Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Union Myths

By Thomas Sowell, March 8, 2011, Townhall.com

The biggest myth about labor unions is that unions are for the workers. Unions are for unions, just as corporations are for corporations and politicians are for politicians. Nothing shows the utter cynicism of the unions and the politicians who do their bidding like the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act” that the Obama administration tried to push through Congress. Employees’ free choice as to whether or not to join a union is precisely what that legislation would destroy. (read article)

Union Changes Make Headway In Ohio

by Karen Kasler, March 7, 2011, NPR

Ohio, not Wisconsin, could be the first state to dramatically curb the power of state workers unions this year. The Ohio Senate last week passed a bill to restrict government workers unions to bargain collectively for wages but little else. Hearings on the bill start in the House on Tuesday. Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it — and against GOP leaders and Ohio’s new Gov. John Kasich (R). Kasich is a former congressman and Wall Street executive, and like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), Kasich has been leading the charge to dramatically limit the power of government workers unions in Ohio. Even before he was sworn in, Kasich wasn’t shy about going after public worker unions. (read article)

Florida bill limiting union dues postponed as labor tries to stop it

By Brandon Larrabee, March 7, 2011, Florida Times Union

A Senate committee delayed the first hearing on a bill restricting the collection and use of union dues Monday, as organized labor ramped up the campaign to swat the bill away. The decision to postpone Senate Bill 830 – which would bar state and local governments from deducting union dues from an employee’s paycheck and allow employees to ask for a refund of any dues used for political purposes – came near the end of a Monday committee meeting where lawmakers were scheduled to take up the bill for the first time. (read article)

How Do Unions Work — Trade or Theft?

by Grant Babcock, March 7, 2011, OpenMarket.org

In his work The State, sociologist Franz Oppenheimer draws a distinction that has been widely adopted among libertarian intellectuals. Oppenheimer outlines two methods of acquiring wealth (and here we mean not just wealth narrowly construed, viz. money, but broadly construed — “welfare” would be close in meaning). On one hand, we have production and exchange; on the other, theft and extortion. The first method Oppenheimer terms “the economic means,” the latter he calls cheekily “the political means.” The economic means constitute a positive-sum game. When two parties engage in a trade it is because each judges that they stand to gain. The distinguishing features of the economic means are peacefulness and mutuality. The political means are at best a zero-sum game. (read article)

Who’s winning the fight over public-employee unions?

By Scott Keeter, March 6, 2011, Washington Post

The Post asked pollsters, politicians and other experts who is winning and who is losing in the fight over public-employee unions. Public attitudes about labor unions have been largely stable since the start of the battles in Wisconsin and other states. A Pew Research poll last week found favorable opinions of unions outnumbering unfavorable opinions 47 percent to 39 percent, essentially unchanged from a poll conducted in early February. But the battles have energized union households and liberal Democrats. Among both groups, very favorable attitudes about unions jumped sharply the past few weeks. (read article)

In union strongholds, residents wrestle with cuts

By David A. Lieb, March 5, 2011, Associated Press

There once was a time when Harry and Nancy Harrington – their teenage children in tow – walked the picket line outside the nursing home where she was a medical aide, protesting the lack of a pension plan for the unionized work force. But those days of family solidarity are gone. Harry now blames years of union demands for an exodus of manufacturing jobs from this blue-collar city on the shore of Lake Michigan. He praises new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for attempting to strip public employee unions of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights. (read article)

Cuomo wins silence of powerful unions

Michael Gormley, March 5, 2011, Associated Press

Candidate Andrew Cuomo told fed-up voters last fall that public worker unions were among the special interests that had turned the Empire State from America’s progressive model run by titans of virtue into a boozy, bloated “Jersey Shore” run by insiders on the public’s dime. But as governor, Cuomo has given two major prizes to two of those special interests. The actions silenced a powerful teachers’ union and a health care workers union influential with the Legislature. Both had been part of an annual labor effort that included multimillion dollar TV ad campaigns that forever weakened the last three governors. (read article)

Public Unions Get Too ‘Friendly’

By Peggy Noonan, March 4, 2011, Wall Street Journal

When you step back and try to get a sense of the larger picture in the battle between the states and their public-employee unions, two elements emerge. One seems small but could prove decisive, and the other is big and, if I’m seeing it right, carries significant implications. The seemingly small thing is that the battles in the states, while summoning emotions from all sides, are not at their heart emotional. Yes, a lot of people are waving placards, but it’s also true that suddenly everyone’s talking about numbers, and numbers are sobering things. (read article)

Bill to Restrict Collective Bargaining Rights for Public Employees Whizzing Through Ohio Legislature

By Ann Sanner, March 3, 2011, Businessweek

While much of the nation’s attention remains focused on a stalled proposal in Wisconsin to restrict collective bargaining rights for public workers, an Ohio measure that in some ways is tougher and broader is speeding toward reality. A Senate panel and then the full chamber approved the Ohio measure Wednesday amid jeers from onlookers. The bill would restrict the collective bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees, while Wisconsin’s would affect about 175,000 workers and exempt police and firefighters. (read article)

Costa Mesa workers nailed by perfect storm

By Frank Mickadeit, March 3, 2011, Orange County Register

Why has Costa Mesa emerged as O.C.’s Ground Zero in movement to cut public-employee costs? For one thing, it is a full-service city. It is also a medium-large city (116,000 residents) and has been around along time (since 1953), so it has a lot of union employees under contract or retired employees who are receiving pensions. It feels the burden. It also has a majority-Republican City Council. All of the above could also be said for three or four other O.C. cities, but here’s what makes Costa Mesa different: It elected Jim Righeimer to the council last fall, and he ran on a platform that made it clear he was going to stop what he considers gross featherbedding in police and fire department contracts. This came as county Republican Party chief Scott Baugh said his party wouldn’t endorse any candidate who took union money. (read article)

Why Koch Industries Is Speaking Out

By Charles G. Koch, March 1, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Years of tremendous overspending by federal, state and local governments have brought us face-to-face with an economic crisis. Federal spending will total at least $3.8 trillion this year—double what it was 10 years ago. And unlike in 2001, when there was a small federal surplus, this year’s projected budget deficit is more than $1.6 trillion. Several trillions more in debt have been accumulated by state and local governments. States are looking at a combined total of more than $130 billion in budget shortfalls this year. Next year, they will be in even worse shape as most so-called stimulus payments end. Both Democrats and Republicans have done a poor job of managing our finances. They’ve raised debt ceilings, floated bond issues, and delayed tough decisions. (read article)

Poll Results: Conservatives and Tea Party Are United v. Public School Teacher Unions

By Christopher Bedford, March 1, 2011, Conservative HQ

As the Wisconsin battle between Republicans and Democrats enters its third week, a poll conducted by Richard Viguerie’s ConservativeHQ.com shows self-described conservative activists and Tea Partiers united against the public school teacher unions. Ninety-eight percent of those polled said, “Public school teacher unions are bad for the nation,” while only one percent said they, “are good for the nation.” The remaining one percent were undecided. Chaotic protests in Wisconsin have seen the Republican-controlled state government unable to hold a vote that would end public employee unions’ ability to bargain collectively. (read article)

Trumka: Unions energized by clash in Wisconsin

By Sam Hananel, March 1, 2011, Associated Press

The clash between pro-union protesters and Republican leaders in Wisconsin could spark a resurgence of the American labor movement, the head of the nation’s largest labor federation said Tuesday. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the effort to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers in Wisconsin and other states has brought a level of excitement to unions that he hasn’t seen in years. “We’ve never seen the incredible solidarity that we’re seeing right now,” Trumka told reporters at the federation’s annual meeting of union leaders. Trumka said he hopes to tap into that enthusiasm to help spur union organizing and growth after decades of decline. (read article)

The Difference Between Public and Private Unions

Fact Sheet, February 28, 2011, Heritage Foundation

What Is Government Collective Bargaining? (1) Legal Monopoly: Government collective bargaining gives unions a monopoly on the government’s workforce. The government must employ workers on the terms the union negotiates. It may not hire competing workers. (2) Private-sector unions bargain over limited profits. Competition from other businesses moderates wage demands. Governments earn no profits and have no competition. Government unions negotiate for more tax dollars. (3) Risking Public Services: When government unions strike, they can deprive citizens of essential services—such as education for children—until demands are met. (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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