Union Watch Highlights

The Union Zee Bridge: Cuomo wants to raid state pension funds for political purposes
Editorial, November 29, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Andrew Cuomo has a bridge to sell you, and we wish that was the set-up to a punch line. The New York Governor and government unions are hatching a plan to use the state’s pension funds to bankroll public works like replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. In a radio interview with Talk 1300 AM in Albany over Thanksgiving weekend, Mr. Cuomo explained that “the state doesn’t have enough money . . . either with cash, or its balance sheet” to fund the much-needed replacement of the rickety three-mile bridge across the Hudson River, at a cost he estimated at… (read article – subscription required)

Union Pension Fight Moves to California
By Abby W. Schachter, November 28, 2011, New York Post
Want to meet the next great union buster? Just look at Democratic governor of California Jerry Brown. Difficult to picture Brown in the Scott Walker role (he’s the governor of Wisconsin who took on the unions and won). But that is exactly what Brown is starting to look like as he demands that California cities’ public employees start contributing more to their own retirements. Basically cities in California are going broke, some faster than others and the biggest cost they face is funding public employee pensions, to which most public employees contribute a tiny fraction. In the private sector, employees contribute a more significant portion of their salaries to their own retirement and their employers do the same. Not with the public sector where union members have gotten used to having the employers, the public institution pay almost all of their retirement. (read article)

LAUSD goes against public opinion, sides with teachers union against transparency on teacher ratings
By Jim Newton, November 28, 2011, Los Angeles Times
There’s a shocking disconnect at work these days in the relationship between the public and government workers: The public is demanding greater accountability, and public employees — social workers, police, teachers, even state legislators — are finding ways to avoid it. Legislators contend that they should be allowed to conduct budget deliberations in private. Police unions are fighting forcefully to protect the names of officers involved in shootings or other uses of force. Social workers are fighting to keep dependency court hearings private. And the Los Angeles Unified School District, in the sway of its unions, has said it won’t release the so-called value-added evaluations of teachers it has prepared as part of an attempt to analyze which teachers are most effective. (read article)

‘It’s Time To Close The NLRB For Renovations’ Unions cry ‘foul’ when the game is played using their own playbook
Opinion, November 27, 2011, LabornionReport.com
According to The Hill, unions and their Democrats in Congress are apoplectic over the fact that Brian Hayes, the lone Republican on Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations Board, has (allegedly) threatened to resign in protest over the union appointees at the NLRB deciding on Wednesday (Nov. 30th) to force ambush elections on companies and their employees. Due to a Supreme Court decision, where the high court ruled there must be a minimum three NLRB members to affect a quorum, with only three current members, a resignation at the NLRB would incapacitate the union-run agency. Notwithstanding Democrats fleeing from their jobs in Wisconsin earlier this year, oddly, neither the union bosses nor their paid shills in Congress seem to realize (or if they do, they’re not publicly admitting it) that the idea of incapacitating the NLRB came from their own playbook. (read article)

Hollywood Labor Fight Looms as Money for Benefits Wanes
By Michael Cieply, November 27, 2011, New York Times
Bitter disputes over health and pension payments to union members have created plenty of drama in states and cities this year. But do not look for a movie about it — Hollywood will be too busy dealing with a labor crisis of its own. After three relatively peaceful years, the entertainment industry is bracing for a showdown next spring. At issue is an enormous projected shortfall in financing for some of the most jealously guarded perks in show business, the heavily gilded health and pension plans. (read article)

Illinois Lobbyist Who Qualified for Teacher Pension After Substituting 1 Day Also Got Free College Tuition for Kids
By Ray Long, November 27, 2011, Chicago Tribune
Steven Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing became a symbol of Illinois’ troubled pension system after that work qualified him for significant state teacher retirement benefits. The political director of the Illinois Federation of Teachers can base that pension on his years as a union lobbyist and on his six-figure union salary — a lucrative opportunity made possible by state legislators. It turns out Preckwinkle also is familiar with another state program, legislative scholarships, known for its problems, The Tribune has found. Two of Preckwinkle’s children and a nephew were awarded the tuition waivers to Illinois State University in the late 1980s and 1990s as part of the legislative scholarship program, according to David Ormsby, the privately paid spokesman for Preckwinkle. The scholarships and Preckwinkle’s public pension provide a glimpse into the opportunities that can come with being an insider in the state of Illinois. (read article)

Job Creators Brace for New Pro-Union Labor Rule
By David Asman, November 26, 2011, Forbes on Fox
(watch video)

Unions cry foul over Republican’s NLRB resignation threat
By Kevin Bogardus, November 25, 2011, The Hill
The labor movement is crying foul over a resignation threat from a member of the National Labor Relations Board that would effectively quash a long-sought change to union election rules. NLRB member Brian Hayes has threatened to resign because of a proposed rule that would speed up union elections, according to a Nov. 21 letter from Democratic NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce. If Hayes resigned, his absence would essentially shut down the NLRB and prevent a Nov. 30 vote on parts of the proposed rule. The backlash to Hayes’s threat from unions has been intense, as a long-held goal of simplifying and speeding up union elections would be stopped in its tracks by the maneuver. “We think it’s really terrible to shut down a government agency over ideology,” Peter Colavito, director of government relations for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told The Hill. “I’m really struggling to find precedent for this. It’s really an outrage as an attack on workers’ rights.” Hayes’s resignation would leave the NLRB with only two members, preventing a quorum and stopping it from issuing new rulings and regulations. “Resigning is a political ploy asked for by the extreme right as part of their ongoing attacks on workers’ rights,” said Josh Goldstein, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO. “Let’s hope, in the end, Hayes ignores the calls of right-wing pundits, activists and politicians that hurts both workers and businesses and he simply does his job.” (read article)

California Voters Wary of Teacher Unions
Editorial, November 23, 2011, Orange County Register
Californians are a little schizophrenic on how they look on the state’s public schools, based on the findings of a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters. On raising taxes, including their own, 64 percent said they would do so to “increase funding for California schools,” while 32 percent opposed. (In this and other results, those who didn’t respond make up the remainder needed to reach 100 percent.) On the other hand, the voters’ opinion was low on the performance of the schools the tax money would fund, and on the teacher unions that have such a powerful influence over school budgets and operations. Voters, 75 percent to 16 percent, said that “government bureaucracy and regulations that discourage innovation and reform” were to blame for problems in public schools. And, by 81 percent to 13 percent, voters blamed “[t]he system that allows money to be wasted on administration and bureaucracy.” (read article)

U.S. Supreme Court is asked to stop Los Angeles from giving grocery unions the run of the store
Press Release, November 23, 2011, Pacific Legal Foundation
Attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a City of Los Angeles ordinance that denies new grocery store owners the right to hire their own employees, unless they agree to maintain a unionized workforce. Grocery Cart imageThe petition for certiorari asks the Court to review — and reject — the city’s “Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance,” which forces companies that purchase grocery stores of 15,000-square feet or larger to hire employees only from existing staff, and retain them for at least 90 days. This restriction doesn’t apply, however, if the new owner consents to a collective bargaining agree­ment with a union. (read article)

Public Unions Still Spreading
By Andrew Stiles, November 23, 2011, National Review
In the wake of the 2010 midterms, newly elected Republican governors have, quite rightly, targeted public-sector unions — specifically, their lavish, taxpayer-funded pensions — in an effort to rein in state budget deficits. The results have been mixed (see: Wisconsin’s Scott Walker vs. Ohio’s John Kasich), and the struggle continues. But there is a less-publicized flip side to the GOP’s campaign to wrest power from entrenched union interests. Whereas Republican governors are attempting to limit the influence of public-sector unions, their Democratic counterparts — the near-exclusive beneficiaries of union largesse — are looking to expand it. (read article)

Challenge Public Employee Union Dominance in Orange County’s Cities
Letter, November 22, 2011, Orange County Register
Mike Rodgick: Union leader Nick Berardino [“Outsourcing city services is no panacea, Letters, Nov. 20] is concerned that outsourcing would replace our public sector with “a cadre of connected opportunists whose primary interest is to profit off the government,” leading to loss of “local control” and “exponentially increasing the opportunity for graft and corruption.” Is he kidding? I’ll take my chances. A private contractor who provides poor service, unsustainable wages and $500 billion in retirement will soon be replaced by more competent management. At least their failure will not be borne by the taxpayer. Incredulously, he also worries about the corrupting influence of private-sector endorsements and the power generous campaign contributions could have over our politicians. I can see why he is worried. Without this shameful practice the unions could not have stolen all the money. Any challenge to public union’s political dominance is what is needed. (read article)

Unions will be the death of California
Letter, November 22, 2011, Orange County Register
The delicious irony and outright lies in Nick Berardino’s column on outsourcing public employee jobs is too much to go unchallenged. Berardino employs the usual public union tactic, fear. He claims, without a single shred of evidence, that outsourcing local public jobs to private companies will destroy our parks, libraries and senior centers, and result in more crime. He claims that private companies are nothing more than “a cadre of connected opportunists whose primary interest is to profit off of government.” This definition could equally apply to Berardino and his minions who lead public employee unions with the goal of bilking taxpayers out of the most money possible, while protecting their high-paying, benefit laden jobs. (read article)

UAW says it could picket foreign brand car dealers in the U.S.
November 21, 2011, Reuters
The United Auto Workers said on Monday it could set up protests outside the U.S. dealerships representing foreign automakers as part of a campaign to organize workers not represented by the UAW. UAW President Bob King has said the union’s priority is to organize plants in southern U.S. states run by German, Korean and Japanese automakers now that the union has completed new four-year contracts with the U.S. automakers. King has said that winning representation of workers at one of the so-called transplant factories in Tennessee, Kentucky and other southern U.S. states is key to shoring up UAW membership and protecting the union’s bargaining power with U.S. automakers. The UAW is expected to announce an initial target for its renewed organizing push in the next month. “We are in discussions, as we have been, in organizing a transplant,’ UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, said. “We haven’t picked a target but we’re very close in doing that.” (read article)

About the author: Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.org, 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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