Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Florida state workers flock to Capitol for ‘death-match’ over pensions, privatization

By Bill Cotterell, March 29, 2011, Florida Today

Hundreds of green-clad government employees converged on the Capitol today for a “death match” lobbying effort to protect their pensions, maintain payroll deduction of union dues and fight privatization of state services. Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filled 21 big chartered buses for the overnight trek to the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, where they had breakfast and got organized for an uphill three-block march that marked the union’s largest annual lobbying day. Organizers said more than 1,000 public employees, most of them wearing the union’s green T-shirts inscribed “The Public is Our Special Interest,” would fan out through the House and Senate office buildings to talk with lawmakers about pending issues. (read article)

The labor movement after Wisconsin

Lee Sustar, March 29, 2011, The Socialist Worker

Labor mobilizations in Wisconsin showed that unions have the potential to win. So how come labor’s still losing so badly? Certainly the spirit of the Wisconsin protests continues to resonate across the U.S. After labor resisted union-busting Republican Gov. Scott Walker with the biggest series of union protests in decades, union members in Ohio and Michigan poured into their own state Capitol buildings to protest similar legislative attacks. The Wisconsin demonstrations prompted the AFL-CIO to call for a national day of workers protests April 4… (read article)

Dispatches From the Propaganda Front

By Mike Antonucci, March 28, 2011, Education Intelligence Agency

Last month I opined on the state of public knowledge about labor unions and collective bargaining. I wrote that since a large segment of the population had no real idea what all the hubbub was about, both sides were ”trying to gain the support of this bloc through selective information – or propaganda, to be less charitable.” Now the first reports are in from Wisconsin, and it appears the unions are advancing along that front. I’m not using “propaganda” in its pejorative sense. Both Gov. Walker and the unions are trying to frame the issue to display the most advantageous picture for their side. So far, more Wisconsinites are admiring the union picture. (read article)

Surge in Union Membership Among Illinois Workers Worries Even Traditionally Union-Friendly Democrats

By John O’Connor, March 27, 2011, Journal Standard

In the past eight years, more than 10,000 state employees have joined unions, a four-fold increase over the previous eight years, according to records analyzed by The Associated Press. If pending requests are approved by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, nearly 97 percent of state workers would be represented by unions — including many employees once considered management. Only 1,700 “bosses” would be left out of nearly 50,000 state employees. While Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states move to throttle the influence of state employee unions, the surge in Illinois’ union membership worries even traditionally union-friendly Democrats, who fear it could harm the effective management of government. (read article)

Labor rage reflects deeper middle-class anxiety

By Steven Thomma, March 25, 2011, Sacramento Bee

The bitter fight over union pay and benefits in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin is more than a clash over an annual budget. It’s a sign of a country wrestling with fundamental change as it leaves the familiar moorings of the 20th century and struggles to forge a new economic and political order. Working people have been watching their paychecks stagnate or shrink since the 1980s. Health care costs have been rising steadily. (read article)

California Gov. Brown Says Unions Should Be Open to GOP Concessions

By Juliet Williams, March 24, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that he has told his labor union allies they should be open to concessions that Republican lawmakers are seeking on public employee pensions in exchange for GOP votes on the budget. The Democratic governor has warned that if Republicans fail now, conservatives could try for even bigger giveaways with a future ballot initiative. A group of GOP lawmakers wants pension reforms, looser business regulations and a state spending cap in exchange for their votes to call a special election. (read article)

Teachers union takes to the airwaves in budget fight

By Shane Goldmacher, March 23, 2011, Los Angeles Times

As Gov. Jerry Brown has struggled to obtain the Republican support he needs to place taxes on the ballot, the influential California Teachers Assn. is wading into the budget stalemate. The union began airing a statewide radio ad on Wednesday decrying that more cuts to schools — and more teacher layoffs — “means a dead-end for California’s children on the path to success.” (read article)

Unions must make concessions, or risk public backlash

By Robert J. Scamardella, March 21, 2011, Staten Island Advance

We are today engaged in a great debate concerning public employee compensation. Ironically, union leaders should reasonably endure compensation modifications to best serve their member’s interests. Most governors and mayors face huge deficits that cannot be balanced by increasing revenues. Instead they advocate for workforce expense reductions. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “We cannot continue. Our pension costs and health care costs for our employees are going to bankrupt this city.” (read article)

Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island Defends Massive Teacher Layoffs, Budget Cuts

By Farai Chideyaf, March 21, 2011, National Public Radio

We’re continuing our focus on cities and states in financial crisis and how elected leaders are choosing to respond. We’re still hearing a lot about Wisconsin and political fallout there as a result of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair plan. Coming up, we’ll ask three teachers from Wisconsin, Ohio and California about pay cuts, collective bargaining and pension plans. But first, we turn our attention to the northeast where another budget crisis is looming. Last month, some 2,000 public school teachers in Providence, Rhode Island were given termination notices as part of the mayor’s plan to try to help close the city’s expected $70 million deficit. Mayor Angel Tavares is here with me now. Mayor, thanks for joining us. (read audio transcript)

‘We Are at War’ — the NEA’s Strategy for Its Short-Term Future

Education Intelligence Agency, March 21, 2011

With the situation in Wisconsin stabilized, if not settled, there is time to examine the National Education Association’s strategy for its short-term future. Though reasonable arguments can be made that the collective bargaining measures in Wisconsin, Ohio and Idaho aren’t significantly different from the status quo in other states, there should be no mistake about it – NEA sees them as a threat to its very existence. (read article)

Montana public employee unions: Public enemy or middle-class champion?

By Gail Schontzler, March 21, 2011, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

At a pro-union rally held in front of the Montana Capitol this month, one woman supporter held up a homemade sign that read “Public Employees – NOT Public Enemies.” It’s just one indication of how demonized public employee union members feel these days, as collective bargaining rights are being stripped away from public workers in states like Wisconsin and Indiana. (read article)

Big-Government Labor’s Glory Days May Soon Be Over, Even in California

Editorial, March 21, 2011, Investor’s Business Daily

Up until now — as recently as last November — big-government labor has won its battles at the ballot box. But a new poll suggests that its glory days may soon be over. Public-employee unions are being pummeled by Republican legislators and governors all over the country. But they still seem to think they have the people on their side. In Wisconsin they’re talking recall against Gov. Scott Walker and his state house allies. In California, they admit to losing some ground. But they figure on winning it back with one of their tried-and-true ad campaigns, pulling on the public’s heartstrings about teachers, cops and firefighters. But it may be that the public is no longer so ripe to be manipulated in Wisconsin, California or anywhere else. (read article)

Union-free Virginia not spared state pension woes

By Rosalind S. Helderman, March 19, 2011, Washington Post

Where Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants to take his state, Virginia has already been: It is one of a handful of states that prohibit collective bargaining for public employees in state and local government. Given that, you’d think the state’s retirement program would look a lot like those offered by private employers, right? You’d be wrong. The state has steadfastly maintained a defined benefit plan for the vast majority of its employees, a stable perk increasingly rare in the private sector. Despite having no unions, Virginia has been one of four states where employees have, for almost 30 years, paid nothing each year toward their retirement. (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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