Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Sacramento police union president lambastes City Council

By Ryan Lillis, June 21, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Sacramento police union president Brent Meyer went off on City Hall and the City Council in a strongly worded letter to his members last week. Meyer wrote that “being a hypocrite seems to be woven deep into the fabric of some of our city’s political blanket” and called out the six council members who voted this month for police cuts. In a budget slated for final approval by the end of the month, roughly 45 police officers will be laid off – the first time as far as anyone can remember that Sacramento cops have lost their jobs. Some members of the City Council have targeted public safety pensions as a long-term budget fix and have said they aren’t interested in one-year salary concessions. Police officers and firefighters do not contribute to their pensions. And it appears from the memo that the police union is open to contributing to a pension plan – but not now. That apparently will have to wait until the union’s contract expires in 2013. (read article)

Maybe Target’s anti-union video wasn’t so cheesy after all

Intercepts, June 20, 2011, Education Intelligence Agency

Maybe Target’s anti-union video wasn’t so cheesy after all. A union representation election at a New York Target store ended in defeat for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, 137-85. The union claims the election was unfair. “Target did everything they could to deny these workers a chance at the American dream,” said UFCW local president Bruce Both. (read article)

California’s Public Employee Unions Think Taxpayers Will Finance Their Soap Opera Forever

Editorial, June 19, 2011, Wall Street Journal

‘All My Children” may be off the air, but the soap opera is still running in Sacramento. In the latest installment, Governor Jerry Brown divorced his fellow Democrats by vetoing their budget. Democrats and unions are furious and plotting revenge, while both sides blame the evil Republicans for refusing to sanction a referendum that would give voters a chance to endorse a tax increase. Where’s Susan Lucci when you need her? Mr. Brown deserves credit for vetoing the Democratic budget that reverted to Sacramento form to close a $9.6 billion deficit, deferring several billion dollars of bills into the future… (read article)

No love loss between San Jose’s mayor, police union president

Internal Affairs Column, June 18, 2011, San Jose Mercury News

The San Jose City Council and the San Jose Police Officers’ Association might have signed off on a new contract that includes layoffs and significant concessions by the cops. But that doesn’t mean the hard feelings have vanished. In the latest edition of the Vanguard, the cops’ newsletter, POA President George Beattie suggests that officers who can do so should look for jobs elsewhere. But it was Beattie’s attack on Mayor Chuck Reed that revealed just how personal the whole fight has become. Beattie wrote that the city is being led “by a Jim Jones type personality who has led the way in turning her citizens against those who protect them.” Jones was the charismatic founder of the Peoples Temple, the man who oversaw the suicide of more than 900 people in Guyana in 1978. The mayor parried Beattie deftly. “Well, looks like I’ve solved my problem of being charismatically challenged,” he told IA. “George is upset, and I don’t blame him for being upset. A little hyperbole is to be expected.” (read article)

GOP assemblyman says union boss should resign over New Jersey Nazi remarks

Associated Press, June 17, 2011, Miami Herald

A New Jersey assemblyman is calling on a union leader to resign for comparing Republican Gov. Chris Christie to Adolf Hitler during a Statehouse rally. Communications Workers of America vice president Chris Shelton referred Thursday to the governor as “Adolf Christie” and to Democratic leaders of the Legislature as Nazi generals. Shelton addressed 3,500 union members in Trenton protesting legislation supported by Christie and the Legislature’s Democratic leadership. The legislation would require public employees to pick up a larger portion of their pension and health benefits costs. (read article)

Anti-union Republicans seize their moment

By Melissa Maynard, June 17, 2011, Stateline.org

When Wisconsin’s polls closed in November and it became clear that a new Republican governor and legislature had taken complete control of a state long dominated by Democrats, it was clear to everyone that major changes for the public workforce lay ahead. The new governor, Scott Walker, made no secret in his campaign about his plans to battle the state’s powerful labor unions head on. Walker said he would challenge not just pensions and health benefits but the ability of unions to influence the state’s way of doing business. Even so, the pace and magnitude of change for the state’s public employees have been startling. No one guessed that within a few months, Wisconsin, the birthplace of AFSCME, the largest national union representing state workers, would rescind most collective bargaining rights for nearly all public employees at all levels of government. (read article)

In an era of one-party rule, Republicans pass a sweeping state agenda

By John Gramlich, June 13, 2011, Stateline.org

Republicans controlled all the levers of government in a staggering number of states this year — and it showed. Holding a lock on the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 20 states, GOP conservatives advanced an agenda that may change the face of state government for decades. They honored pledges not to raise taxes by enacting huge spending cuts to balance budgets in Florida and Texas. They put tough abortion limits back on the agenda, passing laws in Alabama, Kansas and Oklahoma. Most famously, Republicans in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin put new restrictions on the rights of public employees, whose protests made national news for a month. Though Democrats proved powerless to stop those changes, they moved a profoundly different agenda in the 11 states where they enjoy total control of state government. (read article)

Democrats’ attempt to appease unions costs U.S. jobs, trade

By Charles Krauthammer, June 17, 2011, Sacramento Bee

“Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected,” observed President Barack Obama this week, enjoying a nice chuckle about the unhappy fate of his near-$1 trillion stimulus. To be sure, Obama has also been promoting a less amusing remedy for anemic growth and high unemployment: exports. In this year’s State of the Union address, he proclaimed a national goal of doubling exports by 2014. One obvious way to increase exports is through free-trade agreements. But unions don’t like them. No surprise then that for two years Obama has been sitting on three free-trade agreements – with Colombia, Panama and South Korea – already negotiated by his predecessor. (read article)

California campaign watchdog investigates Bell police union

By Jeff Gottlieb, June 17, 2011, Los Angeles Times

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating whether the Bell police union violated state law in the March election, when voters in the scandal-battered town swept the last remaining City Council members out of office. The state panel is examining whether the Bell Police Officers Assn. distributed campaign literature showing officers in uniform, a violation of state law. The commission could fine the union as much as $5,000 for each offense. In rare instances, it has filed suit to get up to three times the amount spent on improper campaigning. (read article)

Wisconsin Vindication: Unions lose their second challenge to Walker’s labor reforms

Editorial, June 16, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Remember that Greek-style uproar over Wisconsin’s collective bargaining reforms? It ended with a whimper this week, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Governor Scott Walker’s union reform law and chastised the lower court judge who had blocked the law. After issuing a temporary restraining order in March, Dane County circuit judge Maryann Sumi blocked the law last month on grounds that Republicans had violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law. But the state high court ruled 4-3 that Judge Sumi… (read article)

What Teachers Unions Won’t Tell You About School Layoffs

By Kyle Olson, June 16, 2011, Townhall.com

The media and education establishment’s hair has been on fire over the thousands of layoffs that are occurring in American public schools. They’ve bought into the union line that school funding is in crisis, when in reality, spending is unsustainable. Because of collective bargaining agreements, many school districts’ hands are tied and layoffs are the only option. They can’t save money by changing employee health insurance policies, or obtaining salary freezes or wage concessions, because the unions won’t allow it. (read article)

Santa Clara County grand jury issues scathing report on fire departments

By John Woolfolk, June 15, 2011, Mercury News

A Santa Clara County civil grand jury on Wednesday called for a wholesale rethinking of fire departments and emergency responses, arguing that sending firefighters to what are now mostly medical calls is outdated and wasteful. A report by the watchdog panel found that 70 percent of fire department calls are medical emergencies, and just 4 percent are fire-related. But even so, firefighters respond as if they are heading to a fire, sending a crew of three or more on a truck or engine costing an average of $500,000 — five times the cost of an ambulance. Typically only one of the three arriving firefighters has medical training, the report said. That creates a “mismatch between service needed and service provided,” with fire departments deploying “personnel who are overtrained to meet the need” — that is, paramedics also trained as firefighters. “Taxpayers can no longer afford to fund the status quo,” the report said. (read article)

Union Members in Oakland Storm Meeting, Demanding Council Stop Contracting

By Sean Maher, June 15, 2011, Oakland Tribune

Hundreds of city workers face potential layoffs in the coming weeks, and dozens of local union members let their anger be known as they stormed a City Hall meeting Tuesday afternoon, interrupting discussions about the city’s contracting. Three civilian unions representing a total of more than 3,400 city employees have been negotiating with the city since April. Their contracts have expired and Mayor Jean Quan has called on them to make contributions to help solve the $56 million projected deficit Oakland is facing in the fiscal year that starts July 1. About 100 members of these unions — SEIU Local 1021, IFPTE Local 21 and IBEW Local 1245 — rallied outside before marching through City Hall chanting, “Fair share, fair deal, City Council, make it real!” (read article)

Save the children — or help the union?

By Brian Joseph, June 14, 2011, Orange County Register

Sometimes, a bill in Sacramento appears to be one thing but may really be another. Take Assembly Bill 183,  by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, which would prohibit grocery store consumers from buying alcohol at a self-checkout counter. The Assemblywoman held a press conference on the West steps of the State Capitol this morning touting how her bill curb the sale of alcohol to minors. Stopping underage drinking is a laudable goal, but there’s evidence to suggest the bill has another mission entirely. Also in attendance at today’s press conference was Lisa Austin, a customer assistant at a Fresh & Easy grocery store in Southern California. On the surface, Austin’s appearance today may seem strange — Fresh & Easy stores only have self-checkout counters. (read article)

Thousands of UK schools to close in national teachers’ strike over pensions

By Graeme Paton, and Andrew Hough, June 14, 2011, The Telegraph

Almost every state school in England and Wales is likely to close on Thursday, June 30, after unions unanimously backed a national walk-out in a row over pensions. Further action is expected to be taken in the autumn. Members of two of the biggest classroom unions – the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – voted in favour of the strike following proposed changes to their retirement fund. The walk-out is set to cause widespread chaos, leading to enforced closures of up to 23,000 state schools. (read article)

San Jose Public Employee Union Mailer Is a Badge of Honor on Its Targets

Editorial, June 14, 2011, San Jose Mercury News

The need for a ballot measure to deal with pension and compensation reform in San Jose became clearer over the weekend, when hit mailers landed in the districts of five City Council members who had voted to impose pay cuts on unions that failed to agree to them. For voters who enjoy the sleazy side of political campaigns, this was a windfall in a nonelection year: The hits labeling Rose Herrera, Sam Liccardo, Don Rocha, Madison Nguyen and Nancy Pyle as hypocrites were so crammed with lies and, dare we say it, hypocrisy as to be caricatures of a typical campaign attack. We hope the targets consider them a badge of honor for having made difficult decisions for the benefit of the community. (read article)

Public Unions vs. The Unorganized Taxpayers: There Will Be Blood

June 3, 2011, Vision Victory

(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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