Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Legislator Seeks To Add Collective Bargaining To Wisconsin State Constitution

May 7, 2011, Ashland Current

State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) has drafted a proposed amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution that would affect the rights of workers to collectively bargain wages, benefits, hours, and work conditions. “The recent passage of a bill in Wisconsin that effectively eliminates collective bargaining for most public employees has put Wisconsinites through a traumatic period of our history. That bill is currently being litigated in the courts, and its passage has even given rise to unprecedented efforts to recall elected officials,” said Carpenter. “A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 70 percent of folks believe that public employees should have the same rights to collectively bargain as private employees. (read article)

Teachers agree to one-time, $54 increase in union dues to fight Ohio collective bargaining law

Associated Press, May 6, 2011, Washington Post

Members of Ohio’s largest teachers’ union have agreed to a one-time, $54 dues increase to pay for the fight against Ohio’s new collective bargaining law. A spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association says 111,000 active union members would pay the extra dollars under a proposal overwhelmingly approved Friday. School support staff would pay $25. Student and retired members were exempted. (read article)

Paying teachers to prevent reform

By Gary Beckner, May 6, 2011, San Bernardino Sun

The California Teachers Association announced a “State of Emergency” campaign to lobby Gov. Brown and the state legislature for higher taxes in order to combat cuts to education. While no one wants to see good teachers laid off or programs diminished, as a resident of California, I can’t help but wonder how much longer our state will or can support the tax-and-spend agenda of the CTA. After all, after years of increased education funding, California is still significantly behind other states in education rankings. Some of those states spend considerably less per student than California. That’s embarrassing. Or it should be. For too long we have been throwing piles of cash at the problem and have realized meager to zero return on our investment. (read article)

California public employee unions meddle in finances of hard-pressed local governments

Editorial, May 6, 2011, Fresno Bee

It shouldn’t be a surprise that public employee unions are trying to get the best legislative deals for their members. But it is up to our elected representatives to balance the interests of all Californians. Unfortunately, the unions’ Democratic allies in the Legislature don’t see their role that way. The latest maneuver is to meddle in the finances of hard-pressed local governments by cutting special deals for unions if local agencies file for bankruptcy. (read article)

Police union sues San Luis Obispo over negotiations to delay vote; Ballot measures, if approved, would repeal binding arbitration and pension protection

By AnnMarie Cornejo, May 6, 2011, The Tribune

In a sign that the spat between San Luis Obispo and one of its public safety unions has gone from bad to worse, the union has now taken the city to court. A civil lawsuit filed by the police officers union against the city Tuesday alleges the city is ignoring its obligations to the union regarding looming ballot measures that would affect future compensation and negotiations. The San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association contends that the City Council’s decision to put measures repealing binding arbitration and pension protections on the ballot in August violates meet-and-confer rules that the city must adhere to. (read article)

Illinois Democrats Enrage Public-Worker Unions With Drive to Tame Pensions

By Tim Jones, May 6, 2011, Bloomberg

Illinois Democrats are leading a charge to reduce the state’s pension costs, provoking a million- dollar opposition ad campaign from their traditional allies, public-sector unions, and signaling a new phase in efforts to contain retirement expenses. While the push to control public worker benefits and wages has been defined this year by clashes over collective bargaining in Republican-dominated Wisconsin and Ohio, Democrats in states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts are pushing for concessions as well. (read article)

Illinois labor launches campaign to protect pensions

By John Bachtell, May 5 2011, People’s World

Corporations and the right wing are waging an all out assault to roll back the state worker public pension system in the current Illinois legislative session. In response, the state’s labor movement, representing over 1 million members, has launched a massive public education and grassroots lobbying effort to protect pensions and worker rights, called “We Are One Illinois.” (read article)

Unions refocus political activity

By Fredreka Schouten, May 4, 2011, USA Today

Feeling under siege in more than a dozen states, some of the nation’s largest labor groups are focusing their political activity to challenge state laws that sharply curb union rights or to oust the legislators who crafted them. That could hurt congressional Democrats who rely heavily on organized labor for campaign money and get-out-the vote efforts. Democrats received 93% of the money union-affiliated political action committees donated to federal candidates in last year’s midterm elections, according to data collected by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The union counterattacks in states will stretch their budgets, but national labor leaders say they are unlikely to follow the lead of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which announced last week that it would cut off donations in next year’s presidential and congressional elections and redirect its money to state fights. (read article)

California unions, governor split on budget tactic

By Jim Christie, May 4, 2011, Reuters

California’s powerful public-sector unions back Governor Jerry Brown’s call to extend tax hikes to close the state’s $15 billion budget gap, but they are breaking with his plan to put the issue in front of voters. The unions prefer lawmakers extend tax increases expiring this summer because that would eliminate the risk of a defeat at the ballot box which could also jeopardize the pension benefits of their members. The difference between the governor and one of his key support groups compounds the mess in California’s budget politics. The unions’ position could open a rift between Brown and fellow Democrats who control the legislature and who are close allies of public-sector unions. The Assembly speaker last month said tax increases should be left to lawmakers. Brown has steadfastly said taxes should be left to voters. (read article)

When public employee unions flex, taxpayers feel it

Editorial, May 4, 2011, Orange County Register

Californians have been let down twice already by their representatives in Sacramento, and another disappointment may be looming as final approval of union contracts for 51,000 public employees will be considered by the Assembly any day now. Despite promising to save more than $500 million in negotiating the six contracts, Gov. Jerry Brown instead negotiated agreements saving taxpayers $300 million. That’s a 40 percent shortfall, but not too surprising, considering how nearly 100 percent indebted the governor is to public employee unions, which largely financed his election campaign. It’s a bit more surprising that two Republican state senators, Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo and Anthony Cannella of Ceres, abandoned their party to provide Democrats the needed two votes for the two-thirds margin required. (read article)

Illinois public employee unions launch million-dollar TV ad campaign against pension reform

By Charles Thomas, May 3, 2011, WLS-TV

Plans to reform the state’s pension system are not sitting well with some unions representing state employees. They’ve launched a television ad campaign about a reform movement that they say will rob them of money they’ve earned. Illinois’ largest public employee unions — representing hundreds of thousands of workers including teachers, police officers and firefighters — have joined forces for a major media campaign aimed at protecting their pension benefits. The 30-second ads feature Illinois public employees or actors posing as such. One ad says: “I worked my whole life, I gave money from every paycheck, I never missed a payment because they promised us a modest pension.” (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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