Union Watch Highlights

Obama’s sellout to unions staggers the economy
By Michael Barone, September 20, 2011, Boston Herald
Barack Obama has been at pains to convince voters that he cares about jobs. It seems to be a hard sell. But he certainly can demonstrate that he cares about certain jobs — the 7 percent of private-sector jobs and 36 percent of public-sector jobs held by union members. Fully one-third of the $820 billion stimulus package passed almost entirely with Democratic votes in 2009 was aid to state and local governments. This was intended to keep state and local public employee union members — much more numerous than federal employees — on the job and to keep taxpayer-funded union dues pouring into public employee union treasuries. (read article)

Public Employee Unions Losing Pension Battle in Rhode Island
By Rob Horowitz, September 20, 2011, GoLocalProv
Last week’s front-page Providence Journal story featuring National Education Association (NEA) Executive Director Bob Walsh calling on Governor Chafee to keep the “promises” he made to the NEA during his campaign for Governor is another sign that the public employee unions know that they are losing their battle to put the brakes on comprehensive and meaningful pension reform. Publicly threatening Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee (I) with a loss of union support is the kind of move that the astute and politically sophisticated Walsh would not make if he thought the public employee unions were playing a winning hand. (read article)

NLRB Pushes Unions’ Destructive Agenda
By Bob Confer, September 20, 2011, New American
Although rarely looked at as such by the typical person, labor is an economic transaction. Basically, the act of employment is really no different from making a purchase at the local grocery store. Unions, though, don’t see it that way. Whereas non-unionized employment sees equal strength and value between worker and the company, unionized plants are different. There, the workers are granted dominance in the transaction and the standard rules of fair and equal trade are thrown out the window. Through its perverse leftist outlook, organized labor views any given job as a right rather than a privilege. (read article)

Why Greece Won’t Reform: Over the past year the government hasn’t laid off a single civil servant
By Takis Michas, September 19, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Sometimes it is self-evident truths that cause the strongest reactions. That was exactly what happened recently with statements attributed to Philipp Rösler, Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister. “To stabilize the euro in the short term, there can’t be any taboos,” Mr. Rösler said. “That ultimately includes Greece’s orderly insolvency, if the necessary instruments are available.” For the Greek political class, the statement was a stab in the back. A statement by a leading German politician that a Greek default was unavoidable appeared to undermine the self-styled “Herculean” efforts of the Greek government to implement the measures envisaged in… (read article – subscription required)

Federal unions decry Obama ‘tax increase’
By Joe Davidson, September 19, 2011, Washington Post
The hit federal workers would take under President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan isn’t nearly as severe as proposals by others, including those pushed by congressional Republicans and offered by a big-name bipartisan panel. Graphic breaks down President Obama’s plan to find more than $3 trillion in budget savings over a decade. Obama wants to increase contributions by federal employees to their pension plan as one of his tools to fight the nation’s deficit. The increase of 1.2 percentage points, which would be phased in beginning in 2013, would generate $21 billion in savings over 10 years. (read article)

The Actual Governor of California Is Not Jerry Brown, It’s the Public Employee Unions
By Jon Coupal, September 19, 2011, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
As part of his ongoing campaign to raise taxes, last week Jerry Brown made a pilgrimage to a major labor confab in Las Vegas. There he delivered a fiery speech to thousands of union delegates, touting his labor credentials and lashing out at Republicans and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, blaming the minority party and the taxpayers group for blocking his administration’s efforts to increase taxes and “invest” — spend, that is — more money. (read article)

The Myth of the Incredibly Flexible Union
By Will Swaim, September 17, 2011, Republic of Costa Mesa
According to the The Myth of the Incredibly Flexible Union, leaders of the Orange County Employees Association routinely pester the city council with requests to just talk this thing out—to gather in an industrial-white conference room at City Hall, and there, ranked around a highly polished table redolent of lemons, break down mutual distrust/animosity/vile hatred, share some laughs, discover common humanity and hammer out a deal that no one really likes and, so, must be just terrific. But (the myth goes) the council majority simply refuses all offers to talk—declines because (the myth continues) the council majority doesn’t really want what it says it wants (viz., to reduce the rising costs of pay and benefits and, so, save the city) so much as to lay waste to the American working class itself and, so, advance into the 2012 campaign with a Republican union-busting platform that was hammered out by Satan in the darkest pits of hell when dinosaurs roamed the earth and were ridden by our fully evolved ancestors. (read article)

Public Employee Unions Plan Raid on Taxpayers and Private Business to Fill Pension Gap
By Frank Keegan, September 15, 2011, Franklin Center
The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, or NCPERS, released “The Secure Choice Pension: A Way Forward for Retirement Security in the Private Sector.” A few hours later, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, or CSLGE, had a national press conference to announce “Strengthening State and Local Government Finances: Lessons for Negotiating Public Pension Plan Reforms.” One is intended to lure money from private workers and businesses into bankrupt state and local government retirement systems. The other is to preserve as much of state and local government benefits as possible under the guise of false reforms when massive tax increases hit because pension funds don’t have enough money to pay benefits. Both proposals guarantee average Americans already mugged by Wall Street and the Federal Reserve will not have any hope of a secure retirement. (read article)

Rhode Island Public Employee Unions Told Pension Reform Is Needed to Avoid Layoffs
By Tom Mooney, September 14, 2011, Providence Journal
State Administration Director Richard Licht had a blunt message for union representatives unhappy with possible options they were hearing Monday to resolve Rhode Island’s pension crisis. “If we don’t try to solve it” through some form of benefit changes, Licht told those fellow members of the State Pension Advisory Group before an overflow crowd jammed into a library conference room, “then we will solve it when I present a budget to the governor, and there will be fewer state workers on the payroll.” The gap between what Rhode Island already owes its retired and current employees and the money set aside for those benefits stands at around $7 billion. Taxpayer contribution to those pension plans is expected to double next year from $300 million this year to $600 million. (read article)

Union-Backed Bill Makes Municipal Bankruptcies More Difficult for California Cities
Editorial, September 14, 2011, Orange County Register
California’s public pension debt has soared to as high as a half-trillion dollars, borne of outsized retirement benefits that politicians granted to powerful union interest groups while the stock market was making unsustainable gains. The state’s taxpayers can no longer afford the tab. Localities are faced with severe cutbacks in services if something isn’t done to rein in these costs for retired government employees, more than 15,000 of whom, statewide, receive six-figure, cost-of-living-adjusted pensions. In a fiscally responsible world, state politicians would reform the pension system to make sure that the money is there for the long term, that taxpayers – most of whom receive pensions that are only a fraction of what government retirees receive, if they receive one at all – aren’t unduly burdened and that public services remain whole. This being California, the union-dominated, Democratic-controlled Legislature mainly is interested in assuring that the current corrupt system continues without change. (read article)

Rhode Island Judge Rules for Unions in First Round of Legal Battle Over State Pension Reform
By Mike Stanton, September 13, 2011, Providence Journal
A Rhode Island judge has ruled in favor of state employee labor unions in the first round of a major legal challenge to state pension reform. The state’s lawyer says that he will ask the Rhode Island Supreme Court to review the decision on an expedited basis — and that the governor and treasurer plan to press forward with their efforts to obtain pension reform in a special session of the General Assembly in October. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter’s decision, issued Tuesday morning, denies the state’s motion to dismiss a 2010 lawsuit by eight public-employee unions challenging General Assembly pension reductions in 2009 and 2010. (read article)

Oklahoma labor commissioner takes aim at public employee unions
By Randy Krehbiel, September 13, 2011, Tulsa World State Labor Commissioner Mark Costello has set up a nonprofit advocacy organization whose primary purpose appears to be taking on public employee unions. Speaking in Tulsa on Tuesday, Costello said Parity in Oklahoma seeks to exempt all state workers from merit protection for the first three years of employment and to outlaw the practice of allowing state workers to have union and association dues deducted from their paychecks. The Oklahoma City Republican, in his first year as labor commissioner, told the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County he was “surprised by the competence and continuity” of some Labor Department employees, but added “there is some comparison between bureaucrats and feral hogs.” (read article)

San Francisco labor deal gains unanimous support from supervisors
By Joshua Sabatini, September 13, 2011, San Francisco Examiner
While politics have raged over a deal Mayor Ed Lee reached with police and firefighters unions, the agreement was approved Tuesday without a peep from members of the Board of Supervisors. The deal, which lets police and firefighters keep raises they were owed in exchange for them paying more toward their pensions, saves The City $31 million during the current and next fiscal year. But it also includes a provision that protects fire and police employees from Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s  pension measure on the Nov. 8 ballot, Proposition D. If Adachi’s measure prevails over a rival pension measure backed by labor, then police and fire would not be impacted by Prop. D for two years. Adachi has blasted this provision as a “back-door attempt to circumvent the democratic rights of San Francisco voters.” (read article)

About the author: 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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