Union Watch Highlights

Costa Mesa ‘Feet to the Fire’ forum gets feisty on outsourcing, pensions
By Jon Cassidy, April 19, 2011, Orange County Register
It didn’t take long for the first heckler to be shown the door. A debate on outsourcing, pensions and balancing Costa Mesa’s budget Monday night drew TV news cameras and about 250 people, some of whom tried to join in. The forum was held to discuss layoffs and pensions in the city. All the attention paid to this Feet to the Fire forum was due to the city’s place at the center of a national debate on public employee compensation. Last month, the city gave layoff notices to nearly half its workers as it prepares to outsource services. That same day, a worker set to receive that layoff notice apparently jumped from the roof of City Hall, bringing the issue wide attention. (read article)

If you think TSA is pushy and intrusive now, just wait until they unionize
Editorial, April 19, 2011, Orange County Register
f you think the Transportation Security Administration is pushy and intrusive, just wait until they unionize. April 19 is the last day 44,000 TSA workers vote on whether they will join a union. The results will be announced April 20. A yea vote widely is expected. Workers also are voting on whether to join the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Treasury Employees Union. Those backing the union say that TSA employees are not paid enough and sometimes are not treated well by management; and that clearer work rules and better treatment would improve job performance, morale and make air travel safer. However, when the TSA was established in 2002, because of the sensitive nature of its operations it deliberately was not granted collective-bargaining rights by the Republican Bush administration. The FBI, CIA and the military, which also protect national security, are not unionized. The reasoning is that unionization could lead to strikes that either adversely impact air travel or result in poor security checks. (read article)

GOP wave reshapes nation’s agenda state by state
By Ann Sanner and Calvin Woodward, April 18, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune
State by state, Republicans are moving at light speed on a conservative agenda they would have had no hope of achieving before the big election gains of November. The dividends are apparent after only a few months in office, and they go well beyond the spending cuts forced on states by the fiscal crunch and tea party agitation. Republican governors and state legislators are bringing abortion restrictions into law from Virginia to Arizona, acting swiftly to expand gun rights north and south, pushing polling-station photo ID laws that are anathema to Democrats and taking on public sector unions anywhere they can. (read article)

Detroit Moves Against Unions
By Matthew Dolan, April 18, 2011, Wall Street Journal
A new state law has emboldened the Detroit mayor and schools chief to take a more aggressive stance toward public unions as the city leaders try to mop up hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink. Robert Bobb, the head of the Detroit Public Schools, late last week sent layoff notices to the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all of its teachers, a preliminary step in seeking broad work-force cuts to deal with lower enrollment. Earlier last week, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing presented a $3.1 billion annual budget to City Council in which he proposed higher casino taxes and substantial cuts in city workers’ health care and pensions to close an estimated $200 million budget gap. (read article)

Teachers’ Union to Play ‘Thug’ Card?
By Jon Coupal, April 18, 2011, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
California’s most powerful public employee union, the California Teachers Association (CTA), has budgeted $1 million for a May campaign to browbeat and coerce lawmakers and taxpayers into providing more money, through higher taxes, for teachers. The action items proposed by the CTA range from the silly — convincing the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream company to add a labor-union flavor to their line — to the outright threatening — demonstrations that could create major traffic jams in towns and cities. (read article)

Capistrano Unified School District at mercy of unwise contract
Editorial, April 15, 2011, Orange County Register
It is disconcerting that the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees is restoring millions of dollars in employee pay cuts considering the district is facing a significant budget deficit that will require $12 million in new cuts for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Their move, on face, seems to defy logic, but the trustees previously contractually obligated the 51,000-student district to automatically restore pay under certain conditions. It seems to be a common theme these days for local lawmakers to enter into poorly negotiated contracts with unions that end up having reverberating consequences for taxpayers. Capo is the latest example. (read article)

Taxpayer Tea Party rallies at Michigan Capitol in support of Snyder, limited government
By Karen Bouffard, April 15, 2011, Detroit News
Gov. Rick Snyder’s efforts to cut bureaucracy and taxes for businesses won spirited support from a chilly crowd outside the Capitol on Thursday. About 350 called for smaller government and lower taxes at a Taxpayer Tea Party rally hosted by Americans for Prosperity and about 40 tea party groups across the state. Many in the crowd held signs, some saying “Stop feeding the union pig” and “Trust God not government.” (read article)

Public Unions Have No Place in America
Letter, April 15, 2011, Daily Herald
My fellow Americans, this public union stuff is pretty simple. Public unions bargain with all citizens (including themselves) that provide the tax revenues that pay their wages and benefits. So every dollar that goes to a public sector union employee comes out of the citizens’ pockets. Democrats love public sector unions because upward of 90 percent of campaign contributions from public unions go to their party. Union leadership takes the dues it collects and funnels a generous portion to Democrats. What do Democrats do? They pass legislation wherever and whenever they can to provide more wages and benefits to union members! What a sweet deal. (read article)

Labor leaders tee off on Barack Obama, Harry Reid
By Ben Smith and John Bresnahan, April 14, 2011, Politico
Top labor leaders excoriated President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a closed session of the AFL-CIO’s executive board meeting in Washington Wednesday, three labor sources said. Furious union presidents complained about budget cuts, a new trade agreement and what some view as their abandonment, even by their typically reliable allies among Senate Democrats. “Now, not only are we getting screwed by the Republicans but the Democrats are doing it too,” said one union official, characterizing the mood at a summit of labor leaders who are worried that Democrats seem unlikely to go to the mat for them as an election year approaches. (read article)

San Francisco Union Group Produces Long-Awaited Pension Proposals
By Elizabeth Lesly Stevens, April 14, 2011, The Bay Citizen
A dozen or so well-intentioned people. Dozens and dozens of meetings. A hired-gun Deloitte actuary flown in from Chicago at considerable private expense. The mission: Devise a solution for the toll that ballooning employee pension and benefits costs are taking on San Francisco’s battered finances. For the last six months, the leaders of the city’s most powerful labor unions, under the aegis of investor and philanthropist Warren Hellman (who is also the chairman of The Bay Citizen but plays no editorial role), have been working to make good on a promise made last fall to come up with their own solution to the financial crisis arising from the city’s employee costs. (read article)

Pension Costs to Skyrocket for Key San Francisco City Unions
By Joe Eskenazi, April 13, 2011, SF Weekly
Last week, the president and vice president of the local SEIU penned an opinion column in the San Francisco Bay Guardian espousing a marvelously novel take on the city’s exploding pension crisis. The problem, per the column, isn’t that the city is projected to spend upward of $400 million this year on pensions — a figure that, in the near future, is expected to double. The real trouble, according to the SEIU, is that we haven’t been taxing corporations and the rich to the point where funneling the better part of $1 billion into yearly pension costs in San Francisco is easily offset. Essentially, the solution presented by the union for fixing a leaky bucket is to pour water in faster. (read article)

Sandy Springs, Georgia: The City that Outsourced Everything
By Paul Feine and Alex Manning, April 12, 2011, Reason.tv
While cities across the country are cutting services, raising taxes and contemplating bankruptcy, something extraordinary is happening in a suburban community just north of Atlanta, Georgia. Since incorporating in 2005, Sandy Springs has improved its services, invested tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure and kept taxes flat. And get this: Sandy Springs has no long-term liabilities. This is the story of Sandy Springs, Georgia—the city that outsourced everything. (watch video)

No Wisconsin here, but California unions are taking cuts aplenty
By Thomas D. Elias, April 11, 2011, 2011 Ventura County Star
No one in California politics believes this state is about to see anything like the unprecedented statehouse live-in occupation staged earlier this year in Wisconsin, where public employee unions faced the threat of losing not just salary and benefits, but their hard-won bargaining rights. “Of course that won’t happen here,” say anti-union Republicans like Stephen Frank, the former president of the arch-conservative California Republican Assembly. “The unions already own the state Capitol here.” By that, Frank and others mean that because public employee unions like the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union were among the largest contributors to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2010 campaign and also are prime funders of many Democratic state legislators, they will enjoy a free hand as long as their people stay in power. (read article)

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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