Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

International Association of Firefighters union resumes federal campaign contributions

By Sam Hananel, December 19, 2011, Washington Post

The International Association of Firefighters union said Monday it would resume making federal campaign contributions after seeing lawmakers commit new resources to public safety and speak out more forcefully against anti-union measures in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states. The announcement should come as welcome news to Democrats, who will need strong union support if they want to hold on to their majority in the Senate and have a chance at retaking the House. The firefighters union — a reliable supporter of mostly Democratic candidates — made a splash in April when it stopped donating cash to congressional campaigns and redirected resources to state fights. At the time, union officials said lawmakers were taking firefighters’ support for granted. “Our frustration was a lack of voice on the battles that we’re facing out across the states,” union president Harold Schaitberger said in an interview. “We wanted them to at least step up, use their political standing and ability to help us fight back.” (read article)

Public employee unions’ take a head-in-the-sand approach to California’s pension problem

Editorial, December 19, 2011, Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Some argue that public employee retirement benefits are threatening to drag the state into a financial black hole. Others claim there is no real problem. Who is right? In truth, how well funded future public employee pensions are in California is anybody’s guess. It hinges primarily on one thing — the future performance of investment assets set aside to pay for those retirement benefits as well as the additional contributions made each year to bolster those assets. Whatever the argument, it’s important to look at all the scenarios of what could happen on the stock market. But that isn’t the posture that many public employee unions — as well as state Treasure Bill Lockyer, much to our disappointment — are taking in regard to their criticism of the latest Stanford research concerning California’s pension crisis. Their argument? Put your head in the sand. (read article)

Postal Service, unions to continue negotiating into January

December 19, 2011, Federal News Radio

Labor contract negotiations between the Postal Service and it two major unions have been extended until Jan. 20, 2012, according to a USPS press release. The Postal Service’s contracts with National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (NALC) and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, AFL-CIO (NPMHU) expired at midnight on Sunday, Nov. 20, but the parties agreed to extend talks into the new year. The NALC represents 195,000-plus employees who serve as letter carriers in mostly urban areas. The NPMHU is the representative of more than 46,000 employees at post offices and mail processing plants. If negotiations break down, a third party would set the work rules and contract terms for the unions’ employees. (read article)

Government Unions, OWS, the President, and the People

By Daniel DiSalvo, December 19, 2011, Public Sector Inc.

Before income inequality became a national theme, it had long been a trope of public sector unions. Then the Occupy Wall Street protesters burned their slogan–“we are the 99%”–into the nation’s consciousness. Now President Obama has adopted the theme in his much discussed Osawatomie speech. However, as Nathan Glazer has showed, Americans have not traditionally cared very much about inequality. But they have always been intensely concerned about those who don’t play by the rules and reap ill-gotten gains. They believe deeply in equality of opportunity but are suspicious of equality of results. Has this mix of attitudes changed as income inequality has increased over the last three decades or with the Great Recession? The short answer is no. (read article)

6,000 California nurses plan one-day strike across the state

By Ruben Vives, December 19, 2011, Los Angeles Times

Thousands of registered nurses across California will strike for one day this week over myriad issues they say include predatory cuts that affect patient care, unsuccessful contract negotiations and rising healthcare premium costs. The strikes will take place Thursday and will involve 2,000 nurses from Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital, and 4,000 nurses from eight Bay Area hospitals owned by Sutter Health, according to the California Nurses Assn. and National Nurses United. The major work stoppage is not expected to affect patient care, but replacing the nurses for a day will cost the two nonprofit foundations millions of dollars, union and hospital officials acknowledge. On Monday, nurses in Long Beach were making picket signs and banners in preparation for the walkout. For months the nurses have been in contract negotiations with hospital management. Their contract expired Sept. 30. (read article)

Union representing airport screeners says it’s tough getting TSA to the table

By Joe Davidson, December 19, 2011, Washington Post

The thrill of victory in June has become the dolor of frustration in December. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) celebrated a major victory this summer when it won the right to represent more than 40,000 transportation security officers. But now, six months later, the enthusiasm of the campaign has morphed into the tough realities of labor relations with a bureaucracy that has its own ideas about change. Despite President Obama’s endorsement of collective bargaining for the officers when he ran for president and the decision of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow collective bargaining, the road to that goal and the budding relationship between organized labor and management at the agency have not always been smooth. AFGE President John Gage met with TSA Administrator John Pistole on Monday afternoon, and Gage did not emerge happy. “It could have been better,” he said in a telephone interview. (read article)

Local labor union pickets ESPN

By Susan Corica, December 16, 2011, Bristol Press

A labor union picketed in front of ESPN headquarters Friday to criticize the sports media conglomerate’s hiring practices for construction of its new digital center. About 50 members of the Connecticut Laborers’ District Council turned out between 8 and 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Middle Street and Ronzo Road for an “informational protest.” Charles LeConche, business manager for the union, said the picketers were out to publicize “ESPN’s continued lack of commitment to hiring local construction contractors that pay workers a living wage and that do not undermine area standards.” ESPN has announced plans to build a $100 million, 193,000-square-foot facility, which will house four studios, six production control rooms and 26 edit rooms on four levels. It’s intended to be the new home for ESPN’s flagship program “SportsCenter.” The labor union’s complaint has gone on for several months, said Mike Soltys, ESPN’s vice president of communications. Hartford-based Associated Con-struction is the project manager for the new facility, he said. “They award contracts through a competitive bidding process. We have both union and nonunion contractors — we have in the past and we will continue to do so on this project and future projects.” (read article)

Government reform in California is blocked at every step by Democratic lawmakers beholden to unions

Editorial, December 14, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

The Brown administration’s announcement Tuesday that it would order smaller midyear budget “trigger” cuts than feared must be kept in context. The $1 billion in cuts will further reduce state services for seniors and the disabled and will cost the University of California and California State University systems $100 million each. While school districts face only $79 million in new cuts to classroom funding, the $248 million reduction in school transportation funds means the end of busing in many districts, which will have a deeply disruptive effect on hundreds of thousands of families, and not just in rural areas. Government reform – whether of pensions, of teacher tenure or of pay practices that reward raises based solely on years of employment – is blocked at every step by Democratic lawmakers beholden to unions. (read article)

Boeing double-teamed by union, NLRB

Editorial, December 13, 2011, Orange County Register

A key to American prosperity is the freedom of companies to run their operations how they see fit, wherever they decide is best for them. That freedom took a hit this week in a case involving Boeing, the aerospace and defense giant that operates several facilities in Orange County. On Dec. 7, the Machinists approved a new contract with Boeing and requested that its case be canceled by the NLRB. Two days later, the NLRB complied. Aerospace Manufacturing and Design magazine reported, “Under the deal, Boeing promised to build the new version of its 737 airplane in Washington state.” While this development will bring short-term labor peace, it will produce a “chilling effect” for not just Boeing, but all American industry, Vincent Vernuccio told us; he’s labor policy counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank. “The NLRB dropped the complaint only after Boeing settled with the Machinists’ union. Employers will see it as upholding a veto power for unions” over corporate decisions. “It’s an extremely bad precedent of using the NLRB.” He said that unions will be able to say to companies in the future, “If you want this complaint to go away, just settle with us.” (read article)

San Diego’s largest public employee union endorses Filner for mayor

By Craig Gustafson, December 12, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

The city’s largest public employee union has endorsed Rep. Bob Filner for San Diego mayor, an expected move that solidifies the Democrat’s standing as organized labor’s choice in the June primary. The Municipal Employees Association, which represents about 4,000 white-collar city workers, formally backed Filner Monday based on his long career in public service. “He has demonstrated time and again that he has what it takes to get things done and our city needs him now more than ever,” said Tony Ruiz, the union’s president. “We support Bob Filner for mayor because we can think of no better candidate to lead our city back to greatness.” Filner is the only one of the four high-profile mayoral candidates who opposes a ballot initiative that would eliminate guaranteed pensions for most new city hires and replace them with a 401(k)-style plan. The three Republicans — City Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher — each support it. (read article)

New Los Angeles teachers contract would kill charter school movement

By Troy Senik, December 12, 2011, Public Sector Inc.

There’s bad news brewing for education reformers in Los Angeles. Later this week, L.A.’s public school teachers will vote on a new contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District. And thanks to the influence of the local teachers union — United Teachers Los Angeles — the deal, if approved, will put a three-year moratorium on the district’s successful charter school program  (this in a district where the graduation rate is a pathetic 56 percent). And we can be sure that the union will push for this provision as a precondition of all future contracts. Though we didn’t need it, this is just further proof that the welfare of Los Angeles children is a secondary consideration when contract time comes. Recent data indicates that all but one of the schools operating under LAUSD’s Public School Choice initiative are outperforming conventional public schools. They also fare dramatically better than the union-dominated institutions in performance measures for black students, Hispanic students, and poor students. In short, the charters aren’t a threat to anyone who actually matters in the educational process — students, parents, or capable teachers. They’re just a threat to the power of public-sector unions. (read article)

Detroit’s unions should cooperate with mayor to avoid greater pain

Editorial, December 11, 2011, Detroit News

If you want to know what that space between a rock and a hard place feels like, ask Detroit’s public employee unions. City workers are weighing two choices, neither of them very appealing. They can grant Mayor Dave Bing the painful wage and benefit concessions he is demanding, or they can roll the dice and wait to see what happens to their pay and perks when the state takes control of Detroit. If they’re smart, the unions will take the deal Bing is offering. What the mayor is asking for is unquestionably an extraordinary sacrifice. His plan calls for a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut, a 30 percent cost share on health insurance policies, substantial work rule changes to increase productivity and health care give-backs from retirees. It’s understandable that the unions haven’t rushed to get themselves some of that. But by now they must have a clear understanding of the alternative. The city is on a very short deadline to come up with a cost-cutting plan that resolves its cash flow crisis. The employees have a case in arguing that they didn’t create the entire financial mess, and shouldn’t have to bear the greater weight of solving it. But the reality is that there are few places Detroit can find significant savings in the budget other than from its payroll. If the unions don’t grant the necessary concessions and the state has to move in either with a consent decree or an emergency manager, the unions will lose the opportunity to negotiate their own fate. (read article)

Phoenix unions ask for pay raises

By Lynh Bui, December 11, 2011, Tucson Citizen

At least two of the five labor groups representing Phoenix employees have asked for raises or cost-of-living adjustments as they enter into contract negotiations with the city. Employee groups also are looking to insert contract language that would further protect public employees when the city considers outsourcing programs and services. On Dec. 1, public-employee unions and associations representing police, fire and other rank-and-file employees submitted their first contract proposals to the city to cover wage and benefit agreements for 2012-14. The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, representing police officers in non-supervisory positions, indicated it would be asking for raises, though it didn’t specify how much. The Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 777, representing landscapers, street-maintenance workers and other public-works employees, has proposed annual cost-of-living adjustments between 2 and 4 percent for its employees. (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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