Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Union Bosses Win, Ohio Workers Get Fired

By Jason Hart, December 6, 2011, Big Government

One month ago Ohio voted with its heart against reforms portrayed as an attack on public workers. Ohio, DC, and New York union bosses spent more than $30 million drenching the airwaves in images of sad firefighters, sad police officers, and evil Republicans, convincing voters to overlook a broken status quo. A month later, how are local governments celebrating the union victory on Issue 2? Middletown is laying off 9 firefighters, despite the city’s police and fire budgets both increasing by nearly 1/3 in the past decade. In Hamilton, a $5.9 million death tax haul will delay the inevitable. (read article)

Ohio Congressman Seeks to Expand Probe Into Delphi Pensions

By Thomas Gnau, December 4, 2011, Dayton Daily News

After bringing a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee field hearing to Dayton last month, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner is asking the committee’s chairman to expand an investigation into the treatment of pensions for Delphi salaried retirees. Turner, R-Centerville, wrote to U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, last week, asking that the committee examine “any possible conflicts of interest” from Tim Geithner’s simultaneous roles as U.S. treasury secretary and member of what was the Presidential Auto Task Force on the Auto Industry. The task force presided over key decisions that helped lead General Motors and Chrysler through bankruptcy in 2009. GM once owned Delphi and remains Delphi’s biggest customer for auto components. (read article)

Joe Biden and the Myth of Local Government Layoffs

By Steven Malanga, December 3, 2011, Wall Street Journal

During the debate this fall over President Obama’s American Jobs Act, the White House released a study suggesting some 280,000 teacher jobs were at risk as part of a vast downsizing of local governments across America. When Republicans refused to support the bill, which would have funneled more aid to local governments to preserve jobs, the president declared that those who voted against the bill would have to tell voters “why teachers in your community don’t deserve a paycheck again.” Vice President Joe Biden went further, suggesting that the failure to send more aid to localities would prompt sharp cutbacks… (read article – subscription required)

New York City Cleaners’ Union Votes To Authorize Strike If Necessary; Unions Protest Economic Conditions

Audio by Derricke Dennis and Marla Diamond, December 1, 2011, CBS

A New York City cleaners union voted Thursday to authorize a strike, if necessary, that could potentially affect 1,500 commercial office buildings in the city. Thousands of office cleaners and commercials building workers with the 32BJ Service Employees International Union  voted to allow their bargaining committee to call a strike.  That strike could involve about 22,000 workers if there is a failure to reach a new contract by 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2012. Cleaning union workers marched Thursday afternoon from 34th Street to Union Square in opposition to a proposed wage and benefit structure that the union says is “aimed at creating a lower second class of workers.” (listen to audio)

The AMR Union Warning: Another bankruptcy due to labor costs

Editorial, December 1, 2011, Wall Street Journal

GM. Chrysler. For that matter, Greece. Now add AMR Corp., the holding company that runs American Airlines and filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, to the growing roll of union-induced failures. In a statement, AMR CEO Thomas Horton said Chapter 11 was a last resort for American to “address our cost structure, including labor costs.” (read article – subscription required)

There Aren’t Enough Private-Sector Millionaires to Support All the New Public-Sector Millionaires Being Created

By Lawrence Mone, December 1, 2011, New York Post

Gov. Cuomo, under enormous pressure from public-employee unions and Democrats in the Legislature to extend New York’s “millionaires’ tax,” is considering at least some higher taxes on higher incomes. The big irony here is that much of the money raised from any “millionaire” tax hikes would go to fund the growing phenomenon of public-sector millionaires. How’s that? Well, most dictionaries define a millionaire as someone with wealth (i.e., assets) of $1 million. By that definition, many New York teachers and the vast majority of police and firefighters are millionaires, because the “net present value” of their retirement benefits is well in excess of $1 million. That is, if they had to fund their retirements from their own savings, they’d have to set aside seven figures today. (read article)

Storm Clouds Ahead: Why Conflict With Public Employee Unions Will Continue

Issue Brief by Daniel DiSalvo, November 2011, Manhattan Institute

Ohio’s recent referendum (Issue 2) overturning Governor John Kasich’s signature law that eliminated collective bargaining with unions representing state workers is the latest in a series of heated battles between governors and public-employee unions in a host of states. Notwithstanding the demise of reform in the Buckeye State, conflict over government labor relations is far from over and is very likely to continue. This is especially the case in states where the public workforce is heavily unionized and where slow economic growth will cause persistent budget problems—especially as pension and health benefits for retired workers crowd out other parts of their budgets. These conditions spell trouble for New York, California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington State, among other states. (read article)

After Illinois Politicians Enabled Brazen Corruption, Union Officials Looted Their Members’ Retirement Funds

Editorial, November 30, 2011, Chicago Tribune

For decades, Illinois politicians have used public pension systems as their private slush funds. They’ve used those honey pots to provide favors and sweeteners and other goodies for their cronies — many of them officials of public employees unions. In return, the pols reaped labor peace, campaign contributions and armies of labor volunteers during election cycles. In recent months, investigative reporters from the Tribune and WGN-TV have been exploring, and regularly exposing, some of the astonishing corruption these political deals have wrought. Among those who profited: the union leader collecting a $108,000 pension for a former city of Chicago job that paid him $40,000 a year; another labor official who, because the city rehired him for one day, collects a $158,000 pension; and union lobbyists with no prior teaching experience who, by substitute teaching for one day, became eligible for lifetime teacher pensions. (read article)

Illinois Lawmakers Target Union Leaders’ Abuses But Fail to Address $85 Billion Pension Debt

By Ray Long, Monique Garcia and Jason Grotto, November 30, 2011, Chicago Tribune

State lawmakers took a strong stand Tuesday against union leaders fattening their public pensions, overwhelmingly sending the governor a measure that would close a series of loopholes in response to a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation that revealed the abuses. But what they didn’t do on pensions will continue to weigh on the pocketbooks of Illinois taxpayers. The General Assembly again left town without addressing an enormous employee pension system debt that looms over government from the Capitol to City Hall. That failure drew criticism from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who wanted lawmakers to deal with the larger problem of a vastly underfunded retirement system. (read article)

NLRB Likely to Punt on “Quickie Election” Proposal For Now

By John Gizzi, November 30, 2011, Human Events

Observers of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) believe that today will be a red-letter date for the 77-year-old panel charged with remedying unfair labor practices.  With two vacancies on the five-member panel and two of the three members Obama appointees with strong ties to organized labor, the stage is a set for a vote on the major unions’ much-cherished rules change to shorten the time frame for union elections. Known as the “quickie election” plan, the rules change would, as the Wall Street Journal explained last week, “shorten to as little as 10 to 14 days the period between the time a union seeks an election to organize a work site and the election date.  Under current rules, companies typically have five to six weeks to make their case before the union holds a secret ballot election.” (read article)

Federal employee unions irate with presidential candidate Rick Perry

By Alexandra Jaffe, November 30, 2011, Houston Chronicle

Gov. Rick Perry has drawn the ire of a number of federal labor unions following a statement he made on the campaign trail that those federal workers who don’t agree with his restructuring plans for federal agencies should be sent “to some really God-awful place” to work. At a town hall in Derry, N.H., Perry repeated his campaign line about restructuring federal agencies, stating that “government should do a few things, but do those few things really, really well.” Speaking about Health and Human Services workers, Perry said that those who try to “block” his redirection of federal grant money should be disposed of in the only way he sees possible. “I don’t think you can fire federal bureaucrats, but you can reassign them. So reassign them to some really god-awful place,” he said to laughs from the crowd. But federal workers unions aren’t laughing. William R. Dougan, National President of the National Federation of Federal Employees, called Perry’s comments “irresponsible and insulting to the 2.1 million dedicated federal employees serving our country every day.” In Dougan’s view, Perry’s position on reassigning federal workers is a politically-based attack. (read article)

Status-quo-worshipping California Teachers Association rejects ‘Think Long’ tax plan

By Chris Reed, November 22, 2011, Calwhine

The Nov. 22 reports that the California Teachers Association had rejected a plan that would have brought billions in new dollars to schools could not have been more predictable. Why? Because the Think Long For California Committee conditioned higher taxes on school reforms that would have weakened teacher tenure and Prop. 98. In other words, the CTA is offering its same old insistence that the status quo must be preserved at any cost, and that nothing about the status quo should be changed except that it should be way better funded. It brings to mind the famously grim statement in 1983′s “A Nation at Risk” report about American public education: If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre education performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. Not to be hyperbolic, but why don’t we think about education in 2011 in that same framework, but with the word “domestic” substituted for “foreign”? (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.

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

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!