Union Watch Highlights

Unions and Rebranded ACORN Behind Violent Occupy San Francisco Clashes With Police
By Lee Stranahan, January 23, 2012, Big Government
In San Francisco this past weekend, the Occupy movement bolstered by labor unions and the rebranded California ACORN group ACCE once again terrorized private businesses and got into direct clashes that included throwing furniture, bricks and Bibles at police officers. This was another “Day of Action” for Occupy San Francisco, in a move that was designed to show the world that #Occupy is still relevant despite being thrown out of their encampments. 23 protesters were arrested and two police officers were injured. As one activist said to the San Francisco Examiner, “I think things went well on Friday.” The significant thing to note here is how blatantly unions and ACCE were involved in these riots and actions against police officers. Back in November, I videotaped how ACCE and the unions — including the SEIU and UAW –choreographed the takeover of Bank of America using Occupy as their front group. (read article)

California civil service unions in denial on pension costs
By Dan Walters, January 23, 2012, Sacramento Bee
Whenever someone suggests that California’s public employee pension systems need reform, civil service unions react dismissively, often with attacks on the credentials or even the morals of critics. When, for example, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found strong support – even among public workers themselves – for Gov. Jerry Brown’s middle-of-the-road pension reform plan, the union-backed Californians for Retirement Security reacted thusly: “These poll results are not surprising. They amount to more fallout from a sustained and unrelenting misinformation campaign being fed to Californians,” and continued: “Millions of public servants in California are doing their jobs and planning their futures with the promise of retirement security made to them. Even they are being peppered, however, with misleading and disproportionate examples of the tiny fraction of six-figure pensions and isolated cases of abuse. Pensions equal less than 3 percent of this state’s beleaguered budget, while California corporations swim in profits and are dodging contributing tens of billions to state coffers through a slew of tax breaks.” (read article)

Line of Scrimmage Forms in Indianapolis Over Union Bill
By Monica Davey, January 22, 2012, New York Times
This city is in full preen for its moment in the spotlight, its first Super Bowl. Everywhere, workers sprouted from cherry pickers over the weekend, hanging football banners from signposts, windows, buildings. The constant beeping of machinery backing up filled the air as an 800-foot zip line was built in a Super Bowl Village that is emerging downtown. And right outside the Statehouse, the intersection formally known as Capitol and Washington has fancy new honorary street signs — Dolphins Drive and Browns Boardwalk. But inside the Statehouse, people are consumed by something else entirely: a partisan fight over union strength has boiled over. The standoff, three weeks old, is over whether Indiana should become the first state in the Midwest manufacturing belt to adopt legislation banning union contracts from requiring nonunion members to pay fees for representation. (read article)

Oakland schools try new way of placing teachers
By Jill Tucker, January 22, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle
In the world outside public education, people apply for a job they want, interview with their potential boss, compete against other applicants and are ultimately selected if they look like a good fit for the position. It doesn’t work that way in public education. In schools, teachers do all the normal things to get hired, but when it comes to placement, seniority is what counts, not the perfect fit. The teacher with the longest tenure in a district gets first dibs on any available job at a school, with the principal – the school’s boss – getting little or no input. School district officials in Oakland want to change that, believing that it’s in the best interests of students when a teacher – new, veteran or in between – wants to work at a school and the school wants that teacher. It’s about “recognizing that a deep and high-quality match between teacher and school is far more complex than who has been in Oakland longer,” said Superintendent Tony Smith, who is leading the charge to overhaul the deeply entrenched hiring system. The idea isn’t popular with the teachers union, which fears that a system based on a subjective selection process will be more of a popularity contest than one that respects the value of an experienced teacher. (read article)

San Jose city councilman avoids union label on campaign flier By Internal Affairs Team
January 21, 2012, Mercury News
It used to be de rigueur for local politicians — Republicans excepted — to get their campaign literature printed at union shops. Back in the 1980s, the journalists’ annual spoof, the Gridiron Show, even featured a big musical number called “Look for the Union Label.” But in his first campaign piece of this election cycle, San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, a Democrat who is no darling of the unions, got a glossy double-sided piece printed at a nonunion shop. “Printing done by a small business in District 6 on recycled paper,” the piece said, making up for the lack of union affiliation with a nod toward local businesses and environmentalists. “It’s much cheaper if you don’t go union,” said Oliverio, who has incurred the unions’ wrath by pushing for smaller pensions and suggesting that volunteers can help staff libraries. The campaign piece, incidentally, says that in his five years on the council, Oliverio has never missed a council meeting or even a council committee meeting. We’re tempted to tell him to get a life. But then, he does represent some of us here at IA. Oliverio is opposed in the June election by attorney Steve Kline, who does have union backing. (read article)

2012 the year of the union contract in Orange County
Editorial, January 20, 2012, Orange County Register
John Moorlach, incoming chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, is scheduled Tuesday to deliver the State of the County address, laying out the year’s challenges and policy objectives. Undoubtedly, the biggest responsibility for supervisors this year will be contract negotiations with three of the county’s largest and most powerful public employee unions: the Orange County Employees Association, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and the Orange County Managers Association. In their negotiations, supervisors should especially target three areas for reform: employee pension benefits, special-pay bonuses and compensation levels. In a phone interview, we were encouraged by Mr. Moorlach’s commitment to reform. While he did not provide details of his speech, he emphasized a recurring theme of his. “It’s going to take collaboration,” he said. “The economy is down on us, and this is the year that something has to be done.” (read article)

Illinois forced to re-hire former mob bookie, thanks to powerful Teamsters union
By Dane Placko, January 20, 2012, Fox News
FOX Chicago’s investigators have learned that the state of Illinois has been ordered to re-hire a former mob bookie, and cut him a check for more than $100,000. Ralph Peluso was fired in 2010 after we started asking questions about how he landed on the state payroll. He is now back on the job, thanks to the powerful Teamsters union. Peluso allegedly took plenty of bets during his long career as an outfit bookmaker. But even he may be stunned at how he beat the odds and scored a major payday at the expense of Illinois taxpayers. (read article)

Judge backs union, says Connecticut must keep 1,248 state troopers on its force
By Brian Lockhart, January 19, 2012, Connecticut Post
A Superior Court judge has agreed with the state police union that the state must have at least 1,248 troopers on the payroll at all times. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s chief counsel, Andrew McDonald, plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Malloy’s administration last summer argued it was not bound by a 1998 minimum police staffing law as it moved ahead with laying off 56 rookie cops to help balance the budget. “This is a classic example of a statute which is directory, saying what should happen as opposed to what must happen,” McDonald said in an interview at the time. And, in fact, the 1,248 minimum has only been met in 2001, 2007 and 2008. Malloy took office in January 2010. The state police union — long frustrated with lawmakers’ willingness to ignore the minimum — decided to challenge the matter in court last summer. The state wanted the case dismissed. But on Friday, Judge James Graham denied the state’s motion in part because he views the 1,248 figure as mandatory. (read article)

Dress on Your Own Time, Officers
Editorial, January 19, 2012, Orange County Register
Taxpayers, reform advocates and those concerned with responsible government budgeting and reining in the power of public employee unions claimed a small victory this month when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lawsuit against the city of San Diego by its police officers, seeking back pay and overtime for tasks including putting on their uniforms before coming to work. The nation’s highest court sent a message to police unions: Get dressed on your own time, like the rest of us. The court’s Jan. 9 decision upheld lower-court rulings against San Diego police officers seeking pay for “donning and doffing” their uniforms, answering emails and performing other random tasks before they were officially on the clock. The lawsuit was originally filed by the police officers union in 2005 on behalf of about 1,500 current and retired officers; it sought millions of dollars from the city. (read article)

Bloated Union Contracts Have Busted State Budgets
By Liz Peek, January 18, 2012, The Fiscal Times
Is it possible that the real divide in the United States today is between unions and… everybody else? Consider the issues making headlines: education reform, busted state budgets, the battle to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, free trade agreements, Occupy Wall Street,  the fight to make Indiana a right-to-work state. What these stories have in common is the waning influence of organized labor and the all-out battle by union leaders to hold on. Take the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top initiative. Education Secretary Duncan recently warned that several states, including New York, might not receive monies earlier awarded through that program because they have not followed through on required reforms. The stumbling block? Teacher evaluations. In New York, the opposition to proposed reforms by unions – unions that constantly complain about inadequate funding — could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. (read article)

State Senator decries ‘passiveness’ by labor unions in Westerly, Rhode Island
By Ted Nesi, January 18, 2012, WPRI-TV
State Sen. Frank Ciccone is making his presence felt far from his Providence district. Ciccone, a powerful State House Democrat who works as a field representative for the Rhode Island Laborers’ District Council union, has asked all unionized school employees in Westerly to attend a School Committee meeting Wednesday night at Town Hall. “Passiveness by public sector members to engage in fighting for their rights has been a problem,” Ciccone wrote in a letter obtained by WPRI.com. “You too are residents, taxpayers and voters in Westerly – LET’S SHOW THEM THAT WE ARE A UNITED FORCE.” “Them,” in this case, are apparently allies of Mario Celico and Jay Goodman, two school committee members who resigned this month from the subcommittee negotiating a new contract with Local 808. They said they were protesting School Committee Chairman David Patten’s successful creation of a separate negotiation team to deal with the teachers union. (read article)

4,000 Fresno County workers will go on strike starting Monday
By Kurtis Alexander, January 18, 2012, Fresno Bee
Fresno County’s largest labor union gave notice Wednesday that it will strike in protest of recent pay cuts, setting the stage for some 4,100 workers to walk off the job for three days starting Monday. The move, which follows months of acrimony between county management and the Service Employees International Union, threatens to disrupt many public services. Social programs, such as child support, food stamps and welfare, as well as libraries and administrative offices face potential hitches. So does the jail and juvenile hall, where most correctional officers are represented by the union. County managers said late Wednesday they had a contingency plan in place to assure that essential services, including public safety, would be maintained. They were yet to notify the departments of the strike, having just received notice. Fresno County’s labor union plans to strike on Monday in protest of latest pay cuts. About 4,100 workers will walk off the job for three days. “The union has been threatening this for a long time. Each of the departments should be ready,” said county Personnel Director Beth Bandy. Union officials declined to comment. (read article)

Cuomo lobs political grenade at public-employee unions; proposes radical pension reform
By Erik Kriss, January 18, 2012, New York Post
Gov. Cuomo lobbed a political grenade at New York’s powerful public-employee unions yesterday, proposing a radical pension overhaul for future city and state workers as part of his $132.5 billion state budget plan. Cuomo said the plan would save New York City $30 billion in pension costs over 30 years, while saving $83 billion for the state and local governments outside the city over the same period. “We can no longer sustain the current pension system,” Cuomo said, citing a projected 185 percent treasury-busting increase in pension costs from 2009 to 2015 if nothing is done. “This is devastating to the state and the local governments,” he said of the rising costs. “We need pension reform. We need it desperately.” Under the proposal, Cuomo would add a new pension tier for new employees that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 and increase worker contributions from the current 3 percent to 4 percent for lower wage earners and as much as 6 percent for higher wage earners. (read article)

No union labor used at DNC speech site, contractor says
By Byron Tau, January 18, 2012, Politico
One of the contractors responsible for building Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, N.C. is ‘praising’ President Obama and the Democratic Party for holding a convention event there, calling the stadium an ‘outstanding example’ of the free enterprise system. Brett McMahon, president of the concrete construction firm Miller & Long DC and the spokesman for the anti-labor, pro-business group Halt the Assault, notes that the stadium where President Obama will formally accept the nomination was built by non-unionized workers. “It is a great example of a grand monument that was built entirely union-free. Furthermore, unlike many sports facilities, there was very, very little public expenditure for the Panthers Stadium. It stands as an outstanding example of the free enterprise system at work. We are certain that the DNC will hold successful events there for their donors and delegates,” McMahon said in a statement. There have already been previous flare-ups with labor groups upset about the choice of North Carolina as the convention site. (read article)

California labor board denies Fresno County unions’ pleas
Jan. 17, 2012, Fresno Bee
The state labor board on Tuesday denied requests by two Fresno County labor groups to help halt county-ordered wage cuts. Service Employee International Union and the California Nurses Association both asked the state to seek court injunctions blocking their new labor contracts. The groups contend that the county did not negotiate fairly and is treating employees poorly. Both groups, which represent more than 3,000 people combined, face pay cuts of 9% or more. County officials have said the cuts are unfortunate, but necessary. The state Public Employment Relations Board did not comment on its decision. (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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