Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Federal judge declines unions’ request to block consent agreement

By Christine MacDonald, April 2, 2012, Detroit News

A federal judge today declined to issue a restraining order sought by city union leaders to halt action on a proposed consent agreement between Detroit and the state. Judge Arthur Tarnow instead set a hearing for 2 p.m. Tuesday for both sides to present their case. AFSCME Council 25 sued Gov. Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon in federal court to stop them from executing a consent agreement or financial stability agreement and block them from appointing an emergency manager. The union, in seeking a temporary restraining order, also sought to stop Snyder and Dillon from opposing ratification of the AFSCME contract. “The state is trying tostrong-arm the city,” said Ed McNeil, with AFSCME. “We want the judge to say the state has no authority tointerfere with the situation.” The Attorney General’s office today argued the union has not shown it has suffered irreparable injury or whether the injunction would serve the public interest. (read article)

San Diego mayoral candidate’s cellphone is bombarded with calls after union gives out number

By Craig Gustafson, April 2, 2012, Union-Tribune

The cellphone of City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a candidate for San Diego mayor, got bombarded with calls and text messages Saturday after labor unions made his number public during a march celebrating labor hero Cesar Chavez. DeMaio’s campaign said he received 182 voice mails during a 15-minute span before shutting down his phone. The messages released by the campaign included a reference to DeMaio as “scum” and at least one person identifying himself as a union member. One text read: “Why do you work to destroy San Diego families and the rights of working people?” The calls coincided with the fifth annual Cesar Chavez Day March sponsored by the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council that began about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The event included a large puppet of DeMaio squeezing a firefighter. (read article)

Poll Shows Even In Michigan Unions Are Despised

Editorial, April 2, 2012, Investors Business Daily

A new poll shows that labor unions are detested in, of all places, Michigan. Maybe that has something to do with what they’ve done to that state’s economy and their effort to recall the governor who aims to reverse it. It probably started with the U.S. taxpayer bailout of the auto industry. A September 2009 Gallup poll indicated that for the first time since it began asking the question in the 1930s, less than half of Americans — just 48% — approved of labor unions. The numbers have slid ever since, with a Pew poll in February 2011 showing only 41% had a favorable opinion of unions. Now columnist Michael Barone has discovered yet another one from pollster Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics indicating that, in the very heart of bail out country, unions are absolute pariahs. Majorities in Michigan support “right to work” legislation and emergency financial managers to clean up the finances of corrupt union-dominated cities such as Detroit, while strong pluralities support ending compulsory dues collection in schools. (read article)

Detroit unions to end talks if state plan accepted

April 2, 2012, Reuters

Detroit’s public employee unions will not negotiate more cost-cutting agreements with the city if it agrees to a state-mandated financial plan designed to stop Detroit from running out of money, the head of a major city union said on Monday. The financial stability agreement drafted by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration would require significantly deeper concessions from city unions than have already been agreed to. Opposition to the plan has come as the city’s elected leaders and state-appointed officials work to agree on Snyder’s financial plan for Detroit. A tough stance by union officials could make it much more difficult for city leaders trying to fix Detroit’s fiscal crisis without the intervention of a state-appointed emergency manager, who under Michigan law would have far more power to make unilateral changes to contracts. Most of the city’s labor contracts expire June 30. (read article)

Detroit Council won’t vote on union contracts; labor leader won’t come back to table

By Jonathan Oosting, April 02, 2012, Michigan Live

The Detroit City Council will not vote today on tentative union contracts that were negotiated in good faith but directly conflict with a proposed consent agreement negotiated by state and local leaders. Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis spoke before council this morning, explaining that the Bing administration is not prepared to present the contracts for approval, instead suggesting that unions will need to return to the table at the insistence of the state. “We cannot sign two agreements that are in conflict,” Lewis said. “That’s just going to cause us more issues trying to implement the plan to fix the city.” In a rare move, union leaders opened up their contracts in December as Mayor Dave Bing urged action to help save the city from projected insolvency. The tentative agreements, which include pay cuts and health care reforms, are expected to save the city more than $100 million a year. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who is asking city leaders to approve a consent agreement by Thursday that would eliminate his need to appoint an emergency manager, has said it would be “a major problem” if council were to approve the tentative contracts. (read article)

Public worker unions are a reason for Pennsylvania’s public pension crisis

Letter to the Editor, April 2, 2012, Morning Call

Judge James T. Anthony’s Your View on the worsening public pension problem dovetails nicely with reporter Steve Esack’s earlier piece. Unfortunately, neither mentioned the principle underlying cause of these problems: the near-monopoly power of public sector unions — a lock on most state and local governments by teachers, dedicated responders like police and firefighters and other government workers. They create layers of fat and “bargain” for exorbitant public employee benefits. (read article)

Alliance of civil rights and labor groups files UN complaint against Ala. immigration law

Associated Press, April 2, 2012, Washington Post

An alliance of union and civil rights groups opposed to Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation immigration law has filed a complaint with the United Nation’s International Labor Organization. The complaint Monday alleges that Alabama law violates international norms. It says the law and the U.S. government’s inability to come up with a national immigration policy hurts workers and trade unions. The law prevents people from knowingly transporting illegal immigrants and prohibits courts from upholding contracts made with them. The complaint alleges that those provisions jeopardize the ability of workers to form and join trade unions. The labor and Latino rights groups are also traveling overseas to shareholder meetings of automakers with Alabama plants. (read article)

Pensions Find Riskier Funds Fail to Pay Off

By Julie Creswell, April 1, 2012, Reuters

Searching for higher returns to bridge looming shortfalls, public workers’ pension funds across the country are increasingly turning to riskier investments in private equity, real estate and hedge funds. But while their fees have soared, their returns have not. In fact, a number of retirement systems that have stuck with more traditional investments in stocks and bonds have performed better in recent years, for a fraction of the fees. (read article)

Federal Judge Strikes Down Parts of Wisconsin Union Law

By Scott Bauer, March 30, 2012, ABC News

A federal judge upheld most of Wisconsin’s contentious law curbing collective bargaining rights on Friday, but he sided with unions by overturning two portions of the law that were costly and impeded on a major funding source for the groups. One banned public workers from allowing union dues to be automatically withdrawn from their paychecks, while the other required expensive annual elections where all members, not just those voting, would have to support staying organized. Still, the ruling keeps in place the majority of the law championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. (read article)

Why is Wisconsin governor facing a recall election?

Reuters, March 30, 2012, Chicago Tribune

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker is the first U.S. state governor in nearly a decade to face a recall election after he outraged labor unions and Democrats with a law stripping public sector unions of most of their power. Just two other governors of U.S. states have lost recall elections: Lynn Frazier in North Dakota in 1921 and Gray Davis of California in 2003, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (read article)

Portions Of Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Law Struck Down By Federal Court

By Amanda Terkel, March 30, 2012, Huffington Post

Just over a year after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed a measure taking away most collective bargaining rights for public workers, labor unions scored a victory as a federal court struck down portions of the law. The court ruled that the state cannot prevent public sector unions from automatically deducting dues from workers’ paychecks and cannot require them to be recertified annually. The law, known as Act 10, requires most public sector unions to hold annual votes on whether a majority of its members want to recertify the union. It also took away the rights of some unions to automatically collect dues from members’ paychecks. The court kept most of the law in place, but it ruled that the state did not have the power to pick and choose which unions could deduct dues. Under Act 10, only “public safety unions” — those representing firefighters and police officers — could continue to take out payments automatically. (read article)

With labor at issue in Wisconsin recall, Romney ties Santorum to ‘big labor’ before primary

By Associated Press, March 28, 2012, Washington Post

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is attacking rival Rick Santorum as a friend of “big labor” as they campaign in Wisconsin, where a fight over labor unions is fueling a bitter recall effort aimed at Gov. Scott Walker. Santorum, in turn, is aligning himself with the embattled Republican governor, a play for a party base that he hopes will carry him to victory in the GOP presidential primary on Tuesday. “As you know the fight against big labor led by Gov. Walker isn’t over, here in Wisconsin,” a voice says in an automated Romney telephone call. “I was shocked to find out that Rick Santorum repeatedly supported big labor and joined with liberal Democrats in voting against right-to-work legislation during his time in Washington.” Romney, with help from a well-funded allied group, is pointing to union-friendly votes by the former Pennsylvania senator. (read article)

Big Labor’s Endorsement For Obama Is All About Repaying Favors

By John R. Lott Jr. and Grover G. Norquist, March 28, 2012, Investors Business Daily

This month the AFL-CIO “enthusiastically” endorsed Obama’s re-election bid. No surprise there. No previous president has created anywhere near as large wealth transfers to unions. Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package targeted union jobs. Then there was the $26 billion Public Sector Jobs Bill of 2010. And the Disaster Relief and the Summer Jobs Act of 2010 provided another $24 billion to specifically help teachers, police and firefighters. The stimulus required Davis-Bacon “prevailing wages and benefits” rules for contracts receiving any stimulus money. These rules typically force companies to pay union wages. In addition, Obama enacted new executive orders that forced some contractors bidding for government contracts to recognize unions and adopt existing collective bargaining agreements.  He even went so far in this process as imposing a “gag” order on what firms were allowed to tell employees about unions and collective bargaining in the event that union organizing efforts were undertaken. (read article)

Unions use ballot to undo reform

By Nolan Finley, March 25, 2012, Detroit News

California is truly the Golden State for Big Labor. Unions, particularly those representing public employees, use the state’s penchant for government by ballot initiative to enshrine in the constitution a raft of labor friendly amendments guaranteeing their benefits, a generous stream of tax dollars to cover their paychecks, and funding for projects that keep them employed. The distortion of its constitution by restrictive amendments makes it impossible for California to reduce spending and slash the bureaucracy — even if politicians wanted to. It’s a big reason California has a $13 billion budget deficit, and why its businesses and citizens are fleeing to neighboring states. Michigan’s labor bosses want a piece of that action. Aided by the Democratic Party, unions are trying to get a bedsheet of proposals on the November ballot. (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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