Union Watch Highlights

Vice President Biden woos teachers union; slams GOP hostility to public union contracts
By Brian Slodysko, July 4, 2011, Chicago Tribune
Raising the specter of labor fights picked by Republican governors with public workers unions across the country, Vice President Joe Biden lambasted what he called an increasingly union-hostile “new” Republican Party in remarks delivered to National Education Association representatives on Sunday in Chicago. “There is an organized effort to place blame for budget shortfalls on educators and other public workers. It is one of the biggest scams in modern American history,” Biden said in a speech laden with political red meat and intended to smooth over past disagreements between teachers unions and the Obama administration. (read article)

California UFW ‘card-check’ bill reached too far
Editorial, July 1, 2011, Sacramento Bee
During his first term as governor, 36 years ago, Jerry Brown became a hero of the farmworker movement when he signed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act. The law brought peace to the fields and provided an avenue for farmworkers to bargain collectively. Tens of thousands have done so in the intervening years. This week, an older Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 104, a pro-farmworker measure sponsored by United Farm Workers of America and authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. As Brown said in his veto message, provisions in the bill “alter in a significant way the guiding assumptions of the ALRA.” Had it become law, the bill would have allowed a card-check system, rendering secret ballot elections a thing of the past. (read article)

Are the Unions Winning the Fight?
By Alan Greenblatt, July 2011, Governing Magazine
Being a cop, George Beattie doesn’t use loaded expressions lightly. But when he considers the terms San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is dictating to city workers, the president of the San Jose Police Officers Association can’t help himself. “He’s basically putting a gun to our head,” Beattie says. “He is saying either do what we say, or this is what is going to happen.” San Jose has suffered 10 straight years of budget shortfalls. It will certainly face another one in the new fiscal year just getting under way. Like so many other cities, San Jose is looking at retirement health and pension costs that are set to grow at a rate that threatens to swallow enormous chunks of the municipal budget. (read article)

Remembering Cesar Chavez
Editorial, July 1, 2011, The Wall Street Journal
California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has always been one to surprise. His latest is this week’s veto of card-check legislation, which would have allowed agricultural workers to unionize if a simple majority sign an authorization card. As we wrote last month (“Forgetting Cesar Chavez,” May 14), the bill would have denied employers the ability to demand a secret ballot election if labor organizers (read article – subscription required)

Brown’s break with UFW a sign of the times
By Dan Morain, June 30, 2011, Sacramento Bee
Democrats take it as an article of faith that the United Farm Workers of America is sacrosanct, even as the labor organization founders. So Democrats could be forgiven for believing Jerry Brown would sign the bill delivered to him by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez seeking to make it easier for the struggling union to organize farmworkers. In his first six months back in the corner office, however, Brown has shown signs of becoming an apostate. (read article)

Jerry Brown defies a union, finally
Editorial, June 30, 2011, Orange County Register
Some of California’s toughest problems, from the budget mess to unfunded pension liabilities, are the result of the inordinate influence of the labor unions in the state Capitol. Many Sacramento watchers had hoped, despite the record-setting levels of political support he received from those unions, that Gov. Jerry Brown would be cantankerous enough to take on his own allies for the sake of the state’s fiscal health. Gov. Brown dispelled such hopes when he gave in to an overly generous deal for the prison guards’ union and in his refusal to embrace dollar-stretching measures (i.e., pension reform and contracting out of some government services) rather than tax extensions. But then Mr. Brown surprised us this week with the veto of a union-backed bill known as the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act. (read article)

Farm workers protest Brown veto of union bill
Martin Wisckol, June 29th, 2011, Orange County Register
Farm workers demonstrated outside the state Capitol this morning, protesting Gov. Jerry Brown‘s veto of a bill that would make it easier for them to unionize and vowing to push the measure through the Legislature once more. The measure would have allowed farm workers to unionize by signing petition cards rather than by holding a secret-ballot election. In his veto message Tuesday, Brown indicated that he might be agreeable to a version of such a measure in the future, but that he wasn’t yet sure such a big change was needed. (read article)

It’s Time for Fresno’s Public Employee Unions to Share in the City’s Sacrifice
Editorial, June 27, 2011, Fresno Bee
The Fresno City Council has unanimously adopted the city’s budget for the fiscal year that begins on Friday. But there’s still a big hole in the city’s finances that must be plugged by employee unions agreeing to a 3% pay concession. So far, there hasn’t been an agreement, although the city and the unions are moving in a positive direction. But the budget clock is running out, and Fresno doesn’t need to be patterning its budget process after the California Legislature. It’s time for the unions to agree to the pay cut. This shared sacrifice, although painful for city employees and their families, is the best course in these difficult economic times. (read article)

Teachers union keeps pushing for tax increases in California
By Brian Calle, June 29, 2011, Orange County Register
It is a common theme for the California Teachers Association to push for tax increases. It’s almost not worth mentioning. What makes the tactic constantly annoying is that they claim that by not passing tax increases children will get worse education and schools will be hurt. But the real concern is cuts to teacher pay and enviable benefits. In their continuous rant for tax extensions, in a release by the CTA, the union credits Governor Jerry Brown and Democrats in California for the new budget plan but yet again argues tax increases would be better. (read article)

Boeing labor dispute turns into headache for Obama
By Sam Hananel, June 29, 2011, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The government’s labor dispute with Boeing Co. is turning into a political headache for President Barack Obama, giving his Republican rivals a fresh opening to bash the administration’s economic policies. From congressional hearings to presidential debates, outraged Republicans are keeping up a steady drumbeat of criticism over the National Labor Relations Board’s lawsuit against the aerospace giant. (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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