Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

California’s Gov. Brown vetoes union-sponsored legislation

By Paresh Dave, July 25, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown today vetoed a union-sponsored measure that would have mandated the make-up of local civil service commissions. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was the source of Assembly Bill 455 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, which cleared the Legislature on party-line votes. The measure called for requiring local versions of the State Personnel Board to have half of its members appointed by the local government’s elected officials and the other half nominated by the largest local public sector union in the jurisdiction. AFSCME said the bill “would ensure that the commissions will be more balanced and fair.” But Brown expressed concerns in his veto message, saying the bill imposed a “top down, one-size-fits-all solution on all merit and personnel commissions statewide.” (read article)

Unions are top financial supporter of San Bernardino council race winner

By Brian Rokos, July 25, 2011, Press-Enterprise

The San Bernardino police and fire unions contributed $32,763 in cash and services to Robert Jenkins in the final weeks of the City Council Ward 2 campaign, an election that Jenkins won with almost twice as many votes as his nearest challenger. According to campaign fundraising documents filed with the city clerk, all but $1,820 of the contributions Jenkins received during the May 29 to June 25 reporting period came from the two public safety unions. (read article)

Ohio voters will get to decide fate of union law

By Ann Sanner, July 23, 2011, Associated Press

Ohio voters will get to decide in November whether to repeal the state’s new collective bargaining law, which would let public worker unions negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. The state’s elections chief said Thursday that opponents had gathered enough valid signatures to put the question before voters. The measure is now suspended from taking effect until voters have their say. The law signed by GOP Gov. John Kasich in late March affects more than 350,000 public workers, including police officers, firefighters, teachers and state employees. Aside from restricting bargaining, it bans strikes and gets rid of automatic pay increases, replacing them with merit raises or performance pay. (read article)

NFL lockout shows unions hurt the economy

By Conn Carroll, July 24, 2011, Washington Examiner

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the first casualty of football’s latest labor dispute Thursday night: The Aug. 7 Hall of Fame Game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears has been canceled. Whether any of the rest of the preseason, or even the regular season, will happen is anyone’s guess. But one thing is certain: This lockout shows why labor unions are bad for business. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Before the lockout began, liberal groups like the Center for American Progress were actually touting the negotiations as an opportunity to show “not just to NFL fans but to all Americans … that collective bargaining — the process where unionized workers and management negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions — can create significant benefits for workers and owners.” (read article)

San Rafael, California Believes Union Concessions Will Save Millions; Critics Not So Sure

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax, July 24, 2011, Marin Independent Journal

San Rafael officials believe recently minted two-year contracts with all of its labor groups that included pay cuts and pension formula adjustments will save the city millions. The City Council earlier this week approved 4 percent pay decreases for current employees and lesser pension benefits for new hires, a move officials say will save San Rafael $1.4 million each year for the next two years and ultimately millions more dollars over the next two decades. Nonetheless, at least one critic worries the pension concessions are too superficial to offset the city’s massive liability. (read article)

DC Court of Appeals quashes SEC’s attempt to empower unions

Editorial, July 25, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Unutterably mindless.” That was one of the choice phrases the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals offered Friday in its ruling on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s latest attempt to give unions more sway over corporate boards. The judicial smackdown, which overturns an SEC rule, raises some embarrassing questions about the competence of the agency’s lawyers—and the political motivations of its leadership. The controversy centers around how public companies communicate with shareholders and nominate new board members. Typically, companies pick their own board nominees and send a packet of information about them, along with ballots, to shareholders through so-called proxy statements… (read article – subscription required)

Federal Workers More Likely to Die Than Lose Jobs

By Dennis Cauchon, July 19, 2011, USA Today

Federal employees’ job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations. The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance, says John Palguta, former research chief at the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, which handles federal firing disputes. (read article)

Good days but a bad year for labor

By Eric Zorn, July 19, 2011, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday was a good day for organized labor in Illinois. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the state’s largest public-employee union in the battle over Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to withhold a 2 percent pay raise that was to kick in this month for some 30,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A week ago Monday was also a good day for labor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit blocked an effort by McCormick Place officials to apply state-imposed work rules designed to make it less expensive for convention exhibitors to come to Chicago. But these are isolated good days and perhaps only temporary victories (both will be appealed in court) in what is otherwise a very grim time for unions. (read article)

San Diego City Attorney Seeks Restrictions on Pension Settlements After $700,000 Deal With Ex-Union Leader

By Craig Gustafson, July 19, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

The decision by the San Diego city retirement board to award a $700,000 settlement to a former labor leader has been held up in court, leading City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to push a proposal that would prevent the board from cutting similar deals without City Council approval in the future. Goldsmith’s request goes before the council Monday and is borne out of frustration that pension officials unnecessarily settled with ex-union head Judie Italiano despite a judge’s ruling that she wasn’t owed anything beyond her $5,700-a-year pension. (read article)

No union, including SEIU, should be above the law

Editorial, July 19, 2011, Washington Examiner

Imagine the outcry if managers of a company trying to fight off a union seeking to organize its employees used the following tactics: Stage regular mass visits or sit-ins using paid protesters at the union’s headquarters to prevent its officials from doing their work. Organize constant telephone calls to targeted union officials to harass them into backing off their campaign. Plant negative stories about the union to jeopardize its relationships with managers and owners of community institutions the union must depend on to maintain daily operations, including banks or credit unions, office suppliers, caterers, utilities, and landlords. Use friends and allies in government to generate costly legal and regulatory pressure on the union. (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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