Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Why CalPERS retirees flee California
May 12, 2015, Sacramento News
This city’s Spanish name recalls grassy, spring-fed meadows that nourished the first farms here and gave laborers relief from desert heat. Now Las Vegas draws a new generation of settlers epitomized by California transplant Joe Beck: CalPERS pensioners who have made Sin City their No. 1 destination for retirement outside California. “Compared to California, Las Vegas was a no-brainer,” said Beck, a former Southern California school district maintenance administrator who moved here in 2000. “I decided that if I could handle the heat three months out of the year, I needed to move to where my retirement check would be tax-free.” (read article)

Unions make strides among Silicon Valley workforce
By Ned Resnikoff, May 12, 2015, Aljazeera America
The labor movement is carving a path straight through the heart of Silicon Valley. In early March, unions won two key victories in the area within days of one another. First, Apple bowed to pressure from the labor union SEIU-USWW and agreed to directly employ the security guards on its Cupertino, California, campus, instead of hiring the work out through a subcontractor. (read article)

Schools want spotlight on huge CalSTRS rate hike
May 11, 2015, CalPensions.com
The push back from schools hit with a huge CalSTRS rate increase, expected to be an additional $3.7 billion a year when fully phased in, is not that it’s unaffordable and will hurt students or unfairly lets the state and teachers off the hook. Instead, a coalition of school districts, including the giant Los Angeles Unified School District, is proposing a separate budget item for the CalSTRS rate increase within the Proposition 98 school-funding guarantee. (read article)

L.A. Unified teachers ratify three-year contract
By Howard Blume, May 11, 2015, Los Angeles Times
An overwhelming majority of teachers union members voted to ratify a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the union announced Friday. More than 97% of 25,407 educators who cast ballots favored the pact, which includes a 10% raise over two years. Union members also ratified a separate benefits package that retains key current features of employee health plans. (read article)

State Senate Candidate Glazer Cries Foul Against BART Unions
By Susan C. Schena, May 11, 2015, Patch.com
With the special election for the state Senate District 7 seat just over a week away, Democratic candidate Steve Glazer is accusing BART unions of illegally campaigning against him at BART workplaces. The Orinda mayor will face off against state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, on May 19. Glazer has been an outspoken critic of BART employee unions since a protracted labor dispute led to two strikes in 2013. Glazer has advocated for new state legislation to prevent California transit unions from striking. (read article)

Pressing issues for LAUSD board: Teachers contract, graduation rate
By Vanessa Romo, May 11, 2015, LA School Report
Tomorrow’s LA Unified School Board meeting is shaping up to be loud and crowded as the seven members take the final step in approving a new contract with the teachers union and consider several plans to fix impending drop in graduation rates. (read article)

San Bernardino bondholders lose out versus Calpers, judge rules
By Tim Reid, May 11, 2015, Reuters
An attempt by holders of bonds issued by bankrupt San Bernardino to win the same treatment accorded the city’s biggest creditor, state pension giant Calpers, was thrown out by a federal judge on Monday. The ruling comes three days before the southern California city of San Bernardino is to produce a bankruptcy exit plan and would appear to clear the way for the city to slash its bondholder debt. The city has already said that it intends to make full payment to Calpers, which has assets of $300 billion. (read article)

Workers’ comp bill sparks new battle in California
By Dan Walters, May 10, 2015, Sacramento Bee
Three years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown enacted a significant overhaul of California’s multibillion-dollar system of compensating workers for job-related injuries and illnesses. It followed a well-established pattern in workers’ compensation politics. About once a decade, the complex system undergoes revision, usually when several of the five major stakeholder groups make a private deal that takes something away from the others. In 2012, employers and labor unions, with the friendly neutrality of insurers, ganged up on lawyers who specialize in disability cases and on providers of medical care and rehabilitation. (read article)

$9 billion tax hike in name of ‘fairness’? Please
May 9, 2015, U-T San Diego
In surveys of CEOs, California is routinely ranked the nation’s most anti-business state. That’s based both on our heavy regulations and the fact that our income, sales and gasoline taxes are among the nation’s very highest. There is only one area of public policy in which California can be considered business-friendly: property taxation….Now a coalition of liberal groups led by public employee unions want this solitary business-friendly policy to go away. (read article)

Labor unions need to fight back during negotiations
By Teddy Wolf, May 9, 2015, DaliyKos.om
Back in 2011, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey renegotiated union contracts with state workers stating a need to lower labor costs but also acknowledging that the state has underfunded the pension system for years. In short, he pushed for a law (the full 120+ page pdf) that among other things would actually fund the pension system over the next 37 years while otherwise clawing back some retirement and worker benefits in the present. (read article)

Texas Legislation to Stop Government From Being Bribe Collector for Unions
By Stephen Frank, May 8, 2015, California Political Review
Texas is still smarter than California. In California government workers must pay bribes to work. In many industries workers must pay bribes to work. In Texas, workers have been freed from union hostage. Yet, there is one area that Texas has to fix. Like in California, Texas government is the bagman for the collection of dues for unions. (read article)

Unions Talk Tough With Tribes Opposing Tracks On California Online Poker
By Dave Palermo, May 8, 2015, OnLinePokerReport.com
Lawyer, lobbyist and crime mystery novelist Barry Broad, a longtime advocate for California labor unions, isn’t all that impressed with a coalition of American Indian tribes seeking to keep the racing industry out of online poker. “I think they’re kind of a paper tiger,” said Broad, whose sequel Requiem for the Damned was published in 2012. Broad represents Teamsters and Service Employee International Union (SEIU) workers for the California horse racing industry, a largely agricultural conglomerate that wields considerable political clout in Sacramento. (read article)

Suit against teachers unions isn’t about free speech but silencing members
By Mike Hiltzik, May 8, 2015, Los Angeles Times
Attacks on public employee unions, especially teachers unions, have become a permanent feature of the political landscape. But you’d be hard pressed to find one as incoherent and dishonest as a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Los Angeles against six California and national teachers unions. The lawsuit purports to defend the “free speech” rights of its plaintiffs, four California schoolteachers. But its real goal is to silence the collective voice of union members on political and educational issues. (read article)

Illinois justices overturn state’s landmark 2013 pension law
By John O’Connor & Kerry Lester, May 8, 2015, Press Enterprise
The Illinois Supreme Court forced the state Friday to find another way to fix the nation’s worst government-employee pension crisis, ruling lawmakers “overstepped” by enacting a law that slashed retirement benefits to confront a massive budget deficit. In a unanimous decision that frequently scolded state policymakers, the seven justices declared that the measure former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law 18 months ago violates the state constitution because it would leave pension promises “diminished or impaired.” (read article)

POLL: 2016 PENSION REFORM MEASURE WILL COUNTER TAX PUSH
By Steven Greenhut, May 7, 2015, U-T San Diego
While most California political observers are focused on the ongoing political battles within the state Capitol, the biggest policy fights are coming in November 2016, as voters head to the polls during a presidential election. Various groups of the left and right are preparing a host of a ballot initiatives to put before voters. Most of the buzz has centered on California’s public-sector unions. They’ve got the most power and money — and are arguing among themselves over which tax-hike proposals to back during that election. (read article)

Union-led coalition launches campaign to change Proposition 13
By Dan Walters, May 7, 2015, Sacramento Bee
A coalition of public employee unions and other liberal groups, including many churches, launched a campaign Thursday to alter Proposition 13, California’s iconic property tax limit, and raise billions of dollars by hiking taxes on commercial property. The organization, Make It Fair, is headed by unions, including the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union, which would be the main source of millions of dollars to qualify the initiative for the 2016 ballot and campaign for its passage. (read article)

SD labor forum attracts statewide school, union leaders
By Maureen Magee, May 7, 2015, U-T San Diego
Top officials from school districts and teachers unions throughout California will meet with state education leaders in San Diego this weekend for a rare, invitation-only conference that aims to promote collaboration between labor and management. The agenda for the two-day meeting includes some of the most pressing issues confronting public education, from teacher assessments to state funding formulas. None of the policy discussions will be open to the people served by the attendees. Instead, elected officials, administrators and union leaders plan to hash out their differences in hotel conference rooms that are closed to parents, community groups and journalists. (read article)

Renegotiating Retiree Health Care Plans After New Supreme Court Guidance
By Robert Pozen, May 7, 2015, HealthAffairs.org
Although many commentators have criticized the underfunding of public pension plans, relatively few have focused on the huge underfunding of retiree health care plans of states and cities. At the time of Detroit’s bankruptcy, for example, its pension plan was underfunded by over $3 billion, but the unfunded deficit in its retiree health care plan was close to $6 billion. (read article)

California Doesn’t Enlist in Teacher Wars; Seeks Labor-Management Partnership
By Charles Taylor Kerchner, May 7, 2015, EdWeek.org
California is taking an exceptional labor relations path. In Republican-dominated states, declaring outright war on teacher unions has been a political best seller, and ambitious governors, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, see the drubbing of teachers as a ticket to the White House. In more traditionally Democratic states, such as New York, a war of percentages over testing diverts the state from what is more important business. California chose not to enlist in the teacher wars, and it is hoping for a peace dividend. (read article)

Labor Kills Bill To Help Farm Workers
By Katy Grimes, May 7, 2015, FlashReport.org
Labor unions are still running the show in the Democratically-controlled California Legislature. Despite hearing from more than 50 farmworkers on Wednesday, the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee denied the farmworkers the right to vote on their own labor negotiated contacts, even though this right is enjoyed by other union members in California. (read article)

One New Jersey union boss was paid $600,000 in 2014
By Jason Hart, May 7, 2015, WatchDog.org
Union boss John Niccollai took in $600,000 last year, and thousands of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania workers helped pay him. Niccollai is president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 464A, a New Jersey-based union representing nearly 16,000 workers in grocery stores and the food service industry. In total, Niccollai was paid $600,339 last year — including his $573,299 UFCW 464A salary, other disbursements and money he received as a vice president of UFCW headquarters in Washington, D.C. How does Niccollai stack up against the workers who pay his salary? The average food preparation and serving worker in New Jersey was paid $24,320 last year. The average cashier made $21,530, and the average meat packer got $25,960. (read article)

Senate votes to block union dues deduction for some public employees
By Mike Ward, May 7, 2015, Houston Chronicle
Republican-backed legislation that would prohibit government agencies from allowing automatic payroll deductions for unions that historically vote Democrat was approved Thursday by the state Senate. Senate Bill 1968 would allow the payroll deductions to continue for police, fire and emergency-services employees — groups that generally vote Republican in most parts of Texas — but would not allow them for other unions, such as those for teachers, construction trades and other unions. (read article)

CA Assembly Committee Tells Employers, High Quality Obamacare Is Inadequate
May 6, 2015, PRNewsWire.com
During today’s California State Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, AB 842 by Assemblyman Jim Patterson failed on a party line vote. Patterson’s bill, sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors, would have closed the loophole that requires contractors to pay twice for health insurance on public works projects in California where a Project Labor Agreement has been implemented. (read article)

California Farm Union Confronts DC Opposition
By Conmor D. Wolf, May 6, 2015, Dailiy Caller
A modest crowd of farm union supporters rallied in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to oppose the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) for its involvement in an ongoing labor dispute in California. A project of Americans for Tax Reform, CWF has sought to bring attention to California’s refusing to count a union decertification vote, which they argue is unfair to the thousands of farm workers at Gerawan Farming. The United Farm Workers (UFW), however, has argued the vote was manipulated and therefore needed state intervention. (read article)

NEXT ON UNION AGENDA: HOBBLE CHARTER SCHOOLS WITH MORE RULES
By Steven Greenhut, May 5, 2015, U-T San Diego
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled,” wrote the ancient Greek historian Plutarch. Unfortunately, education-related legislation in the Capitol lately has focused mainly on test data, regulations, school funding and teacher job protections — and less about what it takes to kindle the learning spirit in students. The latest battle centers on charter schools. Authorized by a 1992 law, these are publicly funded schools that operate independently from local districts and are exempt from many regulations. Supporters say they can succeed because operators have more flexibility to try innovative teaching approaches than in the hidebound public schools. (read article)

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