Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

State Of The Unions – Public Support for Labor Unions Hits a New Low

By James Surowiecki, January 17, 2011, The New Yorker

In the heart of the Great Depression, millions of American workers did something they’d never done before: they joined a union. Emboldened by the passage of the Wagner Act, which made collective bargaining easier, unions organized industries across the country, remaking the economy. Businesses, of course, saw this as grim news. But the general public applauded labor’s new power, even in the face of union tactics that many Americans frowned on, like sit-down strikes. More than seventy per cent of those surveyed in a 1937 Gallup poll said they favored unions. Seventy-five years later, in the wake of another economic crisis, things couldn’t be more different. (read article)

Easier to take pols’ anti-Walmart activism seriously if city pension plans owned less of its stock

Editorial, January 16, 2011, New York Daily News

The New York politicians who are stoking anti-Walmart fervor are not to be taken seriously for as long as the city’s pension system is a major shareholder in the retailing giant. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has scheduled hearings on Walmart’s plan to open in Brooklyn. She has concerns, she says, about the company’s record on labor, treatment of female employees and impact on neighborhood shopping. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio goes further, asserting that Walmart has a “record of driving small businesses out of town and paying below-poverty line wages” and is a “proven job killer.” Meanwhile, the city’s retirement funds hold 6,808,859 shares of the retailer’s stock that were worth a whopping $373,199,042 at the close of trading Friday. (read article)

Detroit and Decay

Editorial, January 15, 2011, The Wall Street Journal

The city may abandon half its schools to pay union benefits. Detroit was once America’s fourth largest city, though today large sections of its inner core are abandoned to the elements, and monuments like Michigan Central Station are returning to dust. Another emblem of civic decline is a plan to desert nearly half of Detroit’s public schools so that it can afford to fulfill its teachers union contract. (read article)

Closed-door union negotiations hinder cutback in spending

By Brian Hughes, January 15, 2011, Washington Examiner

More than 80 cents of every taxpayer dollar spent in Montgomery County is essentially approved behind closed doors during negotiations with employees unions, an arrangement that leaves the public in the dark and hampers efforts to rein in spending, critics contend. County Council members, who have final budget authority, are targeting employee compensation and benefits — identified as the cause of the suburb’s massive deficits — for long-term savings. But they have little idea if County Executive Ike Leggett is following suit during ongoing talks with union negotiators. “It’s bizarre,” said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large. “We never see the bargaining. (read article)

San Diego’s Bid to Limit Pensions Meets Union Resistance

By Jen Lebron Kuhney and Craig Gustafson, January 14, 2011, San Diego Union-Tribune

City leaders presented a united front Friday saying they want to end San Diego’s ongoing pension saga by reaching a global settlement with labor unions that would cap employee pensions, save hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars and eliminate a slew of lawsuits involving pension-related disputes. Mayor Jerry Sanders, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and a unanimous City Council presented labor unions with a letter requesting to enter mediation over the city’s pension woes. The ambitious goal follows a legal opinion Goldsmith released earlier in the week that says the city can legally freeze the base salaries of its workers and, in effect, limit the size of future pensions. If implemented, workers could still get raises but any additional income they receive could not be applied toward pension calculations. Union leaders immediately criticized the proposal, but did not say whether they would agree to negotiations. (read article)

AFSCME exec says pay cuts dismay Nevada’s state workers

Associated Press, January 14, 2011

Union leader Vishnu Subramaniam says state workers were dismayed that their first correspondence with Gov. Brian Sandoval is to learn of 5 percent pay cuts across the board. The Republican’s office says the reduction will save about $380 million for Nevada. Continuing the suspension of merit and longevity pay will save another $211 million. Subramaniam, the chief of staff for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041, says the move means workers and the governor are “starting off on the wrong foot.” He says, “The real discussion needs to be on reforming the tax structure.” (read article)

Teacher’s Union Claims Member’s Scalp

By Kyle Olson, January 11, 2011, Townhall.com

The Grand Rapids Education Association, a local affiliate of Michigan’s largest teachers’ union, is attempting to pick off one-by-one 90-some members that have refused to pay their dues. About 18 months ago, the school board voted to no longer deduct dues from employees’ paychecks, which meant union members had to physically write a check to the union. Many saw it as their opportunity to protest the obnoxious behavior of union leaders during a previous contract negotiation period. The union president, Paul Helder, was particularly pompous during negotiations, claiming the union was fighting a “war on terrorism.” (read article)

Unions’ day of reckoning arrives

By Sherman Frederick, January 9, 2011, Las Vegas Review- Journal

As Nevada welcomes a new governor and prepares for the start of the 2011 Legislature, two concepts ought to dominate the political landscape. No, not tax increases and spending cuts. Try 401(k) plans and collective bargaining. Nevada needs to openly discuss instituting the former and outlawing the latter for public employees. And the sooner the better, because when the city of Chicago cries uncle about the spend-a-thon engineered by its union sweethearts, you know a budget apocalypse for cities, counties and states draws nigh. (read article)

Union bosses distort right-to-work facts

By Mark Mix, January 7, 2011, Indianapolis Star

Regular observers of the Hoosier Capitol in Indianapolis report there is a strong possibility state legislators will soon vote on legislation protecting the individual employee’s freedom to join or bankroll a union, or refuse to do either, without being fired as a consequence. Even before the new legislature convened, Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, introduced House Bill 1028, which would prohibit forcing employees to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment, thus making Indiana America’s 23rd right-to-work state. Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, and Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, have also introduced right-to-work legislation. (read article)

Now It’s Unions vs Girl Scouts

By Brett McMahon, January 7, 2011, Halt-the-Assault.com

One of the greatest benefits of being a business owner is the ability to not only create jobs and boost the economy, but also to be a source of positive impact in our community. My family’s business is not alone in this, as all across the country small business owners sponsor local little league sports teams, boost girl scout cookie sales, orchestrate food and clothing drives, and collect spare change for many causes, all from the premises of their private property. But now, thanks to some underhanded tactics by greedy union bosses, this all may be about to end. (read article)

Public-sector unions have had a good few decades. Has their luck run out?

Editorial, January 6, 2011, The Economist

The past 30 years have been dismal ones for the labour movement. In the American private sector trade-union density (ie, the proportion of workers who belong to unions) has fallen from a third in 1979 to just 7% today. In Britain it has dropped from 44% to 15%. Nor is this just an Anglo-Saxon oddity: less than a fifth of workers in the OECD belong to unions. There is one big exception to this story of decline, however: the public sector. In the Canadian public sector union density has increased from 12% in 1960 to more than 70% today. In America it has increased over the same period from 11% to 36% (see chart). There are now more American workers in unions in the public sector (7.6m) than in the private sector (7.1m), although the private sector employs five times as many people. (read article)

Labor scrambles to regroup

By Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman, January 5, 2011, POLITICO

On defense and on its heels after the Republican takeover of Congress and key statehouses, a divided labor movement is coming together for a new campaign that will attempt to go on offense against corporate America. In a central headquarters in Washington, the new union campaign will attempt, in particular, to prevent a split between public- and private-sector workers and to defend the public workers from sharp cuts to their pay, benefits and right to bargain collectively. The effort also hopes to co-opt the “reform” mantle to make the case that while workers are willing to give back some benefits, “shared sacrifice” — meaning taxes on the rich and corporations as well — should be the order of the day. (read article)

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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