Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

John, Ken and two powerful Republicans battle Jerry Brown on spending

By Anthony York and Shane Goldmacher, March 13, 2011, Los Angeles Times

It’s drive-time in Los Angeles, and that means radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou are riffing about state politicians. Within a matter of moments, they refer to various lawmakers as “traitorous pigs,” “con artist” and “Republican dirt bag.” They use gruesome sound effects to suggest the mounting of one legislator’s head on a stake — his entry into the duo’s hall of shame. (read article)

Los Angeles shock jocks make big impact in California politics

By Michael R. Blood, March 14, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s new governor faces daunting obstacles as he tries to erase a $26.6 billion budget gap, but one of the hardest to ignore is a pair of AM-radio shouters whose conservative-minded audience has a track record of making life uncomfortable, even miserable, for politicians who lose the pair’s favor. John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou have used their daily “John and Ken Show” to browbeat and menace any Republican who might consider sidling up with the Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who wants to raise about $50 billion over five years by extending higher sales, vehicle and income taxes. (read article)

Wisconsin’s mobocracy is clearly out of touch

Letter, March 12, 2011, Orange County Register

I have stared incredulously at the riots in Madison, Wis., over the loss of collective bargaining rights for government workers. These people are hysterical and frenzied because they are being asked to what the vast majority of Americans do everyday: contribute to their health care and retirement and individually negotiate their wages. How out of touch can one group of people be? My husband and I contribute 100 percent to our retirement and our health benefits for ourselves and our four children. My husband never takes sick days. When he feels he is deserving of a raise, he gathers evidence to prove his worth and sits down to discuss it with the boss. (read article)

Union mobocracy drowns out democracy in Wisconsin

Editorial, March 12, 2011, Washington Examiner

Democracy could be found in Wisconsin this past week, but not among the screaming protesters running wild throughout the Wisconsin capitol. While Wisconsin’s elected representatives — minus 14 Democratic state senators who fled the state — were working hard on the job the people sent them to do, thousands of screaming protesters provided America with a preview of the union mobocracy coming soon to a legislature, city council or school board near you. State, county and city governments across the country might well find themselves facing the same confrontational tactics that caused havoc in Wisconsin. The reason is that public employee unions have used collective bargaining to extract generous salaries, pensions and other benefits from taxpayers who can no longer afford to pay for them. (read article)

Wisconsin Curbs Unions (with video)

By Kris Maher and Ilan Brat, March 11, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed a bill eliminating most collective-bargaining rights for the state’s public-employee unions, setting a precedent other states could follow in the broadest move in decades to curb union rights. The bill’s passage Thursday by the state’s Republican-controlled Assembly in a 53-42 vote ended a three-week stalemate that saw the state’s 14 Senate Democrats flee to Illinois in a bid to stymie the measure and tens of thousands of people protest at the Capitol. (read article)

The Burden of Public Employee Pensions on States

By Mary Williams Walsh, March 11, 2011, New York Times

For public workers in Wisconsin, there’s more bad news. As Wisconsin legislators voted to eliminate most collective bargaining privileges for state employee unions, demonstrations continued on Thursday in the State Capitol Building in Madison. The bill now goes to Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to sign it. Having lost the battle on collective bargaining, they may soon be asked to make more financial sacrifices. The state’s workers offered to start picking up part of the cost of their pensions and health insurance early in their showdown this year with Gov. Scott Walker. That change will provide immediate relief for struggling towns, school districts and state agencies, and help them balance their budgets. (read article)

Us vs. them Unions

Editorial, March 11, 2011, Washington Times

Republicans in the Wisconsin statehouse had enough of Democratic Party antics designed to insulate its union supporter base from the pains of the economic malaise affecting the rest of us. The state Senate voted Wednesday to ban public-sector employees from entering into collective bargaining arrangements. Union thugs encircling the capitol building made a spectacle of themselves as the Assembly turned to consider the bill yesterday. Meanwhile in Washington, congressional Democrats continue to hold out against the most milquetoast of spending-reduction proposals, despite the dire circumstances of the nation’s finances. The longer the squabbles in the state and national capitals drag on, the more time the public has to notice the extent to which the party of Johnson, Carter and Obama loots the public treasure to maintain a political empire. (read article)

Ready for Unionized Airport Security?

By Kimberley A. Strassel, March 11, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made some progress this week in rescuing his state from the public-sector unions holding it hostage. Ever wonder how Wisconsin got into trouble in the first place? Washington is providing an illuminating case study. Even as state battles rage, the Obama administration has been facilitating the largest federal union organizing effort in history. Tens of thousands of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners are now casting votes to choose a union to collectively bargain for cushier personnel practices on their behalf. Liberals are calling it a “historic” vote. It is. Henceforth, airport security will play second fiddle to screener “rights.” Here’s the fundamental problem with public-employee unions: They exist to compete with, and undermine, public priorities. (read article)

Taxpayers Win in Wisconsin

Editorial, March 11, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Congratulations to Wisconsin Republicans, who held together this week to pass their government union reforms despite unprecedented acting out by Democrats and their union allies. Three weeks ago we described this battle as a foretaste of Greece come to America, but maybe there’s hope for taxpayers after all. The good news is that Governor Scott Walker’s reforms have been worth the fight on the policy merits. The conventional media wisdom is that Mr. Walker “overreached” by proposing limits on the ability of government unions to bargain collectively for benefits. But before he offered those proposals, Democrats and unions had refused to support his plan that public workers pay more for their pensions and health care. Only later did they concede that these changes were reasonable and will spare thousands of public workers from layoffs. (read article)

Unions frame bargaining as civil rights issue

By Sam Hananel, March 11, 2011, Associated Press

Labor unions at the heart of a burning national disagreement over the cost of public employees want to frame the debate as a civil rights issue, an effort that may draw more sympathy to public workers being blamed for busting state budgets with generous pensions. As part of that strategy, unions are planning rallies across the country on April 4 – the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Union officials want the observances in dozens of cities to remind Americans that King was supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., the night he was shot. By portraying collective bargaining as a human rights issue, union officials hope the rallies can help fuel a backlash against Republicans in Wisconsin and other states trying to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees. (read article)

Wisconsin’s lesson for California

Editorial, March 11, 2011, Orange County Register

The Wisconsin Legislature has abolished nearly all collective bargaining rights for public employees and required them to pay a portion of their retirement benefits. We hope this starts a badly needed nationwide trend. Minority-party Democrats in the state Senate fled the state about three weeks ago rather than vote on the measure, touching off a national controversy over public employee labor rights. Facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit over two years, Republicans, who gained legislative control last fall, approved the new law this week without Democrats’ votes, minus fiscal provisions that required bipartisan support. (read article)

Pension ‘Crisis’ Is a Myth, Says Coalition of California Public Employee Unions

By Teri Sforza, March 10, 2011, Orange County Register

Ever feel as if we’re all living on different planets? That’s how we felt when an email titled “Pension ‘Crisis’ a Myth” plopped in our inbox. We squinted at the screen. After all, our heads have been spinning lately with reports on the public pension crisis in California – particularly the Little Hoover Commission’s report (roll back unsustainable benefits for current employees, or they will “crush” government) and the Legislative Analyst’s report (state and local benefits are very generous compared to both other states and the private sector…. governments and taxpayers bear almost all the financial risk, rather than employees… etc.). That the Legislative Analyst is himself a public employee, who’ll be getting a public pension, seems to make his perspective on the topic particularly relevant. But whatever. Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security — a coalition of public employee unions — is in full-court press, firing back with its own perspective on reality.  The group has hired Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio to lead communications efforts, (read article)

Why I’m Fighting in Wisconsin

By Scott Walker, March 10, 2011, Wall Street Journal

In 2010, Megan Sampson was named an Outstanding First Year Teacher in Wisconsin. A week later, she got a layoff notice from the Milwaukee Public Schools. Why would one of the best new teachers in the state be one of the first let go? Because her collective-bargaining contract requires staffing decisions to be made based on seniority. Ms. Sampson got a layoff notice because the union leadership would not accept reasonable changes to their contract. Instead, they hid behind a collective-bargaining agreement that costs the taxpayers $101,091 per year for each teacher, protects a 0% contribution for health-insurance premiums, and forces schools to hire and fire based on seniority and union rules. (read article)

Wisconsin Union-Busting Drive Feeds Off Towns That Are Shrinking

By Brian Louis, March 10, 2011, Bloomberg

The loss of people and power in rural and small-town Wisconsin is helping fuel the state’s showdown over public-sector union rights and benefits. Rural Wisconsin counties are losing residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released yesterday, as a lack of jobs pushes young people to Madison, the state capital, and its suburbs. Twenty of the state’s 72 counties lost population between 2000 and 2010, the census found. Resentment in those areas helps explain support for Republican Governor Scott Walker’s push to restrict the collective bargaining rights of some unions, said Katherine Cramer Walsh of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She noticed the bitterness while doing research in 27 communities, where many residents work multiple jobs without benefits while local government employees have health coverage and pensions. (read article)

Wisconsin Senate Passes Union Curbs as Protesters Rally

By Reuters, March 9, 2011, New York Times

Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate approved sweeping curbs on collective bargaining by public employees on Wednesday in an abrupt and accelerated vote that caught many Democrats by surprise. The move added to the already bitter political atmosphere in Wisconsin over the fight, and dozens of protesters flooded the Capitol in the evening following the vote, ignoring announcements from police that the building was closed. (read article)

What Happens When City Retirees Outnumber City Employees?

By Gary Toebben, March 9, 2011, Fox & Hounds Daily

In the City of Los Angeles, the budget deficit for 2011-12 begins at $350 million fueled in large part by the rapidly growing cost of pensions and health care for retirees. Last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for two significant reforms to keep the problem from getting worse. He called for raising the retirement age for non-sworn city employees to 65 and he urged the members of the Fire and Police Pensions Board to reject a 7 percent increase in the health care subsidy given to public safety retirees. The current health care subsidy for fire and police retirees is $1,025 per month and the 7 percent monthly increase would add another $4.8 million dollars to the City’s budget deficit. The Chamber and other business and community organizations joined the mayor in support of both proposals. (read article)

Idaho OKs bill limiting bargaining

By Jennifer Epstein, March 8, 2011, Politico

As Wisconsin politicians stay locked in a stalemate over a proposed law governing public employees’ unions, Idaho’s legislature on Tuesday passed a bill restricting collective bargaining rights for the state’s unionized teachers. Under the bill, which is expected to be signed into law by the state’s Republican governor, collective bargaining for the state’s 12,000 unionized teachers would be limited to salary and benefits only, and could not be used to negotiate course loads, class sizes and other working conditions. (read article)

Do We Still Need Unions? No. Let’s end a privileged class.

By Mark McKinnon, February 27, 2011, Newsweek

The manufactured Madison, Wis., mob is not the movement the White House was hoping for. Both may find themselves at the wrong end of the populist pitchfork. While I generally defend collective bargaining and private-sector unions (lots of airline pilots in my family), it is the abuse by public unions and their bosses that pushes centrists like me to the GOP. It is the right and duty of citizens to petition their government. The Tea Party and Republicans seek to limit government growth to protect their pocketbooks. Public-union bosses want to increase the cost of government to protect their racket. (read article)

The Trouble with Public Sector Unions

By Daniel DiSalvo, Fall 2010 Issue, Public Affairs

When Chris Christie became New Jersey’s governor in January, he wasted no time in identifying the chief perpetrators of his state’s fiscal catastrophe. Facing a nearly $11 billion budget gap — as well as voters fed up with the sky-high taxes imposed on them to finance the state government’s profligacy — Christie moved swiftly to take on the unions representing New Jersey’s roughly 400,000 public employees. On his first day in office, the governor signed an executive order preventing state-workers’ unions from making political contributions — subjecting them to the same limits that had long applied to corporations. More recently, he has waged a protracted battle against state teachers’ unions, which are seeking pay increases and free lifetime health care for their members. Recognizing the burden that such benefits would place on New Jersey’s long-term finances, Christie has sought instead to impose a one-year wage freeze, to change pension rules to limit future benefits, and to require that teachers contribute a tiny fraction of their salaries to cover the costs of their health insurance — measures that, for private-sector workers, would be mostly uncontroversial. The firestorm that these proposals have sparked demonstrates the political clout of state-workers’ unions. (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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