Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

The Showdown in Wisconsin Over Public Union Power

By Steven Malanga, February 22, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Government workers have taken to the streets in Madison, Wis., to battle a series of reforms proposed by Gov. Scott Walker that include allowing workers to opt out of paying dues to unions. Everywhere that this “opt out” idea has been proposed, unions have battled it vigorously because the money they collect from dues is at the heart of their power. Unions use that money not only to run their daily operations but to wage political campaigns in state capitals and city halls. Indeed, public-sector unions especially have become the nation’s most aggressive advocates for higher taxes and spending. They sponsor tax-raising ballot initiatives and pay for advertising and lobbying campaigns to pressure politicians into voting for them. And they mount multimillion dollar campaigns to defeat efforts by governors and taxpayer groups to roll back taxes. (read article)

An unholy alliance of Democrats and unions

Letters to the Editor, February 22, 2011, Orange County Register

Because of the essential services that “public” employee’s provide, and the fact that there is often no alternative or competition to take their place, public employees should never have been allowed to unionize or strike. It’s an unholy alliance when the unions can use their money and manpower to elect Democrats who will continue to support salaries and benefits beyond what is reasonable and sustainable. (read article)

Wisconsin’s War With Union Represents Progress

By Amity Shlaes, February 21, 2011, Bloomberg Opinion

Targeting public unions is unwise, rash and retrograde. That’s the take in some quarters on Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to curtail collective bargaining for public-sector unions in his state, Wisconsin. In a tone reminiscent of a Madison professor pouring cold water over an ill-judged dissertation, President Barack Obama recently admonished: “It’s important not to vilify them or suggest somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.” Such analysis has it backward. Walker’s decision to reduce public-union powers isn’t rash. It is overdue. (read article)

Wisconsin ain’t Egypt or Tunisia

By John Seiler, February 21, 2011, Orange County Register

Some Democrats and their hangers-on are saying that the protests by the Wisconsin government workers against Gov. Walker are the same as the protests that toppled tyrannies in Egypt and Tunisia. Here’s a New York Times op-ed. And here’s Robert Kuttner, a Democratic strategist, in the Huffington Post. The opposite is true. In Egypt and Tunisia, repressive governments were loathed by citizens forced to pay sky-high taxes to keep their oppressors in splendor and luxury. The citizens finally had enough and protested. In Wisconsin, the repressive government feeding off taxpayers is the government workers, who enjoy massive pay and benefits.  (read article)

New Hampshire flirts with Right-to-Work

Policy Brief, February 21, 2011, Allegheny Institute

Last week, the New Hampshire House of Representatives sent a shock wave through New England and North Atlantic states by passing Right-to-Work legislation by an overwhelming majority. New Hampshire’s Senate-with its heavy majority of Republicans-is expected to approve the House bill. Whether both houses can override a promised veto by the Democrat Governor remains to be seen. If Republicans all stand firm it might happen. Just a handful of defections will enable the union movement to stave off what would be seen as a severely damaging opening salvo against their fortified stranglehold on lawmaking and policy in the northern states. (read article)

Union Anger Nothing New for Wisconsin’s Walker

By George F. Will, February 21, 2011, Orange County Register

Hitherto, when this university town and seat of state government applauded itself as “the Athens of the Midwest,” the sobriquet suggested kinship with the cultural glories of ancient Greece. Now, however, Madison resembles contemporary Athens. This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election. A minority of the minority of Wisconsin residents who work for government (300,000 of them) are resisting changes to benefits that most of Wisconsin’s 5.6 million residents resent financing. (read article)

Wisconsin governor seizes chance to take on unions

By Scott Bauer, February 20, 2011, CBS News

The newly elected Republican governor of Wisconsin has set his sights on forcing public workers to pay more for benefits as he looks to balance the state’s budget — savings he needs to help cover the cost of tax cuts he demanded the day he took office. Democrats, who are no longer in power, have likened Walker to a dictator, and demonstrators protesting a contentious Walker-backed labor bill have waived signs comparing him to ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Even President Barack Obama has weighed in, calling the bill “an assault on unions.” Just seven weeks into his term, the 43-year-old son of a preacher has shown no sign of compromising. (read article)

A tipping point for labor in America

By Tim Rutten, February 19, 2011, Los Angeles Times

It may not be overstating the case to say that the future of organized labor as a whole may turn on the willingness of public sector unions to make statesmanlike, farsighted concessions now. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has released a fascinating poll that finds that people on the West Coast are far more likely to regard their states’ budget crises as “very serious” and are increasingly open to solving them through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Those findings suggest that circumstances and popular attitudes may be turning in favor of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposals to close California’s yawning shortfall with deep cuts in everything but primary education and prisons, along with an extension of existing tax surcharges. (read article)

Republicans challenging unions in state capitols

By David A. Lieb and Sam Hananel, February 18, 2011, MSNBC

Republicans who swept into power in state capitols this year with promises to cut spending and bolster the business climate now are beginning to usher in a new era of labor relations that could result in the largest reduction of power in decades for public employee unions. But as massive public protests and legislative boycotts in Wisconsin this week have shown, the Republican charge can be fraught with risk and unpredictable turns as politicians try to transform campaign ideas into action. (read article)

How public pensions killed progressive California

By Tim Cavanaugh, March 2011 Issue, Reason Magazine

The Democratic Party has folded Sacramento into one of the tightest one-party grips in contemporary American politics. In November, bucking the national trend, Democrats in California won not just the governorship but 51 Assembly seats to Republicans’ 29, 24 state Senate seats to Republicans’ 14, and every statewide office. With the passage of a referendum lowering the number of legislative votes required to approve a state budget (from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority), California is that rarest of land masses for the 2011 Democratic Party: conquered territory. State Democrats have freedom to rule virtually unchallenged by the scattered, rusticated Republicans. (read article)

Battle lines drawn in fight over public employee pay, benefits in Wisconsin

By Matthew Cooper, February 18, 2011, National Journal

The standoff between public employees in Wisconsin and the state’s new Republican governor has drawn President Obama into the fray and marks an important turning point in the century-plus story of organized labor in America. More than 25,000 protesters turned out in Wisconsin to sound their dismay at Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to use emergency legislation to roll back collective-bargaining rights for the state’s employees. (read article)

It’s not Wisconsin’s governor who has gone too far, but public employee unions

By Jennifer Rubin, February 18, 2011, Washington Post

E.J. Dionne decries Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s “overreach,” declaring the governor is “drumming up a crisis to change the very nature of the relationship between public workers and the government.” Let’s talk about overreach. Here’s how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board put it: Democrats in the state Senate threw a temper tantrum Thursday – essentially they took their ball and went home. (read article)

Hey state, municipal workers: Focus rage on those who lost your money

By Frank Keegan, February 17, 2011, Watchdog.org

For every dollar governments forced state and municipal workers to “invest” in pension funds over five years, their leaders lost about $1.50. Taxpayers — who also happen to pay all public wages and salaries and took a big hit on their own retirement plans — must make up a difference of more than $2 trillion now, and trillions more later. (read article)

What to do with California’s public employee unions? Decertify?

By Mark Landsbaum, February 17, 2011, Orange County Register

Here’s some news that bring another aspect to the issue of how much California’s public employee unions cost taxpayers. Wisconsin’s governor has raised the possibility of decertifying unions there for pretty much the same reasons it would make sense to do that here. How exactly would that work? Would it work at all? (read article)

Illinois Union Ally Turns Critic

By Amy Merrick and Douglas Belkin, February 14, 2011, Wall Street Journal

In his more than two decades as Illinois’s top power broker, House Speaker Michael Madigan has been a stalwart backer of unions, regularly supporting public-pension benefits with long-term obligations. The unions have returned the favor in campaign donations and endorsements. But now, amid a massive budget crisis, he is threatening to break that link, underscoring a growing gulf between public-employee unions and some of their longtime Democratic champions. (read article)

Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.com, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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