Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

How Illinois’ Governor sold out the state to AFSCME

Editorial, October 4, 2011, Chicago Tribune

Selling out Illinois. We used that headline a year ago when news broke that Gov. Pat Quinn had cut a craven deal with AFSCME, the state’s largest employees union. The governor agreed that the state, though it faced massive debts, would not lay off a single state worker or close any state institutions for nearly two years, through June 2012. In exchange, the union made some minor cost concessions. Within days of the deal, the union endorsed the governor’s bid for election. Think that was pure coincidence? Quinn brought the state budget director to his endorsement interview with AFSCME. Quinn sold out the state. And now his feeble bid to unravel his own craven deal has been stomped down by an arbitrator. (read article)

San Francisco Pension Reform Donors Tied to Anti-Union Efforts

By Heather Knight, October 4, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is billing his pension reform measure on the Nov. 8 ballot as a progressive effort to protect city services for children, seniors and the poor – and has bristled at the notion it’s an attack on unions. But the two main contributors to Proposition D – venture capitalist Michael Moritz and businessman George Hume, who have donated $250,000 apiece – have also contributed to Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin who supported those states’ polarizing, national-headline-grabbing efforts this year to curb unions’ rights dramatically. (read article)

California Gov. Brown signs dubious bill targeting anti-PLA laws

Editorial, October 3, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

Gov. Jerry Brown is among those who grouse about the Legislature’s “gut and amend” procedure, in which leaders completely rewrite bills in the final days of a legislative session and then rush them to passage with little public scrutiny. But a lack of transparency isn’t the only problem; as SB 922 illustrates, “gut and amend” also results in poorly written bills that sow confusion. At the behest of Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, SB 922 morphed from a measure about public health policies involving tuberculosis into a ban on the use of state money for projects undertaken by cities or counties if those cities or counties have laws blocking project labor agreements. Such deals favor unionized companies in bidding for public construction contracts. (read article)

State action muddies impact of San Diego ban on labor-friendly pacts

By Jen Lebron Kuhney, October 3, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

Voters in San Diego will get to decide on a measure that could restrict the city from entering into labor-friendly construction contracts, but the scope of the so-called ban came into question Monday. Uncertainty about what the ballot measure would actually do came in the wake of legislation that would shut off state funding to cities and counties that use blanket bans on what are known as project labor agreements. Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Sunday he signed Senate Bill 922, which would bar all agencies that maintain bans on the agreements from using state money on projects. (read article)

California’s Gov. Brown Hands Out More Union Gifts

By Katy Grimes, October 3, 2011, CalWatchdog.com

For unions, Gov. Jerry Brown is the governor who keeps on giving. He announced over the weekend that he signed SB 922, by state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair. The bill will end “fair and open competition” policies, and terminate any Project Labor Agreement bans enacted by city and county governments. Brown even included a signing message in which he proclaimed the bill to be “fair” and “democratic.” He said, “In fact, this bill preserves the right of all sides to debate what obviously is a hotly contested issue. Seems fair to me — even democratic.” But SB 922 was rushed through the Legislature in a most undemocratic way, with undemocratic results. Written only one week before it was eventually passed, SB 922 will actually do the opposite of what Brown’s signing message said. It suppresses the competition rights of small businesses and infringes on local governments’ ability to use free-market, non-union construction labor. And it’s already mandated by the state that all employees must receive union wages and benefits, even if they are not union members, when working on public projects. PLAs result in either nonunion workers having to apply for union membership, and pay dues, in order to work on public projects. Or workers are just hired through unions. Either way, small nonunion businesses end up not being able to compete for public contracts. (read article)

Top Chicago union leader steps down after pension revelations

By Jason Grotto, October 3, 2011, Chicago Tribune

The head of one of the largest labor unions in Chicago resigned Monday in the wake of reports that he had been receiving a six-figure city pension while participating in a second pension plan from his local union, in violation of state law. Tim Foley, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, submitted his resignation to the executive board of the 15,000-member union, which represents city, county and McCormick Place electricians as well as thousands of electricians working for private contractors. He had held the post for the last five years. “Recent focus in news reports has impacted how we are perceived by the public,” Foley said in a Local 134 news release. “Placing each of the 15,000 members and their families ahead of me is the easy part of my decision to resign.” (read article)

Right-to-work drive gains steam in Michigan

By Andrea Billups, October 3, 2011, Washington Times

In this historic stronghold of the American labor movement, the phrase “right to work” is seen by many as fighting words. But with a new GOP-controlled state Legislature and a Republican governor in place in Lansing, a move is afoot to make Michigan the 23rd state in the nation to adopt legislation that would prohibit unions and employers from regulating collection of union dues or requiring employees to join a union if their workplace is organized. “We’ve got growing and substantial support in the Legislature for pursuing Michigan becoming a right-to-work state, but this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s all about making sure we are removing all obstacles to jobs,” said state Rep. Mike Shirkey, Clarklake Republican. “Everyone acknowledges that overcoming the 75-plus-year history of legacy unions here is not something you do overnight. But some of the polls statewide indicate the public is moving toward a direction of supporting workers having the choice,” he said. (read article)

Researcher pokes holes in study that claims public sector workers are paid less

By Teri Sforza, September 30, 2011, Orange County Register

We told you this morning about a study from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence which concludes that public sector workers earn about 4 percent less than private sector workers. It warns that, before state and local governments start slashing pension benefits and retiree willy-nilly in an attempt to control costs, they should carefully weigh the impact of such moves on their ability to attract and retain workers. Well, there’s nothing we at The Watchdog love more than a good knock-down drag-out between scholarly types. And this morning, we heard from Andrew G. Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.), with a rather detailed 12-page critique of the new study. (read article)

Cal State Union Calls For Mobs And Bullying

By Steven Greenhut, September 29, 2011, CalWatchdog.com

The California State University Employees Union is encouraging its members to intimidate people who are gathering signatures for a so-called “Paycheck Protection Initiative” that would limit the ability of unions to use automatic payroll deductions to gain political contributions from their members. Whatever one’s views of this specific initiative, the tactics CSUEU is employing are so reprehensible that they are viewed as unethical even by another leader of a prominent public-sector union organization. In a mailing sent to members, CSUEU encourages opponents of the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” to “call the Service Employees International Union California State Council at (877) 440-9585 to report where signature gathering is taking place.” Then, “Logistics permitting, State Council will send out one or more trained, well-informed activists to the site to inform potential signers of the truth about the petition. Their purpose is to provide voter education …” (read article)

California appellate court sides with Orange County sheriff’s deputies’ union over jail jobs

By Kimberly Edds, September 29, 2011, Orange County Register

The County of Orange was unfair to the Sheriff’s deputies union when it moved deputies out of jailhouse jobs and replaced them with civilian jailers in an attempt to save as much as $34 million a year, a California Court of Appeal ruled. The appellate court also upheld an order by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino barring the Sheriff’s Department from making any staffing changes at its jails – for now. Caught in the middle of the fight is the department’s Correctional Services Assistants program – which trains civilians in jail operations to work along with sworn deputies. Eventually, the department hopes CSAs will make up as much as 35 percent of its jail staffing. Union officials repeatedly warned the Sheriff’s Department beginning in 2008 that the department cannot replace deputies with civilians without first meeting and conferring with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. (read article)

How Unions Can Help Innovation

By Gary Shapiro, September 29, 2011, Fox & Hounds

President Obama is the most union-friendly president in decades, but his pro-labor tilt has hurt U.S. job creation. Consider how in just the last few months, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has discouraged companies from investing in the United States and hiring American workers. In just the past year, the NLRB has forbid Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina, which would employ around 1,000 people; amended unionization rules that all but legalize “card-check,” which was so anti-business it couldn’t even pass a Democratic Congress; and, just last month, required that employers litter their workplaces with guidelines for unionization. Since the days when my dad was a union organizer Big Labor has done some great things for American workers. But today’s unions have expanded their primary mission – protecting workers – to the point where they are actively attacking businesses. Not coincidentally, private-sector union membership has sunk considerably in recent decades, as more and more workers realize that the goal of unions is to grow the unions and expand labor leaders’ political power. (read article)

Five San Jose unions offer pension concessions

By John Woolfolk, September 29, 2011, San Jose Mercury News

Five unions representing San Jose police officers, firefighters and other workers offered pension reductions for current and future employees Wednesday, contending that they would save nearly half a billion dollars in retirement costs over five years and avoid a long, costly court fight with the city. Retired officers and firefighters also stepped up with an offer to reduce annual cost-of-living raises on their pensions and retirement bonus checks. “No one here today doubts that San Jose faces tough budget times,” John Mukhar, a senior city engineer representing a union of some 200 city engineers and architects, said at a news conference. “Our proposal is a good-faith effort to meet the city halfway.” (read article)

Cal State faculty union seeks strike authorization

By Carla Rivera, September 28, 2011, Los Angeles Times

A Cal State faculty union Wednesday asked its members to authorize strikes at campuses after the university’s administration rejected a compromise proposal to pay previously negotiated raises. The California Faculty Assn. called for a series of actions, up to and including strikes, on Nov. 17 at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay. The association represents 24,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches at 23 Cal State campuses. The group is protesting a decision by Chancellor Charles Reed to withhold pay raises negotiated for the  2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years. The raises stalled when the state cut education funding. Recently, a state-appointed fact-finding panel endorsed a 1.3%  increase. (read article)

‘The Chicago Way’ is bankrupting our nation

By Howard Rich, September 26, 2011, NetRight Daily

By Howard Rich — As Barack Obama’s radical appointees on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continue their jihad against American jobs and the free market economy, many have wondered: From where does Obama get the nerve? Based on what warped ideological mooring does the leader of the free world summon the “audacity” to tell private companies where they can (or in Boeing’s case, “can’t”) locate new jobs? That’s easy — it’s “The Chicago Way.” Obama’s hometown sets the standard for union appeasement — although a quick look at the Windy City’s pro-union excesses reveals just how corrupt and unsustainable such practices are. (read article)

Redding, California’s Union Contracts Change Slowly, But in the Right Direction

Editorial, September 26, 2011, Record Searchlight

Change is coming at the deliberative pace of government — to outsiders, that’s painfully slow — but ballot measures that Redding residents overwhelmingly approved last fall to curb costly retirement benefits for city employees are increasingly taking effect. Labor contracts the City Council approved last week — with utility linemen and with firefighters — combine the substantial savings of Measure A and Measure B with reduced pension formulas for newly hired workers, moves that promise more sustainable city finances over time. The talks were contentious, but change is vital. (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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