Union Watch Highlights

California unions stand in the way of a Texas-sized success
By Mark Hemingway, February 11, 2011, Washington Examiner
In the first half of 2010, Texas saw more small business growth than any other state in the country. During that period, it also added 178,000 jobs — twice as many as any other state. Texas was also one of only five states to add manufacturing jobs. California, on the other hand, lost more than 113,000 jobs from August 2009 to August 2010. And while Texas has seen steady job growth in recent years, California was losing jobs well before the economic downturn began in 2008. Since 2005, California has lost just under 1.3 million jobs. So what accounts for Texas’ astonishing business and job growth? (read article)

Wisconsin Governor May Call in National Guard to Quell State Workers
February 14, 2011, Newsmax.com

Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond wherever is necessary in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state employees. Walker said Friday that he hasn’t called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems that could result in a disruption of state services, like staffing at prisons. (read article)

Wisconsin May Take an Ax to State Workers’ Benefits and Their Unions
By Monica Davey and Steven Greenhouse, February 11, 2011, New York Times
Citing Wisconsin’s gaping budget shortfall for this year and even larger ones expected in the years ahead, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a sweeping plan on Friday to cut benefits for public employees in the state and to take away most of their unions’ ability to bargain. The proposal by Mr. Walker, a Republican who was elected in November after pledging that he would get public workers’ compensation “into line” with everyone else’s, is expected to receive support next week in the State Legislature, where Republicans also won control of both chambers in the fall. The prospect left union leaders, state and local employees and some Democrats stunned over the plan’s scope and what it might signal for public-sector unions in the state. (read article)

Unions Are at End of Jerry Brown’s “Big Pipe”
By Joel Fox, February 10, 2011, Fox & Hounds
Here’s what I got out of Jerry’s Brown press conference yesterday: the public employee union position is currently prevailing in the Horseshoe (the governor’s suite of offices.) Governor Brown believes his spending cut and tax extension plan should go on the ballot pretty much as is. Adding long-term budget fixes like pension reform and spending limits would weigh down the ballot too much so that all the measures, including taxes, might fall of their own weight. The unions, of course, don’t want spending limits or pension reforms and Brown doesn’t appear to want them on the ballot, either. (read article)

New Jerseyans appreciate teachers, dislike NJEA
By Tom Hester, Sr., February 9, 2011, New Jersey Newsroom
New Jerseyans, by a 62 – 17 percent margin, have a favorable opinion of public school teachers, but their opinion of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the statewide teachers’ union is 44 – 27 percent unfavorable, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. The teacher union, New Jerseyans say 52 – 36 percent, are playing a negative role in improving public education. The poll found New Jerseyans favor merit pay for teachers who do an outstanding job by 68 – 27 percent, and they favor limiting teacher tenure by 62 to 30 percent. (read article)

Public-Worker Unions Skip Albany Ad Blitz for New Tactics
By Nicholas Confessore, February 9, 2011, New York Times
The airwaves are virtually silent. The fiery criticism of years past has given way to conciliatory press releases. And the halls of the Capitol ring not with angry protests but with the quiet hum of lawmakers and lobbyists making their daily rounds. Faced with devastating budget cuts from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a deeply hostile electorate, New York’s most influential public-employee unions have unexpectedly shifted their strategy for defending cherished government programs and worker benefits. Put off for now are the angry denunciations and millions of dollars of advertisements, chiefly from hospitals and a health care union, that have traditionally begun haunting governors in early February. (read article)

States, Public Unions Wrestle Over Pensions
By Lee Ross, February 09, 2011, Fox News
Lawmakers around the country are looking at new ways to prevent budget disasters by changing the rules for overburdened state employee pension funds. But they are meeting stiff resistance from public employee unions. Two Arizona state lawmakers this week, including the speaker of the House, introduced their plan to salvage the state’s budget by significantly changing the public retirement system. Following the lead of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., a pair of New Jersey assemblymen on Monday put forth their legislative solution to make solvent a fund that’s $54 billion in the red. Also on Monday, in his first budget address as governor, Florida’s Rick Scott announced his effort to “stabilize and secure” government employee pensions. (read article)

Union: Cut private contracts, ‘develop revenue opportunities’
By Jon Ortiz, February 9, 2011, Sacramento Bee
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says that California should find new “revenue opportunities” and could save more than $34 billion per year by dumping private contractors who do jobs that government employees could do for less. “That’s the amount that Sacramento spends every year paying private contractors to do jobs that civil servants can perform for roughly half the cost,” says AFSCME’s press release, which was issued this morning. AFSCME says it culled those ideas and others from surveying the 180,000 workers it represents in various levels of California government. The union now wants to form “workplace-level, labor-management efficiency teams” to find and capture ways for government to save money. (read article)

Unions Fight New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s ‘Misinformation’ Campaign on Pensions
By Azi Paybara, February 9, 2011, The Empire WNYC 93.9 FM
Police and firemen’s unions are rallying in order to stop what they say is Bloomberg’s “misinformation” campaign about their pension payments. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association announced they were rallying later this morning on the City Hall steps “to fight the mayor’s orchestrated misinformation campaign to reduce police and fire pension benefits.” Bloomberg has referred to the $12,000 payments given to retired uniformed workers as a “bonus” the city can no longer afford – and stopping it could spare the city from laying off “thousands” of public school teachers. (read article)

Government Union President Says Those Supporting Spending Cuts Are “Mentally Retarded”
Andrew Breitbart, February 9, 2011, BigGovernment.com (watch video)

American ills not caused by unions
James P. Hoffa, February 9, 2011, Detroit News
The 19th-century robber baron Jay Gould once said, “I can hire half the working class to shoot the other half.”Gould’s vision of class warfare is being played out today in the shameful attacks on public employees. These attacks are secretly financed and planned by modern-day Jay Goulds who aim to keep their own taxes low. Some vastly powerful corporations and billionaires want to cripple all unions and turn America into a low-wage banana republic. They’re succeeding. Across the country, new governors and new legislatures are demanding cuts to jobs, pensions and concessions from public employee unions. Their demands are nothing more than payback for the billions of dollars that the ultra-rich have poured into political campaigns. (read article) (read UnionWatch editorial rebuttal – Unions & America’s Ills)

Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.com, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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