Union Watch Highlights

Detroit bankruptcy would be long, costly
By Leonard N. Fleming, December 27, 2011, Detroit News
The deepening financial crisis in Detroit has intensified hints that the city could opt for bankruptcy, but financial experts warn the move could cost taxpayers millions, stall economic development and take years to be resolved in the courts. Bankruptcy is an option if the city can’t win major concessions from its unions and if the state’s tough new emergency manager law is suspended or repealed. Under the law passed in March, an emergency manager appointed by the governor would have the power to throw out union contracts, sell off assets such as the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department and other powers to fix the city’s fiscal crisis. Attorney General Bill Schuette said he is undecided whether Michigan would revert to its old emergency manager law if opponents get enough signatures to put the repeal question on the ballot next year. But bankruptcy would be a worst-case scenario, warned Brad Coulter, who specializes in municipal turnaround and bankruptcy services. “That’s where the opponents of an EM maybe don’t quite understand the consequences if the law is repealed, and Detroit has no choice but to file for bankruptcy… (read article)

Imposing labor terms a game changer in relations between San Bernardino County and its unions
By Joe Nelson, December 24, 2011, San Bernardino County Sun
San Bernardino County’s imposition of labor terms on a law enforcement union could have longstanding ramifications on its relationship with the bargaining group. On Tuesday, the county’s probation corrections officers, deputy coroner’s investigators and welfare fraud investigators, comprising the Special Peace Officers bargaining unit of the San Bernardino County Safety Employee Benefits Association (SEBA), voted unanimously to accept labor terms proposed by an arbitrator in October. The vote came after the unit had rejected three previous contract offers – two by the county and the final being by the arbitrator in October. On Dec. 13, the Board of Supervisors took its most aggressive action to date with a labor union, giving the bargaining unit an ultimatum: Accept what the arbitrator offered in October or the county would impose its “last, best and final offer” from June, which would mean a 14 percent cut in pay and benefits. (read article)

Union Bosses’ NLRB Rams Through Ambush Election Rule
December 22, 2011, Labor Union Report
On Wednesday, the union attorneys at the NLRB adopted a final rule on their controversial proposal that paves the way for unions to conduct ambush elections on America’s union-free workplace. While the rule will not go into effect immediately (it takes effect April 30, 2012), the substance of  the rule goes to the stripping of due process from the minority of employers who challenge the validity of a union’s petitioned-for voting unit. As the result of removing an employer’s right to object to the petitioned-for unit through a regional NLRB hearing and request for review by the NLRB in Washington, not only does it enable the NLRB to conduct “quickie” elections (in as little as 17 days from petition filing), but it will also likely cause more employers to use the federal courts as a means of redress against a blatantly pro-union NLRB. As union organizers are legally allowed to manipulate and mislead workers into unionizing, at the heart of the issue is the amount of time union organizers can spend attacking a company in stealth, picking out a small section of the workforce to unionize into “micro-units,” and leaving employers virtually no time to counter the misinformation. Currently, most union elections occur within 42 days of petition filing. Under the new rules, they may occur in as little as 17 days. (read article)

Thousands of Unionized California Nurses Go on Strike
December 22, 2011, Associated Press
(watch video)

Screen Actors Guild Members Push for Independent Investigation Into Charges of $5-10 Million Pension Plan Embezzlement
By Brent Lang, December 22, 2011, Reuters
Over 560 people have signed an online petition calling for an independent investigation into allegations that Bruce Dow, CEO of the Screen Actors Guild’s health and pension plans, covered up a $5 million – $10 million embezzlement scheme and raided the fund for personal use. “People are fed up,” Paul Edney, a SAG member who signed the petition, told TheWrap. “They are ticked off because it’s our money that’s being stolen.” The allegations stem from a labor department complaint from Craig E. Simmons, an ex-employee of the Screen Actors Guild’s Producers Pension and Health Plans (SAG-PPHP), who charges fraud and theft by his former employers. In documents filed with the department in September, Simmons claims he was told by Dow not to discuss an alleged embezzlement scheme by former chief information officer Nader Karimi and to lie to authorities about other questionable financial activity. (read article)

Is Las Vegas Teachers Union Risking 1,000 Jobs to Preserve Its Profitable Insurance Company?
By Ben, December 22, 2011, PublicSchoolSpending.com
While the Great Recession has affected almost all Americans, Nevadans may be the hardest hit. The state leads the nation in unemployment (13 percent) and home foreclosures (three times the national average). Because of the faltering economy and slowed tax revenue, the Clark County School District needs to cut $78 million from its budget over the next two years. The district must do this either by freezing teacher pay and finding a more affordable employee health insurance carrier, or by laying off 1,000 educators as early as next month. The first alternative is obviously preferable, because students would be adversely affected by larger class sizes and the loss of many enthusiastic young teachers. Unfortunately the second option may be unavoidable, because the district has been unable to negotiate a new contract with its teachers union, the Clark County Education Association (CCEA). CCSD is the fifth largest school district in the nation, serving around 310,000 students in 340 schools in and around Las Vegas. The district is also the largest employer in Nevada with some 33,000 employees, 18,000 of which are teachers. The main sticking point seems to be the district’s desire to find a less expensive health insurance provider. CCEA members currently receive health insurance from the Teachers Health Trust, a company ironically owned and operated by their union. (read article)

Rhode Island Union Retaliates Against Charity for Supporting Pension Reform Legislation
By Alexandra Cowley, December 19, 2011, ABC
Donations are plummeting at Rhode Island’s largest provider to the homeless. October and November are usually the best months for Crossroads to collect donations, but this year, collections are down about 100-thousand dollars. The economy may have something to do with the declining donations, as well as their support for pension reform. Crossroads was among several local non-profits that supported EngageRI. A group that pushed for the pension reform that dug into the pockets of thousands of state workers. Now, at least one state workers union is urging its members not to donate to those non-profits. Donations at Crossroads are down to the lowest levels they’ve seen in four years. Vice President of Marketing and Development, Karen Santilli, said “October and November were down a hundred thousand dollars from last year, I’m sure the economy, the continuing difficult economy is a reason.” And another reason could be from the SEIU local 580 union. The Rhode Island Alliance of Social Service Employees sent letters to over a thousand retired and active members alerting them of who they’re money was going to. (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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