Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Hilda Solis, Secretary of Unions

By Charles W. Baird, October 10, 2011, The Freeman

Lenin argued that communism is so obviously virtuous that any worker who resists it must be a victim of “false consciousness.” He cannot think straight because his oppressors have muddled his brain. Hilda Solis, Obama’s secretary of unions – oops, labor – thinks a bit like Lenin. She thinks labor unions are so obviously virtuous that any worker who votes against unionization does so only because evil labor relations consultants have conspired with the worker’s malevolent employer to muddle the worker’s brain. Public comments on Solis’s proposed rule to impede labor relations consultants who advise employers on how legally to avoid unionization ended on September 21. Despite an overwhelming preponderance of comments against the proposed rule, Solis seems intent on proceeding. The 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act was enacted to try to clean up union corruption like that portrayed in the 1954 film On The Waterfront. (read article)

California governor signs one union measure, vetoes another

By Dan Smith, October 10, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a union-backed bill prohibiting grocery stores from selling beer, wine or liquor using electronic self-checkout lanes, Brown announced this morning. Assembly Bill 183, by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, was supported by labor and police chiefs, who said it could deter underage drinking. Business groups and grocers said existing oversight is sufficient and blamed labor interests for trying to block Fresh & Easy, a nonunion chain that uses only staff-supervised self-checkout lanes. Fresh & Easy said in a prepared statement Monday that “we are disappointed that politics has prevailed over solid judgment.” (read article)

All Doubt Removed: Jerry Brown Is a Tool of Labor

By Jon Coupal, October 10, 2011, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Notwithstanding the fact that the government employee unions were the biggest financial backers of Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial race against Meg Whitman, he repeatedly assured us that he would govern independently. After all, he said, he is older and wiser, not interested in higher office and has nothing to prove. But the political version of the Golden Rule (He who has the gold, rules) was in full play toward the end of last week. Indeed, labor’s campaign contributions to Jerry turned out to be a golden investment. (read article)

New California law makes local-government bankruptcy more difficult

By Anthony York, October 9, 2011, Los Angeles Times

Local governments will face more hurdles to declaring bankruptcy under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday. Under the new law, written by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), cities would have undergo an evaluation from a neutral third party or declare a fiscal emergency, stating it will default on its bills within 60 days before it can claim insolvency. “This bill does not prevent a municipality from declaring bankruptcy or even throw roadblocks in its path,” Brown wrote in his signing message. “The goal is to find alternative, less drastic solutions whenever possible.” The issue has pitted cities against organized labor in a pitched Capitol battle since 2008. That’s when Vallejo filed for Chapter 9 protection, seeking to free itself from existing contracts with firefighter unions and others. (read article)

Illinois union leaders pull down millions in public pensions

By Andrew Thomason, October 7, 2011, Illinois Statehouse News

Illinois taxpayers are on the hook to make sure union officials’ six-figure pensions keep flowing for years to come. Former employees of the National Education Association, or NEA, Illinois Education Association, or IEA, Illinois Federation of Teachers, or IFT, and Illinois Association of School Boards, or IASB, drawing pensions have collected more than $47 million from the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, or TRS, to date. “The union leaders who are not government workers are draining millions of dollars from the hard working rank-and-file public employee’s pension system each year. This is flat out unacceptable for taxpayers and for public employees,” said Adam Andrzejewsk, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor and now runs his own group, For the Good of Illinois, a nonprofit that calls for “limited, accountable and transparent government.” (read article)

How Illinois’ Education Union Leaders Will Get Public Pensions for Their Time Working for Private Unions

October 7, 2011, Illinois Statehouse News (watch video)

Backers of California ‘paycheck protection’ measure submit signatures

By Torey Van Oot, October 7, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Proponents of an initiative to prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues from members’ paychecks for political purposes say they’ve collected more than 900,000 voter signatures in hopes of placing the measure on next year’s ballot. The so-called “paycheck protection” measure would ban contributions to candidate-controlled committees by corporations and labor unions. Contractors that receive government contracts could not donate to the officeholder who awarded the contract. “This initiative gets to the heart of one of the most corrosive elements in politics: campaign contributions,” former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, a supporter of the initiative drive, said in a statement. “For too long, special interest money has dominated our politics, muting the voice of average Californians. (read article)

Building in a union monopoly in California

By Gary Galles, October 7, 2011, Orange County Register

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed all three of the Legislature’s “gut and amend” bills supporting mandatory union labor on public works projects, at other Californians’ expense. Senate Bill 922, morphed from a measure about tuberculosis reporting to one barring local governments from banning so-called project labor agreements. Also signed by Brown were Assembly Bill 436 and SB790. Both bills “benefit PLAs by exempting local governments from some fees if they require contractors to adopt a project labor agreement and by requiring public utilities to pay into a union-controlled fund actively promoting such agreements,” according to Ben Boychuk, a writer on California politics and associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s quarterly City Journal. (read article)

New president of Massachusetts AFL-CIO aims to expand union organizing

By John J. Monahan, October 6, 2011, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

State Sen. Steven A. Tolman was elected yesterday as the new leader of the state’s 400,000-member AFL-CIO and pledged new efforts to stop the erosion of the middle class and expand union organizing. Mr. Tolman, D-Brighton, said he wants to see unions that broke away from the umbrella labor organization in past years come back into the AFL-CIO to strengthen union influence. A railroad worker union leader in Boston before entering politics, he said he plans to resign his Senate seat, possibly as soon as next week. (read article)

Unions, lawmakers target California’s grocers

By Tim Mason, October 6, 2011, Orange County Register

We often hear tales of businesses fleeing California, taking good jobs to other states with less regulations and more stable business climates. But the story of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is different. Since November 2007, Fresh & Easy has invested well over a billion dollars in California, opened 133 stores and three fresh food manufacturing facilities, and created more than 4,000 good jobs with competitive pay and comprehensive benefits. We’ve worked hard to create a thoughtful business built on three simple beliefs: we offer great food our customers can trust; we are a great place to work; and we believe everyone deserves fresh, wholesome food at affordable prices regardless of where they live. This is why we open stores in all different types of neighborhoods, from San Diego to South Los Angeles to San Francisco. (read article)

Defy unions more often, Gov. Brown

Editorial, October 6, 2011, Orange County Register

Gov. Jerry Brown has been predictable and unpredictable in signing and vetoing legislation this session, but has a few more important decisions to make before Sunday’s deadline to decide the fate of bills still on his desk. We were pleased the governor vetoed Assembly Bill 101, which would have forced unionization of child-care workers without a vote by those affected. To his credit, Gov. Brown criticized this union-backed bill for its magnitude and potential cost. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation. Occasionally, common sense crosses party lines. (read article)

California tries to raise the cost of construction projects

Editorial, October 5, 2011, Wall Street Journal

We keep hearing that the U.S. needs better roads, bridges and other public works. But then why do politicians keep making it so much more expensive to build them? In the latest example, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Sunday that attempts to prevent California cities from banning government-mandated project labor agreements, or PLAs. PLAs are pre-hire agreements that contractors negotiate with labor unions. Construction firms must generally agree to play by union work… (read article – subscription required)

Lessons in Alinsky: An AFL-CIO Conference Teaches Targeting & Manipulating Workers

Update, October 5, 2011, Labor Union Report

This past weekend, the AFL-CIO played host to “more than 800 young people” at a conference in Minneapolis in an effort energize young activists to go forth and multiply the members by targeting America’s youth. As noted last week, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis attended the organizing “summit” and the labor secretary used some of her 30-minute speech to call for passage of the AFL-CIO’s American Jobs Act, as well as to take potshots at the Tea Party (beginning at 29:00 here). Interestingly, one of the documents linked on the conference website spelled out in greater candor why the AFL-CIO is trying so hard to attract younger members. (read article)

California Gov. Brown delivers blows to organized labor with vetoes

By David Siders, October 5, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have let unions organize child-care providers who work out of the home. Brown also vetoed a Democratic-carried bill to eliminate California’s $4,650 vehicle asset limit for welfare recipients. On a rare day conservatives cheered him, the Democratic governor cited the precarious condition of the state budget in both cases. “Today California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges,” Brown wrote in his message vetoing the child-care bill. “Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost.” (read article)

Albany’s collective bargaining confusion

By E.J. McMahon, October 4, 2011, Empire Center

Now that the state Public Employees Federation (PEF) has rejected a proposed contract, Governor Andrew Cuomo is moving forward with 3,500 layoffs.  Or, then again, maybe not. This article in the Albany Times Union suggests there is an 80 percent likelihood the governor and union will reach a new deal without layoffs.  The newspaper also reports that “Cuomo is demanding that any modifications have no costs.” “No costs”?  How about those savings of “$75 million this fiscal year, $92 million next fiscal year, and almost $400 million over the contract term” that the governor was supposedly counting on? (read article)

Connecticut teachers union pushes for power to set teacher standards

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, September 30, 2011, CT Mirror

The state’s largest teachers union is urging state legislators to remove the authority to set certification and ethical standards for teachers from the State Department of Education and have an autonomous panel led by educators determine those requirements for themselves. “You’ll find teachers are harder on other teachers than anyone else will ever be because they know the job,” said Mary Loftus Levine, the executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, calling this a top agenda item of hers. “This will elevate the profession.” The question of how standards should be set is under review now by the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee, which will hold a public hearing in November on the topic and make some final recommendations in December. (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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