Union Watch Highlights

Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds anti-union law
By Jeff Mayers, June 14, 2011, Reuters
A sharply divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a controversial measure that curbs the collective bargaining rights of public workers in the state can go into effect. In what was essentially a 4-3 decision, the high court overturned a lower court, which had ruled Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law when they passed the measure in March. (read article)

Union mailers attack San Jose City Council members who support employee pay and cuts
By Tracy Seipel, June 13, 2011, Mercury News
A weekend mailing campaign by a powerful San Jose city employee union is calling at least five council members “hypocrites” for supporting Mayor Chuck Reed’s efforts to balance the budget by cutting their pay and benefits. The mailer from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees incorrectly alleges the council members have not reduced their own compensation packages. It also tells residents to contact the mayor and their council member to urge them to restore “vital and essential neighborhood programs.” The mass mailings arrived in advance of the council’s meeting Tuesday, when it is expected to vote on Reed’s June budget proposals for the next fiscal year, which includes 10 percent cuts to both pay and benefits for all city workers. The vote will be finalized on June 21. (read article)

A coffee run with Costa Mesa councilmen
By Steve Lopez, June 12, 2011, Los Angeles Times
Yes, I headed back to the battle zone. Back to the city an Orange County GOP official called “ground zero” in the war on public employees, or at least on their pay and pensions. Why? Because after my column last Sunday, I got an invitation from City Councilman Jim Righeimer, who didn’t come off so well in it. I quoted Costa Mesans who think that when Righeimer and his cohorts sent out layoff notices to half the city’s employees, it was more about political jihad than about dollars and cents. Not so, Righeimer insisted, and I thought it was only fair to hear him out. I suggested we invite some employee reps to the party, so I could play referee. Righeimer declined but wanted to bring along his buddy, Councilman Stephen Mensinger. To hold his hand, I guess. (read article)

Union ‘Pension Truth Squad’ is short on truth and long on delusions
By Chris Reed, June 12, 2011, Los Angeles Daily News
O hear the union-front Californians for Retirement Security tell it, the pension crisis bedeviling local governments up and down the state either isn’t real or is grossly exaggerated. Press releases from veteran Sacramento union operative Steve Maviglio decry “myths and falsehoods about public employee pensions” spread by malignant “out-of-state billionaires” who want to use “a few sensational cases of pension abuse” as a means to “attack middle-class Californians.” But Maviglio, union leaders and Democratic lawmakers behind what they call the “Pension Truth Squad” know full well the crisis is real. That’s why they are pushing hard for AB 506, which recently passed the Assembly on a party-line vote. The measure would block reeling local governments from filing for bankruptcy protection – a likely first step toward attempts to invalidate contracts locking in unaffordable retiree benefits for current employees – without the approval of the state Debt and Investment Advisory Commission. (read article)

Appeasing unions, even if it hurts the economy
By George Will, June 10, 2011, Washington Post
Because government is inherently dangerous and often mischievous, the Constitution’s framers provided, and congressional rules have multiplied, mechanisms for blocking government action. These mechanisms can, however, also be used to force action. One is being so used in a dispute that has two remarkable facets. President Obama is sacrificing economic growth and job creation in order to placate organized labor. And as the crisis of the welfare state deepens, he is trying to enlarge the entitlement system and exacerbate the entitlement mentality. (read article)

As Unions Protest, Oakland Bows Out of Running Museum of California
By Matthai Kuruvila, June 9, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle
The City of Oakland relinquished control of the Oakland Museum of California in a move Tuesday night that sought to stabilize the museum while saving the city money. Starting July 1, the museum will be entirely run by the nonprofit Oakland Museum of California Foundation, which had been dividing museum responsibilities, oversight, and payrolls with the city. The city will continue to own the collection and buildings. The handover approved by the City Council marks the end of 42 years of city operation of the museum. Unions fought the transfer because they said it was nothing more than outsourcing of city jobs – prohibited in the city charter – and the increasing privatization of government functions. (read article)

Sacramento budget cuts put pressure on police, fire unions
By Ryan Lillis, June 9, 2011, Sacramento Bee
With a dramatic vote Tuesday to make unparalleled cuts to police and fire services, the Sacramento City Council stepped up pressure on public safety unions to agree to pension givebacks and other long-term salary concessions. The message: Sacramento can no longer afford a benefits package that’s richer than what most private sector and even many public sector employees receive. “What we need to do is look at both pensions and health care (contributions),” said Councilman Jay Schenirer. “That’s where the greatest increases (in cost) have been and it’s where the world has changed the most over the past 10 years.” Sacramento’s police officers and firefighters do not contribute to their CalPERS retirement accounts. (read article)

California Prison Guards Union Locks Up Benefits, Politicians, People
By Tim Cavanaugh, June 7, 2011, Reason Magazine
Is the deplorable state of California’s prisons, which has now been underscored by a Supreme Court decision ordering the state to release almost a quarter of its prisoners, the fault of the state prison guards union? Orange County Federalist Society vice president Tim Kowal says yes, in a long and abundantly documented post at League of Ordinary Gentlemen. (read article)

SEIU protests Napa County’s two-tier pension proposal
By James Noonan, June 7, 2011, Napa Valley Register
Public employees are blasting Napa County’s plans to curb future retirement costs, saying instead that cuts and savings should come from the top. On Tuesday, roughly two dozen members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 — which represents employees of Napa County — came before the Board of Supervisors to protest the county’s plan to roll out a two-tier pension system for non-safety employees. (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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