Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Gov. Brown’s pension fixes have to get past California’s employee unions

Editorial, October 30, 2011, Orange County Register

We applaud Gov. Jerry Brown for his 12-point pension reform, but not too loudly. It features many obviously long-overdue fixes to the state’s broken public workers’ retirement system. But why have these blatantly obvious remedies taken so long? We also wonder whether Mr. Brown, elected last year thanks to millions of dollars from public worker unions, may be going through the motions, aware these belated fixes could die in the Legislature, whose members also owe their jobs to union contributions. Is the governor superficially fulfilling a campaign promise, aware his union allies will strip his reforms of meaningful impact in deliberations? (read article)

Brown Risks Wrath of Public Employee Unions With California Pension Overhaul Plan

By Stephen Clark, October 29, 2011, Fox News

Gov. Jerry Brown’s newly unveiled plan for a sweeping overhaul of the state’s pension system seeks rollbacks that are deeper than what the Democratic governor proposed in the spring, and risks putting him at odds with the very unions that helped power his return to the statehouse last year. Brown outlined his long-term vision for turning around California on Thursday with his plan to move new state workers to a hybrid retirement system where guaranteed benefits are combined with a 401(k)-style plan. Civil state employees hired after the plan takes effect would be eligible for full retirement benefits at 67, instead of 60. He also wants current employees to contribute at least half of the cost of their pension benefits. (read article)

California Gov. Jerry Brown risks backlash on pension reform plan from fellow Democrats and public employee unions

By Anthony York and Michael J. Mishak, October 28, 2011, Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a sweeping overhaul of California pensions that would require public employees to pay more for their retirement and cut benefits for those hired in the future, setting the stage for a fierce battle with fellow Democrats and some of his main political supporters: unions representing government workers. Brown’s 12-point plan, announced Thursday, would require that all public workers have at least half the cost of their pensions deducted from their paychecks. Most state employees already make that contribution, but many in cities, counties and school districts across the state pitch in far less. The governor also wants future employees to receive up to a third of their retirement income from a 401(k)-style plan rather than a traditional guaranteed pension. And he urged that the retirement age for most new public workers be raised from 55 to 67. “I try to protect working people whenever I can,” said Brown, 73, “but I’m also responsible to the taxpayer and making sure we have a solvent state government.” (read article)

California Pension Changes Face Opposition by Gov. Brown’s Union Allies

By Michael B. Marois and James Nash, October 28, 2011, BusinessWeek

California Governor Jerry Brown’s plan for public workers to pay more for retirement and assume some risk with pension investments met opposition from the unions that campaigned for him and helped bankroll his election. Brown’s proposals also would raise the retirement age to 67 from 55 for most state employees, curb abuses known as “pension spiking” and “double dipping,” and add two outsiders to the board of the $225 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System. “Some of the governor’s proposals go too far,” said Allan Clark, president of the California School Employees Association, the union for 210,000 non-teachers. The changes “run the risk of undermining retirement security for thousands of California school bus drivers, special-education aides, custodians, school cafeteria workers and their families.” (read article)

House panel approves bill to roll back union election rule

By Kevin Bogardus, October 27, 2011, The Hill

“The legislation ensures that everyone can participate in a fair election process,” Kline said. Democrats said the committee was not focused on creating jobs and is instead going after union rights. “That’s why it’s so frustrating that this committee is continuing to focus on attacking workers’ rights, the fundamental rights they have at work, instead of on solving the jobs crisis,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, who called the bill “the Election Prevention Act.” Kline’s bill is in response to a rule proposed by the labor board in June to speed up union elections. That rule would allow elections to be held in as little as 10 days after a petition is filed, according to Kline’s estimate. Kline’s bill will ensure that union elections will be held no earlier than 35 days after a petition is filed. It also reverses a ruling by the NLRB this August to allow smaller bargaining units to form unions. (read article)

Hotel owned by union pensions mistreated workers

By Brian Martinez, October 26, 2011, Orange County Register

An Embassy Suites hotel in Irvine that’s owned by a public-employee pension investment pool denied 10-minute rest breaks to low-wage workers and is accused of retaliating against staffers who promote collective bargaining. The investors in the multi-hotel fund are Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, Wisconsin State Investment Board, San Diego City Employees Retirement System and Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois. HEI Hospitality Inc., which manages the hotel, is maximizing profits at their expense. The hotel is owned by public-worker union pension funds. HEI Hospitality LLC, which manages the 293-room hotel, was recently ordered by a state Labor Commissioner hearing officer to pay $36,827 in back wages and penalties to full-time housekeepers at the Irvine location who were denied rest periods. Ten-minute breaks are a legally mandated minimum standard in California. (read article)

What lessons did Steve Jobs leave politics about unions?

By Ron Nehring, October 26, 2011, Politico

This president’s hard drive to unionize the private sector workforce stands in sharp contrast to Apple’s status as a non-union company. Even its retail workers are not unionized (although one employee’s effort to start one in – surprise! – San Francisco got some attention in June). Speaking of unions, what did Steve Jobs have to say about the teachers unions? “What is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way. This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.” (read article)

Teachers’ Union Fat Cats

By RiShawn Biddle, October 26, 2011, The American Spectator

There’s something about class warfare rhetoric that always seems to attract even the wealthiest limousine left-leaner — even when they have no interest in handing over any of their own ducats. Consider the two-month-long Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread out from the shadowy canyons of New York City’s financial district to areas as distant as St. Louis and Indianapolis. In the last month, the original crowd of underemployed college graduates have attracted such big names as 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin (who is as renowned for his lefty credentials as for his infamously abusive tirade against his own daughter), smarmy British comedian Russell Brand (whose lack of jokes makes him Europe’s version of Dane Cook), and hip-hopper Kanye West (who came down to the occasion wearing a sparkly gold chain, a $355 Givenchy shirt, and a $23,000 Rolex). But it’s not just the celebrities who are joining in on the fun. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have spent the past month ginning up their own public relations machines so they can declare their solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street protesters and for all which they stand. (read article)

In Rhode Island, Not Teaching Is More Lucrative Than Teaching

By Mike Antonucci, October 25, 2011, Intercepts

While everyone’s attention was focused on the two union guys in Illinois who got a teachers’ pension for one day of subbing, over in Rhode Island the General Treasurer’s office released figures claiming 58 percent of retired state teachers and 48 percent of retired state employees have pensions that pay them 100 percent or more of their final average salary when they retired. (read article)

GOP takes second crack at labor board

Kevin Bogardus, October 25, 2011, The Hill

House Republicans are again moving forward with legislation to limit the power of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to mark up legislation sponsored by its chairman, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). The bill, known as the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, would negate several of the labor board’s actions this year, including a proposed regulation to speed up union elections. The NLRB has come under heavy scrutiny this year from the GOP-controlled House and several business groups for what they argue is favoritism to unions. “Congress cannot allow an activist NLRB to trample on the rights of workers and employers. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act is desperately needed to rein in the Obama board and reaffirm workforce protections that have been in place for decades,” Kline said in a statement. (read article)

Union Bailout Update

Editorial, October 21, 2011, Labor Relations Institute

The war on job creators marches on. Last week Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 3178, the Employee Misclassification Prevention Act.  First introduced in 2008, the bill would amend sections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to further discourage the use of independent contractors, an ongoing quest of organized labor.  At the forefront, the AFL-CIO’s Building Trades Council has long had an ax to grind with ICs who they see as taking work from union card carrying skilled tradesmen. (Who, when working, typically pay hundreds a month in dues.) Hilda Solis 150×150 Union Bailout UpdateThe bill would create new disincentives for using ICs including expanded record keeping requirements, stiffer penalties for misclassification and new means to investigate employers.  Most unnerving, within six months of the bill’s passage, all employers will be required to send notices to all those who do work for them, both contractors and employees, directing them to a DOL website to learn more about worker rights (natch) including (we presume) their right to join a union. (read article)

About the author: Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.org, 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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