Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Illinois pension fight: In one corner, unions; in the other, business

By Brian Brueggemann, May 17, 2011, News-Democrat

The two sides in the debate over Illinois government pensions are taking the fight to the public. In one corner is a coalition of labor unions, which is running a public-relations campaign called “We Are One Illinois.” It features teachers, firefighters health-care workers and other public employees, asking that their pensions not be touched. In the other corner is the Commercial Club of Chicago, a business group that is running a campaign called “Illinois is Broke,” which features an empty-pocketed image of Abraham Lincoln and claims state government pensions are bankrupting the state.  (read article)

Union goes to court to halt layoffs by Costa Mesa, California

By Cindy Camarco, May 17, 2011, Orange County Register

The Costa Mesa Employees Association has filed a complaint with an Orange County Superior Court judge in an attempt to stop the possible layoffs of more than a hundred city employees, according to a statement released by the union Monday afternoon. The complaint asks for an immediate restraining order to stop the layoffs and long-term injunctive relief, association spokeswoman Jennifer Muir stated in the release. The association contends that the city’s action to lay off their employees and outsource their jobs is against state law and violates an agreement between the city and the employee association, according to the complaint. Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch was also named as a defendant in the complaint.  (read article)

Are Connecticut’s state employee unions as innocent as they claim?

By Chris Powell, May 14, 2011, Journal Inquirer

Fending off demands for concessions, Connecticut’s state employee unions note that they are not to blame for the recession that has laid the state and the country low. But the question of blame isn’t helpful amid the collapse of state government’s finances and the income of the taxpayers, on which those finances rest. Insofar as the recession is largely the product of mismanagement by a government elected by the people generally, everyone shares in the blame. And blame may belong with the unions more than with some others. If, as is increasingly acknowledged, the trends in government employee wages, benefits, and pensions have become “unsustainable,” who among the beneficiaries of those trends refused to go along because of their unsustainability? And didn’t those beneficiaries keep supporting the campaigns of the elected officials who were always giving the store away to win political support?  (read article)

If public pension checks bounce, blame union leaders and politicians, not taxpayers

By Frank Keegan, May 13, 2011, Watchdog.org

Politicians and public pension fund managers betting the stock market never will fall again also are presuming they can extort more money from taxpayers to guarantee pension checks don’t bounce. That may not be as sure a thing as they think it is. Check with Prichard, Ala. Prichard simply stopped writing pension checks almost two years ago, leaving retirees without promised income even as the town forces current employees and taxpayers to keep paying into the fund. Sure, Prichard is only a municipality, and states are states. But that might not make much difference when the money runs out. In fact, as sovereigns, states can pretty much pay — or not pay — whom they choose. None of the pension reforms states have proposed or passed will have any significant impact on the existing pension liability estimated at $700 billion to more than $3 trillion.   (read article)

Hey teachers unions – how about some pay cuts?

By Mark Landsbaum, May 13, 2011, Orange County Register

One of the less-than-endearing qualities of government school teachers is their unwillingness to sacrifice – even for each other. When they insist on higher taxes, it’s “for the children.” But how many of those dollars go into children’s pockets, anyway? And when they are faced with cuts in spending, they are virtually universal in insisting that there be job losses rather than pay cuts. The Sacramento Bee has editorialized on teachers unions suffering from larger class sizes, reduced art, drama and athletic offerings and shortened school years. And allegedly for more than 40,00 of their ranks being laid off over three years, with another 20,000 in the coming year – unless you increase your taxes and prevent it.  (read article)

California prison union balks at staff searches

By Michael Montgomery, May 13, 2011, California Watch

Random staff searches that are part of an effort to curb the smuggling of cell phones into state prisons are drawing objections from the powerful union representing correctional officers. At issue is a two-year program – known as Operation Disconnect – that requires all adult prisons to conduct monthly searches of employees and others as they enter state facilities. Fewer than 500 cell phones have been confiscated under the program, though some lawmakers still suspect prison employees are the main suppliers of cell phones that are reaching inmates in ever-larger numbers.  (read article)

Boeing and the Union Berlin Wall

By Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore, May 13, 2011, Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint last month against Boeing to block production of the company’s 787 Dreamliner at a new assembly plant in South Carolina—a “right to-work” state with a law against compulsory union membership. If the NLRB has its way, Dreamliner assembly will return to Washington, a union-shop state, along with more than 1,000 jobs. The NLRB’s action, which Boeing will challenge at a hearing next month, is a big deal. It’s the first time a federal agency has intervened to tell an American company where it can and cannot operate a plant within the U.S. It lays the foundation of a regulatory wall with one express purpose: to prevent the direct competition of right-to-work states with union-shop states. Why, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley recently asked on these pages, should Washington have any more right to these jobs than South Carolina?  (read article)

Behold! Your Public Sector Unions at Work, And How They Got Their Lavish Pensions

By Andrew Klavan, May 13, 2011, PensionTsunami.com

Everywhere you turn these days, your public sector unions are hard at work, protesting cutbacks to public sector unions. Andrew Klavan of City Journal exposes the charming charm of your unionized civil servants. (watch video)

Louisiana Bill Seeks to Shed Light on Collective Bargaining

By Kevin Mooney, May 11, 2011, Pelican Post

At a time when the power and influence of public employee unions have become part of an intense national debate, Rep. Tony Ligi (R-Metairie) is advancing a bill that calls for greater transparency in collective bargaining. While the legislation is sure to draw fire from organized labor, Ligi sees strong prospects for passage on the House side. Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) had already agreed to sponsor the legislation in the upper chamber, he said. The Public Employee Bargaining Transparency Act (HR 204) calls for collective bargaining sessions between a public employer and a labor union to fall under the Open Meetings Law. The bill also requires that any document created or presented during the sessions be made available to the public and that the details of collective bargaining agreements be posted on the Internet.  (read article)

San Jose Wrestles With Cost of 90% Pensions

By Alison Vekshin, May 10, 2011, Bloomberg

A 2007 arbitration ruling letting San Jose, California, firefighters retire as early as age 48 with 90 percent of their pay may result in the firing of 370 municipal workers as the 10th-largest U.S. city tries to close a budget deficit fueled by higher pension costs. Firefighters’ pensions were sweetened for the third time since 1996 after San Jose came under pressure from unions to keep up with what other municipalities were offering, according to Alex Gurza, the city’s chief negotiator.  (read article)

The California Teachers Association Is a Major Contributor to the Golden State’s Fiscal Woes

By Larry Sand, May 10, 2011, City Journal

California’s chronic fiscal crisis should prompt a substantive debate about the limits of government and the folly of an expansive welfare state. Instead, leaders of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association are using the struggle to close the Golden State’s $15.4 billion budget deficit as an opportunity for some political street theater. The powerful National Education Association state affiliate is spending this week highlighting California’s “state of emergency,” with large rallies planned in Sacramento and around the state Friday to agitate for billions of dollars in higher taxes.  (read article)

Tax the Rich, Say California’s Teachers, Who Are Rich Themselves

By Brian Joseph, May 10, 2011, Orange County Register

Taxing corporations and the rich has been a rallying cry at California Teachers Association’s protest at the Capitol this week. But it’s worth noting that the CTA, one of the most powerful special interest in Sacramento, is also among the wealthiest. Take lobbying expenses, for example. During the 2009-2010 special session, the teacher association spent $9,164,422.03 on lobbying, according to reports filed with the California Secretary of State. Compare that with Chevron, the largest company in California, which spent $3,807,145.73. The teachers outspent Chevron more than 2 to 1. Yet it’s the teachers who are complaining about the influence of the rich.  (read article)

John and Ken Returning to Fullerton to Protest Teachers’ Union Tax Hikes

Travis Kiger, May 10th, Friends of Fullerton’s Future

Political talk radio hosts John and Ken announced that they will be coming to Fullerton on Thursday to counter the demonstration for higher taxes put on by the Fullerton teachers’ unions. Apparently they were egged on by the receipt of a flyer listing five hundred and eighty five Fullerton teachers and administrators who make a lot of money. We have here a copy of that flyer. (watch video)

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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