Congress Clashes with NLRB

President Obama’s Rogue NLRB, driven by Chairperson Mark Pearce and the President’s radical recess appointees, have encountered serious roadblocks the past several weeks as they continue their quest to achieve EFCA Through the Backdoor (see Labor Board Chief to Push Union Organizing Rules). This past week, the GOP Senators pushed back when they announced they are Suing Obama Over Sham Labor Board Nominees. It is clear that the GOP has tired of the Obama NLRB’s attempted run around of Congress through the creation of regulations such as the “Posting Rule” – requiring employers to post notices of employee rights under the NLRA in the workplace, and “Quickie Elections”– substantially reducing the time frame during which elections are conducted for the purpose of eliminating the employer’s ability to educate its workforce. Further push back has come in the form of a joint senate resolution currently pending which seeks to overturn the NLRB’s “Quickie Election” rule,while simultaneously sending a message to the President to stop attempting to bypass Congressional authority (see Will Senate Stand Up to Obama’s Union Strongmen? and New NLRB rule that allows labor unions to foist surprise “ambush elections” on businesses and employees).

The purpose of the NLRB’s proposed regulations is to accomplish the Obama agenda of assisting Big Labor in executing Corporate Campaigns, such as the one crafted against my company, chronicled in The Devil at Our Doorstep, and ultimately increasing membership. Corporate Campaigns are no more than an onerous attempt to force employers to sign a Neutrality Agreement, and bypass the secret ballot election process for employees.

Despite the fact that NLRB statistics show unions win 70% of these elections, Big Labor’s ongoing problem is that currently, there are very few elections being held. This is primarily because a decreasing number of employees are interested in signing union cards to petition for an election. Consequently the “Gasping Dinosaur’s alternative is to force unionize employees through Card Check,a process fraught with danger from intimidation, in which the labor union could avoid an election and be recognized simply upon the execution of union cards and without an election by the employees.

Thankfully, the separation of powers among the three branches of the U.S. government, so diligently established by our nation’s forefathers, is working to save what otherwise would have been A Death Penalty for Employees and Employers. Over the past few weeks, several important events have occurred. First, within the legislative branch, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Workplace Fairness Act, which, if enacted, would restrict the NLRB’s overreach and in the process eliminate the “quickie” election process (see Workplace Fairness Act Set to Move to the House Floor). Then, 44 Senators Challenged NLRB’s Ambush Election Rules, which further delayed implementation of the “quickie” election process. The most encouraging news came recently, when it was announced that the Senate will be voting this week to overturn the NLRB’s onerous Ambush Election rules. Businesses around the country are counting on them to do the right thing and hoping they have the intestinal fortitude to defeat these overreaching regulations!

Even more encouragement came last week, when the separation of power structure further proved the sagacity of our founding fathers. In the judicial branch, a South Carolina federal court judge struck down an NLRB proposed rule requiring employers to post notice of employee rights to unionize, finding that the board lacked the congressional authority to implement such a rule. Thankfully, the “Posting Rules” are now postponed indefinitely! The decision went a step farther than a previous decision by a federal district court judge in the District of Columbia, who recently ruled that the penalty portions of the “Posting Rule” would be blocked (see the NLRB Notice Posting Rules were Partially Blocked).The decision by these courts are an important victory.  While posting alone would be no more than an annoyance to employers, the penalty portions of the law, if upheld, would have been a field day for Big Labor! That would mean that Big Labor bosses could organize Corporate Campaigns with impunity to force employers to sign a Neutrality Agreement and achieve Card Check. Just as the SEIU did against my company, EMS, Big Labor bosses would have union thugs file multitudes of  ULP’ s in an attempt to bring the employer to its knees and sign the Neutrality Agreement.

The filing of ULP’s against an employer forces the employer to expend significant amounts of money and time to defend itself, with the result being that many employers eventually cave to union demands in order to avoid the vast expenditure of time and resources. Increased regulations and associated penalties just make it easier for Big Labor bosses to succeed in their “organizing” attempts. An imposition of increased regulation as a gift from the present administration through the auspices of the Rogue NLRB  is the only chance the “Gasping Dinosaurs” have of avoiding extinction, unless of course they change their ways and actually provide true benefits and service to their members (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation). What a novel idea, Big Labor acknowledging that they are there to serve the members and not vice versa, and realizing that each employee should have the right to decide if they wish to be a member.

Unfortunately, despite the fact Obama and NLRB Continue to Cost Union JobsBig Labor has not realized that the President has no loyalty to anyone but himself. Perhaps they will finally get a wakeup call when Obama decides whether to pass or veto the Keystone XL Pipeline bill approved by Congress! Obama’s Keystone Delay Flouts the Law and his narcissism allow for the continuation of Rule by Fiat and put his Political Aspirations & Payback Ahead of American Jobs. No matter the outcome of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Big Labor will continue to push its selfish agenda and utilize Obama’s coattails to prosecute its Persuasion of Power at the cost of American freedoms, the American economy and American jobs.

Big Labor bosses will attempt to keep anyone from standing in their way, but it appears that Congress has finally recognized their tactics and knows that President Obama will continue his rule by fiat if he is not held accountable for his actions, including Constitutional violations and an overreach of the separation of power within our government. America is at a tipping point and the decisions made in the next week, combined with the upcoming November election will determine if America will go with the ways of past democracies, or if in fact, American Exceptionalism will be revived.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

San Jose’s Pension Initiative will be a National Bellweather

San Jose union officials are celebrating a decision last week by the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which struck some city-drafted language from a June ballot measure designed to reduce pension benefits for newly hired city workers and require existing workers either to pay more for their current pension plan or switch to a lower-benefit plan. But the three-judge panel’s unanimous verdict will do little to affect the ultimate outcome of the pension measure and much to remind the public of the lengths to which the state’s public-sector unions will go to resist any reform—and keep voters from having a say.

“How much more taxpayer dollars will be wasted defending this flawed ballot measure?” asked Robert Sapien, president of the city’s firefighters’ union, in a plaintive cry ridiculous even by the low standards of political campaigns. Taxpayers had to pay to defend the measure because the unions kept challenging it in court. After four such attempts, virtually the entirety of the measure withstood judicial scrutiny.

The union “victory” amounted to legal nitpicking. The judges concluded that the word “reform” was too biased. “By combining this charged word with ‘pension’ in the title, all in capital letters,” the panel maintained, “the city council has implicitly characterized the existing pension system as defective, wrong or susceptible to abuse, thereby taking a biased position in the very titling of the measure itself.” That’s a bit dramatic. Seeking political advantage, cities do indeed add titles and summaries to ballot initiatives, but San Jose’s effort didn’t seem over the top here. And the titles on these measures are always printed in all capital letters, so it’s not as though the city’s drafters inserted the word REFORM in the midst of lower-case text, the way overheated spam e-mailers send out those WAKE UP, AMERICA! blasts. People from every political persuasion trying to change a policy describe their efforts as “reform,” and the word has a rather benign and neutral meaning. Nevertheless, the ballot initiative’s new introductory title is “Pension Modification.” That, too, will appear in all caps.

The second part of the court’s objection—the inclusion of language stating that the measure is designed to “protect essential services”—is more understandable. The judges argued that such language belongs more appropriately in the ballot arguments in favor of the initiative. The city’s language is straightforward and truthful, however. City officials are trying to protect services now in jeopardy in large part because of a 350 percent increase in pension costs over the past decade. Pensions now constitute more than 20 percent of San Jose’s general-fund budget. With these changes to its language, the initiative for pension reform—er, modification—will now go to the voters in June. In the heated world of San Jose pension-modification politics, every voter will surely know what’s at stake when voting for or against Measure B; only the most unaware city voters will have to rely upon the ballot wording to know their position on it.

For various reasons, San Jose is more of a pension bellwether than other California cities. Not only is San Jose the state’s third most populous city; it’s also run by a Democratic mayor who argues that pension costs run amok are endangering liberal programs. Most important, San Jose is confronting what the good-government Little Hoover Commission calls the “elephant in the room”—the pension benefits of current public workers. As the commission explains: “Adding a ‘second tier’ of lower pension benefits for new hires, for example, will not deliver savings for a generation, while pension costs are swelling now as Baby Boomers retire. . . . Public agencies must have the flexibility and authority to freeze accrued pension benefits for current workers, and make changes to pension formulas going forward to protect state and local public employees and the public good.” San Jose argues that its charter specifically allows it to address pensions for current employees; court decisions have prevented other cities from tackling these costs.

The court battle underscores an unavoidable California reality: union officials have the deepest pockets to challenge pension-reform measures in every jurisdiction every step of the way, and they’re determined to deny the public the chance to vote on pension-related measures. San Jose will be a closely watched case. The unions will challenge the measure in court if it passes, based on the changes-to-current-benefits argument—a longstanding precedent holding that the U.S. and California constitutions forbid the reduction of promised pensions. Pension-receiving judges will have the final word.

On the plus side, reformers—call them “modifiers” if you like—have won the rhetorical battle. As cities careen toward bankruptcy, even Democratic officials now must contemplate pension reform.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Right to Work on the Move Across America

Recent polls indicate Americans are fed up with Big Labor’s schoolyard bully tactics and their utilization of taxpayer money to support political candidates and liberal agendas. Additionally, Americans are tired of government deficits driven by public sector pay, overblown benefits, and restrictive work rules. Americans, including union rank and file members, are tired of Big Labor’s attempt to deprive them of basic freedoms and utilize union/membership dues to achieve their political goals. They voiced their displeasure in the November 2010 Election (see Union Members Not Happy with Their Leader’s Political Spending and Union Members Overwhelmingly Oppose Union Boss Political Spending on 2010 Midterm Elections). In states like Indiana, elected officials have heard the people’s mandate and passed “Right to Work” legislation (“RTW”) that will provide each and every individual the right to personally decide if they wish to be represented by a union, without fearing the threat of reprisal. What could be more American than the freedom of choice?

This major victory for freedom of choice has politicians and Big Labor bosses in Michigan, New Hampshire and other states drawing the battle lines to defeat potential Right to Work (“RTW”) laws in their respective legislative assemblies. Determining which state will become the 24th Right to Work state is a matter of speculation. Unfortunately, we can be certain that the rhetoric, propaganda, misinformation and theatrics from liberal politicians and Big Labor bosses will be divisive. In fact, Big Labor bosses and politicians in Michigan are already teaming up to pass a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit RTW in Michigan in this November’s election (see Unions Use Ballot to Undo Reform and Michigan Must Resist an Epic Fight Over Unions). Pro-labor groups in Indiana are furious about RTW and have already been on the attack. Indiana Speaker Brian Bosma has expressed the movement being seen by Big Labor and their supporters:

“All over the state, pro-union groups are organizing to defeat pro-RTW legislators, not just in the general election with Bauer at the helm, but in the Republican primary as well. A group calling themselves the “Lunch Pail Republicans”, controlled by labor bosses attempting to hijack the Republican primary, have recruited pro-union candidates to run against incumbent GOP legislators this May, as well. The “Lunch Pails” claim to have $700,000 in their coffers to defeat House Republicans in the upcoming primary, and they are ready to spend every dime.”

As chronicled in my book The Devil at My Doorstep, I have first-hand experience with Big Labor’s tactics and their use of corporate campaigns. These campaigns were utilized against my company and its employees by the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”). At the centerpiece is the union’s desire to use its  “Persuasion of Power,” a term originally coined by UAW President Owen Bieber in 1984, and later resurrected by former SEIU President Andy Stern during his tenure. They incorporate Saul Alinsky’s motto, “Ridicule is man’s Greatest Weapon.” They isolate the target and then use ridicule, misinformation and intimidation to destroy it!  These are not isolated events utilized by rogue organizing operations, but rather they are part of a nefarious centralized scheme. The tactics embraced have been published as part of “universal” Contract Campaign Manual, and they are designed to force employers to capitulate with union demands and sign a Neutrality Agreement. This onerous agreement eliminates employees’ right to a secret ballot election during union organizing campaigns, imposes “Card Check” and requires employers to provide a roster of all employees and their home addresses to union organizers. By use of the Neutrality Agreement, union organizers are able to bypass a neutral and independent election. Instead, the organizers are able to identify employees and “visit” them at their leisure, including at times and places private to the employee. This includes an employee’s home, where they can then utilize any tactics they wish, unmonitored by any government agencies. They can intimidate or otherwise force a bare majority (50 percent plus 1) of the employee population to sign union cards, at which time the employer is automatically unionized.  The scheme is fraught with dangers of abuse, intimidation, improprieties and misinformation.

Corporate Campaigns allow unions to force unionize employees by pressuring employers, through expensive public and legal pressure, into signing a Neutrality Agreement, and then subsequently “negotiating” a collective bargaining contract that has the potential to make them uncompetitive. Forced unionism through Corporate Campaigns is today’s weapon of choice, as unions win a small percentage of organizational secret ballot elections conducted through the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). In short, Big Labor doesn’t care what employees believe or want. They are determined to force unionize and keep them for life through defeat of RTW and, ironically, to use the members’ own dues against them. If Big Labor is more than willing to force unionize people, is there any doubt it will resort to the same tactics to keep them unionized, ensuring the ultimate survival of Big Labor power at the expense of the economy, jobs and freedom of choice?

The “corporate campaign” concept is now being used to repeal RTW in Indiana and stop movement by “Union Conservatives,” founded by 14-year UAW member Terry Bowman, to have RTW passed in Michigan (see Union Conservatives Demands Full Accounting of UAW Spending). While the Big Labor circus continues in Indiana and ramps up in Michigan, it must be understood that RTW is not just about the future of unions or the business climate of Indiana or Michigan. RTW is about the basic God-given right of every American to freedom of choice and each individual’s right and responsibility to self determination, absent from the threat of intimidation and force. If unions cannot survive under these basic tenants, then so be it! Many institutions, organizations, civilizations, governments and inventions have become extinct as progress passes them by and relegates them to history. Big Labor’s Gasping Dinosaurs, who represent less than 12% of the total workforce and less than 7% of the private workforce, are now waging a scorched earth campaign for survival at the expense of the very employees they claim to protect, and at the expense of a fundamental fabric of our country, the “freedom of choice.”

Big Labor would have you believe they have an altruistic mission to provide people the right to be represented in the workplace. However, if Big Labor was so concerned about peoples’ rights, why wouldn’t they be in favor of allowing each employee freedom of choice, as recently expressed by a non-union worker in a union company (see Republicans Didn’t Run When Democrats Were in Charge)? The simple answer is that Big Labor fears many will leave the union rolls because there is no intrinsic benefit to membership, resulting in the unions losing their coveted dues. Membership dues are the true objective. The labor unions are nearly extinct and they need membership dues to elect sympathetic politicians. In turn, these elected officials will pass laws or appoint members to the NLRB that will utilize their regulatory power to administer Big Labor’s agenda, thereby forcing unionism on more public and private employees (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation, Actions Speak Louder than Words). In return, Big Labor will pour more membership dues into political coffers. It is a cycle passing monies extorted from rank and file workers to Big Labor bosses and liberal politicians (see Union Power for Thee, But Not for Me).

RTW provides freedom of choice for employees and provides unions the opportunity to compete in a free market society without taxpayer or employee subsidies. Unions were necessary and beneficial at one point in history; however, they have hastened their own demise. Despite Big Labor’s claims of “protecting the middle class,” union demands have essentially created an unsustainable system due to out-of-control wages and benefits and restrictive work rules in both the private and public sectors, ultimately destroying the middle class they purport to support. The American auto and steel industries are prime examples of the unions’ destruction in viable industries and drastic reduction of the middle class jobs they claim to protect. Simply put, in the private industry there are limits as to what the unions can obtain due to the competition companies face and the need for companies to be profitable. Public sector unions, however, believe the coffer is limitless, which is where they made their mistake. You can only tax the electorate so much before it rebels. When labor costs-per-person rise, the logical response to avoid bankruptcy is to reduce the number of jobs. Consequently we have seen a historical decline in the number of jobs in the auto and steel industries, as well as the current threats facing public school teachers and other public employees. It is the predictable result of the tactics and socialistic philosophy of Big Labor bosses! Big Labor bosses also claim that RTW is unfair, as some people would benefit from union negotiations without paying union dues (see Should Workers Have to Pay Union Dues?).

The real question is, “why would so many people choose not to participate if they had a choice?”  If unions provided a viable service or product, employees would be more inclined to buy. However, many of today’s unions rarely provide meaningful benefits such as job and/or safety training, instead only emphasizing growth for the sake of growth, and ultimately money and power for Big Labor bosses. Union dues are viewed as a means to an end instead of an investment designed to improve the skills and safety of its membership. Unions would fare better if they spent more time developing products and services that would benefit both employees and employers. The typical response of a labor union is to lean solely on the excuse that every employee has the right to “collective bargaining.” However, if unions utilized membership dues to provide a viable product or service, they might be able to attract enough employees to form a collective bargaining unit that was engaged, instead of resorting to forced unionism of people who are not interested.

Unfortunately, the goal of Big Labor bosses is not to serve its members, but to impose its will on the American public, especially Indiana and Michigan at this time, sacrificing  freedom of choice for over 70% of Indiana employees who support RTW, the true opportunity for effective and beneficial union growth and triumph of the free market system (see Viewpoint Poll and Hoosiers Support Freedom). RTW is a triumph that will result in a competitive business atmosphere, spawning increased job opportunities and economic growth for the citizens of Indiana and throughout the United States! In fact, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels recently expressed that he “Probably Underestimated” Right-to-Work Impact, and that Indiana is attracting more business than predicted since RTW was signed into law on February 1, 2012!

Ultimately, it is an issue of the right to private property, one’s labor. It is an issue which we expect both sides of the aisle at statehouses to honor and defend. It is also imperative that both sides respect the democratic process and do the peoples’ will by debating openly, instead of hiding in hotel rooms or using propaganda and misinformation tactics to stop RTW for their buddies and to ensure re-election contributions from Big Labor derived from members’ dues.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

How the NLRB Agenda Creates Unemployment

Labor union membership continues to be blind to the fact that the support of its “leadership” to President Obama and his political allies is coming at the cost of the members. Big Labor bosses and their political allies are happy to continue to throw the membership under the bus for their own personal gain. For President Obama, this is the prospect of re-election; for the labor bosses, this is the survival of their “way of life.” This can be seen through the President’s actions and comments over the past three years.

Early in his presidency, President Obama made disparaging remarks about business owners whose companies had corporate jets. This was done in a blatant attempt to incite class warfare, despite the fact that the country was in a deep recession. By his words, the President willingly sacrificed the jobs of the very people who supported him through union dues. He knew the liberal media would not expose the tragic result his words would have on the private jet and airplane manufacturing industry.

In Wichita, Kansas, the home of private aircraft manufacturing has suffered tremendously, as thousands of union employees employed by Cessna and Beechcraft have been laid off, not to mention the thousands of jobs affiliated with general aviation lost across the country including manufacturers, part suppliers, fuel, pilots, mechanics, FBO services and insurance providers. Additionally, due to the loss of significant sales, use, income environmental and aviation tax revenues, thousands of local, state and federal employee positions, many of which were union jobs, have disappeared.

Adding insult to injury now the White House Defends User Fees of $100/flight on general aviation and corporate aviation to raise revenues in Obama’s continued class warfare and redistribution of wealth scheme in his effort to bring down America. Ironically this will cost more jobs, many of them union, as revenues ultimately will be reduced as fewer aircraft are purchased and general aviation travel is curtailed due to the added expense. The vicious cycle will continue to perpetuate itself at the expense of American jobs.

Further evidence was seen in December when Obama began his campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline (see White House, GOP Battle for Supremacy on Keystone) and again recently when he voiced his opposition of the Keystone XL pipeline that would have created or saved some 20,000 union jobs. He did so to cement campaign support from his environmental buddies. His reasoning:

The President says he’s turning down the project not because it isn’t worthy, but because of what he calls an arbitrary Feb. 21 deadline he was given by Congress to make a decision. The deadline was set by a GOP-written provision as part of a tax bill that Obama signed into law just before Christmas.

This is the same President that rejected a Republican controlled house offer in December 2011 to extend employee payroll deductions until December 31, 2012, and instead demanded a two month extension so he could further evaluate the Keystone XL pipeline (see Obama’s Keystone Delay Flouts the Law). This is despite the fact 56% Favor Building the Keystone Pipeline, Think It’s Good for the Economy (see Obama Ignores His Own Energy Goals in Rejecting Keystone XL). It should be apparent this President has no loyalty to anyone, except himself. It is another perfect example of his intent to Rule by Fiat and move America to totalitarian socialism.

Based on these comments, the President has riled certain labor leaders (see Job Killers-2, American Workers-0). It is apparent that some union members are now questioning who the President is looking out for.

Knowing he had to mollify union members and Big Labor bosses after throwing them under the bus the last three years, Obama recess appointed radical members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in an effort to achieve Card Check.  The Rogue NLRB has responded by reversing previous pro-business decisions and proposing new regulations designed to promote union Corporate Campaigns in a blatant attempt to achieve EFCA Through the Backdoor. Additionally, the NLRB decided to take on Boeing in an effort to further big labor power and suppress Right to Work in South Carolina and across the country. However, despite the fact that the Machinists’ union and Boeing came to an agreement and the NLRB has rescinded its charge this Sleight of Hand from the Rouge NLRB has actually resulted in the loss of union jobs, not reported by the liberal media. Boeing recently announced it will be closing its 85 year old plant in Wichita, which will result in the loss of approximately 2100 jobs, most of them union (see Kansas Common Sense – Kansans Troubled by Boeing’s Announcement to Close Wichita Facility).

Again, Obama’s media friends provided little coverage of this disastrous loss of jobs seemingly oblivious to the fact America Needs an Effective Leader, Not a Politician.  Their liberal ideology blinds them to the fact Obama’s Rule by Fiat is A Death Penalty for Employees and Employers. When Will the Main Stream Media Wake Up and realize they are adding and abetting the loss of the very middle class they claim to support?

It is inconceivable that rank and file union members will continue to allow the Big Labor bosses and the President to sell them down the river. However, with little mainstream media coverage most of them are going about their daily lives taking care of their families, doing their jobs and trying to enjoy life. It is a shame that the President’s delusional ambition of Political Aspirations & Payback Ahead of American Jobs combined with Big Labor boss greed and quest for survival are rapidly destroying the middle class dream they purport to defend.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

America’s Atlas Generation – The Forgotten 33%

Much has been made of the 1% vs. the 99%; the “super-rich” vs. the rest of us, who are presumably the hard working, loyal Americans who’ve been left behind. But who are the rest of us, and how does who we are affect how much we pay in taxes, and how we may vote?

The chart below depicts the American electorate divided not into two groups – the 1% vs. the 99%, but four groups – the 1% super-rich, then 20% representing government workers, 46% representing citizens who either pay zero net taxes or negative taxes (ala the “earned income credit”), and the remaining 33% who are neither super-rich, government employees, or not paying taxes. One might term this group the forgotten 33%, because no special interest will speak for them. They have neither the numbers nor the financial wherewithal to decisively influence elections.

The choice of colors – red for the 20% political class AND for the 46% entitlement class, is not accidental. These voters have an identity of interests that automatically inclines them to favor more government spending; government workers because more government spending means more job security, higher pay and benefits, and more expansion of their organizations, and citizens who pay no taxes because their economic status is enhanced through receiving entitlements for which they bear no share of the costs. This identity of interests between the political class and the entitled class has created a supermajority of voters in America who have a self-interest in supporting big-government.

Perhaps the most appalling – and unchallenged – fallacy promoted by the big-government supermajority, primarily through their spokespersons in the public sector unions, is that the super-rich are “trying to destroy the middle-class by pitting the private sector workers against the public sector workers.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The middle class can indeed be represented by the 20% of the population who works for the government, combined with the 33% of the population who works in the private sector and make enough money to pay income taxes. But the similarity ends there. Government workers have pay and benefits that are, on average, twice what private sector workers earn. Their pension funds offer defined retirement benefits that are literally five times better, on average, than what private sector workers collect from social security.

While the government worker union spokespersons want us to believe that Wall Street is trying to divide and conquer the middle class by pitting private sector workers against government workers, the truth is this: Government workers have joined with Wall Street and turned against the private sector taxpayers, because it is in their mutual economic interests to do so. Nothing illustrates this fact more clearly than the existence of nearly $4.0 trillion in government employee pension fund assets, paid for by taxpayers, invested and managed by Wall Street, with taxpayers guaranteeing the returns (if the investments fall short, taxes go up), and government workers guaranteed the defined benefit that allows them to retire, on average, 10-15 years earlier than private sector workers, with pensions that average 3-4 times as much money as social security.

The “super-rich” embody, of course, more financial interests than just those of Wall Street bankers. But Wall Street bankers, who used their bipartisan political influence to over-build America’s financial sector and defer any sort of meaningful regulations that might have introduced competition and accountability into their industry, are the ones who most deserve the ire of the American electorate. They are also the ones who are most co-dependent with the political class, because there is no source of money pouring into Wall Street that comes anywhere close to the hundreds of billions each year that taxpayers have to fork over to the public employee pension funds.

To turn around and suggest that somehow the super-rich are aligned with the forgotten 33% – those middle-class private sector workers who make enough to pay taxes – strains credulity. Both the super-rich as individuals and the super-rich to the extent they are associated with corporations or financial institutions are completely bi-partisan in their political contributions. For that matter, Republicans are only scarcely less addicted to big government programs and higher taxes than Democrats. Many of the super-rich are not capitalists in the most virtuous and productive sense of the word – they aren’t trying to altruistically imagine innovations that will make our lives better, then fighting to convince people to voluntarily purchase these products – they are using their political influence to lock out competitors, access government subsidies, and force people to purchase their products through laws and regulations.

America’s forgotten 33%, those who are neither entitled to avoid all taxes, nor members of the political class who pay no taxes, nor the super-rich, might be called “The Atlas Generation.” They carry the world on their shoulders. Their challenge is daunting – they must convince the political class to support sustainable taxpayer funded benefits under formulas that apply equally to ALL workers, public or private, without relying on Wall Street speculative investments to pay for this. Equally challenging, they must convince the entitled class that there is an alternative to identity politics, the politics of envy, and the cycle of government dependency. And they must convince a critical mass of the politically influential super-rich to embrace and advocate a political economy that nurtures competition instead of crony capitalism.

Will Indiana Become the 23rd Right-to-Work State?

As the 2012 Indiana Legislative Assembly convenes, January will represent a tipping point for all Hoosiers’ individual freedoms as politicians and Big Labor draw battle lines to determine if Indiana will become the 23rd right-to-work state.

Common sense should make the outcome of such a battle obvious, as a right-to-work law ensures that every employee has freedom of choice against compulsory unionism and infringements on the right to one’s own property, i.e., your labor. Unfortunately, common sense needs some help with this oft misrepresented issue.

Under a right-to-work law, an employee would not be compelled to join a union as under current law. Additionally, “security clauses” or closed shops that require every employee to be a union member and “check-off clauses” requiring a company or government entity to collect union dues would be eliminated from collective-bargaining agreements. These punitive clauses basically guarantee union contracts for life, thus eliminating incentive to provide members viable products or services. Other than decertification, employees have no options or recourse from belonging to the union and paying dues, thereby perpetuating forced unionism.

A second form of forced unionism exists, one that sets the table for the perpetual forced-unionism model. As chronicled in my book, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” unions utilize vicious corporate campaigns to force employees to unionize by pressuring employers to capitulate and sign a “neutrality agreement,” the genesis of the so-called “card check.” This agreement eliminates an employee’s right to a secret-ballot election, requiring employers to provide to union organizers information on all employees, including home addresses. Union organizers then utilize unscrupulous tactics, unmonitored by any government agency, to intimidate or otherwise force a bare majority of employees to sign union cards, at which time the employer is automatically unionized. The campaign depends on abuse, intimidation, improprieties and misinformation.

Despite historical claims of protecting the middle class, unions have essentially created an unsustainable system in both the private and public sectors, ultimately destroying the middle class they purport to support. The American auto and steel industries are prime examples of the unions’ destruction of viable industries. Consequently, we have seen a historical decline in the number of middle-class jobs in the auto and steel industries as well as the current threats facing public-sector employees.

Even so, big labor would have you believe they have an altruistic mission to provide people the right to be represented in the workplace. If unions were so concerned about peoples’ rights, you would think they would be in favor of right-to-work, allowing each employee freedom of choice. These unions, though, are nearly extinct and desperately need membership dues to elect sympathetic politicians who in turn will pass laws and appoint bureaucrats to utilize regulatory power to further their agenda. If unions are willing to force people to unionize, they will likely utilize the same tactics to keep them unionized, assuring their own survival at the expense of the economy, jobs and freedom of choice.

Again, right-to-work is an issue of the right to private property — one’s labor — which we as Hoosiers expect both sides of the aisle at the Statehouse to honor and defend. The right to private property is a triumph of Western Civilization, and the associated freedoms that come with it have proved to be extremely rewarding for those working hard to achieve the American dream.

Our founding fathers designed a marvelous system that guarantees social and economic justice by establishing individual responsibility. It is time for all Hoosiers to hold elected officials accountable to protect our individual freedoms and pass a right-to-work law.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

CalSTRS Admits Annual Pension Funding Must Increase

California’s unionized public employees, who enjoy pensions that average at least five-times what a social security recipient can hope to receive, love to claim they have a “contract” that makes reducing these pension benefits impossible.

They certainly do have a contract – sort of like the contract an underworld boss might order on a troublesome associate. Except in this example the underworld bosses are public employee unions, the troublesome associates are the taxpayers, and the “contract” requires the taxpayers to cover public employee pension fund returns. That is, whenever government worker retirement funds fail to achieve their projected returns, the taxpayer covers the difference with higher taxes. Nice deal for Wall Street brokerages, who get to manage all the money with no risk. Nice deal for unionized government workers, who enjoy retirements that are, on average, five times better than social security. Really, really bad deal for the taxpayer.

Spokespersons for the government unions and the government worker pension funds have long stated that “the market has just been beat up a bit lately,” and “investment professionals assure us there is no cause for concern.” But the sobering truth is starting to emerge, and according to “contract,” taxpayers are going to get hit hard.

On December 20th the CalSTRS CEO, Jack Ehnes, in a rather convoluted acknowledgement on the “Ask Jack” section of CalSTRS website, admitted that funding to CalSTRS would have to increase by $3.8 billion per year for the next 30 years. Here is what he wrote:

“Recent media reports have suggested that to solve the unfunded liability the state will have to increase CalSTRS funding by $3.8 billion a year for 30 years for a total of more than $114 billion.

Although this is an accurate statement based on current projections, achieving adequate funding can occur several ways that would be phased in over time. The CalSTRS $56 billion funding shortfall can be managed, but it will require gradual and predictable increases in contributions.”

Despite the supposedly reassuring phrase “achieving adequate funding can occur several ways that would be phased in over time,” the fact that even the CalSTRS CEO is himself acknowledging this degree of funding shortfall should belie any thoughts that the number is overstated.

Putting aside for the moment the probability that this $3.8 billion per year is nowhere near the actual additional amount that will be necessary to adequately fund CalSTRS, how much does this latest salvo – pursuant to the contract on California taxpayers – cost per household?

First remember that of 12 million households in California, 47% of them pay no taxes. Also remember that at least another 10% of these households have a state or local government worker living in them. This means that 57% of California’s households are exempt from the contract on California, leaving 43%, or 5.2 million households to cover these new payments.

Second, remember that similar shortfalls exist within all unionized government worker pension funds in California, and CalSTRS only covers teachers, which at most only comprise about 40% of California’s state and local government workforce. This means the $3.8 billion per year CalSTRS shortfall, applied to all state and local government worker pension funds, would expand to $9.5 billion per year.

Anyone who thinks CalPERS or the LA County pension fund, or any other local government worker pension funds in California are in any better financial shape than CalSTRS is welcome to dismiss this logic. Otherwise, according to their own spokespersons, we now are looking for another $9.5 billion per year of additional taxes to keep our government worker pension funds in California solvent.

This equates to nearly $2,000 per year in additional taxes on those 5.2 million households in California who actually pay taxes. That’s just additional taxes, that’s just for pensions, and that is based on what is almost certainly the minimum amount it is going to take to establish financially sound pensions for California’s unionized state and local government workers.

The unionized government worker’s “contract on California” must make everyone who crows about the inviolability of contracts quite proud.

Businesses Exit California and Illinois

Businesses have had it with poor business conditions in two of the most dysfunctional states in the union, California and Illinois.

In an editorial, the Orange County Register reports Even profitable firms fleeing California

Democratic reaction to the news that Waste Connections, a $3.6-billion company and major Sacramento-area employer, is headed to Houston to seek a friendlier business climate tells other businesses all they need to know about the attitudes of those who run California’s government.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, gave these clueless and snarky remarks in response to the news: “In this instance you have a company that is, in fact, profitable, making significant revenue gains in 2011 and 2010. That doesn’t speak to a bad business climate here in California when a good company is able to thrive in that way. So whatever Mr. Mittlestaedt’s (company CEO) reasons are to leave the great state of California, I know I’m pushing back.”

Is it really the Senate president’s role to determine the proper profit margin for a privately owned company? Talk about arrogance.

“The decision by Waste Connections to relocate, despite the 17 percent revenue increase and the $18 million cost to move to Texas, illustrates that businesses will endure short-term costs to ensure long-term prosperity,” wrote state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, in response to Steinberg’s message. Walters quotes business-relocation expert Joe Vranich of Irvine, who notes that businesses typically save 40 percent in costs by leaving California because of lower taxes and more manageable regulations found elsewhere.

If California wants to improve its business climate and reduce its double-digit unemployment rate, its officials need to understand what companies such as Waste Connections are saying, rather than simply dismiss their concerns.

Businesses Bargain for Better Deals in Illinois

The Chicago Tribune lists 10 companies with an eye in exiting the state in Illinois companies eyeing an exit

Chicago’s huge futures exchange owner CME Group has joined a growing list of companies threatening to leave Illinois as a result of the state’s corporate tax increase earlier this year. Illinois pushed through the 45 percent corporate tax increase in January, trying to address one of the biggest budget shortfalls of any state in the U.S. But the move proved to be a risky step — since then, both small and large companies have complained about the increase, and some have received incentives to stay put.

Also on the list: Sears, Motorola Mobility, Caterpillar, Navistar, Mitsubishi, US Cellular, Jimmy John’s, and continental Tire.

Small Businesses, Taxpayers Screwed

On December 12, Illinois House approved CME-CBOE, Sears tax deal. Indeed, most of the above companies negotiated huge tax breaks and will stay in Illinois at least for a while.

Small companies with no clout and no leverage as well as taxpayers in general are the ones paying the price for the seriously misguided policies of Democratic Governors Pat Quinn, and Jerry Brown.

Tax-and-Destroy Policies

The tax-and-destroy policies of Illinois and California, coupled with the the massive public union pandering in both states got me wondering about respective unemployment rates, state by state.

Unemployment Rates for States
Monthly Rankings
Seasonally Adjusted
Nov. 2011p
Rank State Rate
1 NORTH DAKOTA 3.4
2 NEBRASKA 4.1
3 SOUTH DAKOTA 4.3
4 NEW HAMPSHIRE 5.2
5 VERMONT 5.3
6 IOWA 5.7
7 WYOMING 5.8
8 MINNESOTA 5.9
9 OKLAHOMA 6.1
10 VIRGINIA 6.2
11 UTAH 6.4
12 HAWAII 6.5
12 KANSAS 6.5
12 NEW MEXICO 6.5
15 LOUISIANA 6.9
15 MARYLAND 6.9
17 MAINE 7.0
17 MASSACHUSETTS 7.0
19 MONTANA 7.1
20 ALASKA 7.3
20 WISCONSIN 7.3
22 DELAWARE 7.6
23 PENNSYLVANIA 7.9
23 WEST VIRGINIA 7.9
25 ARKANSAS 8.0
25 COLORADO 8.0
25 NEW YORK 8.0
28 TEXAS 8.1
29 MISSOURI 8.2
30 CONNECTICUT 8.4
31 IDAHO 8.5
31 OHIO 8.5
33 ALABAMA 8.7
33 ARIZONA 8.7
33 WASHINGTON 8.7
36 INDIANA 9.0
37 NEW JERSEY 9.1
37 OREGON 9.1
37 TENNESSEE 9.1
40 KENTUCKY 9.4
41 MICHIGAN 9.8
42 GEORGIA 9.9
42 SOUTH CAROLINA 9.9
44 FLORIDA 10.0
44 ILLINOIS 10.0
44 NORTH CAROLINA 10.0
47 MISSISSIPPI 10.5
47 RHODE ISLAND 10.5
49 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 10.6
50 CALIFORNIA 11.3
51 NEVADA 13.0

Not a Red vs. Blue or Rustbelt Issues

High unemployment is not a red-state vs. blue-state issue. Nor is there a clear rust-belt trend. Moreover, Nevada, is among the more business friendly states but like Florida the hardest hit by the housing bust. Illinois was not so hard-hit but parts of California were.

However, California and Illinois have many things in common:

  • Harsh business environments
  • High tax rates
  • Both states are among the most pro-union states
  • Both states lack right-to-work laws

That California and Illinois suffer from business flight and high unemployment should not be surprising.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

Which Special Interests Are Partisan?

An analysis we published earlier this year, “Is Union Reform Partisan,” documented the fact that about 95% of political contributions by unions go to the Democratic party. But is corporate political spending is less partisan than union political spending? Equally important, to what extent does corporate political spending outweigh political spending by unions?

Parsing data from OpenSecrets.org, again, “a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics,” what follows is information on all of the top 100 political spenders during the eleven election cycles between 1990 through 2010. These top 100 are divided into four categories; corporate, financial, union, and grassroots. The results were quite surprising, as summarized on the chart below:

The data used to generate these numbers comes from OpenSecrets.org’s “Top All-Time Donors, 1990-2010” table, which were downloaded onto spreadsheets and sorted into the four categories noted, while retaining in the far left column the rank of each contributor within the top 100. So the reader may view the assumptions, all four of these tables constitute the remainder of this post.

Readers are invited to mull the implications of these findings regarding the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years in America:

1 – The corporate and financial sectors combined did outspend unions, by a ratio of almost exactly 2-to-1.

2 – Unions spent 95% of their contributions on Democrats.

3 – The corporate sector spent 56% of their contributions on Republicans, and the financial sector spent 53% of their contributions on Republicans. Their spending between the two parties was essentially nonpartisan.

4 – Overall, among the top 100 political spenders of the last 20 years, Democrats collected 62% of the takings, and Republicans only collected 38%.

It remains open to interpretation which party might be more beholden to special interests…

Here is the data:

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End of Collective Bargaining in California?

It is not often I side with economic professors. However, a proposal by Lanny Ebenstein to kill public union collective bargaining in California makes me stand up and salute.

Please consider Benefit buster Lanny Ebenstein

Lanny Ebenstein wants you to vote to kneecap the state’s public workers unions by banning their right to collective bargaining. Other measures scrambling to qualify for the November 2012 ballot would drop the hammer specifically on public employees’ pensions or increase their retirement age, but Ebenstein’s may be the most uncompromising.

Ebenstein, a lecturer in economics at UC Santa Barbara, believes that it’s too cozy for unions to be bargaining with bosses they’ve likely campaigned to elect — and the state’s economic doldrums are one result. An eight-year veteran of the Santa Barbara school board and the author of volumes about conservative economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, he’s now got a metaphorical book he wants to throw at public employee unions.

Interviewer Patt Morrison: Some people disagree with your numbers, and with your dislike of collective bargaining in the public sector. You cite a 1937 letter from FDR: “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”

Ebenstein: I believe the principle of collective bargaining was never meant to pertain to public employees. The public sector unions have been able to exert undue influence on the political system to receive an undue share of resources from government.

Morrison: You’re raising money so you can begin to collect signatures to put this on the ballot.

Ebenstein: We need $2 million. We are trying to get commitments of a million dollars. We only need two of those, but it’s more like getting individuals to commit $100,000. We have several people who’ve committed $100,000 if we can get a million dollars.

Morrison: Are you asking the Koch brothers? They controversially put money against public employee unions in Wisconsin.

Ebenstein: We haven’t gone to the Koch brothers yet, but we may. In the same way that the problem was created by Democrats and Republicans, the solution is going to be created by Democrats and Republicans. You have to unite Republicans who are concerned about taxes with Democrats who are concerned about public services.

Bid Filed

The Sacramento Bee reports Lanny Ebenstein filed Initiatives to End Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

The first measure would ban recognition of all public-sector labor unions and prevent government authorities from collectively bargaining with them.

The second would impose a higher tax burden on pensions paid through CalPERS or CalSTRS.

The third would raise the retirement age for state employees to 65. Public safety workers would see their retirement age rise to 58.

A spokesman for a public employee group said he doubted Ebenstein’s group could raise the money needed to campaign successfully for the three measures.

Collective Bargaining Neither a Privilege Nor a Right

I wish Ebenstein well. We all should.

This is why: Collective Bargaining neither a Privilege nor a Right.

Instead, collective bargaining drives up costs at taxpayer expense. Here is a recent case in point from the LA Times: New contract for California prison guards lifts cap on saved vacation

Gov. Jerry Brown negotiates a new contract for California’s prison guards, who will be allowed to save unlimited amounts of vacation, potentially leading to massive payouts when officers retire.

The track record proves public unions and union officials get in bed with corrupt politicians willing to buy votes, and that is why prison guards with only a high school education can make more in retirement than they do is a short career working.

The same thing applies to bus drivers, transit workers, trash collectors, and every facet of public service.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

Governor Brown Signs Last Minute Pro-Union Legislation

As the legislative session came to an end, some Capitol observers expressed a glimmer of hope that Gov. Jerry Brown would be the independent, reform-minded governor that he swore he would be when he ran for office. After the governor argued that not every problem deserves a government solution — when he vetoed a Nanny-ish ski-helmet law and put the kibosh on a card-check bill that would have eliminated secret-ballot union elections for farm workers — I joined the “wishful thinking” chorus and urged the governor to heed his libertarian impulse.

But Brown was just playing head games with those of us who believe that California must reform its government and take on the public-employee unions that are driving up costs and eroding public services. He vetoed a couple of other egregious union-backed laws, including one that would have unionized child-care workers, but when the final bill-signing tally came in, it’s clear that he is nothing more than a front man for the unions and an enemy of reform.

It always helps to deal in reality. So don’t expect anything to improve under his watch.

The Los Angeles Times summarized the Brown signing and veto flurry with this headline: “Gov. Jerry Brown is giving unions most of what they seek.” As the news story reported, “When the dust settled on Gov. Jerry Brown’s first legislative session in nearly three decades, no group had won more than organized labor, which heralded its largest string of victories in nearly a decade.” Union leaders were crowing with delight.

For instance, the governor signed a bill that makes it nearly impossible for municipalities to declare bankruptcy, forcing them instead to go through a mediation process that is dominated by union supporters who would oppose bankruptcy at all costs. Salaries and benefits are consuming such a large portion of city budgets that officials have no choice but to shut down parks and lay off workers.

The unions won’t budge on benefits, so their goal is to make it impossible to abrogate those overly generous union contracts that are the source of the problem.

Sabotaging Initiatives

Brown signed another union device to stop reform: SB 202, which pushes citizen initiative measures to only November general election ballots.

The idea is to make it more difficult to pass initiatives by burdening the ballot with too many measures. Unions know that they own the Legislature and that the reforms they fear will come at the ballot box, so they want to throw a wrench in the gears of direct democracy.

The governor has built his governorship to date on the idea that Californians are undertaxed. By cutting out opportunities for governmental reform through measures such as municipal bankruptcy and the ballot box, he is eliminating alternatives to his preferred “solution” — higher taxes. That’s a cynical approach.

As the Times pointed out, “At the urging of the food workers’ union, Brown agreed to crack down on the use of automated checkout machines in grocery stores. … He guaranteed wages for workers in public libraries that are privatized — a bill sponsored by another labor group.” These bills are about using government power to artificially protect union jobs, regardless of the costs imposed on business owners, consumers and taxpayers.

Most egregious, Brown vetoed a bill, SB 914, that had wide support in the Legislature (it received only four “no” votes between both houses) that would have overturned a California Supreme Court decision that allows police to wantonly violate civil liberties. If you are arrested for any reason, the court ruled that police can take your smart phone and rifle through all its many files, emails, phone numbers, photographs, or tap into a reporter’s newsroom database and fish for incriminating evidence. In their view, a cell phone is no different than anything else a cop might find in your pocket.

“Brown’s veto also shores up support with police unions and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a police union that opposed the legislation and recently donated $38,900 to Brown’s campaign coffers,” Wired magazine reported.

Unions Before People

Once again, Brown puts the interest of some of the most controversial unions — i.e., PORAC — paid for the legal defense of a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer who shot to death an unarmed, restrained man in Oakland, and has fought efforts to release records of police misbehavior — ahead of the rights of citizens. Forget any notion of Brown as a believer in civil liberties.

Brown also signed a bill, SB 922, that would stop localities from banning those union-monopoly “project labor agreements,” which force nonunion contractors to hire union workers if they want to bid on public-works jobs. PLAs inflate the cost of projects by reducing competition and thereby make it harder to stretch public dollars. They also eliminate free choice and the bill Brown signed is undemocratic in that it undermines local decision making.

Yet Brown — obviously stretching to provide cover for an indefensible signing — argued that the bill “seems fair to me — even democratic.”

In Brown’s union-colored worldview, stopping democratic efforts is democratic.

Another example of Brown’s intellectual dishonesty came when he signed legislation, SB 26, and an executive order that attempt to stop contraband cell phones from making it into the state’s prison system. The efforts ignored the figurative elephant in the jail cell — the prison guards’ union, whose members are a main conduit for the phones (some guards take bribes to smuggle the phones to gang members). The union has obstructed searches of employees that would cut down on this practice.

California won’t be competitive again until the government is reformed. Reform can’t take place until the unions, which control the Capitol, are brought under control.

It wasn’t totally unreasonable to hope that the at-times unpredictable Brown might have used his final chance at power to leave a legacy of reform and accountability. At least we know for sure that Brown isn’t the man for the job and that all such hope is misplaced.

About the author: Steven Greenhut is the editor-in-chief of Cal Watchdog, an independent, Sacramento-based journalism venture providing original investigative reports and news stories covering California state government. Greenhut was deputy editor and columnist for The Orange County Register for 11 years. He is author of the new book, “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

Jerry Brown Backs Union Power Move

Notwithstanding the fact that the government employee unions were the biggest financial backers of Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial race against Meg Whitman, he repeatedly assured us that he would govern independently. After all, he said, he is older and wiser, not interested in higher office and has nothing to prove. But the political version of the Golden Rule (He who has the gold, rules) was in full play toward the end of last week. Indeed, labor’s campaign contributions to Jerry turned out to be a golden investment.

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 202, a bill reflecting all that is wrong with California and especially the Legislature as a political institution. This bill was a blatant union power grab and everyone — even left of center editorial pages — recognized it as such.

If there were any doubt whether Jerry Brown is a complete tool of labor, there isn’t anymore.

SB 202 is so wrong on so many levels. First, it mandates that, from now on, all initiative measures appear on the November ballot. The law now is that initiative measures which qualify in time to be placed on the June primary election will so appear. So what’s wrong with jamming all qualified initiatives onto one ballot – along with major candidate races — every November in even numbered years? Nothing, if you like ballot pamphlets the size of the Los Angeles phone directory. Ballot fatigue, which occurs frequently now, will be a certainty in these mega-elections.

Second, SB 202 moves the vote on a constitutional requirement for a better “rainy day fund” from June 2012 to November 2014. This budget reform was part of the infamous budget deal that left Californians with $16 billion in higher taxes. The only reform Republicans got out of this lousy deal was this fig leaf of a budget reform — but at least it was better than nothing.

In exchange for the massive tax hikes, Democrats agreed that the budget reform would be voted on in this June’s election. Indeed, the statute itself mandated June as the time for the vote. But with Arnold gone and Jerry in, Democrats figured they could break the deal. They did and Jerry is the accomplice by signing the bill.

Two senior editorial writers, one with the Sacramento Bee and one with the San Francisco Chronicle (hardly bastions of conservative thought) both asked me the identical question: “Because the Democrats broke the budget deal crafted in 2009 as it relates to the rainy day fund, why would the Republicans ever negotiate with the Democrats again?” Their question provided its own answer: Having been stabbed in the back, legislative Republicans have no incentive for bipartisan cooperation for the foreseeable future and we have Jerry to thank for this sorry state of affairs.

Finally, SB 202 is the poster child for legislative abuses. This bill wasn’t even in print on the last day of the legislative session. Having the skids amply greased with labor contributions to their democrat puppets in the legislature, the bill was introduced and then sailed through both houses. Committee “hearings” were a joke. No notice to the public at all. Testimony from experts on the impact on democracy in consolidating all initiative votes into a single November election? Forget about it. This was a “slam, bam, thank you Ma’am” job on the citizens of California if ever there was one.

Governor Brown could have done the right thing and vetoed this monstrosity. But, as we now know, he is as beholden to government employee unions as much, if not more, than the Democrats in the Legislature.

As the rest of the nation begins to shake off the shackles of intransient government labor interests, Jerry Brown can only ask “how high?” when those same interests say “jump.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

A Blueprint for Maintaining the Status Quo

Tom Torlakson’s panel comes up with edubabble and little else in an attempt to turn around a troubled California public school system.

Just when we thought we were safe from yet another “master plan for educational improvement,” A Blueprint for State Schools is bestowed on us. This 31 page monstrosity was unleashed by State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Transition Advisory Team. While the Teacher Quality Roadmap I wrote about in June had specific ideas about fixing Los Angeles schools, the “blueprint” is supposed to identify and address areas that are “vexing to the state’s K-12 system.”

The LA roadmap includes interviews with teachers and principals and can be summarized:

“Among other things, the report, which included interviews with over 1,500 teachers and principals, recommended changes to the current union contract and to state laws regulating staffing, evaluations, tenure, compensation and work schedules. Some of the prescriptions include using criteria other than seniority if layoffs are necessary and utilizing standardized test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation and when making staffing decisions. Additionally, it was suggested that teachers be denied permanent status until they have been in the classroom for four years instead of the current two.”

In my June post, I commented that while the roadmap was full of good common sense prescriptions from teachers and principals, they were really nothing new and, in any event, would be blocked by the teachers unions because they are happy with the status quo, ugly warts and all.

Unlike the roadmap, the blueprint was written by a consortium of 59 “experts” including business leaders, school board members, college professors, principals, four public school teachers and nine union leaders, including California Teachers Association President David Sanchez and California Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittelman (both termed out at this time.)

With the preponderance of union bosses, you might expect that the new blueprint would be devoid of any specific, meaningful fixes that would shake up the system. And you’d be right.

For example, in their recommendations about teacher recruitment the report says:

“Strengthen and integrate BTSA and Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs to ensure stronger mentoring and assistance for beginning teachers and for veteran teachers who are struggling.”

While this might sound good, California’s twelve year old peer assistance program has had very little positive effect. The National Council on Teacher Quality says that “peer review’s potential to reduce the numbers of probationary and tenured teachers with egregious instructional deficiencies is unrealized, if not minimal.” You can only help a struggling teacher so much before they should be shown the door. With the union running the show, however, firing a bad teacher is almost impossible.

“Encourage the development of more effective educator evaluation systems based on professional teacher and leader standards that guide and assess practice in a way that reflects best practices and incorporates appropriate evidence of student learning. Make sure these systems are supported by training for evaluators, mentoring for teachers, and professional development programs.”

Could this have been any more vague? There won’t be any teeth to this evaluation system. Should a teacher get a poor evaluation, they’ll just be moved into the Peer Assistance Program. And getting rid of them will still be practically impossible.

“Rethink the design of the California High School Exit Exam to incorporate diagnostic information over time and to provide instructional supports and assessments that offer more useful information regarding college- and career-readiness.”

What does this mean? The CAHSEE is a monumental waste of time and taxpayer dollars. It purports to measure what students should know when they get out of high school. Yet in 2010, 81 percent of 10th graders passed both the math and English portions of the test. And 90 percent of these high school “graduates” still need remediation should they be accepted at a community college.

“Launch an ongoing initiative to support union-management collaboration toward high-leverage reforms in school organization, management, and instructional innovation as well as teacher, classified staff, and administrator development, support, and evaluation.”

Sounds as if the unions want even more input and power than they have now. Terrific.

In any event, you get the idea. The blueprint is full of this kind of vague, high-sounding edubabble. Unfortunately for the state’s six million school children, little if anything will improve.

Tom Torlakson, the California Teachers Association’s bought-and-paid-for Superintendent of Public Instruction, gushing about the work of his “experts,” said,

“We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it. As our ‘Blueprint for Great Schools’ shows, there’s no substitute for investing in our children’s education. But we owe our students much more than just money. We also owe them our leadership, our best thinking and, above all, our very best people.”

Oh, please.

If only he had said,

“We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it. For that reason, our plan is to open California up to a universal school choice system. Starting immediately, we are going to empower parents who will be free to pick any school in the state for their children to attend and have their share of education tax dollars follow the child. No longer will parents have to follow the dictates of educrats, union bullies and the politicians they put into office. Government run schools will only stay open for business if they can compete with the wide array of choices that will now be available to California’s children and their families.”

If only. That would be a blueprint worth getting excited about.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Wisconsin’s Republican Majority Survives Union Recall Elections

This past week, big labor attempted to undue Governor Scott Walker’s initiative to cure Wisconsin’s massive debt, incurred as a result of years of big labor collective bargaining gone wild. The plan was to recall votes on six state Senate Republicans in order to regain the majority in the Wisconsin senate, however, the plan failed miserably.

Big labor was confident that the pressure created through its foot soldiers would encourage voters to oust all six Republicans.  However, only two were defeated, leaving the majority to the Republican Party and preserving the Governor’s laws to reign in big labor and its collective bargaining monopoly. Even more troublesome for big labor is the fact that two Democratic Senators face recall votes themselves this week, which could allow Republicans to reduce or recapture losses. It appears the American people are waking up and rebutting big labor’s political corruption.

Additionally, teachers, one of the centerpieces of big labor in Wisconsin, appear to be growing tired of big labor tactics and control (see Teachers Losing Love for Unions). Teachers are realizing it is not they whom the public despises, but the big labor organizations that represent them.  If teachers had the true ability to opt out under a state or federal “Right to Work” law, they would most likely vote with their feet and leave. While many states allow teachers to abstain from union membership, they are tethered to the union by still having to pay union dues or adhere to collective bargaining unit terms. This is just another form of perpetuated forced unionism.

Forced unionism is the goal of big labor. This is true both in the public sector, as described in Public Unions: Last Hope for Big Labor at America’s Expense and in the private sector, as chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep . Big labor has nothing tangible to sell in this day and age, so it increasingly relies on thuggery instead of salesmanship or finesse, to force employees into unionism against their own will (see Union Thugs Know Where You Live).  Big labor depends on employee and employer intimidation and crony politics to survive, as they are nothing more than Gasping Dinosaurs, attempting to avoid extinction. Bravo to Governor Walker and the citizens of Wisconsin for seeing the light, looking the bully in the eye, and not flinching. Will the rest of the states follow Wisconsin’s lead and keep the tsunami moving by curtailing public sector collective bargaining and enacting RTW laws?

It is also time to focus on big labor’s private sector push spearheaded by Obama’s National Labor Relations Board or NBLR – National Big Labor Resuscitation. As described in my blog,  Debt Ceiling Used to Cover Gift Giving to Big Labor, the NLRB has made a major push to change regulations to achieve card check through regulatory action (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation). This is becoming increasingly paramount for the Obama administration for two reasons. First, need to provide big labor the means to forceunionize employees quickly so big labor can extract union dues, which will immediately be put back into the Democrats and Obama’s coffers for the 2012 election.  Secondly, the Administration must maintain a radical majority on the NLRB board as the Labor Board Races to Make Rulings to push into existence these regulations, vigorously opposed by business and the Republican dominated house, so big labor can prosecute its corporate campaigns (see Corporate Campaigns: Vehicle to Forced Unionism and Political Payback).

Time is of the essence for Obama, because NLRB Chairperson Wilma Liebman’s term expires August 27, 2011. The term of Craig Becker, a former SEIU attorney and Obama recess appointee, expires December 31, 2011. Without them, they have little chance in pushing trough radical changes, which is even more critical for Obama as the 2012 election is just over a year from now. Without the unions how can he ever expect to raise the projected 1 billion dollars in campaign funds? The answers is he can’t, so he has to make sure the paybacks happen fast, which is why he will attempt to recess re-appoint Wilma Liebman during Congress’s August vacation. It is imperative congress keep some members in session to circumvent this from happening and stop Obama’s attempted Rule by Fiat. It is time for all Americans to wake up and say “No” before the rogue NLRB enacts new regulations that create A Death Penalty for Employees and Employers in an economy that can ill afford more bad news.

Wisconsin is leading the way in suppressing public sector big labor forced unionism. Let’s hope the rest of the state governors have the intestinal fortitude to follow Governor Walker’s lead and, simultaneously, Congress has the same fortitude to reign in the NLRB and Obama’s goal of Advancing Unions Via Fiat From Boards and Agencies.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

 

Poll Shows Growing Opposition to Unions

Public sector unions are hugely powerful in California and the nation. In California, about 17 percent of all employees work for government at the local, state or federal levels, and about 14 percent of all employees work for state or local governments.

Currently, about 4 million Californians — just more than 10 percent of all Californians — are members of government-defined benefit pension systems. About 2 million Californians work for state and local governments; there are currently about 1 million state and local government pension recipients; and inactive members and families comprise the balance.

Government pensions are unsustainable. This is the central government truth of our time. Government does not exist to provide pensions to former employees. It exists to provide services to the people. Many government jurisdictions are on a path to spend half or more of their expenditures on pensions for past employees in the coming decade.

California public employees vote, as do their spouses and other family members and friends. It will be a hard battle to persuade electoral majorities to support the reforms that are necessary to preserve decent and reasonable local government services at a reasonably low cost.

Poll Results

The Reason Foundation has recently teamed with the Santa Barbara-based Arthur N. Rupe Foundation to produce a series of polls — the Reason-Rupe Polls — that will go into issues of public policy and what the public thinks of them in depth.

The first poll was released recently. It has interesting findings with respect to the changing public attitudes towards government unions and the increasing political division between public and private sector workers.

As of this spring, a small minority of Americans oppose laws that would curtail public sector bargaining rights; 43 percent of Americans oppose such laws compared to 36 percent who favor them. Importantly, this is an issue on which Americans are polarizing, since the proportions of Americans who strongly oppose and strongly favor these laws are each substantially larger than the percentages who merely somewhat oppose and somewhat favor these laws.

It is also the case that by a small plurality, 40 to 36 percent, Americans believe that public sector unions are more helpful than harmful to society, but that’s pretty faint praise.

Division Between Public, Union Members

What is perhaps most interesting about each of these data is the division in them between public sector and private sector employees, which the Reason-Rupe Poll is the first to highlight. While 45 percent of private sector workers favor curtailing public sector bargaining rights compared to 37.5 percent who oppose this course, 61.5 percent of public sector workers oppose this course compared to 26 percent who favor it.

Moreover, whereas 47 percent of private employees think that public sector unions are more harmful than helpful, compared to 34 percent who believe they are more helpful than harmful, 61 percent of public employees believe that public sector unions are more helpful than harmful compared to a mere 21 percent who feel the other way.

There is an emerging political division in American society between public and private sector workers. The key political question is: Will new political forces emerge that bring Democrats who recognize the importance of paying public sector workers less together with Republicans and Independents who support this same course? The Reason-Rupe Poll helps greater understanding of these issues.

Lanny Ebenstein is president of the California Center for Public Policy.

Why Are Businesses Sitting on the Sidelines?

The answer is very simple: government. The federal government needs to get out of the way and let businesses do what they do best, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Government can do neither because it does not produce either products or services. Despite its good intentions and misguided political or social agendas, the federal government only serves to stifle economic investment and growth at the expense of taxpayers. Smaller government and less regulation are the answer as Government Overregulation Threatens Economic Growth.

Unfortunately, the current Administration continues to push its social agenda to the detriment of the very people who can turn the ship around. Although Worries Grow Over Jobs, Obama continues his Plan to Ease Way for Unions.  Most recently, the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor launched a “joint attack” against employers (see NLRB and DOL Launch Joint Attack on Employer Rights, New Rule Proposed On Employers’ Use Of Union Consultants and Employers Criticize Proposal to Speed Union Votes).  Additionally, the Administration introduced legislation which has been dubbed ”The Latest Job Killer From the EPA,” an attempt to control ozone commissions under the cover of Climate Change.  These regulations are recognized as a “Death Penalty for Employees and Employers.” When presented with the fact that businesses are waiting to hire or expand operations due to regulatory uncertainties, President Obama only responds that “the business community always complains about regulation” (see President Obama: The Business Community Is Always Complaining About Regulation). Adding salt to the wound, he continues to support his radical appointees in the NLRB who, in turn, push his pro-labor agenda, providing yet another obstacle for business to overcome (see NLRB Pleases Unions By Strangling Economy). Although publicly Obama Urges Independent Agencies To Shed Burdensome Rules, his actions speak louder than his disingenuous words.

Most recently, the prolonged budget/debt limit fight, which was finally resolved, had been added to the mix. Big labor bosses found the proposal unacceptable (see Labor’s Discontent with Obama Surfaces Yet Again) seeing the crisis as an opportunity to push their agenda. The President, too, used the opportunity to attempt to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and businesses, as described in Obama’s Debt-Ceiling Opportunity. With all of this in mind, the question has to be framed Was the Debt Ceiling Used to Cover Gift Giving to Big Labor?  Obviously the combination of all of this is an attempt to foment class warfare, achieve his social justice agenda, solidify the big labor base (as Unions Rethink Support For Obama in 2012), and expand his base of Americans dependent on government support heading into the 2012 elections.

The Disappearing Recovery seems to fit right in line with the President’s long-term socialistic agenda and short-term election agenda, as witnessed by the fact that when Unemployment Goes Up, Obama Declares Victory. In both agendas, it is imperative that a majority of the people (voters) are dependent on government welfare, whether it is through union handouts, corporate subsidies, welfare, unemployment benefits or entitlement programs. Obama, in addition to his graceful rhetoric, is politically savvy, as described in Rule by Fiat, and understands he must develop dependency, as witnessed in the President’s Job Plan (Not). In short, he is a political animal dedicated to his cause and has managed to once again use debt ceiling sleight of hand to distract the American people from the economy, jobs and his true agenda.

Is it just coincidence this all occurred and was resolved right before Congress leaves on summer break and doesn’t reconvene until after Labor Day? I think not. After all, it puts the economy and stagnant job growth on the back burner for a month, provides the rogue NLRB an opportunity to further push through their regulatory agenda (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation), allows an opportunity for Obama to reappoint Wilma Liebman, whom Congress has opposed, as head of the NLRB through a recess appointment, and allows the President to go back on the campaign trail starting with his August 4th $35,800/head Birthday Bash in Chicago. Nothing could be finer as his plan for re-election continues to develop at the expense of American business and the Americans it employs.

It is imperative all Americans understand that the fundamental difference between business and big government is tantamount to the difference between the free market and socialism.  Big government makes a living off spewing misleading statistics and producing nothing tangible except fomenting class warfare and breeding dependency. Businesses and the maligned wealthy live in a world of real numbers and produce tangible services and products, but most importantly jobs, which are the most critical component of a full economic recovery. Unfortunately, Ayn Rand was Right: Wealthy Are on Strike Against Obama and will continue to be until he wakes up or his defeated in November 2012. In the meantime we are doomed to continuing economic decline and rising unemployment.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Unions Continue Efforts to Suppress California Initiatives

We have already covered the recent statewide attack on initiatives in California by labor unions, but their offensive has just begun. In an earlier editorial posted on June 13th, entitled “California’s Legislature Continues to Propose Laws to Preserve Government Union Power,” we document no fewer than four bills submitted so far in 2011 by union-friendly politicians in the California legislature, all designed to curb the ability of grassroots organizations to put citizen initiatives on the ballot by making them far more expensive. But meanwhile there are local and statewide initiative campaigns already gathering signatures for measures that the unions consider a threat. Their counterattack is in process.

As documented in our editorial of July 28th entitled “SEIU Propaganda – Lies of Just Carelessness,” that organization has now organized their membership to send “Truth Squads” to wherever petition workers are set up to gather signatures from voters. In response to a particular statewide initiative, their “Think Before You Ink” flyer makes some claims that are quite misleading, if not completely false; that “out of state billionaires” are financing the initiative – not true, that “business interests already dominate political spending by a margin of 15 to 1 over organized labor” – not even close, and that “the initiative would take away our right to gather voluntary contributions to the Local 1000 political action fun” – also not true, in fact the opposite is the case.

A guest contributor to UnionWatch, Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association, added this post on August 1st “Latest Intimidation Tactic is a Public Relations Disaster for Unions,” referring to a current, union financed, statewide ad campaign making the preposterous claim that signing a petition puts the signer at risk of identity theft.

Apparently the will of the people is a threat to unions in California, because evidence of these efforts continues to surface. Here is a link to a new LA County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO website page “URGENT: We Need Your Help to Prevent a Deceptive Ballot Measure.” Apparently, more “truth squads” are being mobilized, as this excerpt indicates:

“If you’re out shopping this weekend and encounter a signature gatherer who is talking about “special interests” or “payroll deduction,” don’t sign the petition. Then help us ensure the public is getting the real story, call toll-free at 877-440-9585.

It’s critical that you call if you see a signature gatherer. We are counting on people like you to report the locations of signature gatherers so we can make sure people know the facts about this deceptive measure.”

In their internal emails, the unions are more blunt about their objectives and tactics. Here is an excerpt from an email sent by the SEIU Local 1000 to members – forwarded anonymously to our editorial staff – in reference to a petition drive in Sacramento county that would increase the competitiveness of the bidding process for government funded construction – lowering costs to taxpayers:

“FOC Signature Suppression “Spotter” Checklist—what you can do:

  1. Don’t sign the petition.
  2. Tell your colleagues, family, friends and neighbors not to sign the petition.
  3. Call 916.812.4023 – Bud McKinney or 916.812.4024 – Kevin Ferreira of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and give them the following information:
  • Store name and location with cross streets
  • Date and time
  • Number of signature gatherers
  • Gender of all signature gatherers
  • Signature gathering tactics (i.e. aggressive or false claims to reduce gas prices, child healthcare, etc.)
  • If the call is not answered, please leave a voicemail or send a text message.”

These tactics, apparently, are just beginning. It is interesting to note that the initiative process has always been something the unions themselves have turned to whenever the public sentiment could be aligned with their political agenda. But now that public sentiment is tipping in favor of reform, they are attacking the process and the participants.

Most union reformers are not entirely opposed to unions. If union membership were completely voluntary, if union members could easily and at any time refrain from having any portion of their dues used to engage in politics, and if unions, especially in the public sector, were more strictly regulated, there is a legitimate role for unions. In emerging economies, the need for labor unions is perhaps still quite urgent. In the United States, the role of unions has become more problematic.

Perhaps the biggest economic misunderstanding committed by most union supporters is their overemphasis on raising wages and benefits, and their underemphasis on exploring how instead to lower the cost of living for everyone. The rise of government unions, where there is no competitive check whatsoever on their demand for more government worker compensation and benefits, and their consistent agenda that calls for additional government programs and regulations requiring more government workers, imposes staggering costs on the rest of us. The public is beginning to realize this basic fact of political economy.

Latest Intimidation Tactic Is a Public Relations Disaster for Unions

There’s an old joke about the intimidation tactics of the Teamsters’ union. “How many Teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “Four — you gotta a problem with that?”

As much as we would like to think that labor unions have abandoned their threatening and often illegal behavior to get what they want, in the public sector things are only getting worse. It is only a matter of time until a jilted (and honest) public sector employee says “I coulda been a contender.”

The latest bit of thuggery is an advertising campaign launched by the unions to dissuade voters from exercising their rights to sign initiative petitions. As reported in several media outlets, a union-backed effort has created a website and begun running radio commercial under the name “Californians Against Identity Theft.” These scary ads warn that anyone who signs an initiative petition — frequently gathered in front of big box stores — runs the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Usually, even the most deceptive political ads have at least a grain of truth. But not here. There is no factual basis for the suggestion that signing a ballot petition would put one at risk for identity theft. Indeed, the signature data gathered by those who collect those signatures is prohibited by law from being disclosed. Interestingly, voter registration information (which consists of more data) is a matter of public record.

This latest thinly veiled effort at stopping initiatives they don’t like is backfiring badly on the labor groups responsible. From newspaper stories, the blogosphere and from good government groups, the verdict is that this union hack job is not only misguided, but will further erode the credibility of public sector unions in California.

Derek Cressman, western regional director for Common Cause (hardly a right wing anti-union group) said “It sounds like they’re trying to intimidate people from exercising what is a constitutional right” to sign a petition. In addition, the Sacramento Bee quotes Pedro Morillas, legislative director for the California Public Interest Research Group, as saying that “there is as much risk of identity theft involved in signing a petition as there is in being listed in the phone book.”

Turns out, after a little bit of sleuthing, that the state building trades union is one of the major funders of Californians Against Identity Theft. What a surprise. The group itself, Californians Against Identity Theft, has no connection whatsoever to any legitimate group created to protect consumers from identity theft. Nor does it appear that the group has registered as a campaign committee. Media efforts to get more information ran into stony silence by unions.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what motivates the union bosses for this latest scheme. As noted by the Sacramento Bee, “the timing of the ad launch raised questions about whether the campaign is a veiled attempt to derail one of several controversial proposals currently circulating petitions to qualify for the 2012 ballot, such as an Amazon-backed effort to overturn a new law requiring some Internet retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Californians.” In addition, it is no secret that the unions are deathly afraid of the Stop Special Interest Money Now Act, also in circulation, that would reduce union political influence by prohibiting government entities from being the collection agents for unions for political funds from their members.

In any event, it is clear to us that the unions need to hire a new communications consultant. Instead of dissuading voters from exercising their constitutional rights to engage in the direct democracy rights of initiative, referendum and recall, the labor groups have brought even more unwanted attention to themselves for their overreaching, loutish behavior. (As if the pension scandals weren’t enough to drive public perception of public sector unions even lower).

Our advice to the union bosses — which, of course, they will ignore — is to argue the merits of these initiatives as warranted. If you think the Amazon referendum or any of the other measures in circulation reflect is bad public policy, say so. Don’t try to mislead people into thinking that their identities are at risk. The only thing at risk here is any notion that unions play by the rules.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

California’s Legislature Continues to Propose Laws to Preserve Union Power

The agenda of California’s union-controlled state politicians is to do whatever they can to increase the amount of tax revenue flowing into the government, and increase the amount of dues revenue flowing into the coffers of government worker unions. This isn’t news, and any law they pass can be appropriately viewed in this context. But beyond grasping for tax revenue ala AB 155, which imposes sales tax on internet purchases, or grasping for union dues revenue ala SB 104, which (vetoed this time) would have imposed unionization via “card check” on agricultural workers, California’s union-controlled legislature is enacting laws that will change the ground rules of politics and governance.

The purpose of these laws is to consolidate the power of public sector unions and ensure that government of the government workers, by the government workers, and for the government workers, will be the perpetual fate of California. As citizens awaken to the fact that government workers in California, on average, make twice as much money and work half as many hours in their careers as the taxpayers who support them, a seismic wave of reform sentiment gathers. To prepare for this tsunami, California’s government worker unions are building a seawall of regulations, many of them buried within budgets and unrelated new statutes. Here are just a few:

AB 114 – Dramatically reduces local financial control of school districts; prohibits layoffs; removes requirement for school districts to perform financial analysis to ensure they can balance their budgets. Here are a few articles providing more details about this grossly irresponsible legislation: “AB 114: A Blatant Attack on California’s Schools,” by Larry Sand, on July 12th, 2011, UnionWatch, “Stealth attack on California’s schools,” Editorial, July 8th, 2011, Los Angeles Times, “State law is stunning in its irresponsibility,” Editorial, July 2nd, San Diego Union Tribune.

AB 506 –  Restricts ability of municipalities to declare bankruptcy. Another bill moving through California’s state legislature will restrict the ability of local governments in California from declaring bankruptcy, which is virtually the only way they can get out from under literally tyrannical collective bargaining agreements. As reported on June 2nd by the Sacramento Bee, the bill has already passed the assembly “Assembly approves bill to slow local government bankruptcies.”

AB 455 –  Allows unions to appoint 50% of the members of personnel management boards for local governments and agencies. This bill is a perfect example of legislation that sounds innocuous, but has far reaching impact. Personnel management boards oversee the enforcement, modification, and interpretation of union negotiated work rules. From overtime benefits to staffing levels to job descriptions, having an unbiased board is essential in order to have any chance of reforming work rules that may hinder improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a public agency. Allowing the union to appoint 50% of the voting membership of these boards guarantees them veto power over any actions of these boards. This bill has been barely noticed by the media.

SB23-1X –  Grants local governments the power to raise taxes. This bill, which is undergoing legal scrutiny and will undergo many revisions, nonetheless aims to grant local governments to enact increases tax increases denied at the state level by the 2/3rds vote requirement. As reported on June 4th in the San Jose Mercury in an AP article entitled “Bill would grant local power to raise taxes,” this legislation “would allow a local government, county office of education and community colleges district to levy local personal income taxes up to 1 percent, vehicle taxes up to 1.35 percent, and up to $1 per pack of cigarettes.”

These four bills, respectively, will trample on local control over school district budgeting and staffing, effectively prevent local bankruptcies, assert union control over personnel management boards, and extend the option to local governments to collect income taxes. The purpose of these bills and many others is clear – to forestall an anticipated uprising of taxpayers against the most powerful special interest in California, public sector unions.

Over the past 20+ years, as California’s state and local governments have grown far faster than the rate of inflation and population increase, the one reliable defense left to taxpayers has been the citizen initiative process. But the initiative process is under attack. No fewer than four active bills are working their way to Governor Brown for signature. Here they are:

ACA 6 –  Prevents passage of initiatives that reduce tax revenues. According to bill sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto, ACA 6 “will require initiatives that spend money or create a new program or mandate to identify and specify the funding to pay for it.” The practical effect of this bill, which would require language in any initiative specifying a new source of tax revenue for any costs attendant to enforcing the initiative in excess of $5.0 million, would be to only allow initiatives onto the ballot that raised taxes. This law would leave the decision regarding the financial impact of a proposed initiative in the hands of the State Dept. of Finance, where they could anoint bills they favored, and subject the ones they don’t like to a slanted financial analysis, or, worse, delayed indefinitely in the limbo of an ongoing analysis.

SB 448 –  Forces circulators of initiative petitions to wear a button that tells whether they are paid or volunteer. Sponsored by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, SB 448 would require that people who collect signatures wear signs around their necks announcing whether they are a paid signature-gatherer or a volunteer signature-gatherer, and whether they are registered to vote.

SB 168 –  Bans ballot committees and individuals from paying people who circulate petitions for initiatives, referendums and recalls on the basis of the number of signatures they collect. Instead of paying signature gatherers based on their productivity, these workers would be required to receive an hourly wage. Equally troubling, they would be required to be hired as full time employees – an utterly impractical approach to what is seasonal, temporary work. The practical effect of this law will be to double or triple the cost of putting an initiative onto the ballot, which drives out the grassroots organizations but leaves intact the prerogatives of powerful special interests.

ACA 10 –  Would allow the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-initiated statutes after they have been in effect for four years. Again, the practical effect of this would be to force grassroots taxfighting organizations back into expensive initiative battles every four years, making it very difficult to implement lasting reforms.

Ultimately, what California’s union-dominated legislature is doing is nothing but a holding action. Restrictions on education budgeting and staffing decisions, as well as restrictions on the ability of municipalities to declare bankruptcy, are preempted by an even harder reality: Default. Stacking the membership of personnel management boards with union operatives, or enabling municipalities to raise taxes – along with evisceration of the initiative process – are all craven actions of a special interest that has overreached.

Union Dominated California Legislature Continues to Attack Initiative Process

California legislators — who seem unable to come up with an honest balanced budget, who always seek tax increases, and who won’t pass even modest reforms to the state’s unfunded pension system or to anything else, for that matter — want to blame the government’s problems on voters, rather than themselves.

Several bills, some of which are likely to pass, would gut the initiative and referendum process, or at least make that process far more burdensome.

The ultimate goal: eliminating the main vehicle Californians have to reform a government that will not be reformed by elected officials, thus leaving us completely at the mercy of legislators and the liberal interest groups that control them.

The biggest danger is ACA 6. According to bill sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto, ACA 6 “will require initiatives that spend money or create a new program or mandate to identify and specify the funding to pay for it.”

As he explains in a statement, “Too often, voters are snowed by slick campaign commercials into authorizing unfunded mandates that end up costing the state billions of dollars, in perpetuity.”

This sounds appealing until we look at the bill language: “This measure would prohibit an initiative measure that would result in a net increase in state or local government costs exceeding $5,000,000, other than costs attributable to the issuance, sale, or repayment of bonds, from being submitted to the electors or having any effect unless and until the legislative analyst and the director of finance jointly determine that the initiative measure provides for additional revenues in an amount that meets or exceeds the net increase in costs.”

Sabotaging Tax Cuts

Despite Gatto’s assurances to the contrary, it’s clear the bill could be applied to initiatives that would reduce taxes, given that such measures, such as Prop. 13, would result in a “net increase” in costs to state and local governments. Bonds are exempt, which means that these government-supported initiatives to increase taxes and spending get a pass while the people’s efforts to rein in government could be halted.

Proponents are being dishonest about its intent, explains the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association’s legislative director, David Wolfe, who said ACA 6′s goal is to eviscerate the initiative process.

“You’re going to rely on this?,” he said, pointing his finger at a nearby TV screen featuring a live legislative debate. The initiative process “is the only road to adopt constructive policy in this state.”

Wolfe worries that ACA 6 would give the Department of Finance the power to decide which initiatives go to ballot, thus leaving control over most initiatives in the hands of the governor’s office.

Another troubling measure would harass signature-gatherers. Sponsored by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a Contra Costa Democrat closely aligned with the unions, SB 448 would require that people who collect signatures wear scarlet-letter-type signs around their necks announcing whether they are a paid signature-gatherer or a volunteer signature-gatherer, and whether they are registered to vote.

Other anti-initiative bills are circulating including one that would give the Legislature the power to amend or repeal voter-approved initiatives after four years.

This is part of a concerted effort championed by liberal think-tank “reformers” and editorialists who blame “ballot-box” budgeting for the state’s fiscal mess and by union organizers who understand that it’s far cheaper to buy legislators than it is to fight taxpayer-friendly initiative campaigns.

Their support for “reforms” uses populist language, but the goal is to make sure that only certain special interests can dominate policy in Sacramento.

“In 1911, California voters gave themselves a powerful tool —- the power to be a check on the corporate-controlled Legislature by directly passing or overturning laws by ballot initiative,” wrote Justine Sarver of the liberal Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, in a recent Sacramento Bee column. “A century later, however, California’s ballot measure system is broken. Initiatives have become a tool for special interests, usually corporations seeking larger profits, less regulation and lower taxes …”

Progressive Problems

There’s no doubt direct democracy has serious flaws. From an academic standpoint, I agree with conservative thinkers, such as William Voegeli of the Claremont Institute, who argues that “the results (of Progressive reforms) a century later cannot be what anyone who wishes democracy well had in mind. The state’s people are groaning under the weight of all the weapons they have been given to fight the interests.”

He quotes the thoughtful liberal writer Peter Schrag: “California has 7,000 overlapping and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions … each with its elected directors, supervisors, and other officials, a hyper-democracy that, even without local and state ballot measures, confounds the most diligent citizen.”

There’s irony in hearing modern-day Progressives such as Schrag, Sarver and DeSaulnier whine about the results of what their ideological forebears brought into existence. I would never design the system this way and if there were some way to undo a century of Progressive reforms, I would be for it. But my first reform would not eliminate the only tools the voters, whatever their flaws, have to check the government.

Californians, obviously, tilt to the left when they elect officials, as evidenced by the clean sweep by Democrats of the state’s constitutional offices and by the overwhelming majorities of Democrats in both houses of the Legislature.

But when it comes to direct democracy, California voters are surprisingly conservative, as they routinely pass measures designed to limit taxes and reform government. That’s why the left is targeting this process.

Even the legitimate concern about ballot-box budgeting is overblown.

For instance, the vast majority of the initiatives placed on the ballot are put there by the Legislature, explains Paul Jacob, president of the pro-initiative Citizens In Charge. “The people aren’t out of control,” he told me. “In reality, the Legislature is out of control.”

The last thing we need, then, is to give that same Legislature more power.

About the author: Steven Greenhut is the editor-in-chief of Cal Watchdog, an independent, Sacramento-based journalism venture providing original investigative reports and news stories covering California state government. Greenhut was deputy editor and columnist for The Orange County Register for 11 years. He is author of the new book, “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

Obama Empowers Unions via Executive Orders

Just as the leopard cannot change its spots, President Obama cannot change his philosophical socialistic beliefs. It is amazing that close to 50% of the American public still cannot see past his thin veneer and continue to listen to his admittedly graceful rhetoric. Unfortunately, much as the spots are imbedded to the leopard, so too are Obama’s philosophical beliefs. The following two events clearly expose his willingness to deceive and his continued attempt to hide his true agenda to radically transform America into a socialistic and eventually totalitarian country.

The first of these events was Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review“. At first glance this appears to be a legitimate attempt to reign in government, but in fact it is nothing more than a disingenuous cover for the true agenda as expresses by the skepticism of business allies in Obama Launches Rule Review, Pledging to Spur Jobs, Growth and White House Embarks on Regulatory Overhaul.  As this Executive Order was being written, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), controlled by Obama’s recessed appointments Craig Becker and Mark Pierce,  proposed several regulation changes as described in  the following articles: National Labor Relations Board: Strong Arming for the Union Thugs, Steps Union-Free Employers Must Take Now in Response to the Pro-Union Agenda Currently Being Pursued at the NLRB, Union Bosses Go After Property Holders, Businesses & Girl Scouts and NLRB Proposed Workplace Notice Likely to Spark Uptick in Union Activity. It is evident that Obama is once again using sleight of hand to disguise what is transpiring behind the scenes.

Second, this past week two Obama appointees once again proposed rule changes to accomplish the agenda of Obama’s buddies in big labor, but who is pulling the strings… The Puppet or Puppeteer? The Department of Labor issued a rule requiring disclosure by companies of independent consultants providing communications on behalf of employers designed to persuade workers of organizing or collective bargaining rights (See New Rule Proposed On Employers’ Use Of Union Consultants). The rule inexplicably is designed to penalize employers while unions are not subject to the same rules. Two days later,  the rogue NLRB (see Americans: Beware of Rogue NLRB.) proposed a Plan to Ease Way for Unions through the reduction of the time period for elections following  a union petition from 42 days to 10 days or less. These rules will tilt the playing field in favor of unions, whether they are processing Corporate campaigns against companies (as related in The Devil at My Doorstep) or are attempting the traditional election route where employers, under new rules, would never have an opportunity to defend themselves or educate employees to the impending forced unionism as described in Obama’s Forced Unionization Program. All of this is taking place while the President is touting the debt ceiling crisis, Afghanistan troop withdrawal, and release of national oil reserves to ease fuel prices.

If people with open minds would remove the rose-colored glasses and earplugs and observe Obama’s  actions  instead of his rhetoric, it would be obvious to them that Obama has no intention of changing his ways and will continue to press his socialistic agenda through fiat. Recent events where the NLRB Shows Bias – Again are indicative of his agenda to suppress American freedoms under the cover of darkness.

Obama cannot help who he is, as described in He Is What He Despises. Indoctrinated by unions, his internal instinct and narcissism are much like the Gasping Dinosaurs,  and he will continue to advance his perverted agenda through the Net Neutrality End Run and EPA, see EPA to Set Modest Pace for Greenhouse Gas Standards); the Department of Labor, see Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act; Interpretation of the ‘‘Advice’’ Exemption; or through the NLRB, see National Labor Relations Board or NBLR – National Big Labor Resuscitation.  Like a leopard he can’t change his spots and his handlers will assure it will continue to be Unions versus Business Obama-Style resulting in continued high unemployment unless the American people take a stand against these attacks on personal freedoms and the free market system.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Michigan Enacts Municipal Union Reforms

Dissolving Governments in Michigan

New measures passed in Michigan will allow the state to dissolve governments, void union contracts, toss aside elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools. Thankfully, those measures are being put to good use.

Please consider Using New Emergency Financial Manager Law, They Start Dissolving Governments in Michigan

In what is likely to be just the first of several dissolutions of democratically elected city governments and school boards in Michigan, the Emergency Financial Manager of Benton Harbor, Joseph Harris, just took away all authority from the city’s elected government.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than:

i) Call a meeting to order.
ii) Approve of meeting minutes.
iii) Adjourn a meeting.

2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.

3. This order shall be effective immediately.

The author of that blog sees it differently than I do. “EmptyWheel” complains. I cheer.

When you are bankrupt you lose authority to a bankruptcy board. That bankruptcy board gets to make actions. As part of those actions, city officials who could not or did not do their job, lose their rights to govern.

How can that possibly be wrong?

In many instances elected officials cannot possibly do their jobs because of poor decisions made by their predecessors. For examples, many cities are cash-strapped because of untenable agreements on wages and benefits given to public unions.

Public unions typically will not negotiate, being the foolish entities they are. So bankruptcy and takeover is the solution.

Detroit Moves Against Public Unions

Benton Harbor is small-potatoes. Detroit is big-time. Moreover, Detroit is bankrupt and public unions are part of the reason. Thus, I am pleased to report Detroit Moves Against Unions

A new state law has emboldened the Detroit mayor and schools chief to take a more aggressive stance toward public unions as the city leaders try to mop up hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink.

Robert Bobb, the head of the Detroit Public Schools, late last week sent layoff notices to the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all of its teachers, a preliminary step in seeking broad work-force cuts to deal with lower enrollment.

Mr. Bobb, already an emergency financial manager for the struggling and shrinking public school system, is getting further authority under a measure signed into law March 17 that broadens state powers to intervene in the finances and governance of struggling municipalities and school districts. This could enable Mr. Bobb to void union contracts, sideline elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools.

Mr. Bobb, appointed in 2009 by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and retained by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, pledged last week to use those powers to deal decisively with the district’s $327 million shortfall and its educational deficiencies. Mr. Bobb raised the possibility of making unilateral changes to the collective-bargaining agreements signed with teachers less than two years ago.

He is also expected to target seniority rights that protect longtime teachers from layoffs and give them the ability to reject certain school placements.

Detroit Federation of Teachers officials called the initiative a poor idea, in part because nine of the schools slated for conversion to charter designation or closure were recently given new dispensation to relax work rules and haven’t had enough time to demonstrate their progress, they said.

I cheer Rick Snyder and anyone else willing to take public unions head on. Those unions are part of the problem (not all of it), and zero part of the solution.

As part of the solution (not all of it), we need national right-to-work laws, the scrapping of Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wage laws, and a complete end to collective bargaining of public unions.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

Firefighters Union Threatens Republicans

“Our political principles are pretty straightforward. We’ll support those that support us.”

This comes from Harold Schaitberger, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), as quoted earlier this week in a Huffington Post article entitled “Firefighters, Cops Warn Republicans [that] Anti-Union Stance Has Consequences.”

Since 82 cents out of every dollar of political contributions by the IAFF has historically gone to Democrats, this is a fairly empty threat. But it’s interesting to see what the primary principle is that governs this union: money and influence. Do what we say – or we will target you in the next election. Is this what the average firefighter wants from their union? Do 82% of firefighters vote Democratic? And why are firefighters and police, who wear badges and are sworn to protect the public, and who are paid by taxpayers, engaging in politics at all?

This rigged system, where unions extract money from taxpayers through union dues, then use it to elect the politicians who they negotiate with for raises and benefits, has led cities, counties and states throughout the U.S. to the brink of bankruptcy. In Costa Mesa, for example, the unwillingness of public employee unions to permit sufficient cuts to their compensation and benefits has led to painful layoffs of personnel. Meanwhile, the average firefighter in Costa Mesa makes $179,000 per year in total compensation, and the average police officer makes $174,000 per year. And these costs will increase dramatically if and when CalPERS decides to lower their projected rate of long-term investment earnings, and when cities begin to be required to pre-fund their retirement health-care obligations to employees.

Everyone knows that public safety personnel, who take risks every day to protect the rest of us, deserve to be paid a premium for their service. But when the average unionized public safety employee makes more than four times what the average private sector worker makes, and the result is layoffs of city workers, service cutbacks, and tax increases, something is terribly out of balance. Listen to this video by Harold Schaitberger entitled “The IAFF Fights Back Against Political Attacks.” As you listen, take note of the tremendous power his union wields, and multiply that by the many other public employee unions who have negotiated for government workers rates of compensation that, on average, are now twice what private sector workers earn.

Public worker union leaders like Harold Schaitberger may howl about “political attacks,” all they like, but it is their organizations who have overreached. It is these unions who have attacked the pockets of taxpayers, raided the budgets of good government liberals, and jeopardized the economic future of this country. Reformers who believe that public sector unions are special interests who have taken over our cities and states are not playing partisan politics. They have simply looked at the economic and political realities and concluded enough is enough.

Union Backed Miami Mayor Recalled

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas were ousted in recall votes. Both voted for huge tax hikes that will saddle county taxpayers for years to come.

This should serve as a warning shot to union sympathizers that taxpayers have had enough.

Please consider Alvarez, Seijas trounced in Miami-Dade recall election

With almost all precincts reporting results, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas have been ousted from office.

Results from the recall election, including absentee and early votes, show a vast majority of voters, around 88 percent, want to kick out the two politicians.

Both politicians kept a low profile as results came in, but billionaire auto magnate Norman Braman, who championed the recall effort along with political action committee Miami Voice, celebrated with supporters at a news conference.

“Today is the first day of a new day for Miami-Dade County. County voters have demonstrated by their ballots that they are tired of unaccountable officials, of being ignored, and of being over-taxed in this very difficult recessionary time,” he said. “I say, ‘congratulations Miami-Dade voters!’”

“I knew the decision was not going to be popular,” Alvarez told WURN-Actualidad 1020 AM. Alvarez said his budget preserved “basic” services.

“If I had done what Mr. Braman wanted me to do…I would be facing a recall by the other people” whose funding for arts and social services was cut, Alvarez said.

Look at the self-serving arrogance of Alvarez’s statement. He was ousted 88-12 and has the gall to claim he would have faced a recall for making a different choice.

The New York Times reports Miami-Dade County Mayor Is Removed

Mayor Carlos Alvarez of Miami-Dade County was removed in a recall election on Tuesday as voters punished him for raising property taxes and increasing the salaries of his closest aides at the height of the recession.

Walking out of polling stations, irate voters said Mr. Alvarez’s greatest offense was his effrontery: Two years ago, with Miami sinking under foreclosures and a housing bust, he called on residents and county workers in a speech to brace themselves for “tough times.” But he gave his own top aides hefty raises, including his former chief of staff whose salary climbed to $206,783 from $185,484.

Last year, he pushed through a budget that raised property taxes for 40 percent of homeowners, despite plummeting property values, to avoid laying off firefighters and other public employees. Yet, most county workers are getting raises this year.

And then there is the car. The mayor shuttles around Miami in a sleek BMW 500i Gran Turismo, which taxpayers help subsidize.

The recall campaign was spearheaded by Norman Braman, a billionaire car dealer, philanthropist and onetime owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, who said he was outraged by the property tax increase and the “erosion in the quality of life” in Miami. Mr. Braman spent more than $1 million hiring consultants to collect signatures to call for the recall election. He collected 114,000, more than double the required number. A frequent guest on Spanish-language radio here, Mr. Braman, who does not speak Spanish, succeeded in energizing Hispanics who said they felt betrayed by their county mayor.

Voters favored removing the mayor by 88 percent to 12 percent.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

California Voters & Reforming Special Interests

UnionWatch has completed another survey of California voters to measure attitudes towards special interest politics, with an emphasis on the influence of big corporations and public employee unions. Here are the principal findings and conclusions. Interviews with 605 randomly selected individuals were conducted between February 27th and March 3rd, 2011. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 4.0%.

General voter attitudes towards Sacramento and special interests:

  • 60% of voters believe “things in California have gotten off on the wrong track,” 21% believe “things in California are going in the right direction,” and 20% aren’t sure.
  • Asked to note the “top three” issues in California of most concern, the following top issues were selected: state government spending 40%, unemployment 38%, education 36%, health care 18%, state taxes 16%, crime 8%, the environment 5%.
  • 78% of voters believe “major changes” are needed in the way state government is run.

The survey found voter attitudes strongly in favor of reforming all special interests, evidenced by 81% of respondents agreeing with the following: “Corporations and unions are spending millions of dollars to get their way in Sacramento; we need to cut off campaign contributions so politicians will pay attention to the voters instead of catering to special interests.”

Surprisingly, California voters appeared quite open-minded about whether or not Republicans could fix the problem of special interests, shown by only 43% agreeing with, and 53% disagreeing with the following statement: “Corporations and Republicans can’t be trusted to write a proposal that would limit their own influence; this proposal is really about hurting the Democratic party by crippling labor unions who represent average working families.”

It is also interesting that even in California, a significant number of voters, 40%, believe that collective bargaining should be banned in the public sector. As the pie chart indicates, only 50% of California voters currently oppose banning collective bargaining for government workers.

Voter attitudes towards specific special interest reform options:

(1) A proposition to prohibit state and local governments from collecting union dues used for political purposes through paycheck withholding?

Favor 46%
Oppose 51%
Undecided 3%

(2) A proposition to ban all corporate and labor union contributions to candidates and political parties, and prohibit government employers from deducting from employees’ paychecks any amount used for political purposes?

Favor 65%
Oppose 31%
Undecided 4%

(3) A proposition to make all political contributions by government employees voluntary, and prohibit government employers from deducting from employees’ paycheck any amount used for political purposes?

Favor 75%
Oppose 23%
Undecided 2%

(4) A proposition to prohibit collective bargaining by labor unions on behalf of state and local public employees?

Favor 40%
Oppose 50%
Undecided 10%

To view the entire survey results, click here. To read about the earlier surveys, click here and here.