Fighting Union Fires – CPC Newsletter

By Jordan Bruneau
December 7, 2020

Why we fight government unions: Ordinary Californians often don’t understand the pernicious impact of government unions. Unions’ power and their political agenda to expand this power reduce economic opportunity and wellbeing in the state.

As a result, California has higher taxes, bigger government, more regulations, higher costs, massive deficits, exploding unfunded liabilities, and fewer job creators and productive residents. Government unions are a parasite that feeds off — and sucks the life from — this productive state. In a recent featured contribution, CPC co-founder Edward Ring explains how government unions have become so powerful:

Unlike private-sector unions, government unions do not have to be reasonable when they negotiate pay, benefits, and work rules. In the private sector, if a union demands too much, the company can become unprofitable and go out of business. But government unions operate in the public sector, where politicians can simply increase taxes and cut services in order to pay whatever the unions demand.

Also unlike private-sector unions, government unions do not negotiate with an independent management team. In the public sector, government unions often are the main contributors to political campaigns. Government unions “negotiate” with politicians they helped elect and whom they can easily target and defeat when they run for reelection. In California alone, government unions collect and spend nearly one billion dollars per year in dues, and of that, they use hundreds of millions, per year, to fund political campaigns.

How Placentia bucked union dominance and declared fire independence: CPC President Will Swaim has an op-ed in the OC Register this week (in Sunday’s print edition and across SCNG papers), drawing on Edward Ring’s reporting, about how the City of Placentia formed its own fire department, independent of Orange County Fire Department and CalPERS, to cut costs and improve outcomes.

Will highlights the enormous hurdles and union backlash Placentia had to overcome to achieve fire independence. Unions responded by getting the state legislature to pass quickie legislation to bar other cities from following Placentia’s lead. Yet there’s still time for other cities. As Will notes:

This Hotel California pension legislation doesn’t take effect until January 1st. That means beleaguered local governments across the state have about a month to file their intentions to leave CalPERS. Given the dire fiscal projections for municipal governments, this simple step could make the difference in staving off future bankruptcy.

Eating their words on “following the science”: In his latest contribution, CPC contributor Larry Sand highlights how teachers unions’ exhortation to “follow the science” as a justification to keep schools closed has come back to bite them now that the science is clear that schools are not vectors of Covid-19 transmission.

Alternative schools have managed to excel: While unionized district schools remain closed, many alternative schools have earned exemptions from school shutdowns and are excelling during this difficult time. In his latest contribution, Edward Ring details how CPC-backed Orange County Classical Academy is flourishing. The school is full, with 360 kids and another 200 on the waiting list.

An iconic California company departs: This week, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, whose roots trace back to the business that birthed Silicon Valley in a Palo Alto garage in 1939, announced that it is moving to Texas. HPE is just the latest job creator to head east for greener pastures.

Shutdowns for thee but not for me: On the latest episode of National Review’s Radio Free California, David and Will discuss the now-regular cycle of watching public officials who vote for COVID lockdowns quickly violate them. They also discuss how the San Francisco Chronicle hopes Joe Biden will weigh in on California’s stupid lawsuits against oil companies, and they praise the Pacific Legal Foundation for its defense of Central Valley farmers vs. the State of California.

Will breaks down California’s election results for the Epoch TimesWatch HERE.

The fight for access to public records: TransparentCalifornia, the largest database of California public-sector pay and pensions, co-founded by CPC, has filed a lawsuit over CalPERS’ withholding records identifying whether pensions are a “service” or “disability” classification. Disclosure of such information would assist in detecting disability fraud, which has cost taxpayers untold millions. In a blog post this week, the TransCal team cites a particularly odious example of disability fraud to make the case that public oversight of these records is needed.

Fighting union fires: As the Bobcat fire raged near Los Angeles in September and October, dozens of Los Angeles firefighters were staffing Covid-19 testing centers and making tens of thousands of dollars a month in overtime pay while doing little to no work.

Pulitzer Prize-nominated L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez recently reported that “numerous LAFD personnel have repeatedly been credited with 10, 16 and even 24 hours a day of overtime since they started pulling COVID duty shifts, even though test sites are generally open only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.” (Overtime hours are tracked based on the honor system.)

In a recent follow-up column, Lopez reported how L.A. firefighters are also abusing fire safety inspections to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in overtime pay. The firefighters union, the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, has negotiated a minimum of four hours of pay at overtime scale for members who conduct such inspections, even if they only take 20 minutes to complete.

Out of control overtime payouts for L.A. firefighters and their counterparts across the state are not unique. According to data from TransparentCalifornia, 30 L.A. firefighters made more than $200,000 in overtime pay alone in 2019. Total compensation for these public servants, including regular pay and benefits, approaches and exceeds a half-million dollars per year.

Statewide, more than 200 California firefighters made at least $200,000 in overtime pay in 2019. Firefighters can generally retire at around 50, with 90 percent of their final pay until they die, at which point their surviving spouse continues to receive half their pension benefit.

No wonder California municipal finances are in such disrepair. Unfunded pension liabilities in the state range somewhere between $326 billion and $1.1 trillion — $27,000 to $82,000 per household.

This is why we fight government unions.

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