Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Republicans Blakeslee, Cannella Side With Public Employee Unions Over California’s Taxpayers

By Jon Fleischman, May 3, 2011, FlashReport

It was not particularly surprising to see Democrats in the State Senate yesterday vote to ratify six more State of California public employee union contracts. After all, to say that these unions are the largest special interest funding Democrat campaigns for statewide and legislative office would actually be kind of an understatement. The financial donations made to Democrats by the state’s public employee unions are off-the-charts in terms of generosity. As the late Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Shocking and disappointing, however, were the votes of two Senate Republicans to ratify all of these union contracts — specifically State Senators Sam Blakeslee and Anthony Cannella. (read article)

Public vs. Private: The Union Debate

By Steve Pender, May 2, 2011, Salisbury Post

“It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” — George Meany (1955), president of the A.F.L-C.I.O. Many of us followed the events as they unfolded in Madison, Wisconsin. The typical explanation offered was that Gov. Scott Walker is trying to break the teachers’ unions. This “union-busting” sparked waves of protests; state democrats initially fled the state to avoid voting on the proposed legislation. Unions have been a driving force in this country for a century or more. They have literally raised the standard of living for millions of Americans. Many claim that unions actually created today’s middle-class. This may be a bit far-fetched, but then again, maybe not. Either way, no one can argue that unions haven’t had a beneficial effect on the lives of working people; yet they’ve also been known to abuse their power. (read article)

Dems rally public workers to push Gov. Brown’s agenda

By Joe Garofoli, May 2, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle

The sign fourth-grade teacher Julie Timmerman held declared in large bold letters “I am a public service worker.” It was a tribute to the civil rights slogan “I am a man,” and it was an iconic image at the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento over the weekend. While Democrats dominate California’s political landscape and hold all its major offices, both political leaders and the labor unions that put them in power are sounding the alarm about anti-union initiatives that are creeping into the state and efforts to “demonize” union workers as the source of the California’s knee-buckling economic problems. (read article)

Stunning Setbacks in Massachusetts for Unions in a Legislature They Once Owned

By Noah Bierman and Michael Levenson, May 1, 2011, Boston Globe

Nine of the state’s most influential union chiefs stormed into House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office two weeks ago, fuming at the powerful Democrat’s plan to curb bargaining rights for police officers, teachers, and other municipal workers. The speaker let them stew in his gilded waiting room for 45 minutes. Finally, an aide popped his head out: “He’ll see you for about 90 seconds.’’ The pillars of the Democratic coalition had been reduced to just another interest group. Days later, DeLeo secured a resounding 111-to-42 vote for his plan, making the Massachusetts House the first Democratic-led chamber in the country to curtail bargaining rights in this year of public employee labor strife. It was a seismic rebuke to labor that has stunned combatants on both sides of the union-management divide. (read article)

UAW Lawyer Reveals Radical Union Strategy on Bargaining Rights

By Joel Griffith, May 1, 2011, Big Government

In the face of public sector union reforms, leaders within these unions plan on embarking a new strategy to defeat reformist implementations. On April 28, Newberry Library in Chicago hosted a debate on whether states can stop collective bargaining. Panelist Stephen A. Yokich, an associate general counsel for UAW, unveiled a radical idea for combatting new state restrictions on public sector collective bargaining. His strategy on behalf of the unions is to obtain a Supreme Court ruling stating that collective bargaining by public sector unions is a protecting right under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution! The Equal Protection Clause is found in Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This section states that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (read article)

Abuses happen when unions have government friends

Editorial, April 30, 2011, Washington Examiner

Wisconsin shoppers thinking of buying Angel Soft tissue, Johnsonville Brats or Coors beer should carefully examine packages of those products on grocery shelves for vandalism. Those products are being singled out by anonymous vandals who damage them, then leave stickers on them bearing messages critical of Gov. Scott Walker. As Examiner columnist Michelle Malkin reports on Page 35, suspicion focuses on members of a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. That’s the same union chapter that recently threatened retaliation against Wisconsin businesses that failed to support protests against Walker’s reforms in public employee pensions, benefits and collective bargaining privileges. It would be one thing for a union representing workers at a privately owned company to threaten retaliation against other private businesses. When public employee unionists do so, it raises the specter of government power being hijacked to serve a special interest agenda. (read article)

Union Battles: A Window for Parental Choice

By Howard Rich, April 30, 2011, Townhall.com

The defensive struggle that’s currently being waged by America’s public sector unions has the potential to usher in a renaissance of parental choice in our nation – assuming supporters of academic freedom are willing to seize this opportunity and resist the urge to settle for half-measures. Battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin and Ohio represent the first skirmishes in a protracted, nationwide war against taxpayer-funded unions – engagements that have backed these entitled bureaucrats up against the wall for the first time in recent memory. No longer dictating terms to elected officials, public sector unions are fighting for their very survival as Tea Party members and legions of independent-minded voters have finally seen them for what they are – cash-guzzling cancers on taxpayers. (read article)

California Prison Academy: Better Than a Harvard Degree

By Allysia Finley, April 30, 2011, The Wall Street Journal

Roughly 2,000 students have to decide by Sunday whether to accept a spot at Harvard. Here’s some advice: Forget Harvard. If you want to earn big bucks and retire young, you’re better off becoming a California prison guard. The job might not sound glamorous, but a brochure from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations boasts that it “has been called ‘the greatest entry-level job in California’—and for good reason. Our officers earn a great salary, and a retirement package you just can’t find in private industry. We even pay you to attend our academy.” That’s right—instead of paying more than $200,000 to attend Harvard, you could earn $3,050 a month at cadet academy. It gets better. (read article)

Union Busting, Massachusetts Style

By Kimberly A. Strassel, April 29, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Pop quiz: What political party, in what state, this week passed a bill in the dead of night stripping public-sector unions of their collective- bargaining powers? Republicans in Wisconsin? The GOP in Ohio or Indiana? Try Democrats in Massachusetts. Maybe the debate over public-sector benefits isn’t all that ideological after all. That would be the view of Massachusetts Democratic Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who late Tuesday led an overwhelming majority of his House in passing a bill divesting policemen, firefighters, teachers and other municipal employees of the power to collectively bargain most health-care benefits. (read article)

Florida Gov. Scott’s anti-union bill rejected by state senators

By Mary Ellen Klas, April 29, 2011, Miami Herald

Florida Gov. Rick Scott paid a rare, personal visit to the offices of four Republican senators Wednesday in a last-minute attempt to rescue an anti-union bill that appeared destined for defeat. The governor asked the same question to Miami Sen’s. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia, Anitere Flores and Inverness Sen. Charlie Dean. And he got the same answer: No. (read article)

In Florida, G.O.P. Help for Unions

By Steven Greenhouse, April 29, 2011, New York Times

When State Senator John Thrasher introduced a bill to weaken the political clout of Florida’s public employee unions, he expected that it would pass fairly easily, not least because Republicans held 28 of the Senate’s 40 seats. But now it looks as if the bill could falter before the legislative session ends next week. Unions representing teachers, firefighters, the police and other public employees say they have persuaded nearly half of the Senate’s Republicans to oppose the bill by reminding them that in Florida, far more than in most states, organized labor has supported Republicans. (read article)

How an Unelected, Unconfirmed Obama Appointee is working to destroy the secret ballot

By Rick Manning, April 29, 2011, NetRight Daily

It is somewhat odd that one of President Ronald Reagan’s most often used quotes “Personnel is policy”, isn’t particularly eloquent although its alliteration and brevity make it memorable. Perhaps the three word phrase is remembered because it is succinct and accurate, even more so today than even 25 years ago. In the past week, America has gotten a double dose reminder of why this axiom is true through dual National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) actions aimed at forcing unionization on the nation’s private sector. In one action, the NLRB decided to sue the states of South Carolina and South Dakota because their voters had the audacity to protect their citizen’s right to a secret ballot vote in a union election. (read article)

Swing-state Ohio at heart of union rights battle

By Paul West, Washington Bureau, April 28, 2011, Los Angeles Times

In this former company town, an aging smokestack marked with “Hoover” in tall white letters stands like a tombstone over the union jobs lost when the vacuum-cleaner factory shut down in 2007. The decision to shutter an icon of America’s industrial heyday, made by the company’s new Hong Kong owners, was another step in labor’s relentless slide in a state once known as a union stronghold. Now, organized labor is facing an existential test in Ohio, a showdown with implications for next year’s presidential election. (read article)

President Obama says he disapproves of laws restricting public employee unions in Ohio and Wisconsin

Video interview by Romona Robinson, April 27, 2011, WKYC-TV

Channel 3 News Anchor Romona Robinson sat down with President Barack Obama in a White House interview Tuesday. We had portions of Romona’s interview with the President on Channel 3 News at 6 and 7 p.m. Tuesday night. Romona reported live on her interview with President Obama from Washington, DC. (watch video)

Gov. Kasich blasts Obama for remarks on new union law

WKYC Staff. April 27, 2011, WKYC-TV

Ohio’s governor says President Barack Obama should focus on tackling the nation’s debt and balancing the budget before he weighs in on collective bargaining restrictions in states. Gov. John Kasich’s remarks to reporters Wednesday come a day after Obama told TV 3 that he strongly disapproves of new laws restricting public employee unions in Ohio and Wisconsin. He said states should not use the financial crisis as an excuse to erode bargaining rights. (read article)

Free market needs balance, not public unions

Richard Fuller, April 27, 2011, Orange County Register

There was a reason why Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that government employees not unionize; it has a corrosive effect on the structure of government . Free- market corrections do not apply to government responsibilities. When private autoworker and iron worker unions leveraged power to force disadvantageous contracts, those companies became less competitive and, ultimately, went bankrupt. (read article)

Massachusetts House votes to restrict unions; Measure would curb bargaining on health care

By Michael Levenson, April 27, 2011, Boston Globe

House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night to strip police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns. The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights. (read article)

Ruling That Allows Detroit to Reduce Pension Formulas for Current Employees Riles Workers

By Leonard N. Fleming, April 27, 2011, Detroit News

A recent arbitration ruling that allows Detroit to reduce pensions to police sergeants and lieutenants could save the cash-strapped city millions of dollars but has irked public employees. The decision from arbitrator Thomas W. Brookover came down this month, just days before Mayor Dave Bing issued his budget address that called for reductions in pension contributions because of the city’s growing deficit and declining tax base. Among the changes: The city can reduce the multiplier the city uses to calculate pensions for sergeants and lieutenants from 2.5 percent to 2.1 percent; suspend for two years longevity pay awarded after five, 11, 16 and 25 years; and make modifications to health care. (read article)

National Firefighters Union Halts Donations to Federal Candidates

By Sam Hananel, April 26, 2011, Time

The nation’s largest firefighters union — one of the Democrats’ most reliable sources of campaign money — announced Tuesday that it would quit donating to federal candidates this year because members of Congress aren’t sufficiently backing them in their fight against anti-union measures around the country. International Association of Firefighters President Harold Schaitberger said there is a more urgent need to spend money defending the anti-union measures sweeping GOP-controlled statehouses. (read article)

California Voters Say It’s Time for Unions to Pay Their Fair Share

By JWF, April 25, 2011, Human Events

As California struggles to stay solvent, it appears an overwhelming majority of voters there have also become fed up with the luxurious benefits afforded unions and have decided they’ve had enough. According to a bipartisan poll released by the Los Angeles Times, Golden State voters want public union members to give up some of their retirement benefits, favor a cap on pensions and also want public employees to work longer before they can begin collecting them. (read article)

Motor City finds union clout weakened amid spending cuts, new legislation

By Michael A. Fletcher, April 25, 2011, Washington Post

Public-sector unions are on the defensive in this historic stronghold of organized labor. With the city mired in fiscal distress for years, workers have been asked to give and give again. Now, Mayor Dave Bing (D) wants city employees to pay significantly more for health care and pensions. What the unions do not give, he warned, the government will take by using a new state law allowing a state-appointed fiscal manager to void their collective bargaining agreements. (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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