them did, how would that differ from what already occurs with AP courses?

The ACLU’s case with respect to the other violations is, at least, easier to justify on moral grounds. Of course we should be admitting students who don’t speak English as a first language. Of course we have to educate children regardless of their immigration status. But the vast majority of charter schools aren’t trying to exclude these students. Most charter schools are non-profits, with supplemental funding provided by philanthropists with the noblest of intentions. Charter schools are an attempt to deliver educational excellence in communities with some of the worst-performing traditional public schools in the U.S. The ACLU is missing the forest for the trees.

If the ACLU wants to fix public education, it might throw its considerable legal might behind the upcoming final round of the Vergara case, likely to be heard in the California Supreme Court next year. The plaintiffs in this case argued that the right to a quality public education is a civil right, and that students in low-income communities are denied that right through inferior public schools. They specifically challenged three union work rules which they demonstrated had a disproportionately negative impact on education in low-income communities: (1) granting teacher tenure after less than two years of classroom observation, (2) “last-in, first-out” policies whereby seniority trumps merit in layoffs, and (3) dismissal procedures so onerous that incompetent teachers are almost never fired.

Where is the ACLU with respect to Vergara?

The ACLU has a well-earned reputation for impartiality. When it comes to civil rights issues they are as likely to defend someone on the far right as someone on the far left. For this they have earned animosity and respect, depending on whom you ask. But if the ACLU intends to be truly impartial on the civil right to a quality education, at the least it may use its resources to support the plaintiffs in the Vergara case.

As for the ACLU’s salvo against charter schools? The organization should realize that charter school operators are almost invariably motivated by nothing more than providing excellent education to underprivileged students. They should be making it easier for them to do that, not more difficult.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Ballot Box Budgeting Wreaks Havoc on California Budget, Beware of Props. 51, 55, and 56

As a professor of public budgeting and someone who has worked their entire career analyzing public budgets, I can say that ballot box budgeting wreaks havoc on the California budget process and taxpayer interests.

Yet it is something that voters are so accustomed to doing that most average voters don’t even know what “ballot box budgeting” is.

In short, ballot box budgeting is the practice of making major budget decisions at the ballot box.  And unlike the normal budget process, these decisions are commonly written into the California Constitution, and not subject to change in any way short of another ballot measure.  

The result is that funds are locked in to being spent for a particular purpose regardless of other budget needs and priorities, and commonly lack the same accountability and oversight that the rest of the California budget is subject to through the legislative process.

There are three measures on the November 2016 ballot that represent ballot box budgeting at its worst, and should be rejected—Proposition 51 School Bonds, Proposition 55 School Funding, and Proposition 56 Tobacco Tax Increase.  There is one other measure, Proposition 64 Marijuana Legalization and Tax, which represents ballot box budgeting, but is less egregious and is worthy of consideration on its policy merits given that marijuana is not currently legal and therefore not taxed at all but should be considered on policy grounds.

The reality is that nearly all initiatives have some type of budget impact, but initiatives that allocate a significant dollar amount of public funds should generally be looked at with great skepticism, particularly those that raise taxes or reallocate existing public funds in some way.

Another common element in ballot box budgeting is a “pay to play” element, characterized by a situation where special interests sponsor a ballot measure that allocates public funds that benefit their private financial interest.   All four initiatives mentioned above have a significant “pay to play” element, that should be considered as well, and viewed with great skepticism.

In generally all such cases, initiatives are sold as being crafted in the “common good” or for the “public interest” but the real motivation is to benefit the private interests that raised the money to quality the measure and run a support campaign.

For example, Prop. 51 authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for construction of K-12 public schools.  The construction of school facilities is done through a process at the local level, with state bond funds providing a state match, but this local process has come under great fire in the media recently, largely due to California Treasurer John Chiang’s efforts.

Treasurer Chiang has stopped short of criticizing Prop. 51 specifically but he has came down hard on the local municipal bond process as being a “pay to play” process that “rips-off taxpayers,” according to Treasurer Chiang’s press release.

Chiang says this “pay to play” process rewards special interests including developers, bondholders, and construction companies who offer to fund local bond campaigns in exchange for lucrative contracts, which are “no bid” contracts in many cases.

 

Treasurer Chiang believes the municipal bond process is designed to “rip off tax-payers”

 

“Not only are these “pay-to-play” arrangements unlawful, they rip off taxpayers and endanger the integrity of school bonds,” Treasurer John Chiang declared, noting that between 2012-15 K-12 school districts issued $43.8 billion in long-term debt.

Without cleaning up this “corrupt” process, Prop. 51 essentially puts $9 billion in public funds at risk for misallocation by school districts and public agencies.  And will subject taxpayers to huge future costs, for spending with questionable public benefits given the process through which these bonds are issued under the current system.

Of course, the same special interests who benefit from this “pay to play” process are the primary proponents of Prop. 51, and are putting up millions of dollars to lock in these lucrative contracts for public bond spending.  A number of local districts are also proposing local bonds on the November 2016 ballot to provide a local match for these highly questionable public projects.

Prop. 55 is the example of another measure which might appear legitimate on its face because it raises money for “schools” and “health programs.”   But should also be rejected on ground of being a terrible case of “ballot box budgeting” and “pay to play” corruption of the state’s initiative process.

Prop. 55 extends the Prop. 30 (2012) income tax increases taxes on individuals and small businesses, which expire at the end of 2017, for another 12 years until 2030.  The effort is being sold as being a legitimate effort to fund schools and health care because Prop. 30 is something that the Governor, Legislature and business community agreed on back in 2012.

But Prop. 55 is not the same as the deal cut back in 2012, and should be rejected.  First, Prop. 55 is much more expensive, nearly twice as expensive as Prop. 30—and represents an $8-11 billion tax increase, as opposed to a $6.5 billion annual hit from Prop. 30.  Secondly, the measure is not “temporary,” and results in a broken promise Governor and Legislature made to voters in 2012—that’s why Governor Brown says he will not endorse Prop. 55.

Lastly, Prop. 55 adds a significant “pay to play” element as well by giving private hospital interests a piece of the action.  Specifically, Prop. 55 locks in another $2 billion in funding for “health programs,” which did not even exist in Prop. 30, and is a pure handout to the hospital interests which have already contributed more than $21 million to the Yes on Prop. 55 Campaign.

Public employee union interests get the bulk of the funds, estimated at $75 billion over 12 years, in salary and benefit spending primarily but the public generally does not view them as being the same type of “special interest” as purely private interests.  Yet, these public employee union interests have put up another $18 million thus far to support Prop. 55, and stand to reap huge rewards for their members and dues increases if Prop. 55 passes.

From a ballot box budgeting perspective, both Prop. 55 and the Prop. 56 $2 per pack tobacco tax increase are terrible budget policy because they lock in significant expenditure of public funds that will be allocated outside of the state’s annual budget process without regard to actual need or other pressing spending priorities.

Prop. 55 locks in $8-11 billion in spending with the bulk going for education, but another $2 billion going to “health care” programs—again not allocated according to need or the accountability standards under the state’s annual budget process which subjects all public spending to annual review.  Prop. 56 locks in another $1-1.4 billion in health care spending that will be allocated outside the state’s budget process.

Voters are encouraged to reject Propositions 51, 55, and 56 on grounds that they are terrible examples of “ballot box budgeting,” in which special interests put up millions of dollars, even tens of millions of dollars, to try to pass “public interest” measures with the expectation of a big payday at taxpayer expense for the years to come.

About the Author: David Kersten is an expert in public policy research and analysis, particularly budget, tax, labor, and fiscal issues. He currently serves as the president of the Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy – a moderate non-partisan policy think tank and public policy consulting organization. The institute specializes in providing knowledge, evidence, and training to public agencies, elected officials, policy advocates, organization, and citizens who desire to enact public policy change.

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

California’s Ed Reform Wars
By Rachel M. Cohen, August 2, 2016, The American Prospect
This past April, the California Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the controversial Vergara v. California decision, in which a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that five longstanding teacher protections—including a two-year probationary period for new teachers and a layoff system based on how many years one’s been teaching—violated students’ constitutional right to an equal education. The lower court judge had argued that these labor protections make it harder to fire bad teachers, and bad teachers significantly undermine a child’s education. In a 3-0 decision, the appellate judges concluded that the labor protections themselves are not responsible for harming students, even if school administrators sometimes implement them injudiciously. (read article)

L.A. Metro’s sales tax proposal will appear on the November ballot
By Laura J. Nelson, August 2, 2016, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County voters will be asked in November to approve a half-cent sales tax increase that would continue indefinitely to fund a major expansion of Southern California’s transit network. The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to add the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s tax increase proposal to a ballot already crowded with other initiatives. The proposal, approved by Metro’s directors in June, would generate at least $860 million per year to expand the county’s rail network through the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley and the Sepulveda Pass. The proposal would raise the county’s base sales rate to 9.5% and push the rate to 10% in some cities, including Santa Monica and Commerce. (read article)

Unions Flex Political Muscle at the DNC — But Uber and Airbnb Lurk
By Justin Miller, August 2, 2016, American Prospect
The labor movement’s agenda was on full display in Philadelphia, as was the Democratic Party’s emerging rift between unions and Silicon Valley. The battle between the labor wing and the Silicon Valley wing of the party will likely escalate in coming years, but for now labor will remain the stronger force. “Sharing economy” giants like Uber and Airbnb are just now dipping their toes into politics—and, for now, mostly at the local level. (read article)

State Public Employee Union Vows To Fight Judge’s Ruling
By Chronicle Staff, July 30, 2016, Sky Valley Chronicle
The Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) union, the largest public employee union in the state says it ain’t over till it’s over. In an email to union members dated July 29 union officials said, “It’s not over in the fight to stop the Freedom Foundation from getting your private information. The fight to stop the Freedom Foundation from getting your date of birth and other private information is headed to the State Court of Appeals. We won’t know until early next week if the appeals court will grant a stay delaying the release of information even further.” (read article)

Battle for union vote erupts in Ohio
By Naomi Jagoda, July 30, 2016, The Hill
A battle for the union vote has erupted in the Ohio Senate race, with Republican Rob Portman seeking to make inroads with labor groups traditionally aligned with Democrats. Democrat Ted Strickland, a former Ohio governor, has received the bulk of the union endorsements in the race. But Portman, the incumbent, has recently garnered the support of several labor groups that have backed Strickland in the past. Portman recently received endorsements from the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, which has more than 50,000 members, and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) of Ohio, which has more than 25,000 members. Last month, he received the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). (read article)

California voters disenfranchised by shady union-hospital deal
By Sal Rosselli, July 28, 2016, San Francisco Examiner
California voters have been duped, defrauded and double-crossed — twice — and now they’re being fed an outrageously disingenuous lie to cover it up and explain it away. Earlier this month, a judge blocked an attempt by Oakland-based Service Employees International Union–United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU–UHW) to place on the November ballot an initiative that would have limited the pay of nonprofit hospital executives. Why did the judge block it? Because it’s a bad idea? No. Because it was written incorrectly? No. It’s hard to believe, but the courts blocked the ballot initiative because it violated a secretive, collusive arrangement between SEIU–UHW and the California Hospital Association. (read article)

WikiLeaks reveals DNC holds unions in contempt
By Jeremy Lott, July 28, 2016, The Detroit News
The latest WikiLeaks document dump — containing emails by high-ranking staffers of the Democratic National Committee — caused considerable heartburn for America’s oldest political party. When brainstorming what to do about last week’s Republican National Convention, the DNC’s Rachel Palermo urged her party to “meet with the hotel trades, SEIU, and Fight for 15 about staging a strike.” She said the result could be a “fast food worker strike around the city or just at franchises around the convention.” The aim would not be to improve working conditions, but to bloody Republicans. (read article)

Chicago police union asks cops to not volunteer for overtime on Labor Day weekend
By Don Babwin, July 27, 2016, ABC News
Chicago’s police union is asking officers to not volunteer to work overtime during the Labor Day weekend to protest the “continued disrespect” toward officers and the killings of law enforcement personnel nationwide. The Chicago Police Department typically deploys thousands of officers on overtime to counteract the spike in shootings that usually occurs during long holiday weekends. But in a recent flier sent to rank-and-file officers, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 advises against officers volunteering for duty. (read article)

Senate workers will get $1 million in back pay after Labor Department probe
By Mike DeBonis, July 27, 2016, Washington Post
Hundreds of U.S. Senate cafeteria workers will get hefty checks for back pay after a Labor Department investigation found they were underpaid for their work under federal law. The private contractor hired by the Architect of the Capitol to run the Senate food-service operation did not abide by the Service Contract Act, which governs wages paid to employees working under large federal contracts, the probe found. Employees were misclassified into lower-paying jobs and required to perform work before clocking in, the department said in a release. (read article)

National Union Bosses Ignore Member Support For Trump, Endorse Clinton Instead
By Ted Goodman, July 27, 2016, Daily Caller 
Labor leaders voiced their support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week, despite significant support for Republican nominee Donald Trump among labor ranks. Top leaders of the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association AFSCME, and other labor groups took to the stage at the DNC on Monday, voicing their support for Clinton and blasting Trump. There have been many reports and polls on Trump’s support among union members, and they seem to indicate that while Trump doesn’t have a majority support, he has significantly more than previous Republican candidates. (read article)

NLRB Upholds Union’s Right To Endorse BDS Against Israel
By Alex Kane, July 27, 2016, In These Times
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has upheld a decision to dismiss a complaint against the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) for endorsing a boycott of Israel. The move is a victory for advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which targets Israel over alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians. Earlier this year, the NLRB ruled against Shurat HaDin, the Israeli legal center that brought the complaint seeking an injunction against UE’s decision to endorse boycotting Israel. The latest decision was in response to an appeal filed by Shurat HaDin. UE endorsed the call for BDS at its August convention, making it the first national union in the United States to support the boycott. (read article)

As California Supreme Court mulls Vergara appeal, a case on teacher evaluations will be heard this week
By Sarah Favot, July 26, 2016, LA School Report
As the California Supreme Court considers whether to take up an appeal of an appellate court ruling in Vergara v. California, which has been extended to Aug. 22, the advocacy group that brought the landmark case will be in a Northern California courtroom Friday for a hearing on a case involving teacher evaluations. Last year Students Matter filed a lawsuit, Doe v. Antioch, against 13 California school districts, saying collective bargaining agreements in those districts violated the Stull Act by explicitly prohibiting the use of student standardized test scores in assessing teacher performance. (read article)

Why These Union Members and Lifelong Democrats Are Voting Trump
By Patricia Murphy, July 26, 2016, Daily Beast
David Kemper and his wife are union members and lifelong Democrats. But the Kempers and their 20-year-old son, Nicholas, are planning to vote for Donald Trump in November. “Growing up we were very strong Democrats, but the Democrat party left us,” David Kemper said, standing at the back of a Ted Cruz barbecue near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. He had traveled from Minnesota to the RNC to be with Nicholas, who was an alternate Texas delegate for Trump. When the Kempers vote for Trump, they’ll be breaking with the leadership of their national unions, which have both endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. “I’m in the CWA, my wife is American Federation of Teachers, but we felt like the unions have left us, too,” said David Kemper. (read article)

Quality Education Remains Thwarted by Teachers Unions

An article in today’s American Prospect, of all places, offers an in-depth look at just how little progress has actually been made towards restoring quality education to California’s public school students. Because the article appears in a publication that is “dedicated to American liberalism,” and because “American liberalism” depends more than anything else on billions in annual political contributions from government unions, you almost have to read between the lines to realize who the bad guys are.

Nonetheless, “California’s Ed Reform Wars,” by Rachel Cohen, all 3,200 words of it, is a fine piece of work. Read it closely, if you can stomach the facts. The bad guys – a matter of opinion, of course – are the government unions. The victims? California’s students, and the future of this great state.

Covered first is the uncertain fate of the Vergara case, funded by wealthy activists – many of them liberals – in the Silicon Valley. The plaintiffs are public school students whose case was founded on the argument that union work rules, specifically the policies governing tenure, layoff and dismissal policies, cause disproportionate harm to students in low-income communities. During round one, two years ago in a Los Angeles courtroom, reformers were mesmerized by the brilliant closing arguments of the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, along with the ruling by the judge in the case, who emphatically agreed.

That was then. In April of this year, by a 3-0 vote, the California Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the original Vergara v. California decision. The case will now go to the California Supreme Court. Its chances aren’t great.

But shouldn’t elected officials, not the courts, make policy decisions? In a perfect world, that would certainly be true, but in California’s state legislature, as Cohen herself writes, “Following the original Vergara decision, Republican lawmakers introduced a package of three bills to extend the time it would take a teacher to earn tenure, to repeal the “last-in, first-out” statute that makes layoff decisions based on seniority, and to establish an annual teacher evaluation system. These bills, however, got nowhere in the Democratic-controlled statehouse.”

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Because then a democratic Assemblywoman who takes money from government unions, Susan Bonilla, tried to push legislation through that might reform at least some of the employment statutes that protect bad teachers. Cohen writes:

“Bonilla proposed, among other things, giving principals the option of waiting until a teacher’s third or fourth year to grant tenure, and placing poorly performing teachers in a program that would provide increased professional support. If the ineffective teacher received another low performance rating after a year in this program, Bonilla’s legislation would enable schools to fire the teacher through an expedited process.”

Might that be watered down enough? Might that not have a chance? For the children?

Forget it. Despite endorsements including one from the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, the teachers union issued an “action alert” to their members, calling the bill “an all-out assault” by “corporate millionaires and special interests.” The bill was going to go nowhere in California’s union-controlled legislature. So Bonilla tried again. As Cohen reports:

“In June, Bonilla introduced an amended version of her bill, one that would require new teachers to work for three years before becoming eligible for tenure. Her bill no longer included provisions to create a new teacher evaluation system, to require teachers with poor performance reviews to be laid off before those with less seniority, and to remove many of the dismissal rules that administrators found frustrating.”

Not much left there. Just a bill to marginally extend the probationary period before teachers acquire tenure. But still it was opposed by the unions, and it died in committee by a vote of 9 to 2. The two legislators who voted in favor were due to be termed out and therefore could vote their consciences.

When it comes to government unions, perhaps the teachers union most of all, the lack of support for bipartisan reform is not a mystery. Government unions in California collect and spend over $1.0 billion each year, which gives them the ability to financially dominate any election, anytime, anywhere, whenever they choose. But there’s more to it. These unions use their financial and organizational power to anoint not only politicians, but also bureaucrats, teachers, and anyone in the business community who may have any need to work with the government bureaucracy. They can anoint, or they can target. Best friend or worst enemy? Take your pick.

Liberals know this, but they tolerate the teachers union because along with all that money the union gives their candidates, the union political agenda matches their own – bigger government, more regulations. They don’t understand, unfortunately, that more regulations favor big business and destroy entrepreneurs who deliver the competitive innovations that have improved our lives. And they certainly don’t put enough importance on innovation in education.

Someday liberals may care enough “for the children” to stand up to the teachers union. Don’t hold your breath.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

The Pension Monster and How Much It’s Costing You to Keep It Fed

Why haven’t Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson followed up on the recommendation by the LA 2020 Commission to “establish a Commission on Retirement Security to review the City’s retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts” and make “concrete recommendations on how to achieve equilibrium on retirement costs by 2020?”

Why?  Because these two ambitious politicians fear alienating the campaign funding leaders of the City’s unions who do not want a public discussion of the facts surrounding the City’s ever increasing annual contributions to the City’s two massively underfunded pension plans that are forcing the City to scale back on basic services.

Over the last ten years, the City’s contribution to its two pension plans (Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System and the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension System) has tripled to $1.1 billion, up from $350 million in 2005.  As a result, pension contributions now chew up 20% of the City’s $5.6 billion budget, up from less than 10% in 2005.

 

Are Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson afraid of discussing with union leaders the prospect of LA’s growing unfunded liability?

 

This $750 million increase in pension contributions has forced the City to cut back on basic services such as public safety and the repair and maintenance of our streets, sidewalks, and parks.  The City has even resorted to placing an ill-conceived $1.2 billion bond measure on the November ballot to fund supportive housing for the homeless.

Unfortunately, it is only going to get worse as the City, its pension plans, and their fiscally irresponsible, Garcetti appointed Commissioners are banking on an overly optimistic rate of return of 7½% on the combined investment portfolio of $33 billion.

But the stock and bond markets are not cooperating as demonstrated by this year’s less than 1% return on CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System) $300 billion investment portfolio.

If the City’s pension funds earned this meager 1% as compared to the targeted 7½%, it would result in an investment shortfall of an estimated $2.7 billion, an amount equal to about half of the City’s annual budget.  This “loss” will increase the unfunded pension liability as of June 30, 2016 to almost $11 billion, representing a funded ratio of an unhealthy 74%.

However, if the investment rate assumption was a more reasonable 6½% as recommended by knowledgeable investors such as Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, the unfunded pension liability would jump to over $16 billion, representing a dangerously low funded ratio of 66% and almost three times the City’s annual budget.

Over the next five years, the City’s two pension plans will rack up an additional shortfall of over $5 billion if the rate of return on their investment portfolios is 6½%, a much more likely outcome than the targeted return of 7½%.

But rather than recognizing this combined shortfall of $7.9 billion over the next five years, the City has cooked up a scheme to amortize these losses over a 20 year period, reducing the hit to the City’s budget.

Even with this scheme, the City’s pension contribution is expected to increase by more than 50% over the next five years to $1.7 billion, representing 27% of the City’s projected General Fund budget.

Garcetti and Wesson, along with Budget Committee Chair Paul Krekorian and Personnel Chair Paul Koretz, will tell us they made significant reforms to LAFPP in 2011 and LACERS in 2013 and 2015.  But these cosmetic amendments are nickels and dimes and did not address the overly optimistic investment rate assumption of 7½% and the unsustainable post-retirement medical benefits.

This pension time bomb is a weapon of mass financial destruction where we will burden the next generation of Angelenos with tens of billions of unsustainable debt. This will destroy their standard of living and their environment.

It is time for Garcetti, Wesson, and the members of the City Council to get off their fat asses, put on their big boy pants, and begin to address this problem by establishing an independent, well-funded Committee for Retirement Security.

Only then will we be able to begin the hard task of developing a solution where the City and its future will not be devoured by the pension monster.

Cross-posted at City Watch LA

About the Author: Jack Humphreville is a LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Raising Minimum Starting Wages to $15 per Hour Would Eliminate Seven Million Jobs
By James Sherk, July 26, 2016, Democracy Now
Prominent Members of Congress have proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than doubling the federal minimum wage. States with lower costs of living would see an even greater real increase. At the state level, the minimum wage would cover one-third of wage and salary workers. The new minimum-wage legislation, including payroll taxes and the employer mandate, would increase the minimum cost of hiring a full-time worker to $18.61 per hour. Businesses would respond to these higher labor costs by reducing employment of affected workers by over one-sixth, thus eliminating approximately seven million full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2021. Forcing employers to pay starting wages of $15 per hour would make many less skilled workers unemployable. (read article)

Union urges cops to refuse ‘non-mandatory’ Labor Day weekend OT
By Fran Spielman, July 25, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times

The decision to declare Sept. 2, 3, 4 and 5 “FOP Unity Days” was communicated to rank-and-file police officers in a union flier. If a majority of rank-and-file officers follow the directive issued to rank-and-file officers in a union flier, it has the potential to underscore a severe manpower shortage masked by runaway overtime that topped $116 million last year. It could also leave the city woefully short of the officers needed to tamp down violence over the long holiday weekend.“In order to show unity and to protest the continued disrespect of Chicago Police officers and the killing of law enforcement officers across our country, we are requesting FOP members to refrain from volunteering to work for any and all special secondary and other types of non-mandatory overtime employment for the entire Labor Day weekend,” the flier states. (read article)

Labor Unions Use Technology to Grow and Maintain Membership
By Howard M. Bloom, July 25, 2016, The National Law Review
Labor unions today are “tech” savvy, using mobile app and other technology to grow and maintain their memberships. According to a report in the Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs Daily Labor Report (136 DLR C-1 July 18, 2016), a number of labor unions, including the International Association of Machinists, Communication Workers of America, and Service Employees International Union, are using app technology to inform members of union news, sign political action petitions, access video clips and pictures, read press releases, view union social media accounts, and report workplace violations, all with the goal of reaching and growing their memberships. (read article)

How Union Deals Have Derailed The California High-Speed Railway
By Connor D. Wolf, July 24, 2016, Daily Caller
California’s attempt to connect the state with a high-speed railway system has faced major setbacks thanks in part to union deals. The California High Speed Rail Authority (HSR) began construction in 2014 with the hopes of connecting close to a dozens cities. The project has faced major delays and financial difficulties. The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) notes the railway is plagued with problems — including union influence. “The approval was made in 2008 and since then they have basically been struggling to get anything beyond an initial amount that was approved,” CFEC Executive Director Eric Christen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The problem is that there’s no source of funding. (read article)

Trump’s courtship of union members complicated by Pence
By Tim Devaney, July 24, 2016, The Hill
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wants to reach out to blue-collar workers, but his running mate isn’t going to make that easy. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is a free-trade supporter who has opposed lifting the minimum wage. Neither of those positions is going to help the GOP ticket with labor unions; AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Pence the “second worst” vice presidential pick in history. Labor leaders like Trumka are backing presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but Trump believes he can win over rank-and-file union members who are turned off by the Democrat. But that outreach will be complicated by the selection of Pence, labor officials say.  (read article)

Why Black Lives Matter Is Taking On Police Unions
By Adeshina Emmanuel, July 23, 2016, AlterNet
Activists in the movement for black lives are working to lift the veil on one of the most powerful influences in law enforcement: police unions. The focus is no longer just on individual officers; it’s on the institutions that protect and shield them. Organizers protested at the offices of two of the nation’s largest police unions this week as part of a nationwide week of action under the banner #Freedomnow. Protesting organized labor may seem like a surprising move for a radical group. “We’re definitely pro-labor union,” explains Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) organizer Clarise McCants. “But our message is that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is not just like any union,” she said. “They are a fraternity—and they are the most dangerous fraternity in America.” (read article)

Former VA Labor Union President Sentenced For Pocketing Funds
By Dan Chaison, July 22, 2016, Daily Caller
William Davis, a former local chapter president for the American Federation of Government Employees, was sentenced on Wednesday for embezzling $150,000 in funds. The 56 year-old New York resident will serve 15 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to stealing from the union. The AFGE is the largest national labor union, representing 670,000 federal workers. Davis’ chapter, Local 1119, covers 300 employees of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Montrose, N.Y. (read article)

Coming Tax Hikes For Government Pensions, How Much Will You Pay?
By Chuck DeVore, July 22, 2016, Forbes
Decades of generous pension increases made to government employees by politicians are looming larger on state and local government balance sheets across America. Days ago, Ted Eliopoulos, head of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), announced that he earned 0.61 percent in the prior year on a $300-billion-dollar investment fund—California’s worst year since the stock market meltdown in 2009. CalPERS expects to earn 7.5 percent annually on its investments. Last year, the nation’s largest state and local pension fund returned 2.5 percent; the year before, 1 percent. (read article)

After Obama, GOP platform moves right on labor issues
By Sean Higgins, July 20, 2016, Washington Examiner
There is not much for labor leaders to like in the Republican Party’s 2016 platform. It is one of the toughest the party has had in the last four decades in terms of calling for union power to be reined in, a direct response to President Obama, one of the most pro-union presidents in decades. The latest platform calls for such reforms as a national right-to-work law to prohibit workers from being forced to join or support a union. It also demands that the National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency, be defanged; opposes the Labor Department’s recent move to expand worker overtime requirements; and calls for the repeal of laws that benefit unions in federal contracting. The new version promises to “bring labor law into the 21st century” by getting rid of regulations that it says strangle innovation, shackle employers and employees alike and have no place in the modern economy. (read article)

California transportation workers reject sellout contract
By Isaac Fin, July 20, 2016, World Socialist Website 
In a vote earlier this month, maintenance workers employed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) overwhelming rejected a sellout contract negotiated between the state government and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The roughly 12,000 electricians, window cleaners, aqueduct construction workers and truck drivers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2015. The state and IUOE Unit 12 came to an agreement last June, which include a 10 percent pay raise over four years that would translate into a pay decrease after adjusting for inflation and changes in benefits. Union officials have not disclosed the number of workers who voted, but admitted that 67 percent of those voting rejected the contract. The vote also authorized the union to conduct a strike if ongoing negotiations reach an impasse. (read article)

Why construction unions are fighting Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for more housing
By Liam Dillon, July 20, 2016, Los Angeles Times
A fight over construction worker pay has left Gov. Jerry Brown and a powerful labor group at a stalemate over the governor’s plan to speed up housing development for low-income Californians, leaving uncertainty over whether a final deal can be reached before the end of the legislative session in August. Brown has proposed legislation to streamline approval for housing with units for low-income residents. The State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents ironworkers, roofers, electrical workers and other construction unions, wants Brown to force home builders to pay construction workers at rates often equivalent to union wages to qualify under the plan, something the governor is resisting. (read article)

California’s unemployment insurance system stuck in a deep hole
By Dan Walters, July 19, 2016, The Sacramento Bee
Throughout his second governorship, Jerry Brown has preached fiscal responsibility – being careful about spending, paying down debt and building up reserves. It has been, in effect, a repudiation of his two immediate predecessors, Democrat Gray Davis and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who squandered revenue windfalls, ran up debt and left their successors with big deficits. Brown has been, however, reticent about a big deficit that’s plagued the state’s system of unemployment compensation and left it very vulnerable to a meltdown in the next recession he says is inevitable. Rather than keep it intact as a prudent hedge against recession, Davis and legislators succumbed to pressure from labor unions and nearly doubled unemployment benefits to a maximum of $450 a week. (read article)

Covered California rates to jump average of 13 percent in 2017
By Victoria Colliver, July 19, 2016, Press-Enterprise
After two years of moderate rate increases, Californians who get their coverage through the state health insurance marketplace will see their 2017 premiums increase by an average of 13.2 percent. That’s more than triple the average 4 percent rate increases that consumers have seen since the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange started offering coverage in 2014. The preliminary rates for Bay Area counties are even higher than the state average, with San Francisco premiums set to increase by nearly 15 percent. “We’ve known for a long time that 2017 will be a transition year,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, in a media conference call Tuesday morning to announce next year’s rates. Lee blamed two of the biggest plans — Anthem, which sells Blue Cross plans, and Blue Shield of California — for helping to drive the double-digit rate increase. (read article)

Appreciating Police Officers, Challenging Police Unions

In the wake of tragic and deadly attacks on police officers, those of us who have never wavered in our support for the members of law enforcement, but have questioned the role of police unions and have debated issues of policy surrounding law enforcement have an obligation to restate our position. Civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives have disagreements with police unions which were summed up quite well recently by guest columnist Steve Greenhut, writing in the Orange County Register. Here are some of the principal concerns:

Police unionization protects bad officers and stifles reform. Lack of transparency into investigations of police misconduct aids and abets the worst actors. Police unions often support laws designed to extract increased revenue from citizens in the form of excessive fines. The “war on drugs” and militarization of law enforcement can further increase the tension between police and the populations they serve. And, of course, police unions fight relentlessly for increases to compensation and benefits, especially straining the budgets of cities.

To have a balanced discussion on these topics, however, it is necessary to revisit why police work has become more controversial and more expensive. Here are some of the reasons:

(1)  The value of life has never been higher. A century ago, when the life expectancy for Americans was 49, tragic deaths were commonplace. Compared to Americans in 1916, Americans today on average can expect an additional three decades of productive life, and premature death is proportionately more traumatic. This means the premium that police officers deserve for their service is higher than it’s ever been, and should be.

(2)  The expectations we have for law enforcement have never been higher. Along with longer lives, Americans suffer less crime. For nearly forty years, in nearly all categories, crime has steadily diminished. While there remains enough crime to generate a daily barrage of lurid local news reports, we enjoy more safety and security than at any time in history. We are getting this service thanks to our police forces, and better service deserves better pay.

(3)  The complexity of crime has never been higher. Crime itself has become far more sophisticated and menacing, morphing into areas unimaginable even a generation ago – cybercrime, global terrorism, financial crimes, murderous gangs, international criminal networks, foreign espionage, asymmetric threats – the list is big and gets bigger every year. Countering these threats requires more capable, better compensated personnel.

(4)  The statistical risk to police officers, even in the wake of recent tragedies, may remain low, but that could change in an instant. In the event of severe civil unrest or well coordinated terrorist attacks such as we saw in Sept. 2011, hundreds or even thousands of officers could find themselves on the front lines of a cataclysm. Statistics are not necessarily predictive, and police officers live with this knowledge every day.

So how do civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives manage their debates with police unions while conveying their respect for police officers? First, by acknowledging the complexity of the issues. Police should make more money than ever before – the debate should start there, not end there. Police have to be armed to the teeth, because in a free republic, the citizens themselves are armed to the teeth. That’s the choice we made, and unless we want to disarm the citizenry, we can’t disarm the police. These are fundamentals where there should be agreement.

Beyond that, it is necessary to appeal to the patriotism and decency that animates the vast majority of members of law enforcement, and ask them: Please work with us to curb the inherent excesses of police union power. Of course we have to get bad cops off the street. Of course we have to come up with effective non-lethal uses of force. Of course we have to figure out how to fund police departments without levying excessive fines. And of course we have to face a challenging economic future together, where police are partners with the people they serve, not an economically privileged class. Is this possible? One may hope so.

There’s more. If police unions are going to be intimately involved in the politics of law enforcement and the politics of police compensation, and they are, they may as well start getting involved in other causes where their membership may find common cause with civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives. Police officers see first hand how welfare destroys families and how public schools fail our children. So why aren’t they fighting to replace welfare with workfare and why aren’t they fighting to destroy the teachers union? You can say what you will about police unions, but they did NOT turn this nation into a lawless hellhole, quite the opposite. The teachers union DID destroy public education. So help us reduce their influence.

Similarly, police officers need to decide if they really feel like enforcing the myriad environmental harassment laws that are criminalizing everything from installing a window or water heater without a building permit to watering your lawn on the wrong day. The global environmentalist movement – of which California is ground zero – has become fascism masquerading as anti-fascism. It has become neo-colonialism masquerading as concern for indigenous peoples. It was a previously noble movement that has been hijacked by cynical billionaires, monopolistic corporations, and corrupt financial special interests. In its excess today, it has become a despicable scam. Help us to crush these corrupt opportunists before our freedom and prosperity is obliterated.

These thoughts, perhaps, are challenges that civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives might offer up to the police unions of America.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

RELATED POSTS

Public Safety Unions and the Financial Apocalypse, May 17, 2016

The Challenges Facing Conservatives Who Support Public Safety, March 22, 2016

In Search of a Legitimate Labor Movement, January 19, 2016

Pension Reform Requires Mutual Empathy, not Enmity, October 20, 2015

Public Sector Union Reform Requires Mutual Empathy, June 16, 2015

Can Unionized Police Be Held Accountable for Misconduct?, June 23, 2015

Pension Reformers are not “The Enemy” of Public Safety, April 20, 2015

Conservatives, Police Unions, and the Future of Law Enforcement, January 6, 2015

Police Unions in America, December 9, 2014

Conservative Politicians and Public Safety Unions, May 13, 2014

How Much Does Professionalism Cost?, March 11, 2014

 

 

 

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Diablo Canyon Settlement May Hinge on Cost Allocation
By Patrick Ferguson, July 19, 2016, JD Supra
On June 21, 2016, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”) announced a plan to close down the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, the 2.3 gigawatt Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo, by 2026. Diablo Canyon currently produces about 9% of the electricity California uses and supplies the electric needs of more than 3 million people. The Diablo closure plan is set forth in a Joint Proposal agreed to by PG&E, several of the main environmental groups that have long called for Diablo Canyon’s closure, and two of the major labor unions that represent Diablo Canyon’s large workforce. PG&E currently plans to submit the Joint Proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) for approval by the end of July. (read article)

Obama Admin Throws Temps to Unions
By Bill McMorris, July 18, 2016, Washington Free Beacon
The Obama administration’s top labor arbiters handed organized labor another major victory that will ease the path to unionization for temporary workers and expand the definition of joint employer. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees workplace disputes and union elections, overturned a 2004 ruling that said that temp workers could not join collective bargaining units at their placements without the approval of their direct employer. The ruling in Miller & Anderson returns to a 2000 board precedent that allowed temp workers who demonstrated commonality with their directly employed counterparts to join bargaining units without the consent of their agency. (read article)

My Mom Was A Unionized Public School Teacher. That’s Why I’m A Reformer
By Dmitri Mehlhorn, July 18, 2016, Huffington Post
More specifically, teachers are sympathetic to the ideas behind education reform. Teachers believe that tenure is automatic, and that about 10 percent of their colleagues are ineffective. Three-quarters of all teachers and an even higher percentage of highly recognized teachers believe it needs to be easier to dismiss ineffective teachers. A close look shows that many teachers believe in parent engagement and choice. When the chips are down — in other words, when it comes to their own children — public school teachers are much more likely than other parents to send their kids to private schools. (read article)

Labor Board Ruling Could Allow Grad Students to Unionize
By Melanie Trottman & Douglas Belkin, July 17, 2016, Wall Street Journal
The National Labor Relations Board is expected to decide on his status this summer in a ruling that could pave the way for graduate students at private schools across the country to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board has flip-flopped on its categorization of the roughly 535,000 graduate students now enrolled at private colleges. For decades, it held they weren’t employees, then in 2000 declared they were. In 2004, the board reversed itself in a case involving Brown University. Since most of the current board members are Democrats appointed by President Barack Obama, observers expect the board is more likely to side with the students and the union. (read article)

Green Billionaire Joins Infamous Labor Union In Fight To Defeat Trump
By Chris White, July 16, 2016, Daily Caller
Mega-wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer and a services union with deep pockets announced a $10 million joint effort on Friday to derail Donald Trump’s GOP presidential candidacy. Steyer’s political action committee, NextGen Climate, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are teaming up this election season to defeat Trump and elect his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Steyer, who made the bulk of his billions as a hedge fund manager with Farallon Capital, railed Thursday against Trump’s pick as running mate, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, calling the governor an enemy to the gay and lesbian community. (read article)

Obama’s Big Labor Power Grab Hurts Small Business
By Orrin Hatch, July 15, 2016, U.S. News & World Report
With the Department of Labor’s new “persuader rule,” the Obama administration has put big labor before small business, and the president’s own political agenda before the Constitution. Under this sweeping new unilateral regulation, companies that seek advice from legal counsel or outside consultants on labor-related issues must report these activities publicly. Union organizers, on the other hand, are under no obligation to disclose their relationships with labor lawyers and other experts. In effect, the rule gives unions the upper hand in negotiating labor management contracts by placing costly requirements on companies that seek outside advice during organizing drives. Because this onerous regulation tips the balance of labor relations in favor of unions, the persuader rule is a godsend for union bosses. But it’s a nightmare for America’s job providers, especially small business owners. (read article)

California Voters Double-Crossed By SEIU — For The Second Time
By Sal Rosselli, July 15, 2016, Huffington Post
Earlier this month, a judge blocked an attempt by Oakland-based Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) to place on the November ballot an initiative that would have limited the pay of non-profit hospital executives. It’s hard to believe, but the courts blocked the ballot initiative because it violated a secretive, collusive arrangement between SEIU-UHW and the California Hospital Association (CHA). California voters are paying the price for the spectacular collapse of this shady backroom deal. More than 600,000 Californians signed petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot in both 2014 and 2016, only to see it snatched away — once by the union officials who wrote it and now a second time as an unintended consequence of the union’s self-penned gag clause. (read article)

Pence on labor
By Brian Mahoney, July 15, 2016, Politico
The Republican Indiana governor largely tracks the GOP consensus on most labor and employment policy issues, while departing from Trump’s views on trade. Unions won’t likely cheer the choice. Last year Pence signed the repeal of an 80 year-old state law that set a common wage for most state construction projects. “Wages on public projects should be set by the marketplace and not by government bureaucracy,” Pence said. Unions and Democrats who opposed the legislation said repeal would lower construction wages.
Indiana became a right-to-work state under Pence’s Republican predecessor, Mitch Daniels. But Pence’s administration prevailed in defending the law from union lawsuits. (read article)

San Luis Coastal school district will intervene in Diablo Canyon closure
By David Sneed, July 14, 2016, San Luis Obispo Tribune
The San Luis Coastal Unified School District has joined San Luis Obispo County in having an official role in state proceedings related to Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The district’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday afternoon during a special closed meeting to formally intervene in all of Diablo Canyon’s proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission, including the plant’s closure and the proposed three-year general rate case starting in 2017. “We are intervening to protect the interests of our 7,500 students, our 1,000 employees and the quality of education that we continue to provide in San Luis Coastal Unified School District,” said board member Marilyn Rodger, who read the board’s motion into the record after the closed session meeting. (read article)

Hospital Finance Measure On California Ballot May Stump Voters
By Pauline Bartolone, July 14, 2016, Kaiser Health News
California voters will be asked to weigh in this November on a hospital financing measure so politically and financially complicated that they might be tempted to avoid it altogether. The initiative, Proposition 52, would make permanent the “Hospital Quality Assurance Fee,” which the state collects from private hospitals to bring in additional federal dollars for Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid health care program for the poor. The federal government matches money that California puts up to fund Medi-Cal services. The dollars generated by the fee are used to fund hospital services and children’s health care under Medi-Cal, and the ballot measure would help ensure the money is not diverted by lawmakers for other uses. (read article)

CalPERS Suffers $30.8 Billion Annual Loss
By Chriss W. Street, July 13, 2016, Breitbart News
The California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) is about to report the world’s largest public employee pension suffered an actuarial investment loss of $30.8 billion last year. CalPERS manages the defined pension plan investments and record keeping for 3,007 California state and local government entities. The pension plan is also responsible for paying the pension benefits to 611,078 retirees and will eventually be responsible for paying retirement benefits to another 868,713 active and 335,908 inactive government workers. Despite Governor Jerry Brown last summer demanding CalPERS immediately “lower its investment risk and volatility of returns” by reducing its “assumed” annual investment return from 7.5 percent to 6.5 percent, the CalPERS board voted 7- 3 on November 15, 2015 only to slowly reduce the investment return expectation over the next decade. (read article)

CCSF, faculty union settle labor dispute
By Michael Barba, July 13, 2016, San Francisco Examiner
City College of San Francisco and its faculty union reached a tentative agreement this week on a contract for its educators after a year and a half of contentious negotiations, the union said Wednesday. Both sides signed onto the deal Monday night while meeting with a mediator in an attempt to reach a settlement — a process that had failed before but started again last Friday at the recommendation of a factfinder. According to the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, the tentative agreement amounts to an about 11.3 percent salary increase for faculty members over a three-year period. That increase is on top of the average 3.7 percent restored to faculty salaries for wage cuts from previous years. (read article)

Labor unions petition OSHA for standard to prevent workplace violence in health care
By Associated Press, July 13, 2016, Safety & Health Magazine
A number of labor unions are calling on OSHA to create a standard aimed at preventing workplace violence in the health care and social services industries. A petition was sent July 12 to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez from a coalition of unions, including the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International Union and United Steelworkers. It claims OSHA’s current efforts are “insufficient” to protect health care workers, and cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that workers in health care and social assistance experienced 52 percent of workplace violence incidents in 2014. (read article)

Government Unions Benefit from the Asset Bubble that Harms Workers

Earlier this month the California Policy Center released a study that provided additional evidence that the U.S. stock indexes are overvalued by approximately 50%, along with calculations showing the impact of a major downward correction on the solvency of California’s state and local government pension systems. Stocks are now at unsustainable bubble valuations.

Not covered in this study, but equally overvalued, are bonds, which pension systems misleadingly categorize as “fixed income” investments in their portfolio disclosures. CalPERS even went so far as to trumpet their success in earning a 9.29% return on “fixed income” investments in their most recent press release – a healthy return that offset losses elsewhere and allowed them to earn a marginally positive return of 0.61% last year. But “fixed income” investments usually refers to bonds, and bonds are also at unsustainable bubble valuations.

Here’s why bonds are overvalued today: Whenever new bonds are issued at lower fixed rates of interest than the bonds that were issued before them, then those older bonds that pay higher fixed rates of interest can be sold for more money than their original price. This is because on an open market, buyers will price a resold bond at a value calculated to equalize returns. When rates go down for new bonds, the prices for existing bonds go up. The problem is that back in the 1980’s, bonds were being issued at rates as high as 16%, and today, they’re being issued at rates close to zero. After a thirty year ride, interest rate drops can no longer be used to elevate the value of bond portfolios.

At a macroeconomic level, every possible investment in the world is overvalued today, because central banks have lowered interest rates to zero in a desperate attempt to continue a decades long disease in which they have spent more than they’ve collected. Governments got to borrow money for next to nothing, and assets kept appreciating. But the binge is almost over, and unlike the savvy super-rich, pension funds can’t just take their winnings off the table.

New Bond Issues, Rates by Nation – June 2016 (red = negative)
20160719-UW-NegativeYieldsNegative coupon bonds, a desperate experiment that isn’t going to end well.

This is all tedious drivel, however, if you are a unionized public employee in California. Your retirement security is guaranteed by “contract.” It’s the result of deals cut between union “negotiators” and the politicians they make or break. As a government employee in California, if you’ve worked 30 years, the average annual retirement benefit you can expect if you retire this year is worth over $70,000. To honor that expectation, CalPERS is already mid-way through their latest reassessment, a 50% increase to their collections from participating agencies. And if there is a 50% market correction (“fixed income” and equity), expect them to double or even triple their collections from taxpayers.

If you are a private citizen trying to prepare for retirement today after, say, 45 years of work and saving, good luck. Because there is no safe investment left in the world. And while you are likely to have to cope with, for example, suspended dividend payments on stocks that are down 50%, expect your taxes to go up in every imaginable category – sales, property, income, and hidden taxes embedded in your utility bills and phone bills. It will be “for the children” and “for public safety.” And if there’s a vote required to increase the tax, it will usually pass, because most voters don’t pay property tax, or income tax, or if they do, the taxes are indirectly assessed and invisible to them.

This is the oppressive hoax that government unions have perpetrated on the working families they claim they want to protect. They have exempted their own members, government workers, from the consequences of a corrupt financial system where they are leading partners. When governments spend more than they make and have to borrow money, central banks lower interest rates to make it easier to work the payments into the budget. At the same time, lower interest rates goose the value of stocks and bonds, helping the pension funds claim they can earn 7.5% per year. And when the house of cards collapses, taxpayers bail out the banks and the government pension funds.

The next time a spokesperson for a government union speaks disparagingly about Wall Street corruption, remember this: They are partners with Wall Street. They support overspending for their own compensation and benefits, creating deficits that have to be covered by taxes and borrowing. Their pension funds demand high returns, and the bankers comply, with rates that encourage borrowing and deny ordinary people the ability to save. Now that interest rates have hit zero and are even going negative in an exercise of monetary chicanery that has no rival in history, the end is near.

Public sector union leaders need to start remembering they represent public servants, not public overlords who are exempt from the reality that you can only spend as much as you earn. As it is, these union leaders are the overpaid mercenaries of capitalism at its most corrupt.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Transparency measure won’t be on ballot
By David Garrick, July 12, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune
A proposal to increase government transparency in the city of San Diego suffered a setback this week when the City Council decided not to place it on the November ballot. The proposal would have made city business conducted by employees on private devices, such as cell phones and personal computers, subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. The goal is preventing city workers, particularly elected officials and their staffs, from avoiding disclosure by conducting business privately instead of in the city’s email system. No council members expressed opposition to the new policy, but they voted 7-2 against placing it on the November ballot based on concerns that the city still must negotitiate the change with labor unions that represent the bulk of city employees. (read article)

The War over Obama’s Labor Agenda
By Justin Miller, July 12, 2016, The American Prospect
The NLRB’s latest pro-labor ruling comes just as Republicans turn up the heat on their plan to undermine the president’s labor legacy. The National Labor Relations Board is reaffirming its view that labor law must now address the brave new world of the fissured workplace—where workers are often separated from their actual employer by layers of subcontractors and staffing agencies. On Monday, the board announced a decision on the case Miller & Anderson, ruling that unions that want to represent bargaining units including direct employees as well as “permatemps,” contract workers, and other indirect workers that share a “community of interest” are no longer required to get permission from the parent company. (read article)

In Historic NLRB Ruling, Temps Win the Right To Join Unions
By Alex Ding, July 12, 2016, In These Times
A new ruling will enable temporary and permanent employees to come together to negotiate with their bosses in mixed bargaining units. The National Labor Relations Board on Monday overturned a Bush-era standard that said a union could only organize a bargaining unit of jointly employed and regular employees if both employers consented—even if those employees worked together closely. “Jointly employed” includes temps who are hired through staffing agencies. The new decision allows jointly employed temps to bargain collectively in the same unit with the solely employed workers they work alongside, ruling that bosses need not consent so long as workers share a “community of interest.” In a 3-1 decision, the Board overturned a 12-year-old ruling in Oakwood Care Center, where the Board said that a group of temporary workers could not unionize with permanent employees without the approval of their employer and the appropriate staffing agency. (read article)

Unions rejoice after federal judge strikes down Georgia labor law
By Greg Bluestein, July 12, 2016, Atlanta Georgia Constitution
A federal judge nixed part of a Georgia law criticized by the state’s labor organizations as an effort to chip away at their influence. The most contentious part of the 2013 law allowed employees to cancel their union membership at any time, rather than only after a one-year period. It was backed by Republicans as a way to bolster Georgia’s “right to work” status and burnish the state’s pro-business reputation. Opponents of the legislation, including some leading Democrats, saw it as another threat to the waning power of union groups. U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley ruled this month that the Georgia rules were “unenforceable” because they were at odds with federal labor rules. He let stand other provisions of the law, including a “statement of rights” that reinforces the right of employers to oppose the recognition of unions. (read article)

CCSF labor negotiations shift gears as new school year looms
By Michael Barba, July 12, 2016, San Francisco Examiner
The faculty union and administration at City College of San Francisco returned to a mediator Monday in an attempt to resolve their labor dispute as the first day of school approaches next month. CCSF and the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, which represents the school’s faculty members, met three times with a panel of fact-finders in recent weeks after unsuccessful talks with a mediator ended in March. Faculty at the college have worked without a contract since it expired in June 2015 amid salary negotiations. Both sides have accused the other of unfair labor practices, which the union went on a one-day strike over in April. The strike followed an offer from the administration to boost faculty pay, but the union declined the offer saying it would have been a minimal increase from their 2007 wages. Unless the two sides come to an agreement, the fact-finders will release a nonbinding report to establish a factual basis for the negotiations. (read article)

California governor looks to extend climate-change efforts
By Ellen Knickmeyer & Juliet Williams, July 11, 2016, Albany Times Union
California Gov. Jerry Brown has launched a campaign to extend some of the most ambitious climate-change programs in the country and ensure his environmental legacy when he leaves office in two years. The centerpiece of the push is a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels by forcing manufacturers and other companies to meet tougher emissions limits or pay up to exceed them. The program has been one of the most-watched efforts in the world aimed at the climate-changing fuels. The four-year-old program, however, is only authorized to operate until 2020 and faces a litany of challenges, including a lawsuit questioning its legality, poor sales of credits, and lukewarm support among Democratic legislators to extend it. On Tuesday, the California Air Resources Board will release a proposed blueprint for continuing the cap-and-trade program until 2030, with a vote expected next year. (read article)

Labor unions file injunction to halt West Virginia Right to Work law
By Associated Press, July 11, 2016, PR News Channel
When West Virginia legislators passed The Workplace Freedom Act, a.k.a. Right to Work, earlier this year, labor leaders vowed to defeat it. Two days before the law was supposed to be implemented a coalition of AFL-CIO and other labor leaders made good on their promise with a last minute injunction in hopes of stopping the controversial legislation. The injunction argues that the law is unconstitutional because it takes away property without due process. The labor groups are hoping that the courts can help stop what the governor couldn’t. Despite the long odds of success with an injunction, labor supporters see hope in a similar case in Wisconsin where a lower court overruled a recent Right to Work law. (read article)

Strike Threat Again Facing UFCW, California Grocers
By Rhonda Smith, July 10, 2016, Bloomberg BNA
The increasingly crowded supermarket industry in Southern California might make negotiating a new labor contract for some 48,000 affected workers harder than it has been in recent years, analysts told Bloomberg BNA. “It’s been such a topsy-turvy, highly competitive market in San Diego, so for the unions it’s a different negotiating environment,” said Miro Copic, a marketing lecturer and branding authority at San Diego State University who monitors retail trade developments. Two developments are limiting the bargaining power wielded by the United Food and Commercial Workers and traditional grocery stores operating in Southern California. Two developments are limiting the bargaining power wielded by the United Food and Commercial Workers and traditional grocery stores operating in Southern California. The UFCW, among other unions, is losing members employed in the private sector. (read article)

House Appropriations marks up labor spending bill
By Marianne Levine, July 7, 2016, Politico
The House Appropriations subcommittee for labor this morning will mark up a spending bill for fiscal year 2017 that blocks the Labor Department’s overtime and fiduciary rules. The bill also extends provisions from last December’s omnibus that allows H-2B employers to use private wage surveys to determine the prevailing wage for their workers. In addition, the measure blocks the National Labor Relations Board from enforcing its newly broadened joint employer standard and its December 2014 rule to speed up the union election process. The bill would also bar the NLRB from issuing any regulation that would allow workers to vote electronically in union elections or from recognizing smaller bargaining units. Whether the appropriations bill will actually go anywhere is unclear. The bill, as of now, is not likely to make it to the House floor. (read article)

San Joaquin County, California strikers sent back to work with no contract
By Genevieve Leigh, July 9, 2016, World Socialist Web Site
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) shut down a three-day unfair labor practices strike by thousands of San Joaquin County, California public employees Thursday after three days on the picket line. The nearly 4,400 workers, whose contract expired June 30, are still without a collective bargaining agreement. SEIU Local 1021 is the bargaining agent for the county workers, whose jobs include hospital techs, road maintenance, sewer maintenance, park workers, juvenile hall behavioral health services and many other important public service jobs. Last week union officials and county negotiators failed to reach an agreement on a new contract after three months of negotiations. The most contentious issue in the negotiations was the county’s proposal of a dismal 6 percent wage increase over the course of three years, a figure that would not even manage to cover the rate of inflation, currently around 2.2 percent annually in California. The union is asking for a 14 percent increase over the same period of time. (read article)

Labor board rules against Rauner in union case

By John Byrne and Monique Garcia, July 7, 2016, Chicago Tribune
A state labor panel on Thursday rejected Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s attempt to skip a step in his ongoing dispute with the largest state employee union over a new contract. The Illinois Labor Relations Board voted unanimously that the case should stay with an administrative law judge rather than come straight to the board as the Rauner administration had sought. The ruling came after the judge, Sarah Kerley, explained how long it would take board members to get up to speed on the complex case involving the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. If the board sides with the union, contract talks would resume. If it sides with the administration, Rauner could impose his own terms, at which point the union could go on strike. (read article)

Fed Says Brexit, Slowing Labor Market Were Factors in Decision to Leave Rates Unchanged
By Ali Meyer, July 6, 2016, July 6, 2016, Washington Free Beacon
The Federal Reserve said that uncertainty over the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, a slowed labor market, and economic uncertainty were factors in its decision to leave the federal funds rate unchanged, according to the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s June meeting. “After assessing the outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation, and after weighing the uncertainties associated with the outlook, members agreed to leave the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged,” the minutes read. “An additional factor in the Committee’s policy deliberations was the upcoming U.K. referendum on membership in the European Union. (read article)

Lawsuit: California Workers’ Compensation System Biased Against Women
By Associated Press, July 6, 2016, CBS Local
California’s workers’ compensation system discriminates against women by judging benefits on the basis of stereotypes and ignoring harm done to women — such as refusing permanent benefits when a woman loses a breast to cancer, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The suit, filed on behalf of several women and a labor union, argues that women’s equal opportunity rights are violated by a system where the medical examiners are overwhelmingly male and the guide used to determine the level of disability from a work injury is gender-biased. The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of several women, including two veteran police officers who had mastectomies. (read article)

This Latest Labor Gambit Is a Piece of Work

By David Rivkin Jr. & Jay Krupin, July 5, 2016, Wall Street Journal
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Richard F. Griffin Jr., recently launched another salvo in the board’s continuing assault on the rights of employers and employees. He aims to alter labor law by punishing employers who—following the publicly expressed wishes of their employees—withdraw recognition from unions. Currently, employers can refuse to recognize or bargain with incumbent unions if most of their employees wish to free themselves from the union’s grasp. Under the proposed new National Labor Relations Board policy, employers will be precluded from walking away from a union, and will be sanctioned by the NLRB, unless employees first vote to leave in an NLRB-conducted secret-ballot election. Such elections tend to be costly and protracted affairs, which may be part of their appeal to the NLRB now. (read article)

Judge’s Ruling Re-Opens a Major Loophole that Allows Union Busters To Remain in the Shadows
By Moshe Z. Marvit, July 5, 2016, In These Times
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) passed the “persuader rule” that closed a major loophole, which has for decades allowed employers to hire attorneys and consultants to secretly assist them in what is politely referred to in the industry as “union avoidance.” The goal of this activity is to persuade and prevent workers from organizing unions. The new rule did not try to make the consultants’ and attorneys’ practices illegal, or regulate the types of activities that employers and consultants could engage in; it was simply intended to provide transparency to workers who are the subject of a coordinated anti-union campaign. But last week, a Texas federal district court judge issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the DOL from implementing the rule. (read article)

Teachers Union Boos Clinton For Charter School Comments
By Connor D. Wolf, July 5, 2016, The Daily Caller
Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was booed by union delegates Tuesday for saying public and charter schools should share ideas. The National Education Association hosted the presidential hopeful during its annual representative assembly. Clinton spoke on educational policies but ran afoul with union delegates when she discussed charter schools. “When schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working,” Clinton said before the union delegates, according to Politico. “And share it with schools across America.” Clinton urged the delegates to rise above the fights happening within the educational system. (read article)

 

Populist Unity Can Overcome the Establishment's Supermajority

Back in 2012 we published an article entitled “The Forgotten 33%,” which included a graphic entitled “American Voter Breakdown 2012.” It depicted the U.S. electorate as comprised of 46% who pay zero net taxes, 20% who work for the government and are net tax consumers, the 1% “super rich,” and the “forgotten 33%,” who work in the private sector and earn enough to be positive net taxpayers.

The point of the article, then and now, was that people with an intrinsic preference for big government comprise a super-majority of voters in America. But something has changed since 2012…

AMERICAN VOTER BREAKDOWN 2016
20160712-UW-AtlasGeneration

The emergence of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as serious contenders to become president of the U.S. reflects a growing awareness among voters in all of the above categories that things can and should be better. The 33% who constitute America’s beleaguered taxpayers were angry four years ago, and this time around they’re furious. Their ire is the most easily explained: Now more than ever, they work long hours for less wages or lower profits, all while being told by the establishment press, by mainstream academia, and by left-wing politicians that they’re “privileged,” and still aren’t paying their “fair share.” If they’re white, they’re told their success is the undeserved result of their color, when in fact they’ve been the recipients of institutionalized reverse discrimination for nearly two generations. And no matter what their ethnicity, they confront soaring prices for housing, health care, and college tuition for their children.

The 33% who work and make enough to pay taxes are angry. And they should be. But what about the 46% who pay no net taxes?

The anger of the 46% takes various forms, nearly all of it justified. Many of them work, but qualify for the earned income tax credit and subsidized health care, which makes them net tax consumers. Many of them would like to work harder, but the only jobs available are part-time with unpredictable schedules which makes it impossible for them to work two jobs. Many of them would like to get a better education, but they are the products of failing schools where teacher tenure is more important than student achievement. And if they’re people of color and haven’t yet been successful, they’re perpetually told by the establishment press, by mainstream academia, and by left-wing politicians that they are victims of discrimination and their failures are not their responsibility – fueling additional anger.

And what of the 20% who work for the government? They are, for the most part, ensured decent health care and a secure retirement. But they are the targets of relentless propaganda from their unions, who have waged a multi-decade campaign to convince them they are underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. Many of them succumb to this nonsense. Others, and more than a few, are disgruntled for the opposite reason – they resent working for a unionized government where merit means less than seniority, and innovation is a threat.

But why are taxes consuming the 33%? Why are opportunities for good jobs and education being denied the 46%? And why does government get bigger every year but deliver less?

There’s a simple answer. Government unions. Especially at the state and local level, government unions have destroyed our public schools and driven our public institutions to the brink of bankruptcy. These government unions perpetually lobby for higher taxes, bigger government – more employees with more pay and benefits, more job killing regulations, and more programs ostensibly intended to help the less fortunate – regardless of their cost or actual effectiveness. The government union agenda is to increase their power and influence – a goal that has no connection with the public interest.

Government unions control state and local politicians, who in turn control every scrap of legislation sought after by big business. They encourage and enable cronyism. Their union controlled pension funds and their union backed government bond underwriting make them the biggest players on Wall Street. They ARE the “establishment” that has gotten everyone so agitated this time around.

Donald Trump, for all his hapless gaffes and hideous vitriol, is far too intelligent to identify government unions as the root cause of most of the problems in America. Unions make or break Trump’s development projects. And even if Trump did attack the government unions, he’d risk confusing voters, who by and large still don’t make a distinction between public and private sector unions.

Bernie Sanders, despite his belated attempts to pander to the African American left by challenging police organizations, is unwilling or unable to make the distinction between police personnel, whom we are lucky to have among us, and police unions that protect bad cops and intimidate politicians. And even if Sanders did take on the police unions, he would never take on the teachers unions – despite the fact they’ve practically destroyed public education in America.

Populist anger in America today is justified, and there is a unifying target for the anger – the “establishment” as represented by government unions and their clients; monopolistic corporations, America’s overbuilt financial sector, and the extreme environmentalist lobby that provides a phony moral cover for their iniquitous schemes. If public sector unions were illegal, this entire corrupt establishment would be threatened as never before. As it is, this awakening national dissent has seismic power, diffused in all directions, turning only on itself.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

San Joaquin County workers strike
By Team Staff, July 5, 2016, ABC 10
The San Joaquin County workers union began their strike with a press conference and rally at the County Administration at noon Tuesday, July 5. Instead of reporting to work Tuesday morning, nearly 4,400 San Joaquin County workers — represented by SEIU 1021 — grabbed picket signs and shut down all County operations. They walked out on behalf of an Unfair Labor Practice strike, a method of protest that California labor law grants employees whose employer has violated the rules of collective bargaining. (read article)

Supreme Court term mixed bag for health care industry
By Lisa Shencker, July 5, 2016, Crain’s Chicago Business
Last year, healthcare leaders had their eyes trained on one big case – King v. Burwell – and they celebrated when the justices voted to uphold a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. This year wasn’t nearly so straightforward for healthcare leaders watching the Supreme Court, which wrapped up its latest term last week. At least half a dozen notable cases fragmented healthcare wonks’ attention. The outcomes of those cases left some in the industry cheering and others wringing their hands. Healthcare-related cases focused on abortion, the ACA’s contraception mandate, patents, unions, claims data and the False Claims Act, among other topics. And the mid-term death of Justice Antonin Scalia looks to have affected the outcomes of some of those cases. (read article)

Clinton’s charter school comments prompt boos at teachers union event
By Kimberly Hefling, July 5, 2016, Politico
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday said traditional public schools and charter schools should share ideas — a remark met with boos by delegates from the National Education Association’s representative assembly. To the thousands of teachers gathered at the labor union’s annual conference, Clinton said “when schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working … and share it with schools across America.” Some teachers in the audience booed. Clinton continued to preach cooperation. “We can do that,” she said. “We’ve got no time for all of these education wars.” (read article)

Clinton snags AFL-CIO official, former Sanders staffer, in labor outreach
By Amanda Becker, July 5, 2016, Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has hired two people with close ties to U.S. organized labor to try to lock down support from union members as Republican candidate Donald Trump makes courting working-class voters central to his campaign. The two new staffers, Lori D’Orazio and Michele Gilliam, are to be deputy labor campaign directors, according to a campaign aide. D’Orazio is moving to the campaign from the biggest U.S. labor federation, the AFL-CIO. Gilliam is a former staffer for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was Clinton’s fiercest primary competitor. (read article)

Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric rattles the campaign message of Clinton and unions
By David Nakamura & David Weigel, July 4, 2016, Washington Examiner
Three dozen union workers gathered outside city hall here on Thursday to rally against the global free-trade deals they believe have harmed Americans like them. Their candidate was Katie McGinty, the Democrats’ nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania. But their spiritual leader was Republican Donald Trump.“He recognized there’s some problems we need to solve,” said McGinty, who is challenging Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R), a free-trade advocate. “One, we have to stop bad trade agreements. . . . And two, we have to take the Chinese on when they manipulate their currency and dump goods in our markets.” Just two days earlier, Trump had delivered a blistering speech at an aluminum recycling plant near Pittsburgh in which he called U.S. trade policies a ­“politician-made disaster” that has betrayed the working class. (read article)

Teachers Unions Defeat Education Reform in California — Again
By Susan Berry, June 30, 2016, Breitbart News
This week, California teachers unions defeated a bill that attempted to address the process by which teachers are retained and fired in the state. Assembly Bill 934, introduced by former teacher Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Cncord), fell short of the five votes needed for approval to pass out of committee. The measure, in its original form, would have provided school officials with more time to assess less competent teachers prior to giving them full job protections, or tenure. The legislation would have also accelerated the termination process for teachers who were referred for professional support to improve their skills, yet failed to do so. (read article)

California bullet train, Delta tunnels: Jerry Brown’s pet projects face threat from ballot measure
By Paul Rogers, June 30, 2016, Mercury News
Two of Gov. Jerry Brown’s favorite projects — building a high-speed rail system and a pair of massive tunnels under the Delta — face a serious threat if California voters pass a measure heading for the November ballot. The “No Blank Checks Initiative,” bankrolled with $4.5 million from Stockton farmer and businessman Dean Cortopassi, would require a public vote on any state project in which $2 billion or more in revenue bonds would be issued. And since both the bullet train and twin-tunnels projects would most likely require that kind of financing, voters could ultimately get a chance to decide their fate. Although it has received less attention than many of the others, Cortopassi’s measure could be the most significant in the long term and have a huge impact on the governor’s legacy. It’s also setting up a major battle involving taxpayer groups on one side and labor unions and business organizations on the other. (read article)

UPS, pilots union reach tentative deal on five-year labor contract
By Chris Otts, June 30, 2016, WDRB
After more than two years of mediation, UPS Airlines and its pilot union have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year labor contract. UPS and the Independent Pilots Association announced the agreement in a press release Thursday. They did disclose the specifics of the contract, which needs to be ratified by a majority vote of the pilots union’s 2,600 members. “The comprehensive agreement provides for improvements across all sections of the contract,” the parties said in the release.  The union’s last contract with UPS ran through Dec. 31, 2011 and the two sides had been trying to reach a new labor agreement since. In March 2014, the talks moved to mediation before the National Mediation Board, a U.S. government agency. Sticking points included wages, healthcare, pensions and flight scheduling, among other issues. (read article)

Christen: Project Labor Agreements are bad for Santa Clara County taxpayers
By Eric Christen, June 29, 2016, Mercury News
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors once again has voted to require all construction contractors, workers and apprentices to effectively be union in order to work on county financed projects. They did this by mandating that a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) be “agreed” to with trade unions as a condition of building county funded projects. The supervisors approved a PLA policy for contracts $10 million and above five years ago but in June voted to lower that threshold to $2 million. Apparently, too many projects are still getting built by nonunion labor, so big labor special-interests demanded the supervisors just give them a monopoly on everything. (read article)

Historic Agreement Paves Way for Alliance Between Labor and Environmentalists
By Tom Dalzell, June 29, 2016, Huffington Post 
For too long, the interests of labor and environmental groups have cleaved through the Democratic Party. The transition to clean energy has stressed this relationship further: as carbon-based sources of power come under fire, the union jobs that go along with them (workers at power plants) are being replaced by low-wage, non-union positions (think solar panel installers, who frequently make minimum wage). This trend has contributed to the hollowing out of the middle class, and has been watched with unease by those concerned with income inequality. That’s why last week’s agreement to phase out the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant – and take care of the workers there – is historic. It provides a new model for labor and environmentalists – one that provides green power without tossing aside middle-class jobs. (read article)

Labor Watch: ‘Release Time’ Forces Taxpayers to Pay for Union Work: In effect, you’re paying union dues when you pay your taxes
By CRC Staff, June 29, 2016, Capital Research Center
A case argued recently before the U.S. Supreme Court threw a spotlight on one of the worst abuses committed by government-employee unions and their allies: the practice of union officials charging taxpayers for time they spend on union business. Justice Antonin Scalia was expected to provide the crucial fifth vote for plaintiffs in the case. After Scalia’s death in February, the vote was tied at 4 to 4, which leaves the lower court’s pro-union/anti-worker ruling in effect. Unions had prepared for the expected loss by putting money aside. Now that money can be used to get pro-union politicians elected in 2016 and beyond. In These Times, a socialist/union publication, reported that “the ‘rainy day’ savings that many unions made in anticipation of an adverse decision can now be used as a ‘Scalia Dividend’ to be invested in new campaigns.” (read article)

California judge blocks move to cap hospital executive pay
By Barrett Newkirk, June 29, 2016, The Desert Sun
A state judge has blocked a labor union’s effort for a ballot initiative asking California voters to cap hospital executive pay at $450,000. Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown sided with the California Hospital Association when he ruled June 23 that SEIU United Healthcare Workers West’s support for the measure violated an agreement between the union and hospital association. The SEIU in May submitted nearly 650,000 signatures to the California Secretary of State’s Office with the hope of getting the question before voters in November. If approved, the measure would have forbid California hospitals from paying top executives more than $450,000, the same annual salary as the president of the United States. (read article)

Teachers Union and Hedge Funds War Over Pension Billions
By Brody Mullin, June 28, 2016, The Wall Street Journal
Daniel Loeb, Paul Singer and dozens of other hedge-fund managers have poured millions of dollars into promoting charter schools in New York City and into groups that want to revamp pension plans for government workers, including teachers. The leader of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, sees some of the proposals, in particular the pension issue, as an attack on teachers. She also has influence over more than $1 trillion in public-teacher pension plans, many of which traditionally invest in hedge funds. It is a recipe for a battle for the ages. Ms. Weingarten started by targeting hedge-fund managers she deemed a threat to teachers and urged unions to yank money from their funds. Then she moved to Wall Street as a whole. Her union federation is funding a lobbying campaign to eliminate the “carried-interest” tax rate on investment income earned by many money managers. (read article)

Supreme Court denies rehearing to major union case
By Sean Higgins, June 28, 2016, Washington Examiner
The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the plaintiffs in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association a rehearing, ending the possibly that the court will re-examine whether public sector unions should have the right to force payment from workers who do not wish to be members. The case had once been one of the most high-profile of the Supreme Court’s current term, with many legal observers thinking it could fundamentally rewrite labor law, weakening unions in the process. Instead, the court announced in April it was deadlocked, 4-4, in the case. That meant a lower court ruling upholding current law allowing unions to demand the fees would stand. (read article)

Labor unions file lawsuit challenging ‘right-to-work’ law
By Associative Press, June 28, 2016, Herald-Dispatch
Labor unions from around the state have filed petitions in Kanawha Circuit Court challenging West Virginia’s new “right-to-work” law as an illegal taking of union property and resources. The lawsuit, filed Monday by 11 unions, contends that the Workplace Freedom Act is intended to discourage union membership by “enabling nonmembers of unions to get union services for free,” reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. The law was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. However, it was enacted into law by override votes in the House of Delegates. The legislation allows employees in union shops to opt out of paying union dues. One intent of the law, according to the lawsuit, is to discourage employees from joining unions. (read article)

 

How Public Officials Can Reduce the Burden of Unionized Firefighters

What started in Stanton, California as an anomaly is spreading quickly across North Orange County – the push to create local sales taxes in order to pay off the rising pay and benefits of public employees.

Stanton voters passed a one-percent sales tax in 2014, giving residents in one of OC’s poorest cities the county’s highest sales tax. But in the last several days, the enthusiasm for this most regressive of taxes has spread to Westminster, Fountain Valley and La Palma, and always for the same reason: public employee compensation.

Stanton councilmember David Shawver is elated, perhaps because he’s no longer alone. “The 2014 sales-tax increase saved the city of Stanton’s life,” Shawver told the Orange County Register last week. “The tax will be a really big thing for Westminster. They will see a regeneration of their community.”

In those cities, as in Stanton, the same dire warnings are broadcast from City Hall: The end is near. We’ve cut every other city service imaginable, and if you don’t pay more in sales taxes now, you’ll lose vital public-safety services – the police and firefighters who represent the thin line between civilization and Darwinian struggle.

When asked about this problem, many city officials respond that for all their apparent authority, they’re really impotent. They’re trapped by the rising pay and benefits of government workers, especially those who are unionized, and especially those in unions of police and firefighters.

A Stanton official told me there’s no way to change the cost of sheriff’s deputies and firefighters. The county sets the rate – averaging around $236,000 per year for firefighters and $189,000 for deputies. Stanton just pays.

“There’s absolutely nothing we can do about that,” the official said.

That’s absolutely wrong. The City of Stanton and its neighbors have an amazing opportunity in the midst of their crisis. And the U.S. military provides part of the answer.

20160630-CPC-SwaimFirefighters
U.S. Navy Firefighters in action
(Source: U.S. Navy)

For years, the U.S. has run on the assumption that a relatively small number of career professionals can mass-produce the world’s most powerful soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. In 16 weeks or less, for example, the Army outfits, trains and deploys men and women around the world. It arms them with life-saving and death-dealing equipment and techniques. It counts on them to carry out their missions in the most dangerous conditions imaginable. Bravery, loyalty and resilience are standard.

In exchange for this exceptional demand, we nevertheless pay our service people very little – about $1500 per month. After four years, most enlistees are discharged and pursue other careers. The military expects that only a few will stay on to rise through the ranks of officers and noncommissioned officers who oversee the recruitment, training, support and management of new trainees. Their leadership is invaluable, but the military may at its discretion decide to reduce benefits – even retroactively – or terminate employment.

The Department of Defense isn’t perfect. The scandal over veterans’ health care, the bloat, the crony-capitalist contracts and the politicians’ ham-fisted use of force are real. But if we can train 18-year-olds to handle lethal force and million-dollar equipment in a combat zone, we can train young people to put out fires – or, as is more likely in Orange County, to respond to medical emergencies.

We could pay these firefighters well, better than their military counterparts. And at the end of four years, we could thank them for their service and let them pursue their bliss – to sign on as firefighters in wealthier cities still wedded to the old model. Or they could move on to work or college. It would be cheaper to spend more – to pay for their health care and offer tuition support for several years, for instance – than to turn them into careerists.

Instead, for decades, we’ve chosen to hire high school graduates who win the firefighting lottery. Thousands apply for just a few openings anywhere. The reason for the long lines: The winners will work a few days per week in exchange for about $236,000 per year, early retirement and annual pensions of about 90 percent of their highest annual pay.

You’d have to be a millionaire to clock that kind of income in retirement. But our cities and counties hand it out as standard procedure.

Our elected officials can rarely see a way out.

That’s why Stanton – and Westminster, La Habra, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Placentia and hundreds of other California cities – are so deeply troubled. For decades, police and firefighters have backed (with their time and money) political candidates who deliver on the promise to sign off on higher pay and benefits. The sweetheart deals have driven countless Orange County cities toward insolvency.

Stanton can survive if it innovates. And, sure, it may seem a long-shot to expect that the city councilmembers elected to represent government employees will have the courage to represent the people instead. But there’s an old saying about necessity as the mother of invention – or as they say in bureaucratic circles, urgency functioning as the distaff progenitor of creativity.

 *   *   *

Will Swaim is the VP of Communications at the California Policy Center.

Fresno Cop Deals Blow To SEIU… And Everyone Shakes Hands

I met Eulalio Gomez in Bakersfield earlier this year. The correctional officer from Fresno was part of an MLK Day gathering of public sector union reformers, and I was there to document.

Each California employee present had spent time and resources challenging their unions in one form or another. They came to compare war wounds and most had battle fatigue. Bolstered by the support of their peers, they went back into their respective corners of the state to continue their battles.

Six months later, Gomez is among the first to run a victory lap. An election spearheaded by Gomez has caused Fresno County’s largest union to lose members to the new, 900-member Fresno County Public Safety Association, which just won the right to represent workers formerly of the Service Employees International Union. 

Gomez, the association president, says his group is just focused on members.

“Wages and benefits only,” he says.

“We fought to obtain our independence and self-governance. In a free market, consumers are free to buy a service they like. No one should be forced to pay for a service they no longer want. I determined that they had poor customer service and were not accountable to members.”

According to a website statement from SEIU Local 521 president, Riley Talford, the SEIU is “disappointed (but) ready to stand together as a united coalition of workers to build a better future for all Fresno County employees.”

As a Californian from back in the day, those thoughtful words indicate mud-slinging is so passe.

I caught up with Eulalio, and we had a chat.

 

 

Eulalio Gomez – President of the Fresno County Public Safety Association

 

 

HSC: “What happened?”

EG: “We had a decertification election from SEIU in Fresno. Two elections occurred in eight months, and we won both of them. We are a union that represents members, without social agendas. We don’t want to fund ‘black lives matters’ and immigration reform events.”

HSC: “How do you as a Mexican-American explain to critics that you’re not racist in not supporting social justice agendas?”

EG: “It’s simple: I’m not racist. The fundamental issue is that is has nothing to do with the employees of the County of Fresno. If folks want to be part of it, that’s not a problem for me. But they should fund it out of their own pocket like everyone does extracurricular activities. Our group is largely sheriff correctional officers and the movement has caused a degrading of perception to members of the public against uniformed personnel; it has caused acrimony at law enforcement officials, creating anarchy and often inciting violent acts against the law enforcement community.”

HSC: “How do you explain ‘bad apples’ don’t represent everyone?”

EG: “We do acknowledge there are some issues with our brothers and sisters on the streets, but that does not represent law enforcement as a whole. People should be judged by their individual actions not by the uniforms they wear. So it’s almost like people believe if you’re in a uniform, you’re bad.”

HSC: “To the kid on the street, who says he’s being judged for his color, how do you respond?”

EG: “I believe you’re judged by your actions and not by the color of your skin… We should all follow the same rules.”

HSC: “In Bakersfield, you told me you’re doing this for your children.”

EG: “Yes because I’m doing this to make our community safer… we address local issues only. At the end of the day, all the money generated from the Fresno County Public Safety Association will stay right here locally. It won’t be going to D.C.”

HSC: “What would you like to tell Californians?”

EG: “If you are a public sector employee disenfranchised with your representation, take control of your future and change it and get involved. Either remove it or change it.”

HSC: “How long have you been fighting to create your own union?”

EG: “Five years.”

HSC: “What did you tell your children about your fight?”

EG: “I showed them the flyers that were being dispersed at my job calling me a ‘bad apple,’ ‘liar,’ and I explained to them why. I explained they are willing to use all avenues to stop the loss of dues. They understood the politics. I affiliate as an independent: I don’t want to be labeled, and I don’t want to be forced to support an issue based on my affiliation. We all have our own minds and can determine what’s best for ourselves and our family.”

HSC: “Are people starting to call you the Erin Brokovich of ‘Choose Your Union?’”

EG: “No. That title goes to a DMV clerk named Mariam Noujaim. She’s from Egypt, and I just love her tenacity and her personality and ‘break the door down’ attitude. I respect her for challenging her union on transparency and competition. She works hard and she doesn’t care if the doors are not open, she goes through the door.”

HSC: “Isn’t that the American way?”

EG: “Indeed.”

About the Author: Heidi Siegmund Cuda is a former Investigative Producer for Fox 11 News in Los Angeles and the Creator and Host of the Economic Series, “Saving the California Dream.” She is currently producing and hosting the series, “Ripoff Report Investigates.”

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Does California shutdown mean the end of nuclear power? Not so fast.
By Jessica Mendoza, June 28, 2016, Christian Science Monitor
When California’s largest electric utility announced last week that it would close the state’s last operational nuclear power plant, supporters were quick to call the moment a potential game changer for America’s energy future. And the move, in which state regulators nudged Pacific Gas & Electric Co. toward a plan to close its Diablo Canyon reactor, comes as other states have also been closing nuclear plants or planning to do so. Solar and wind power are surging, and PG&E said the Diablo Canyon power will be replaced by renewables. Some new reactors are being built. Some governors even in other politically liberal states are trying to save old reactors rather than scrap them. And though cheap natural gas may have called the economics of nuclear plants into question, environmentalists are divided over whether a nuclear phaseout would be wise. (read article)

‘Labor Unions Now Play a Particularly Boutique Role in the Economy’
By Elizabeth Nolan Brown, June 28, 2016, Reason (blog)
As president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) from 1996-2010, Andy Stern was called “the nation’s most politically influential union president.” Now Stern believes that labor unions are increasingly irrelevant. “Labor unions now play a particularly boutique role in the economy,” he told The Atlantic. “I believe that this is not our father’s or our grandfather’s economy, that the 21st century will not be employer-managed,” Stern said. “It’s going to be self-managed, because the growth in alternative work relationships—contingent, freelance, gig, whatever you want to call it—is clearly going to increase. Stern left traditional labor organizing because he “could not figure out anymore how a shrinking labor movement, a changing economy, a changing structure of work” could lead to economic security for Americans. (read article)

Justices reject request to rehear union case that tied 4-4
By Associated Press, June 28, 2016, The Denver Post
The Supreme Court has turned down a long-shot request to hold new arguments in a major labor union case that ended in a 4-4 tie. The justices on Tuesday denied without comment a petition from a group of California teachers urging the court to reconsider the case once a new justice is confirmed. The court almost never rehears cases. It would have taken five justices to agree to a rehearing. The tie vote in March was a victory for unions in a case they once seemed all but certain to lose before Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. (read article)

Labor unions file lawsuit challenging ‘right-to-work’ law
By Associated Press, June 28, 2016, Huntington Herald Dispatch
Labor unions from around the state have filed petitions in Kanawha Circuit Court challenging West Virginia’s new “right-to-work” law as an illegal taking of union property and resources. The lawsuit, filed Monday by 11 unions, contends that the Workplace Freedom Act is intended to discourage union membership by “enabling nonmembers of unions to get union services for free,” reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. The petition cites other issues with the right-to-work law, including a definitions section that seems to limit the law to public employee unions. Some predict that the case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court, including Josh Sword, secretary of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, one of the plaintiffs. (read article)

Assemblywoman Bonilla, a former teacher, takes on the powerful union
By George Skelton, June 27, 2016, Los Angeles Times
School reformers keep suffering setbacks in California — first in court, now in the Legislature. In Sacramento, the California Teachers Assn. — arguably the most powerful labor union in the state — is practically unbeatable because of its ability to spend millions supporting or opposing a legislative candidate. It’s an intimidating force. Reformers — those trying to make it easier to fire bad teachers and retain good ones — were jubilant when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 2014 threw out tenure and other job protections.  But in April, a state appeals court agreed with the CTA and threw out the lower court ruling. Meanwhile, in the Legislature, a former high school English teacher introduced a bill that included many of the provisions sought by Students Matter and the Vergara plaintiffs. Last week, however, the measure was substantially watered down by the author, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), under pressure from the teachers union. She had no choice if any of her proposal was to survive. In its original form, the measure would have reduced the importance of teacher seniority in layoffs. (read article)

The Case for Unions to Support a Universal Basic Income
By Bourree Lam, June 27, 2016, The Atlantic
Andy Stern has been part of the U.S. labor movement for decades. He was formerly the president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million American workers. During his tenure at the SEIU, he was hailed as “the nation’s most politically influential union president,” which made his resignation in 2010 something of a surprise. Stern’s new book, Raising the Floor, details his views on the changing nature of work in America and explains why Stern has come around to supporting a universal basic income—an idea that has gained a lot of traction in the past year when it comes to media coverage, policy debates, and efforts to study its efficacy. (read article)

MBTA union may agree to wage cuts for new worker
By Nicole Dungca, June 27, 2016, The Boston Globe
The leader of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s largest union said Monday the labor group would be willing to agree to pay cuts for new workers this coming year and lower raises in the future, as part of a deal that would stop the T from privatizing a number of jobs. As the MBTA grapples with an $80 million deficit for the 2017 fiscal year, the agency is pursuing privatization and voluntary retirement and separation packages, while considering possible future layoffs. But Carmen’s Union officials say they’re willing to agree to lower future raises and other concessions —which would add up to about $24 million over the next four years — to make sure many jobs aren’t outsourced. (read article)

Big labor breaks its promise to California taxpayers
By Michael Saltsman, June 26, 2016, OC Register
The people of California were told that a $15 minimum wage was not just a boost for employees – it was good for taxpayers, too. It’s a promise that the “Fight for $15” has carried across the country. David Rolf, one of the architects of the campaign, said explicitly in his book of the same name that a $15 minimum wage “would substantially reduce dependence on government welfare programs.” With the ink barely dry on California’s groundbreaking law, the credibility of this talking point is already crumbling. The popular labor argument goes something like this: Employers who fail to pay higher starting wages force their employees to rely on public assistance. Last year, San Diego State University economists examined 35 years of data and found that minimum wage increases cause no net reduction in participation in (or spending on) social welfare programs. (read article)

Rail unions fail to extend NJ Transit strike deadline
By Larry Higgs, June 24, 2016, NJ.com
Unions representing NJ Transit locomotive engineers and conductors as for Friday evening failed to extend a strike deadline to mid-July, putting commuters under the threat of losing rail service by June 30. The National Mediation Board, which supervises railroad labor negotiations, asked the agency and two rail unions on Tuesday to extend their no strike/no lockout pledge until July 16. NJ Transit had earlier agreed to the deadline. “The unions representing locomotive engineers and conductors have ignored NJ Transit’s agreement to extend their ‘cooling off period’ until July 16,” said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. If there is no agreement and a strike or lock-out occurs, Congress could impose its own settlement under Federal Railway Labor law. Such a settlement would be proposed as a bill. (read article)

Supreme Court Delivers Bad News For Union Hoping To Bag Illegals
By Connor D. Wolf, June 23, Daily Caller
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against an executive order granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants Thursday in what is likely a major blow to union membership. Labor unions have been suffering a sharp decline in membership for decades. President Barack Obama signed a 2014 executive order opening the door to millions of new potential union members. The Supreme Court promptly closed that door by ruling that the president overstepped his authority. Union bosses claim their fight is about helping immigrants get the rights they deserve. Unions have already started to pave the road to get the millions of illegal immigrants into their ranks. They have set up training, workshop and recruitment programs all specifically aimed at the illegal immigrants that may be eligible for amnesty under the executive order. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leadership also condemned the ruling. (read article)

Sacramento judge moves to cancel a November ballot initiative limiting salaries of hospital CEOs
By John Meyers, June 23, 2016, Los Angeles Times
An effort to cap the salaries of hospital executives may be blocked from California’s Nov. 8 ballot, after a Sacramento judge wrote Thursday that its labor union backers broke a political peace treaty with hospitals. If upheld, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown’s ruling would force Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West to withdraw an initiative that would limit executive compensation at nonprofit hospitals to $450,000 a year. SEIU-UHW turned in almost 650,000 voter signatures on the measure last month , and it’s likely to qualify for the ballot next week. “Unfortunately, the voters of California may be denied their ability to decide whether someone running a charity can make $5 million or $10 million a year,” said SEIU-UHW spokesman Steve Trossman. (read article)

CPS to file labor charge against union over April 1 job action
By Lauren FitzPatrick, June 22, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday announced its intention to file an unfair labor charge against the Chicago Teachers Union over its treatment of teachers who did not participate in the union’s one-day job action on April 1. On that day, union members gathered downtown and marched in the streets in protest, calling on CPS, state lawmakers, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to find long-term funding solutions for public schools. CPS considered that an “illegal one-day strike,” and accuses the union of “forcibly expelling members who exercised their right to refuse to participate.” (read article)

Autoworker Union Accuses Volkswagen Of Violating 2014 Contract 
By Connor D. Wolf, June 21, 2016, Daily Caller
The United Auto Workers (UAW) accused Volkswagen Tuesday of ignoring a commitment it made to organized labor in 2014. UAW and Volkswagen have been in a bitter labor dispute for the last couple of years. Volkswagen was originally open to the idea of its workforce organizing, but opposed the union for trying to split its employees between union and nonunion. The automaker has instead advocated for a full vote of the more than 1,400 plant workers. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel released a document allegedly showing the automaker ignored a pledge it made in 2014. Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson countered the claim by noting the written statement was not a contract. Rather, it was a policy to allow a formal meeting between the automaker and union leadership. (read article)

 

Teachers Union Chases "Teach for America" Out of San Francisco

It should be an article of faith by now that in California, whatever the teachers union wants, the teachers union gets. It is nonetheless surprising that their reach might extend all the way to a recent decision by the San Francisco Unified School District board to reject fifteen talented teachers who were part of “Teach for America.”

The Teach for America program, similar to the Peace Corps, attracts some of the top college graduates in the United States to spend two years teaching students in underprivileged communities. Not only are these highly motivated and underpaid teachers committing themselves to work in schools with chronic teacher shortages, but they typically teach the subjects for which the profession has the hardest time finding teachers – in science, math, special education, and bilingual classrooms.

Never mind all that. Go away. Never mind that San Francisco Unified needs to fill 500 teaching jobs by August in the midst of a statewide teachers shortage. The union can’t accept “cheap labor” that might undermine their lock on the teaching profession.

If you review the candidate questionnaires filled out by San Francisco Unified’s president, Matt Haney, or its vice president, Shamann Walton, it isn’t too hard to figure out who pulls their strings. Haney’s in-depth answers failed to include teacher accountability as one of his priorities. He also does not support having charter schools as “a central part of our strategy to deliver high quality education.” But Haney does favor project labor agreements and increasing teacher salaries. As for Walton, the questionnaire we could find for her, delivered to the Laborers Local 261, documents her positions on such academic priorities as the right to an abortion, affirmative action, marriage equality, rent control and sanctuary cities. Needless to say, all of her positions on these non academic matters conform to those of the California Teachers Association.

If you review salaries and benefits for San Francisco Unified School District employees, you quickly realize why classroom teachers are arguably underpaid. There isn’t any money left after the bureaucrats get their share. Any ambitious public education professional quickly realizes two things: (1) Do whatever the union tells you to do, and (2) get an administrative job in an office, where you’ll make 50% more, won’t have to teach kids during the day or grade papers at night, and still only work 180 days a year. In the case of San Francisco Unified’s 2014 payroll, you have to scroll through the salary records for 251 bureaucrats before you get to the first employee with the title “Regular Classroom Teacher.” Go figure.

The teachers unions have created pretty much every mess that exists in California’s public schools today. They successfully push for legislation that requires the addition of extensive bureaucratic staff, then bemoan the lack of funds to hire classroom teachers. They complain that classroom teachers are underpaid, but oppose tying compensation to performance. The union blames “Wall Street” for the financial challenges facing pensions, while simultaneously pushing for pension benefits that can only be justified if you believe the corrupt Wall Street debt bubble will never burst. The union accuses charter schools of “privatization for profit,” ignoring the fact that most charters are nonprofits, sustained by donors of diverse ideologies who are united only by a passionate desire to rescue America’s youth from a failed system.

In an editorial published on June 22 entitled “San Francisco was wrong to chase out Teach for America,” even the liberal San Francisco Chronicle was unequivocal. “So who would object to this program?,” they wrote, “Teacher unions, quite vociferously.”

Herein lies the hope for those who still believe that achieving quality education is a nonpartisan concern. Because conscientious people can disagree on issues of abortion, affirmative action, marriage equality, rent control and sanctuary cities, but still vociferously agree that the California Teachers Association is an out-of-control behemoth with a record of placing the interests of bad teachers ahead of the interests of school children.

Someday liberals, along with reticent conservative allies, will join with more outspoken reformers in admitting that nearly every problem in our public schools are merely symptoms, and that the rotten illness at the core is the teachers union. When that day comes, there will be hope for our children, and the future of California.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Property Taxes to Increase by 13 Percent in Coming Year

In Chicago, escalating property taxes are headline news.  With the average property tax bill due to go up by 13 percent – and more increases in subsequent years virtually guaranteed – home ownership in the Windy City is in deep peril. No one seems happy except the moving companies.

This drastic tax increase is the result of bad decisions by corrupt officials who have caved to city employee pension demands that are unsustainable without massive borrowing. And that borrowing will be paid for by massive property tax hikes. But if homeowners are considering fleeing exorbitant taxation, they may have to travel a good distance. Illinois residents, even without the Chicago pension tax, are already paying the highest effective property tax rate in the nation at 2.67 percent, according to a recent study by CoreLogic, an Irvine, California-based provider of data to the financial and real estate industries.

Nationally, the study shows the median property tax rate is 1.31 percent of value.

In addition to Illinois, states with median property tax rates of greater than two percent include New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas (which some may find surprising considering its reputation as a low tax state), Connecticut and Pennsylvania. On the low end is Hawaii at 0.31 percent.

California, at 1.12 percent, ranks 30th compared to other states. Tax seeking politicians and their special interest allies will likely consider this a failure. After all, thanks to them, California has the highest state sales tax, highest marginal income tax rates and, due to carbon charges, the highest gas levies in the nation. “Why shouldn’t we be number one in every tax category?” they are, no doubt, asking themselves.

California property tax rates are reasonable for one reason and one reason only – Proposition 13. Arguably the most famous of all initiatives in the history of the United States, Prop. 13 was the brainchild of the late Howard Jarvis. He led the effort to put the tax limiting measure on the ballot where it was approved by nearly two-thirds of California voters in 1978. By limiting annual property tax hikes to two percent per year, it made tax bills moderate and predictable.

Still, California property taxes are not low. Because of high property values, the median priced home now costs nearly $519,000 according to the California Association of Realtors. Thus, while our effective tax rate ranks 30th of the 50 states, when measuring property tax revenues per capita, we rank 14th. This belies government complaints that California is starved for property tax revenues.

Proposition 13 protections should not be taken for granted. Consider the cities of Stockton, Vallejo and San Bernardino which were driven into bankruptcy by officials who, like Chicago’s aldermen and mayor, agreed to inflated and unsustainable pension benefits for government workers. The difference is that Proposition 13’s tax limiting provisions prevent California cities and counties from arbitrarily increasing property taxes. At least for now.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

In Step with California’s Evolving Energy Policy, PG&E, Labor and Environmental Groups Announce Proposal to Increase Energy Efficiency
By Pacific Gas and Electric Company, June 21, 2016, Business Wire
Reflecting California’s changing energy landscape, PG&E today announced a Joint Proposal with labor and leading environmental organizations that would increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables and storage beyond current state mandates while phasing out PG&E’s production of nuclear power in California by 2025. The Joint Proposal would replace power produced by two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) with a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage. (read article)

Perfect storm rains money on California legislative races
By Laurel Rosenhall, June 20, 2016, CALmatters
Some of the outsized money spent on California legislative races this year came pouring through the mail slot of voter Michael Johnson’s home, arriving in the form of two or three glossy ads a day in advance of the June primary. Most of the ads weren’t from candidates. They were from interest groups that have business before the Legislature, running their own campaigns to elect a favored Assembly contender. “Literally this felt like an election not between these candidates but between these special interests,” said Johnson, a former health insurance director who lives in Hollywood. Interest groups have more at stake this year than usual, and they are spending accordingly. (read article)

Justices rap Labor Dept. over change in overtime pay rules
By Editing Team, June 20, 2016, Albany Times Union
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Labor Department must do a better job of explaining why it is changing a longstanding policy on whether certain workers deserve overtime pay. The justices asked a lower court to take another look at whether federal law allows the agency to require overtime for people working as service advisers at auto dealerships. The 6-2 ruling came in a case involving Encino Motorcars, a California auto dealership that claims its service advisers are similar to car salesmen or mechanics who are exempt from overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act. A federal district court sided with the dealer. But the federal appeals court in San Francisco deferred to a 2011 Labor Department rule stating that service advisers are not exempt from overtime. (read article)

Grocery workers union votes to strike during labor talks
By Jeffrey Thomas DeSocio, June 20, 2016, FOX 11 Los Angeles
Unionized grocery workers across Southern California will cast ballots Monday in a strike-authorization vote as labor negotiations drag. Thousands of members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 will cast ballots throughout the day. If the workers vote in favor, it does not necessarily mean a strike will be held, only that the union’s leaders have the backing of members to call for a walkout if a deal can’t be reached. Voting is expected to begin at 8 a.m. and continue to 8 p.m. The union represents workers for Ralphs and Albertsons — including Vons, Pavilions and Safeway. Ralphs officials said the company is hopeful of achieving a labor deal. (read article)

California Democratic Party Supports Legalizing Marijuana
By Chris Jennewein, June 20, 2016, Times of San Diego
The California Democratic Party‘s executive board voted Sunday to support a measure expected to be on the November ballot that would legalize marijuana and hemp. The board voted to support measures on the November ballot that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for convicted murders and increase the required vote to two-thirds for the Legislature to amend a law related to federal Medi-Cal matching funds. The board also voted to support a $9 billion bond measure for elementary, middle school, high school, charter school, vocational education and community college facilities on the November ballot. (read article)

Labor union declares newspaper downsizing due to ‘right wing plot’
By Rick Moran, June 19, 2016, American Thinker
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is one of the most far left labor unions in the country, having supported the idea of “community radio stations” and a “living wage.” Now, a petition on the union’s website accuses a large media company of taking part in a “far right conspiracy” because the newspapers owned by the company are downsizing. The Communications Workers of America is fighting efforts to cut staff at the Denver Post and other newspapers by accusing Alden Global Capital, which controls Digital First Media, of a “far-right” conspiracy that involves jettisoning unfriendly reporters. (read article)

Major Labor Group to Endorse Clinton as Sanders Holdouts Dwindle
By Alex Seitz-Wald, June 16, 2016, NBC News
The AFL-CIO is set to endorse Hillary Clinton Thursday, but a handful of unions within the massive labor federation are holding out support for the presumptive Democratic nominee and instead backing Bernie Sanders – with some even vowing to stick with her challenger until the bitter end. The executive committee of the AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million active and retired workers, will vote on a presidential announcement during a meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Sanders has refuses to concede the race, but Clinton is expected to easily secure the necessary support from the federation’s 56 affiliate unions to win the endorsement — including from several that had previously backed Sanders. (read article)

The fight isn’t over for farm worker overtime
By David Bacon, June 17, 2016, Peoples World
For the state’s first hundred-plus years, certain unspoken rules governed California politics. In a state where agriculture produced more wealth than any industry, the first rule was that growers held enormous power. Tax dollars built giant water projects that turned the Central and Imperial Valleys into some of the nation’s most productive farmland. Land ownership was concentrated in huge corporate plantation-like farms. Agribusiness kept farm labor cheap, at wages far below those of people in the state’s growing urban centers. When workers sought to change their economic condition, grower power in rural areas was near absolute-strikes were broken and unions were kept out. (read article)

California Legislature approves $171 billion state budget
By Chris Megerian, June 15, 2016, Los Angeles Times
With concerns about the potential for another recession casting a shadow over this year’s budget negotiations, California lawmakers approved a new $170.9-billion spending plan on Wednesday that increases some funding for social services but stashes more away in a rainy-day fund. Although lawmakers are finishing their work on this year’s budget, some of the most consequential decisions for the state’s financial future may not be made until the November election. Voters will likely be asked whether to extend higher taxes on the wealthy, increase the levy on cigarettes or borrow billions of dollars to build and renovate schools. (read article)

California’s Bullet Train Was Born Doomed And Will Never Be Completed
By Chuck DeVore, June 15, 2016, Forbes
In November 2008 California voters approved borrowing $10 billion to build a high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In the official ballot pamphlet, proponents claimed that the rail project would be funded with a combination of federal dollars and private investment “WITHOUT RAISING TAXES.” Now, almost eight years later, not a penny of private money has been secured, federal funds are increasingly scarce, and California tax money is drying up as well, meaning that the project will never be completed. California’s high-speed rail project is a textbook case of crony corporatism—where powerful interests convince lawmakers to bestow valuable favors at taxpayer expense. The ballot initiative had been scheduled for the 2004 election, but was delayed twice by liberal lawmakers over fears that California voters, concerned for the state’s often precarious finances, would reject the project as a costly luxury. (read article)

Slow job growth, Brexit vote make Federal Reserve cautious about hiking interest rate
By Jim Puzzanghera and Don Lee, June 15, 2016, Los Angeles Times
Federal Reserve policymakers on Wednesday held a key interest rate steady to take more time to determine if a surprising slowdown in job growth last month was an anomaly or a warning sign of trouble ahead for the U.S. economy. Fed Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen also said officials were worried about the potential economic effect of next week’s vote by Britain on whether to remain in the European Union. A decision to exit the EU – dubbed Brexit – could rattle financial markets. Still, Yellen tried to convey continued optimism about the U.S. economy, saying a rate hike could come as soon as next month if job growth rebounds. (read article)

US Department of Labor Asking Federal Court to Order New Election of Leadership at WMATA’s Major Union
By Scott MacFarlane, June 14, 2016, NBC Washington
The U.S. Department of Labor is asking a federal court to order a new election of union leadership at WMATA’s major union, the Local 689 Amalgamated Transit Union. The agency is questioning the legitimacy of the process used to elect union leaders in December 2015, which re-elected union president Jackie Jeter. The Department of Labor alleges Local 689 failed to allow other candidates a proper opportunity to run for her job. The Department of Labor, in court filings Tuesday, said Local 689 membership sought and voted to hold a re-election for leadership positions in January 2016, but were denied the opportunity to do so. The federal government is asking the court to order a re-vote for union leaders, personally supervised by the U.S. labor secretary. (read article)

 

How Gov't Unions and Crony Capitalists Exploit Global Warming Concerns

If anyone is looking for evidence that government unions use their immense influence to support the growth of an authoritarian state, look no further than their unequivocal support for global warming “mitigation,” and all attendant agencies and laws to support that goal.

In 2006 California’s union-controlled legislature passed AB32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act,” a measure that was touted as a trailblazing breakthrough in the dire challenge to avoid catastrophic climate change. The premise behind AB32 is that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant, and that eliminating CO2 emissions is necessary to prevent the planet’s climate from overheating, with all the apocalyptic consequences; rising oceans inundating coastal regions, epic droughts cascading through the world’s fragile forests and killing them, extreme storms, acidic oceans, collapsing agriculture – the end of life as we know it.

Maybe that’s true – and maybe not – but how it’s being managed is a corrupt, misanthropic, epic scam.

If anyone is looking for evidence that government unions and crony capitalists work together – contrary to the conventional wisdom that presents the appearance that they are in conflict – again look no further than their shared support for global warming mitigation, expressed in the legislative mandate to reduce CO2 emissions. AB 32 implements this by forcing industrial entities to purchase permits to emit progressively smaller quantities of CO2, via an auction process that is expected to raise $20 billion per year to finance renewable energy investments.

Think about how government unions will benefit from all this money:

  • Transit workers will claim a share because they will be getting cars off the road.
  • Firefighters will claim more fires are because of global warming and demand more funds – when in reality most severe wildfires are the result of decades of forest mismanagement and unwarranted wildfire suppression.
  • Cities will qualify for proceeds when they zone extremely high density housing.
  • Code enforcement officers will declare that the percentage of their jobs oriented towards conservation and energy/water efficiency qualifies them for a share of the proceeds.
  • Teachers will declare that the percentage of their curricula oriented towards climate education qualifies them for a share of the proceeds.
  • More generally, municipalities will collect more property tax as restrictive zoning elevates the cost of housing.

Think about how crony corporations and corrupt financial special interests benefit from this money:

  • Wall Street traders will set up new subsidiaries to traffic in carbon emission auctions and take a cut.
  • “Green” entrepreneurs will manufacture devices calculated to save energy and water – despite the fact that the shortages are contrived.
  • Producers of energy and water will sell at higher prices since competitive development of these resources is restricted.
  • Utilities whose profits are “decoupled” from the quantity of energy and water they deliver will increase revenue and hence their profit margins which are pegged to revenue, without having to increase services.
  • Manufacturers of noncompetitive products with no natural demand – high speed rail is a perfect example – are enriched via hundreds of billions of investment for their supposedly greener and cleaner solutions.
  • More generally, artificial scarcity causes asset bubbles which benefits wealthy investors and pension funds, but impoverishes ordinary workers.

Even if CO2 is a threat to life on earth, there is an alternative that merits discussion:

Instead of investing in “green” energy infrastructure and embedded surveillance systems to micro-manage energy consumption, California should be investing in natural gas and 5th generation nuclear power stations, desalination plants along the coast, liquid natural gas terminals, efficiency upgrades to existing high-voltage transmission lines, run-off harvesting and aquifer storage systems, upgraded aqueducts, comprehensive waste-water treatment and aquifer recharge, offshore drilling for oil and gas, widened roads and freeways, more airport runways, and buses for mass transit. These steps will result in energy, water and transportation costing everyone in California less. This will benefit businesses and consumers, and make California a magnet for investors and entrepreneurs all over the world.

And even if CO2 is a threat to life on earth, vigorous debate on that topic should be encouraged, not outlawed.

If you are an informed skeptic – something the axis of government unions and powerful financial special interests are trying to outlaw – it becomes tiresome to recite the litany of legitimate reasons that debate regarding the actual impact of anthropogenic CO2 is of critical importance. The primacy of solar cycles, the multi-decadal oscillations of ocean currents, the dubious role of water vapor as a positive feedback mechanism, the improbability of positive climate feedback in general, the uncertain role (and diversity) of aerosols, the poorly understood impact of land use changes, the failure of the ice caps to melt on schedule, the failure of climate models to account for an actual cooling of the troposphere, the fact that just the annual fluctuations in natural sources of CO2 emissions eclipse estimated human CO2 emissions by an order of magnitude. And let’s not forget – California only is responsible for 1.7% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Does any of this matter to the California Air Resources Board?

Apparently not. Nor does it matter to California’s legislature, which recently stopped just short of passing Senate Bill 1161, the Orwellian California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016. SB 1161 would have authorized prosecutors to sue fossil fuel companies, think tanks and others that have “deceived or misled the public on the risks of climate change.”

What California’s legislature ran up against, of course, was the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps they believe time is on their side. After all, even the Scalia court ruled in 2007 that CO2 is pollution, in one of the most frightening inversions of reality in U.S. history. Imagine what a court packed with Clinton appointees will come up with.

The failure to deploy clean fossil fuel solutions in the developing world, much less here in California, condemns billions of humans to further decades of poverty, misery, and unchecked population growth. Cheap energy equals prosperity equals population stabilization. Until a few years ago that hopeful process was inexorable. But in recent years, somewhere on the shores of Africa, cost-effective industrial development ran into global warming’s global mafia and was stopped in its tracks.

The consolidation of power inherent in government suppression of energy development and micromanagement of energy consumption is not only a recipe for a corporate union police state in America. It is a recipe for systemic oppression of emerging societies across the world. At the very least, the debate must continue.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

As Right-to-Work Expands, So Do Union Membership Rolls

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of an article first published in the Washington Examiner on May 4, 2016 under the title, “Right-to-work strengthens workers.”

In March, the United Auto Workers reported that its membership grew 1.3 percent in 2015. This may come as a surprise to some because a substantial number of UAW members work in right-to-work states like Michigan. But the report highlights something worker-freedom supporters — and even some UAW officials — already knew: Right-to-work can be good for unions.

A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2015, unions in what were then 25 right-to-work states gained more members than in states without the law. Membership increased by 125,000 in right-to-work states and only 91,000 in non-right-to-work-states and Washington D.C.

 

Statistics show that union membership grew more in right-to-work states than in other states.

Statistics show that union membership grew more in right-to-work states than in other states.

 

These gains come despite the fact that non-right-to-work states have over 7 million more workers than right-to-work states, according to the BLS report. The Illinois Policy Institute reports that this may be part of a long-term trend and not a one- or two-year fluke. Between 2005 and 2015, union membership grew in right-to-work states by about 1.3 percent, but fell around 9 percent in non-right-to-work states.

Six of the 10 states with the biggest increases in union membership were right-to-work. Overall, union membership increased in 16 of the nation’s 25 right-to-work states in 2015. In contrast, nine of the 16 states with shrinking membership still permit unions to collect involuntary dues or fees.

Even in states that have most recently enacted right-to-work, figures from the BLS sharply contrast with activists’ earlier warnings that unions would be devastated. For example, Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect in early 2013 — and unions gained members that year. Membership did decline in 2014, but in 2015 unions in the state added 36,000 members. In nearby Indiana, union membership did fall last year, but there are still 37,000 more union members there than when right-to-work took effect in 2012.

So how does one explain this, especially considering that today’s unions are opposed to right-to-work laws? First, it’s important to remember that right-to-work laws do nothing to diminish a union’s ability to organize a workplace or a worker’s ability to become a union member and pay dues. If employees feel that they can achieve better wages, benefits and working conditions through a union, no right-to-work law will stand in the way of them signing up for one.

It may be that right-to-work actually makes unions stronger, because unions can no longer force all workers to financially support them. To win new members and keep current ones, unions in right-to-work states need to be more attentive and responsive to what workers care about most. In some ways, these unions face similar incentives to meet workers’ needs as any other business in the service industry does.

The UAW Secretary-Treasurer, Gary Casteel, found that Right-to-Work assisted his union recruitment efforts.

 

Some union officers even say right-to-work helps their recruitment efforts. Gary Casteel, now the UAW secretary-treasurer, said in 2014, when he was in charge of organizing Southern auto plants, “This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right-to-work hurts unions.”

“To me,” he continued, “it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”

UAW President Dennis Williams has echoed these sentiments, telling the Detroit News, “I’ve always believed that if you do your job representing people, that people will be there to support you.”

Whether it’s by making the argument to organize new companies easier, as Casteel suggests, or simply because right-to-work states have faster job growth that leads to more opportunities for union jobs, unions are doing better in these states.

All these examples suggest that right-to-work can strengthen unions. It appears to do so by restoring unions’ incentive to earn dues the old fashioned way: by demonstrating their value to potential members, just as any other voluntary membership organization must do.

About The Author: F. Vincent Vernuccio is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Michigan. Nathan Lehman, a 2014 research intern with the Center, contributed to this article. This issue originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Labor Watch and is republished here with permission.