Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Issue of Federal Pay and Pensions Finding Its Way on to the 2012 Presidential Campaign Trail

By Ed O’Keefe, May 24, 2011, Washington Post

As Congress and the White House continue negotiating the future of federal pay and pensions, the issue is also finding its way on to the 2012 presidential campaign trail. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty raised the issue Monday, saying federal employees are paid too generously compared to private sector workers. During his official campaign kickoff speech in Iowa, Pawlenty said he would visit Washington this week “to remind the federal bureaucracy that government exists to serve its citizens, not its employees. The truth is, people getting paid by the taxpayers shouldn’t get a better deal than the taxpayers themselves.”  (read article)

Alabama firefighters win latest round in case charging Republican lawmakers with “anti-union attack”

By Challen Stephens, May 24, 2011, Huntsville Times

Alabama firefighters may continue to have union dues deducted straight from their paychecks, despite a new state law to the contrary. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith late Friday granted firefighters a preliminary injunction, meaning state and local agencies across Alabama must continue to process union dues. Smith made plain on Friday that he expected the injunction to apply broadly. He also expressed some surprise that the ruling was necessary, as he had already issued an identical injunction regarding teachers. The Alabama Education Association first sued the state in February, arguing that the ban on payroll deductions would cut off AEA’s primary source of funding and that Republican lawmakers had singled out the organization for political retaliation. The International Association of Firefighters, also supported by the American Federation of Teachers, filed a nearly identical suit on March 23 to contest a ban they labeled an “anti-union attack.”  (read article)

Costa Mesa takes a stand on the costs of a public workforce

By Brian Calle, May 23, 2011, Fox & Hounds Daily

The results of California’s 2010 midterm elections were tremendously discouraging for voters eager to rein in the influence of the state’s public-employee unions. While other states, like Wisconsin, elected political leaders willing to confront union power aggressively, Californians could only look on in frustration as pro-union politicians prevailed across the Golden State. But there is at least one beacon of hope in California: the Orange County city of Costa Mesa, which has charged ahead to address budget deficits by making massive cuts to its municipal workforce. In March, Costa Mesa’s city council voted 4–1 to issue layoff notices to nearly half of the city’s workforce—more than 200 workers—and to outsource many city services, including street sweeping, payroll, printing, information technology, animal control, park maintenance, and some fire protection. These are eminently reasonable steps, given the city’s fiscal challenges.  (read article)

Disney forces pay raises on hotel workers’ union

By Sarah Tully, May 23, 2011, Orange County Register

Disney plans to impose new work conditions, which include pay raises, on hotel employees after about three and a half years of contentious negotiations, a Disney official said Monday. (Story updated at 6:15 p.m.) About 2,100 union members have been working without a contract since Jan. 31, 2008. The fierce dispute has included a one-day strike, walkouts, a one-week hunger strike and dozens of protests. The parties mostly disagree about health-care costs.  (read article)

Union files complaint over use of AmeriCorps volunteers in Twin Rivers schools

By Melody Gutierrez, May 23, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Twin Rivers Unified School District’s use of AmeriCorps volunteers has pleased parents and angered the California School Employees Association, which has filed an unfair practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board. It is the second charge the CSEA and its Twin Rivers chapter have filed with PERB since April. Both charges are in the initial review stage, a PERB official said. Parents are countering the first charge with a petition to keep the youthful AmeriCorps volunteers, who tutor kids, hold after-school activities and assist in school cleanup events.  (read article)

Will unions launch a recall in Costa Mesa, California?

By Norberto Santana, Jr., May 22, 2011, Voice of OC

On March 16, the day before the city of Costa Mesa officially issued six-month layoff notices to more than 200 employees, Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh sent out an email congratulating the newly installed City Council majority on its pending action. “A team of conservatives on the City Council led by our endorsed candidate, Jim Righeimer, is fixing the problem in Costa Mesa,” Baugh wrote. Baugh’s email was an acknowledgment that Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer and his council colleagues were rushing to the front lines of the GOP’s nationwide ideological war against public sector unions.  (read article)

Video by prison guards union links campaign donations to new contract

By Steve Lopez, May 22, 2011, Los Angeles Times

Last week, I found myself cruising the website of the California prison guards union. I was curious about whether the $7 million the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. spent on last year’s elections — including $2 million on Jerry Brown’s governor’s race alone — might have had something to do with the contract the union just scored. And right there at ccpoa.org, I saw a video called “Winners.” What could that be? When I clicked on it, the video began with a guy sprinting while carrying a long stick. I figured it was an inmate trying to pole vault over the wall in a breakout attempt. But the pole vaulter didn’t make it. “No one clears the bar every time,” said a narrator as dramatic music swelled, like something from the Olympics. This wasn’t a breakout attempt at a state prison after all. It really was a pole vaulter on a track somewhere. And the point? Like a determined athlete, the CCPOA — one of the most powerful lobbying forces in California — doesn’t quit. And its perseverance pays off. “We won big this year,” the narrator says. “Played a decisive role in electing the governor. Elected new friends in the Legislature. Made a difference for the men and women who walk the toughest beat. We win because we never quit, and that’s what makes us CCPOA.”  (read article)

California Prison Guards’ Union Brags How Donations Scored Sweetheart Contract

CCPOA, May 22, 2011, Breitbart.tv

(watch video)

SEIU Leader wants to prod California GOP to the center

By Dan Morain, May 22, 2011, Sacramento Bee

As if you needed any more evidence that California’s political scene is entering a weird new phase, get a load of the ideas rattling inside David Kieffer’s shaved head. Kieffer is plotting to transform the California Republican Party. By itself, that’s not odd. Many people are trying to figure out how to keep the GOP from sliding closer to irrelevancy in this state. What makes Kieffer an unlikely agent of Republican change is that he is a lifelong union man, and not just any union. He’s the newly appointed face of California’s Service Employees International Union. Most SEIU members are public employees, and are known for donning purple T-shirts and marching in boisterous demonstrations at the Capitol and elsewhere. They advocate for tax hikes, public employee pensions, government health care and President Barack Obama, all which are anathema to the California Republican Party, such as it exists.  (read article)

New Hampshire could become the 23rd free union state

Editorial, May 21, 2011, The Wall Street Journal

Twenty-two states have right-to-work laws, most of them in the faster-growing South and West. The big news is that New Hampshire is edging closer to becoming the 23rd, which would make it the first new right-to-work state since Oklahoma in 2001 and could lead to a regional revolution. The state House and Senate in Concord have passed a right-to-work statute, but Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed the bill. On May 25 the legislature will attempt to override that veto, and House Speaker Bill O’Brien says he is “cautiously optimistic” that he can gain the two-thirds majority to do so. This would be a landmark victory for the right-to-work movement.  (read article)

Nearly 3 Million Paid Hours Spent By Federal Employees on Union Activity

By Cory Eucalitto, May 20, 2011, Americans for Tax Reform

Nearly 3 Million Paid Hours Spent By Federal Employees on Union Activity

A new OPM report details over $120 million paid towards federal employees performing union work The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has finally released its FY2009 report laying out the tremendous cost incurred by federal employees dealing with union issues on the clock- nearly 3 million hours and over $120 million. For some background, federal employees are designated, under their current collective bargaining agreement with the government, “official time” during which they are allowed to participate in union activities.  (read article)

Federal employee unions speak out against pension proposal

By Lisa Rein, May 19, 2011, Washington Post

Rep. Gerry E. Connolly (D-Va.) joined federal employee unions on Wednesday to denounce a plan to target federal pensions to balance the budget, calling it an assault on civil servants and a tax on 2.2 million “middle-class” Americans. “They are deliberately making the federal employee a scapegoat for the federal debt and deficit spending,” said Connolly, whose Northern Virginia district is home to about 120,000 federal workers and retirees. The White House and congressional leaders are considering asking civil servants to contribute more to their retirement plans, to about 6 percent from the current 0.8 percent.  (read article)

AFL-CIO may reduce support to Democrats

By Sam Hananel, May 20, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Prominent labor leaders, frustrated that Democrats in Washington aren’t aggressively pursuing the union agenda, are threatening to limit their campaign support for Democrats, an act that would hamper the party’s bid to regain control of the House next year and keep a majority in the Senate. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s threat of a pullback Friday was the latest warning to a party that has long relied on labor’s cash and grass-roots support. If it makes good on its threat, labor probably would spend more time and money combating union-busting efforts by state officials.  (read article)

Judge declines to block Costa Mesa layoffs

By Jon Cassidy, May 19, 2011, Orange County Register

The Costa Mesa Employees Association’s request for a temporary restraining order blocking hundreds of layoffs was denied by a Superior Court judge Wednesday afternoon. Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann set a hearing for July 5 to consider whether to issue a preliminary injunction. The union sought an order to block Costa Mesa from laying off 213 workers in September. Earlier this week the association filed a complaint alleging 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.  (read article)

Union Says Costa Mesa brought Wisconsin to Orange County

Editorial, May 19, 2011, Orange County Register

They’ve brought Wisconsin to California. That’s what Orange County Employees Association general manager Nick Berardino told attendees a few weeks ago at the California Democratic Party convention, referring to efforts by the Costa Mesa City Council to curb its public employee costs and rising pension liabilities. The battle for fiscal sanity in Costa Mesa is about to intensify with the union poised to strike, but the city should stay the course, even in the face of tremendous opposition. The Orange County Employees Association announced Monday that it had filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court to stop the city’s plan to outsource jobs being filled by union workers.  (read article)

U.S. teachers’ union endorses action on pension abuses

By Wendell Marsh, May 19, 2011, Reuters

The nation’s second-largest teachers’ union on Thursday endorsed action on pension abuses after coming under criticism because of some cases of public employees receiving extravagant retirement pensions. The American Federation of Teachers reiterated its longstanding support for well-funded and well-managed pensions for teachers. “But practices like end-of-career spiking and double-dipping have to be addressed,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. Spiking is when employees dramatically increase their pay in their final years of employment with overtime or negotiated bonuses, so that their pension benefits are inflated. Double-dipping is paying of both a salary and pension benefits to employees who are rehired after retiring from the same employer.  (read article)

New York Teachers’ Union Sues to Stop School Closings

By Fernanda Santos, May 18, 2011, New York Times

The United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in an effort to halt two tools the city’s Education Department uses to change the school system: closing schools for poor performance and giving charter schools space in buildings occupied by traditional public schools. The litigation, filed in State Supreme Court, escalates the tensions in the fraying relationship between the city and the teachers’ union, whose members have worked without a contract for more than a year and now face the likelihood of 4,100 layoffs, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed as a way to balance the budget.  (read article)

San Luis Obispo council votes 4-1 to hold election in attempt to repeal binding arbitration

By AnnMarie Cornejo, May 18, 2011, The Tribune

San Luis Obispo voters will decide in August whether two significant changes will be made to the city’s charter related to pay and compensation for its employees. The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night, with Councilman John Ashbaugh casting the lone dissenting vote, to set the mail-only ballot for Aug. 30. The decision comes after months of heated debate between the city and its public safety unions. San Luis Obispo’s firefighters union is threatening legal action if the City Council proceeds with its plan to put a key pay and benefit negotiation reform before local voters. San Luis Obispo City Firefighters Association attorney Stuart Adams claims that the council’s decision earlier this week to put measures repealing binding arbitration and pension protections from the city’s charter on the ballot violates a so-called meet-and-confer rule with the unions.  (read article)

Most Ohio voters would repeal bargaining bill, poll shows

By William Hershey, May 18, 2011, Dayton Daily News

Ohio voters would repeal legislation restricting public employee collective bargaining rights if the election were held today, according to a new poll. In the independent Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, 54 percent of registered voters favored repeal of Senate Bill 5, while 36 percent opposed it. Unions and Democrats are leading a petition drive to gather
signatures to put the repeal on the Nov. 8 ballot. They have until June 30 to submit signatures from 231,147 registered voters. The poll also shows that after five months, fewer than half of
voters approve of Gov. John Kasich’s performance in office.  (read article)

Beleaguered Costa Mesa taxpayers foot public employee union bills

By Geoff Willis, May 17, 2011, Orange Juice Blog

The newest lawsuit brought by the “beleaguered” employees of Costa Mesa is just another in a long train of selfish lawsuits brought by public unions in a continuing effort to protect their fiefdoms. The City Council of the City of Costa Mesa is attempting to do the unthinkable – SAVE ITS CONSTITUENTS’ MONEY – by reducing public payroll, benefit and pension obligations by outsourcing about 200 public jobs. Because the collective bargaining agreement required the City to give employees six months notice before eliminating public jobs, the City issued pink slips to about 200 employees to give the City the flexibility to outsource during 2011. In the event that the City Council determines that outsourcing the jobs is not its best option, the pink slips can be withdrawn at any time. Evidently viewing their jobs as permanent entitlements the public employees first howled at the moon and then sought an injunction to stop the City from having the ability to decide to save the taxpayers money.  (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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