Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Raft of labor-backed bills are a challenge for California Gov. Jerry Brown

By David Siders, September 12, 2011, Sacramento Bee

As the Legislature finished in a flurry early Saturday and left town, it left Gov. Jerry Brown in a jam. Among the raft of bills approved in the final hours of the legislative session were several union-backed measures that, if Brown vetoes, could strain his already-complicated relationship with labor and, if he signs, could upset his business friends. Brown is courting both constituencies as he prepares for a likely ballot measure in 2012 to raise taxes. (read article)

The Unintended Consequences of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ Witch Hunt

September 11, 2011, Labor Union Report

In less than two weeks, on September 21st, the public comment period will be closing on a Department of Labor scheme to have employers report the amount of money paid to outside vendors (namely, attorneys, PR firms, website developers, video firms, polling firms and just about every type of communications and human resource consultant) as newly-minted “persuaders.” Once the public comment closes, and because too few people really understand the ramifications to have made comments so far, Hilda Solis and her union cronies inside the Department of Labor will likely issue the new regulations and the union political witch hunt will begin. (read article)

Unions in Rhode Island launch ‘fight back’ campaign over pensions

By Katherine Gregg, September 10, 2011, Providence Journal

“Politicians at the Rhode Island State House are at it again — and your pension is in serious jeopardy.” That is the theme of a “fight back” campaign launched Friday by eight of the state’s public-employee unions, working together as the “Rhode Island Retirement Security Coalition.” By the end of the day Friday, the coalition had sent a mailer containing a “you are about to get steamrolled unless you fight back” warning to more than 30,000 households. It has also posted a 10-minute YouTube video on its website. (read article)

Pension Reform Election in Hollywood, Florida Pits Unions Against City Officials

By Tonya Alanez, September 10, 2011, Sun Sentinel

When residents go to the ballot box Tuesday, they’ll be deciding whether to approve drastic changes to municipal pensions in an effort to help close a $38 million budget gap and firm up this cash-strapped city’s financial footing. The proposed pension changes, which would increase city workers’ retirement ages, eliminate automatic cost-of-living adjustments and alter formulas that calculate pensions, are estimated to bring about $8.5 million in savings. The thought of such changes is hard to stomach for Hollywood Police Officer Greggory Forsyth, 42, who hopes to retire in February after 22 years with an annual pension worth 80% of his salary. If the pension changes pass, he would instead get about 67% of his pay if he retires in February and would have to work five additional years to attain 80%, according to Raelin Storey, the city’s spokeswoman. Watch the city’s pension commercial. (read article)

A Union Goes Too Far: Violence by unionized longshoreman is noticed by the NLRB

Editorial, September 9, 2011, Wall Street Journal

It turns out a union can go so far that even the current National Labor Relations Board can’t turn a blind eye. A grain operator at the Port of Longview in Washington state was hit with a violent strike yesterday by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Longshoreman walked out at nearby ports in Tacoma and Seattle. (read article – subscription required)

Obama pets teachers (again)

By E.J. McMahon, September 9, 2011, Public Sector Inc

Over the past two years, states and local governments across the country used temporary federal stimulus aid to dig themselves into deep budgetary holes from which they are barely beginning to emerge.  Now President Obama wants to hand them a new shovel. His American Jobs Act would set aside $30 billion — among the largest new spending items on the entire $447 billion laundry list– for the retention and rehiring of public school teachers. If the federal government doesn’t subsidize teaching jobs, he implies, we’ll fall behind competitors in Asia. “Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work,” Obama said in his Thursday speech. “These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher.  But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves.” (read article)

California SEIU Local 1000 to Consider Six-Figure Salaries for Its Officers

By Jon Ortiz, September 9, 2011, Sacramento Bee

SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker would receive three times her current wages under a new executive pay proposal that the union’s statewide council will consider at its Sept. 16-19 meeting in Oakland. The plan calls for members serving in Local 1000’s top job to earn a total compensation package of $150,000 per year. In Walker’s case, the union would tack on $103,000 to the $47,000 gross pay she receives as a legal secretary with the Department of Justice. Because Walker is on full-time union paid leave, SEIU already reimburses the state for her salary plus 35 percent to cover her benefits. So in reality, the entire $150,000 would come from union resources. (read article)

Longview labor dispute escalates with union violence, Washington port shutdowns

By Elliot Njus, September 8, 2011, The Oregonian

An already-bitter labor dispute in Longview escalated Thursday as work stopped at major Washington state ports and police reported a surge in threats and violence. Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha said 500 longshoremen “stormed the gates” early Thursday at the port, breaking the windows of a guard shack, driving a private security car into a ditch and cutting the brake lines on rail cars. Protesters also spilled some of the grain in the cars. (read article)

Tea Party Bringing The Sunset to Public Sector Labor Unions?

By Jeffrey Klein, September 8, 2011, West Palm Beach Examiner

There are is something interesting happening in the Wisconsin school system since Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-dominated legislature eliminated collective bargaining rights for state government workers earlier this year. According to Stuart Varney’s television interview of Robert Kraig, head of Citizens Action Wisconsin, on FOX Business News this afternoon, it was learned that Wisconsin teachers are retiring at double the normal rate.  When Varney asked Kraig about this phenomena, he said it was due to their “fear” of having any changes to the level of their existing retirement benefits and, to a lesser degree, because of the required increased contributions they must make toward their own healthcare and retirement funds. (read article)

Maybe Babysitters Should Get Union Cards

By Steven Greenhut, September 8, 2011, Public Sector Inc

There’s probably nothing California legislators could do to shock anyone at this point, but Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s AB 889 is pretty crazy even by our standards. The union-sponsored bill would: “regulate the wages, hours, and working conditions of domestic work employees, provide a private right of action for domestic work employees, including liquidated damages, and would provide an overtime compensation rate for domestic work employees.” (read article)

Labor-unfriendly measures aim for California’s 2012 ballot

By Jon Ortiz, September 8, 2011, Sacramento Bee

A few snippets of state worker news worth watching: Three ballot measures drawing fire from public labor unions can begin collecting signatures, aiming to make a 2012 ballot. The initiatives would end public employee collective bargaining, tax six-figure CalPERS and CalSTRS pensions up to 25 percent and raise the minimum retirement age for members of those retirement systems to 65 (or 58 for sworn public safety officers). Labor teed off after the secretary of state’s Wednesday announcement the measures could circulate. (read article)

Democrats make last-minute push to help AFSCME unionize California child-care workers

By Torey Van Oot, September 8, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Democratic legislative leaders have launched a last-minute push to allow unions to organize child-care providers who work out of the home. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg have drafted legislation that would deliver a major victory to labor allies who have been fighting for years for the right to organize the more than 40,000 family child-care providers operating in California. Assembly Bill 101, sponsored by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, would affect both licensed family child-care providers, who can care for children in their homes, and certain license-exempt providers, including grandparents, relatives and neighbors receiving state subsidies to care for one family. (read article)

California collective bargaining, pension initiatives OK’d for signatures

By Jon Ortiz, September 7, 2011, Sacramento Bee

UC Santa Barbara economics lecturer Lanny Ebenstein can begin collecting signatures for three ballot initiatives that would eliminate public employee collective bargaining, create higher tax rates for six-figure CalPERS and CalSTRS pensions and raise the retirement age for public employees in both systems. The Secretary of State’s office announced today that Ebenstein has until Feb. 3 to collect 807, 615 signatures from qualified voters for each of the measures to put them on a statewide ballot. (read article)

Ban on labor-friendly contracts targeted for ballot in San Diego

By Jen Lebron Kuhney, September 7, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

Contractors have submitted signatures to place a measure on the 2012 ballot that would require city projects stay open to all bidders, not just those who hire through union halls. The proposed initiative would ban the city from so-called project labor agreements, which grant unions preference on contracts. The initiative is similar to a 2010 county ballot measure that passed with more than 75 percent of the vote. The city’s initiative is promoted by the Associated Builders & Contractors of San Diego, Inc. and the Associated General Contractors of San Diego, Inc. (read article)

The Economic Cost of Obama’s Union Label

By Wayne Allyn Root, September 7, 2011, Big Government

I’ve made some uncannily accurate predictions in the past 3 years. Back in 2008, as I ran for Vice President of the United States on the Libertarian Presidential ticket, I made a prediction I’m very proud of today. I said, “Voting for McCain is voting for four more years of Bush. But voting for Obama is voting for four years of Karl Marx.” How’s that working for you? I also predicted that Obama’s entire Presidency would be devoted to saving the union- the teachers union, government employees union, and auto union. Sure enough, the White House now comes adorned with a union label. If you look closely at Obama’s forehead, you’ll find it’s stamped SEIU. Obama’s signature initiative Obamacare affects every American citizen, except union members. Real life under Obama is more shocking than fiction. (read article)

Illinois governor to lay off thousands; AFSCME promises to sue

By Lisa Balde & Mary Ann Ahern, September 6, 2011, NBC Chicago

A decision made by Gov. Pat Quinn may leave thousands of state workers without a job by the end of the week. The cuts are coming in the face of a budget deficit that doesn’t leave enough money to pay the workers, the governor says. Quinn also plans to close a prison, juvenile detention center and homes for the mentally ill. If no cuts are made, several agencies will run out of money by spring, Quinn says. “We can’t spend money we don’t have,” Quinn said Tuesday. The state’s largest government employee union, AFSCME, promises to sue if the layoffs are made, much like they did over blocked pay raises. (read article)

About the author: 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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