Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

AFSCME’s War on Workers & Taxpayers: A Look Inside The AFSCME Playbook

By LaborUnionReport, July 26, 2011, RedState.com

Last year, when Larry Scanlon, the Director of Political Operations for one of the nation’s largest government unions, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), stated “the more members coming in, the more dues coming in, the more money we have for politics,” it was symbolic of a system corrupted by union bosses who enrich themselves at the expense of America’s taxpayers. While AFSCME and other government unions are settling contracts that require members to pay more for their health insurance and retirement, as well as furlough days, to rein in out-of-control budgets, with the exception of a few states like Arizona, New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin, the government-union power structure is being left almost wholly intact. (read article)

Unions cry fire in a crowded democracy

By Paul Jacob, July 31, 2011, Townhall.com

In the Dr. Seuss tale, the Grinch kept pressing himself, “I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming!” Then, the Grinch “got a wonderful awful idea.” The same thing happened last week in California. A new Grinch-of-a-group with a shadowy identity started running a radio advertisement all across the state’s many expensive media markets. The apparent goal? To keep democracy from coming. The group calls itself Californians Against Identity Theft (CAIT) and the radio spot is about identity theft. Well . . . sorta. Not really, though. It’s actually an attempt to frighten people about identity theft so that they will refrain from engaging in the democratic process by signing petitions to place citizen initiative measures on the ballot for voters to decide. A number of petitions now gather up steam for a batch of newly proposed ballot initiatives, some strongly opposed by organized labor. (read article)

Latest Intimidation Tactic Is a Public Relations Disaster for California’s Unions

By Jon Coupal, August 1, 2011, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

As much as we would like to think that labor unions have abandoned their threatening and often illegal behavior to get what they want, in the public sector things are only getting worse. The latest bit of thuggery is an advertising campaign launched by the unions to dissuade voters from exercising their rights to sign initiative petitions. As reported in several media outlets, a union-backed effort has created a website and begun running radio commercial under the name “Californians Against Identity Theft.” These scary ads warn that anyone who signs an initiative petition — frequently gathered in front of big box stores — runs the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. Usually, even the most deceptive political ads have at least a grain of truth. But not here. There is no factual basis for the suggestion that signing a ballot petition would put one at risk for identity theft. (read article)

California labor unions fight initiative signature drives

By Torey Van Oot, July 30, 2011, Sacramento Bee

As solicitors for more than a dozen initiatives hit California’s streets for petition signatures to get the issues on next year’s ballot, labor unions targeted by potential measures are starting to fight back. The Service Employees International Union in California is urging members to call a hotline to deploy “Think Before You Ink” teams to talk voters out of signing a measure that would restrict their ability to automatically deduct dues from members’ paychecks for political purposes. Another union-backed effort has launched a website and radio ads under the name Californians Against Identity Theft, warning potential petition signers that, among other things, their personal information could be shipped to India. Initiative backers and government watchdogs are crying foul, charging that the efforts are cynical and hypocritical attempts to tamp down California’s storied direct democracy. (read article)

Government Unions and the Bankrupting of America

By Daniel DiSalvo, July 25, 2011, Encounter Broadsides

(watch video)

Ken Hamidi battles SEIU Local 1000 again over union’s audit

By Paresh Dave, July 28, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Ken Hamidi hasn’t given up his quest to decertify the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, but the union says his efforts are not gaining much traction. The numbers show how much money the union spends on direct representation such as collective bargaining compared to what’s considered under state and federal law to be non-germane to direct representation, including donations to election campaigns. In 2010, 32 percent of the union’s spending was designated as non-germane. Included in that category was $5.4 million for political activity and $12.9 million for meetings and activities with affiliated groups. Hamidi and other formal “challengers” argue that the union’s audit, done by an independent firm, is incorrect and that the percentage of non-germane spending is actually higher. (read article)

Come Fly the Union Skies: Ray LaHood shuts down the FAA to preserve a Big Labor advantage

Editorial, July 29, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Americans may be wondering what this week’s partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration is all about, given that it doesn’t have anything to do with the debt ceiling. We wondered too, but mystery solved: Democrats have furloughed nearly 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 workers at airport construction projects to preserve a White House indulgence for Big Labor. This episode is another lesson in Washington intrigue. The FAA was last reauthorized in 2007, and it has since been strung along with 20 separate temporary funding measures. Senate Democrats and House Transportation Chairman John Mica, Republican of Florida, have been trying… (read article – subscription required)

Contract negotiations with public employee unions should be made public, by law

Editorial, July 29, 2011, Orange County Register

For significant reform to be forged on public employee compensation, taxpayers need more information from and a stronger voice at the bargaining table. A more open collective-bargaining process will give taxpayers that desperately needed presence in the discussion and hopefully lead to significant reform measures. As such, contract negotiations with public employee unions should be made public, by law. The current system requires lawmakers – or, more typically, their staff – to negotiate with union representatives behind closed doors. In many cases, both sides at the negotiating table have a vested interested in better pay and benefits for the employees. (read article)

Six Hefty Union Perks That Cost Illinois Taxpayers

By Nancy Thorner, July 21, 2011, Champion News

Illinois has a vast bureaucracy which requires many unionized government workers. Every dollar paid to a public employee must come from a local, state, or federal taxpayer. There is a large number of these unionized workers in Illinois whose livelihoods depend entirely upon the capacity of profit-earning people to pay ever increasing taxes. There is no question that Gov. Pat Quinn is right to try to kill promised pay raises for about 30,000 state employees, as it is state worker union leadership which is driving Illinois off the cliff. To add to the problem, Illinois, unlike many other states, is continuing to increase its union membership. Even Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking the common sense approach when on Friday, July 14 he announced that layoff notices would go out to as many as 625 city workers. (read article)

AFSCME campaign asks Evanston, Illinois residents to rethink outsourcing

By Bob Seidenberg, July 26, 2011, Evanston News

With city officials looking more and more at outsourcing services to private vendors, one of the city’s major unions is urging residents to take a closer look at the practice. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1891, which represents Public Works employees, library employees and a wide range of white-collar workers in the city among its 300 members, recently launched a campaign to urge citizens to support keeping public services in public hands. The group’s petition can be found at SaveEvanstonServices.org. The union hopes to educate citizens that privatizing should not be seen as a solve-all, but rather may work against the city’s interests in the long run. (read article)

Public-Employee Unions Underestimate the Magnitude of California’s Unfunded Pension Liability

By Ed Ring, July 27, 2011, City Journal

With the day of reckoning approaching for California’s lavish but disastrously underfunded public-employee pensions, union partisans have tried to persuade the public that reformers are engaged in “pension busting.” But to believe that reformers are waging a partisan vendetta against state workers’ pensions would require ignoring a mountain of data. The fact is, only by skewing the averages can the unions maintain that they’re victims of a campaign against their “modest” pensions. The union arguments are deceptively straightforward, rehearsed constantly by their talking heads and, unfortunately, repeated by a sympathetic and innumerate media. (read article)

Layoff Notices in Connecticut Top 3,000 As Unions Prepare To Vote

By Christopher Keating, July 27, 2011, Hartford Courant

As the state employee unions wait to vote on a new concessions agreement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday that he has now issued more than 3,000 layoff notices in more than 30 departments and agencies. The notices have been increasing recently —1,157 since last week. The overall total is now 3,008. Although thousands of state workers have received their notices, administration officials say fewer than 160 will have actually left their jobs by week’s end. But that will change. The largest number of employees — 1,872 — would leave their jobs during the week of Aug. 22 if the revised concessions deal is not ratified. That includes 57 rookie state troopers who have a six-week advance notification in their contract. (read article)

California’s Public Employee Pensions Are Anything But Modest

By Steven Malanga, July 27, 2011, Washington Examiner

Recent polls show that public opinion is turning against government workers because of their rich pay and benefits — especially pension benefits. A spring poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California, to take one example, found that 70 percent of Californians favored a cap on public employees’ pensions because of the widespread perception that pension costs have become a crushing burden to state and local governments. Unions have counterattacked by claiming that government pensions are actually quite modest. They argue, for instance, that the average annual pension of a state worker is under $30,000 in California and even less in New Jersey and New York. But their figures are misleading to say the least. (read article)

The White House vs. Boeing: The Obama Administration opposes a bill to rein in the NLRB

Editorial, July 28, 2011, Wall Street Journal

Teenagers in the 1960s listened to Beatles records backwards in search of hidden meanings—a trick akin to the task of deciphering President Obama’s statements on the battle between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board. Since the NLRB sued the airplane company in April to prevent it from building a new plant in South Carolina, Mr. Obama’s position has alternated between silent and incomprehensible. At a press conference in June, the mellifluous one said he felt that “as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate.” In case… (read article – subscription required)

Police in Costa Mesa Earn an Extra 2.5%, Which Counts Toward Their Pensions, for Wearing Their Uniforms

By Brian Calle, July 28, 2011, Orange County Register

Public employee unions have made much ado about a supposed right-wing assault on government workers, in particular, their collective-bargaining rights. In California, the epicenter of that debate has been in Costa Mesa, where the City Council, faced with a daunting budget deficit, issued layoff notices – since temporarily blocked by a judge – to about half the city’s workforce and is exploring outsourcing many services. Some people have been persuaded that the approach of the Costa Mesa council, like that taken by the governor of Wisconsin, is little more than an ideological attack on government unions. But when looking at the fruits of collective bargaining by these unions, it is easy to see otherwise. (read article)

After $700,000 Award to Union Boss, San Diego City Council Takes Back Final Say on Pension Settlements

By Craig Gustafson, July 26, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego city retirement board will no longer be able to unilaterally approve legal settlements without approval from city leaders under an ordinance adopted Tuesday by the City Council. The change comes in response to the retirement board’s decision last year to award a $700,000 settlement to a former labor leader despite a judge’s determination that she wasn’t owed anything beyond a $5,700-a-year pension. The pension board opted for a deal to avoid further litigation. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith tried to challenge the deal in court. It was upheld because an obscure provision in a broader agreement approved by the council in 2008 gave pension officials the ability to settle cases without city permission. (read article)

Battle over pension spiking bill; CalSTRS and teachers union say current workers have inviolable vested rights

By John Fensterwald, July 26, 2011, Thoughts on Public Education

The California Teachers Association and the state teachers retirement system are pushing for significant changes to SB 27, Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill that would prevent “spiking,” the practice of larding on compensation near retirement to boost a public employee’s pension – a practice that is drawing increasing scrutiny. It also would limit the types of compensation that would be used in calculating a standard pension. The late-in-coming amendments pose a new challenge to the bill, which raced through the Senate without opposition, and could spur a larger discussion on pension changes. A similar bill by Simitian passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because it was tied to another pension bill that troubled him. (read article)

Palo Alto, California’s Largest Union Agrees to Two-Tiered Pension System

By Gennady Sheyner, July 26, 2011, Palo Alto Weekly

With fiscal deficits looming on Palo Alto’s horizon, pay freezes have become the new normal for the city’s largest workers union. The City Council voted Monday night to extend its current agreement with the Service Employees International Union, Local 521, which represents 582 city employees. The contract, which the council approved 8-0 with Greg Schmid absent, extends the city’s current agreement with the SEIU until June 30, 2012. The council’s vote took place after a brief discussion and no public opposition from the union, which includes police dispatchers, utility workers, building inspectors, city planners, library clerks and representatives from just about every department in City Hall. It extends what has now been the council’s three-year trend of reducing benefits and containing salaries of some of the city’s lowest-paid employees. (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.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!