Union Watch Highlights

Labor’s Coming Class War
By William McGurn, January 4, 2011, The Wall Street Journal
Private-sector union workers begin to notice that their job prospects are at risk from public-employee union contracts. Jeffrey Brown of PBS’s “NewsHour” recently summed up the year’s economic performance by invoking the most overworked chestnut of modern American punditry: “the disconnect between Main Street and Wall Street” The notion that Wall Street and Main Street are fundamentally at odds with one another remains a popular orthodoxy. So much so that we may be missing the first stirrings of a true American class war: between workers in government unions and their union counterparts in the private sector. (read article)

Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions
By Steven Greenhouse, January 3, 2011, New York Times
Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics. State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. (read article)

Lousy schools split some Democrats from union fold

By Steven Greenhut, January 2, 2011, Orange County Register
Democrats soon will have to decide whether they are the party of the idle rich – i.e., the party of retired government employees, many of whom spend 30 or more years receiving pensions that are the equivalent of millions of dollars in savings – or the party of the poor, the downtrodden and the working class. Fortunately, there are some Democrats who are serious about all that “helping the little guy” rhetoric, especially in the area of public education. In a recent article titled “Democratic schism opens on fixing schools,” the Sacramento Bee detailed the “growing chorus [of Democrats] arguing the party must move away from its traditional allegiance with teachers unions in order to improve chronically low-performing schools.” (read article)

Who Will Protect the People from the Unions?
By Daniel Greenfield, January 2, 2011, Canada Free Press
It is often forgotten that one of the causes of the evolution of the modern American urban union was the lawless suppression of workers by Democratic party affiliated political machines, and yet it did not take so very long before the union became an outgrowth of that same political machine. And having wiped out nearly every independent industry with which it was associated, the only unions still surviving are those in control of either municipal services or state subsidized service providers, particularly in the medical field. If the union began as a way to negotiate salaries and working conditions between employers and workers, the modern day union is often little more than governments and their union supporters bleeding the public dry in order to subsidize a political party and a union leadership that brings in the votes for that party. (read article)

Snowplow Slowdowns Might Become American Way
By Kevin Hassett, January 2, 2011, Bloomberg
Europeans have grown accustomed to seeing government workers shut down their countries when provoked. At this time of huge deficits from Washington to the smallest towns, government workers in the U.S. also face significant cutbacks. Americans may have had their first taste of what that will mean. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor David Paterson are both calling for an investigation of allegations that city workers intentionally dragged out the cleanup of the Dec. 26 blizzard as a way to protest cuts in the city budget. (read article)

New York Gov. Cuomo Plans One-Year Freeze on State Workers’ Pay
By Nicholas Confessore, January 2, 2011, New York Times
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will seek a one-year salary freeze for state workers as part of an emergency financial plan he will lay out in his State of the State address on Wednesday, senior administration officials said. The move will signal the opening of what is expected to be a grueling fight between the new governor and the public-sector unions that have traditionally dominated the state’s political establishment. (read article)

Union Snow Job in New York City Just Glimpse of Coming Blizzard
By Bret Jacobson, December 30, 2010, BigGovernment.com
The New York Post is reporting that unionized public employees were encouraged to slow the process of digging out of the recent snowstorm to demonstrate their labor leverage in hopes of grabbing more taxpayer largess. Think that’s shocking? Just wait til taxpayers finally start paying attention to the power public employees have over local, state, and federal budgets. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown have already warned that 80 cents of every state dollar goes to public employee pay and benefits. Other states face similar figures. Shocking figures have shown public employee pensions twice as high in New York compared to their private-sector counterparts. (read article)

Federal workers: We’re not getting what we pay for
By Ralph R. Reiland, December 29, 2010, Pottstown Mercury
“Washington, D.C.’s, workers enjoy the highest salaries of any U.S. city, with a median household income of $85,198,” recently reported CNNMoney. It’s even higher for federal workers in the city, with an average wage last year for civilian government workers of $81,258 per person (not per household). That’s more than $30,000 more than last year’s average private-sector wage. Add the cost of benefits and pensions, and the average compensation gap between federal and private-sector workers jumps to nearly $62,000 per year — $123,049 vs. $61,051. That doesn’t mean they work the hardest or that they’re twice as smart. (read article)

As governments go broke, public employee unions must share the pain
Editorial, December 28, 2010, Washington Examiner
One need look no further than two Michigan officials — William Cooper, the city manager of Hamtramck, and Tom White, associate director for labor relations of the Michigan Association of School Boards — to grasp the seriousness of the financial crisis exploding across this country. Cooper told the New York Times that his city government “maybe” can pay its bills through March 1. Hamtramck has already cut what it could from its budget, reducing spending for parks, senior centers and road maintenance. Now city leaders say their only remaining option is to file a municipal bankruptcy. If Hamtramck is allowed to do that, according to the Times, at least another 30 Michigan cities will quickly follow suit, so state government leaders aren’t likely to permit such bankruptcy filings. (read article)

Isn’t It Time That Legislators Outlaw Collective Bargaining for Public-Sector Workers?
Editorial, December 27, 2010, Investor’s Business Daily
A guest on Fox Business Network said last week that public employee unions are bankrupting state governments. Isn’t it time that legislators outlaw collective bargaining for public-sector workers? Working for the government as a member of a union is an easy path to prosperity. On average, the yearly compensation for a public sector worker is, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data, $67,812. In the private sector, that average is $59,909. Put another way, when measured as total compensation per hour, state and local government wages are 45% higher ($39.66) than private-sector wages ($27.42). (read article)

Adrain Moore Talks Unions vs. Volunteers on Varney & Co.

December 23, 2011, Fox Business News (watch video)

Opposing sides ready to battle over Ohio collective bargaining
By Jessica Alaimo, December 21, 2010, Newark Advocate
Incoming state leaders plan to target public employment laws in 2011, but on Thursday backers of the collective bargaining process promised to put up a fight. Officials from Policy Matters Ohio, a progressive think tank, argue states without collective bargaining have the same budget shortfalls as Ohio. They also defended the state’s prevailing wage law and say, overall, the state’s public employment laws are good for the economy. “The right of public workers to unionize is not driving the fiscal crisis of states,” said Wendy Patton, a senior associate with Policy Matters Ohio. (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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