Recession of 2008 Exposed True Cost of Public Employee Unions
By Tad DeHaven, March 21, 2011, Washington Examiner
A silver lining in the dark cloud of the recession that began in 2008 is that it has awakened the nation’s beleaguered private-sector work force to the fact that government employees are prospering at their expense. For the private sector, the recession meant layoffs, pay cuts and reduced benefits. State and local employees felt nary a scratch. In fact, life is pretty good if your paycheck comes from the taxpayer. (read article)

Pro-business Wisconsin group fires back at unions
By Don Walker, March 18, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest pro-business group, fired back Thursday at a union-organized boycott of targeted businesses, urging its members to “stand up to government union boss intimidation” and buy goods and services to save jobs. James Haney, president of the group, said the group decided to speak out after local chambers of commerce and trade groups in the state deluged WMC with calls about the boycott effort. Haney said WMC members were concerned the main unions leading the effort were groups representing police and firefighters. “Inherently, when fire and police organizations write and say we don’t like the way you think, it’s a little chilling.” (read article)

Debates continue over public sector collective bargaining
By Christine Erickson, March 18, 2011, Free Enterprise Nation
While Wisconsin’s new law limiting collective bargaining spurred protests across the country, governments in many states (see chart below) are looking at the financial repercussions of public sector collective bargaining. Some media outlets portray the initiatives as an attack on the middle class and discuss public sector employees, but collective bargaining is not a right universally shared by all public sector employees. Five states, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia, already have laws that prohibit collective bargaining in the public sector. (read article)

‘Civility’ Was Always Dead
By James Taranto, March 18, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Blogress Ann Althouse, a university of Wisconsin law professor, is half of the husband-and-wife team that has done a better job than any journalist of reporting on the skirmish in Wisconsin over government union privileges. Yesterday she posted a link to a bizarre threat against her and hubby Laurence Meade that was posted on Scirbd.com: “We will hang up wanted posters of you everywhere you like to go. We will picket on public property as close to your house as we can every day. We will harrass the ever loving sh–out of you all the time. . . . Because we aren’t anti-social, life-denying, world-sterilizing pieces of human garbage like the two of you. WE WILL F— YOU UP.” (read article)

Progressive Government Is Obsolete
By Stephen Goldsmith, March 18, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Across the country, the interests of organized labor, elected officials and taxpayers are colliding over wages, work rules and the astronomical costs of retiree pensions and health care. As important as these specific issues are to resolve, there is another, more fundamental problem causing so many Americans to lose faith in their government: It is not government unions per se but progressive government itself—long celebrated in Wisconsin, New York and elsewhere—that no longer produces progressive results. (read article)

Milwaukee County raises costs for union retirees
By Steve Schultze, March 17, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Retirees from Milwaukee County’s largest union would pay more for their health care, under a series of changes approved by the County Board Thursday that would save taxpayers $5.4 million this year. (read article)

Issues That Needed to Be Raised Regarding Collective Bargaining
By William F. Shughart II, March 17, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Gov. Scott Walker created a firestorm with his legislation that weakens the collective bargaining power of public employee unions in Wisconsin. Some of the news coverage made the governor’s actions seem arbitrary, even capricious. But they were anything but. Wisconsin and many other states – including California, Indiana, New Jersey and Ohio – are facing public employee payroll and benefit costs taxpayers can’t afford. Public employee unions have driven the spiraling costs. Public employee wages and benefits are typically not the result of simple collective bargaining. They are the result of the public employee unions’ political and lobbying activities – which, in many states, are financed with union dues employees are forced to pay as a condition of employment. (read article)

Public Pension Version of ‘March Madness’ Coming to DC on the 28th When Actuaries Meet
By Frank Keegan, March 17, 2011, Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
This one is going to be a number-cruncher battle of the titans. Actuarial sparks will fly in Washington when champions of competing claims about how huge the public pension catastrophe is go head-to-head before a gathering of the most concentrated accounting brainpower on Earth. The 2011 Enrolled Actuaries Meeting on March 28 includes a special general session, “Public Pension Funding – An Emerging Crisis.” (read article)

Field Poll: Californians OK with unions but support public pension rollback
By Jon Ortiz, March 17, 2011, Sacramento Bee
California voters don’t have a problem with unions, but they’re not so keen on public employee pensions promoted by organized labor, according to a new Field Poll. Nearly half of registered voters – 46 percent – believe unions do more good than harm, while only 35 percent believe the opposite. But strong majorities support capping public pensions, increasing what government workers pay toward their benefits and hiking their minimum retirement age. And by a narrow majority, they support a state government commission’s controversial idea to alter pension formulas for current employees. (read article)

Labor threats carry poignancy for Irish-Americans
Associated Press, March 17, 2011, Boston Globe
estors faced as new arrivals — the slurs from their neighbors, the “Irish need not apply” signs — still echo through the generations, as does the avid union support that helped lift them to positions of power, influence and ultimately acceptance. (read article)

Merit pay passes in Florida – union likely to sue
By Kathleen Haughney, March 16, 2011, Orlando Sentinel
After a three-and-a-half hour debate, Florida lawmakers Wednesday sent Gov . Rick Scott a bill to transform the way public school teachers are evaluated by emphasizing student test scores as a major factor in grading them. But the proposal is likely to face a lawsuit the minute Scott’s signature is on the bill. (read article)

In MLK rallies, unions to stress collective bargaining as civil right
By Kevin Bogardus, March 16, 2011, The Hill
The labor movement is organizing rallies across the country on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to make the case that collective bargaining is a civil right. Union leaders are trying beat back legislation and ballot initiatives across the country that are similar to the new law in Wisconsin that ends collective bargaining rights for public employees. (read article)

Taxpayers are the real winners in Wisconsin showdown
By Mona Charen, March 15, 2011, Washington Examiner
Who won the battle of Wisconsin? Republican Gov. Scott Walker got a legislative victory, but Democrats, with a wary eye on 2012 and noting the worrying drop in support for President Obama in union-heavy states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, claim to be delighted that Walker has picked this fight. (read article)

In wake of Wisconsin law, can labor keep its political clout?
By Tom Curry, March 15, 2011, MSNBC
Organized labor was once so powerful that President Franklin Roosevelt told his party’s national chairman to “Clear it with Sidney” —  labor leader Sidney Hillman — before announcing Harry Truman as FDR’s running mate at the 1944 Democratic convention. Labor remains a potent force nearly 70 years later. In the 2008 elections, three major unions, representing public school teachers, government workers, and service workers, contributed more than $100 million to candidates for federal and state office, with most of it being spent on state races and almost all of it for Democrats. This figure does not include the millions of dollars unions spent on contacting members to get them to vote, conducting phone-banking for candidates, and completing other important campaign chores. (read article)

Don’t equate public and private unions
By Tibor R. Machan, March 15, 2011, Orange County Register
When one criticizes public-sector unions, it doesn’t imply at all that one is critical of labor unions per se. Because public services are mostly monopolistic – one first-class postal service, one Medicaid, one DMV and road system, one public school system – and funded from involuntary taxes, public-sector labor unions are, basically, legally protected monopolies. If the teachers at an elementary school demand something, and the parents do not want to meet those demands, the parents have nowhere else to go unless they accept having to pay double – private-school tuition on top of the taxes that go to the public school. In contrast, if Toyota’s workers demand something from the company, and consumers don’t believe the workers should receive it (for whatever reason), they can buy from any other automaker. This is a huge difference. (read article)

US bishops support unions but also call for their cooperation
By Carol Zimmermann, March 14, 2011, Boston Pilot
Amid ongoing battles between Republican governors and organized labor in Midwestern states, U.S. Catholic bishops have echoed the long-standing church tradition of workers’ rights. But they have also noted that there are no easy-fix solutions in today’s battered economy. They have urged workers and government officials to work for the common good and called on the members of public employee unions to make sacrifices. (read article)

In California, unions are sinking Brown’s budget proposal
By Laer Pearce, March 14, 2011, Daily Caller
Talk about crappy timing for California’s Democrats: An oversized colon was sitting on the California capitol’s north lawn Monday, even as budget talks broke down and the powerful California State Employees Association and the California Teachers Association rallied on the capitol’s south lawn for higher taxes. The colon was a publicity stunt by a Democrat assemblywoman from San Francisco, Fiona Ma, whose cause was fine even if her timing wasn’t. She put the 20-foot-long replica intestine on the capitol lawn to promote a resolution that declares March to be Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but it can’t help but be seen as a symbol for the constipation that’s blocking the state’s budget process. (read article)

Los Angeles provides evidence that unions can still have powerful clout in Wisconsin
By Paul Hatfield, March 11, 2011, Village to Village
If you listen to the reports about Wisconsin’s confrontation between the Republican controlled state government and the unions, you would swear that public unions were being banished from existence. That’s the line union leaders would like you to believe. Nothing could be further from the truth.  As long as unions have the power to organize and galvanize their members to participate in the electoral process, they will have substantial power to influence elected officials. (read article)

Michigan Bill Would Impose ‘Financial Martial Law’ on Cities Facing Financial Troubles
By Stephanie Condon, March 11, 2011, CBS News
Michigan lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would enable the governor to appoint “emergency managers” — officials with unilateral power to make sweeping changes to cities facing financial troubles. Under the legislation, the Michigan Messenger reports, the governor could declare a “financial emergency” in towns or school districts. He could then appoint a manager to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services – and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input. (read article)

GOOD BUT QUESTIONABLE: The wrong message on unions
By Sandy Banks, March 1, 2011, Los Angeles Times
I was in Toledo, Ohio, last week, watching the labor union drama in Wisconsin unfold from a La-Z-Boy chair in a suburban home that was purchased, furnished and paid off by the wages of a factory worker. Watching with me were union acolytes; family members who built comfortable lives in grocery store produce departments and on spark plug assembly lines. They know the worth of union muscle and support those rallying Midwestern masses. They see the standoff for what it is: a political power grab; union-busting masquerading as budget-balancing. But they also know the limits of union power, a lesson learned through disappearing jobs and downsized lives. Their labor unions were no match for our long-brewing economic storm. (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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