Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Wisconsin and Illinois showdown: handling state unions

By Mary J. Cristobal, April 21, 2011, Illinois Statehouse News

The two states share a border, but that’s about all that Illinois and Wisconsin have in common these days. How the two states deal with their respective public sector unions and state employees is as different as night and day. The Illinois Senate last week approved a measure on education reform sponsored by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, that deals primarily with teachers’ collective bargaining rights. Written into the legislation are tougher standards for poorly performing teachers that could lead to their firing.  (read article)

Churches wrestle with God’s stand on union rights

Associated Press, April 25, 2011, USA Today

Public-employee unions battling a spreading challenge to collective bargaining rights may no longer be able to count on the clout of a longtime ally — the nation’s mainline churches. In Ohio and Wisconsin, the collective bargaining debate energized lobbying by sympathetic bishops and pastors, but unions lost those fights. Church leaders now fret that the volatile debate over budget-cutting may expand to target programs aiding the needy. The involvement of religious leaders highlighted the intersection between faith and the marketplace as policymakers debated union and spending issues woven into the fabric of American society.  (read article)

A classic conflict of unions vs. private industry

By Kathleen Parker, April 26, 2011, Sacramento Bee

It is almost clockwork: As a new presidential cycle winds around, the early primary state of South Carolina provides a defining issue for Americans and candidates to chew over. Whether it’s a debate about where the Confederate Battle Flag should fly — or the “real” meaning of secession — the nation’s most-stubborn state can be a tar pit for the incautious politician. Thus, almost to the day that South Carolina commemorated the 150th anniversary of the first shot of Civil War, the federal government lobbed a grenade into the Palmetto State, challenging a private industry’s right to conduct business there.  (read article)

Federal union workers urged not to vacation in anti-union states

By Francine Knowles, April 26, 2011, Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago area union leaders don’t want to see federal workers vacationing at Disney World, the Wisconsin Dells or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio this year. Union leaders here are urging Chicago area federal employees to boycott Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and other states that have taken “anti-labor” and “anti-union positions.” “Why should you spend your good money in a state that basically works against unions and works against workers,” said John O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 704 which represents 1,000 workers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago.  (read article)

California Governor Falls Short on Union Contracts

By George Skelton, April 25, 2011, Los Angeles Times

When Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a new state budget in January, he projected saving $515 million in employees’ take-home pay through collective bargaining. He didn’t come close and is being ripped by critics. He particularly is being slammed for a contract his representatives negotiated with the politically powerful prison guards union. “Union puppet.” “Payoff.” That sort of thing. After all, the guards union — the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. — did spend nearly $2 million helping him get elected last year. Brown naturally takes offense.  (read article)

Does Government Work Require Government Employees?

By John Buntin, April 2011, Governing Magazine

Three years ago, the police department in Redlands, a city of 71,000 people east of Los Angeles, had 98 sworn officers, 208 civilians and about two dozen volunteers. The police budget was $23.8 million, nearly half of the city’s operating budget. Today, the department employs 75 sworn officers and 138 civilians and relies on 291 active volunteers, who last year contributed more than 31,000 hours of their time to the city. The volunteers are not just answering the phones at police headquarters. They cordon off crime scenes, direct traffic, patrol the city’s 14 parks, write parking tickets, assist with animal control and provide crowd control at special events. They are also trained to check in parolees, assist with records processing, help staff DUI checkpoints, take reports on routine property crimes, serve as the liaison with the local San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, provide counseling to crime victims and monitor sex offenders remotely.  (read article)

NLRB: You Can’t Move Away From Your Union

By Megan McArdle, April 22, 2011, The Atlantic

It’s not that surprising to see a union complaining about a company that decided to expand operations in a Right-to-Work state, rather than its traditional base of operations, when talks with the union break down.  But as far as I know, it’s pretty damn unusual to have the National Labor Relations Board say that this is illegal: So Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. In October 2009, the company settled on South Carolina, which, like the 21 other right-to-work states, has friendlier labor laws than Washington. As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn’t have “strikes happening every three to four years.” The union has shut down Boeing’s commercial aircraft production line four times since 1989, and a 58-day strike in 2008 cost the company $1.8 billion.  (read article)

New Jersey toll workers union suggests cost cuts to avoid privatization

By Larry Higgs, Apr. 21, 2011, Asbury Park Press

As Turnpike Authority commissioners prepare to vote next week to privatize cash toll collections, union officials representing Turnpike toll collectors have put out another proposal they contend could save up to $34 million. But it’s possible there won’t be a vote next week. Transportation Commissioner James Simpson hinted at an Assembly state government committee hearing on privatization that Tuesday’s vote to award a contact might not happen due a quorum issue.  (read article)

San Francisco Pension Clash Could Wind Up on Ballot

By Bobby White, April 21, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Local leaders in San Francisco are so at odds over how to overhaul the city’s pensions for public employees that different constituencies are crafting competing ballot measure for the fall, a situation that political observers say could confuse voters and prevent any proposal from winning a needed majority. Interim Mayor Ed Lee announced a pension proposal earlier this month that would boost employee contributions and raise the retirement age for new hires. Public defender Jeff Adachi has devised at least three ballot proposals, one of which he says will end up on the ballot. And the city’s labor leaders are crafting their own potential ballot measure.  (read article)

Indiana legislators’ walk-out paid for by unions

By Don Surber, April 20, 2011, Daily Mail

Indiana’s government unions paid for Democrats to flee-bag their constituents. If I were a voter in Indiana, I would be very, very angry. From Mike O’Brien: The Indiana Democratic Party’s first quarter campaign finance report was filed last Friday and confirms what everyone already suspected but Democrats denied: their “We Are Indiana” walkout was bought and paid for national unions.  Read the report here: Dem Finance Report. During the period of the walkout that began on February 22 and ended on March 28, Democrat-backed unions contributed nearly $140,000 to the Indiana Democratic Party.  Their goal: stop the legislative session in its tracks, kill anti-union bills, and pay whatever it took to keep Democrats holed up in an Illinois hotel.  (read article)

Unions vying for TSA representation must compete in a runoff election

By Joe Davidson, April 20, 2011, Washington Post

The largest federal union organizing election is not over yet. The Federal Labor Relations Authority declared Wednesday that a runoff is necessary because neither the American Federation of Government Employees nor the National Treasury Employees Union received a majority of the 19,587 votes cast by transportation security officers during a six-week election period that ended Tuesday. AFGE received 8,369 and NTEU won 8,095 votes. The “no union” option was chosen by 3,111 voters. In the runoff, the “no union” option will drop off the ballot, so the two unions will compete only with each other.  (read article)

Menlo Park, California Fire District votes to impose contract terms on firefighters

By Bonnie Eslinger, April 20, 2011, Mercury News

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District imposed a “last, best, final” offer on its firefighters Tuesday night, taking a three-year-long labor dispute to the next level. “It’s been a difficult process for all of us,” Chief Harold Schapelhouman said before the board of directors’ vote. “Hopefully tonight we’ll move past that.” The district’s 93 firefighters have been working without a contract since July 2008. The board of directors voted 4-1 to impose an offer that includes no raises but gives firefighters an additional $800 for health and retirement benefits. Director Jack Nelson cast the sole dissenting vote but did not say why during the board’s discussion. According to state labor law, a “last, best, final offer” can be unilaterally imposed after an impasse is reached.  (read article)

Seattle city employees’ union sees volunteers as job threat

The Associated Press, April 19, 2011, Seattle Times

A union for Seattle city park workers is fighting a private company’s offer to help clean up a downtown park for free. The Seattle Times reports the union, Public Service and Industrial Employees Local 1239, demanded the city desist from any deal with the CleanScapes company for work at Occidental Park now performed by city crews. The union’s lawyer, Dmitri Iglitzen, says the company is trying to move in on a potential city contract. CleanScapes President Chris Martin says the company is just being a good corporate citizen. It holds a $300 million eight-year contract for garbage and recycling collection in the city. The union blocked another CleanScapes offer to clean the downtown Westlake Park over the holiday season.  (read article)

The Battle Over Public Employee Unions Is Not Against the Workers, It’s Against the Union Bosses

By Adam Bitely, April 19, 2011, NetRightDaily.com

Fire fighters. Policemen. Teachers. Medics. Those are the professions that Democrats and Big Labor are falsely claiming to be under assault from the well-reasoned folks that support limiting the collective bargaining power of public sector employee unions. Simply put, those professions are not under attack from anyone. Indeed, the unions have come under scrutiny, but the employees have not. After all, it is the unions that are bleeding the state dry. In every case across the nation, Governors are trying to push back against Big Labor to save public sector jobs—not destroy them.  (read article)

California Prison Guards Getting Payoff for Supporting Gov. Jerry Brown?

By Tori Richards, April 19, 2011, AOL News

A taxpayer rights group has blasted California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, for giving the prison guards who funded his re-election a new contract that will eventually cost millions to a state that is virtually bankrupt. The new contract, which must be ratified by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, undoes reforms that were put in place by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger aimed at curbing the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Specifically, Schwarzenegger imposed furlough days and refused to sign a new contract granting additional benefits. (read article)

For union families, a loss of value beyond bank accounts

By Amy Gardner, April 18, 2011, Washington Post

Judy and Jim Embree, an operating room nurse and paramedic and firefighter, were attending a rally at the state Capitol when they discovered that everything they thought to be good and right about their lives was, to an alarming number of people, completely wrong. The people who showed up that day in support of a plan, since adopted, to cut the power and benefits of public-sector unions said that people like them were the problem. That their “high wages” and “exorbitant pensions” were crippling cities and counties across Ohio. Some, even, said their jobs were unnecessary.  (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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