Brown, prison union walking hand-in-hand
By Dan Morain, December 19, 2010, The Sacramento Bee
Jerry Brown is preparing to dance with the ones who brung him, specifically 31,000 members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Jilted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the union cozied up to Brown by spending $1.4 million to help elect him. It was part of an effort to regain some of the dominance it once had in the Capitol and win a labor contract, after having operated without one since 2006. Brown has responded, giving union leaders VIP treatment at his invitation-only election night party in Oakland and flying to Las Vegas earlier this month to address the union’s convention. (read article)

State Budgets: The Day of Reckoning

By Steve Kroft, December 19th, CBS 60 Minutes
By now, just about everyone in the country is aware of the federal deficit problem, but you should know that there is another financial crisis looming involving state and local governments. It has gotten much less attention because each state has a slightly different story. But in the two years, since the “great recession” wrecked their economies and shriveled their income, the states have collectively spent nearly a half a trillion dollars more than they collected in taxes. There is also a trillion dollar hole iln their public pension funds. The states have been getting by on billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds, but the day of reckoning is at hand.  (read article)

Mutiny within ranks of San Jose’s police union in aftermath of Measures V and W
By Scott Herhold, December 17, 2010, San Jose Mercury News
A news flash today: Bobby Lopez, the voluble former head of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, is leading a mutiny within the ranks of the union. Lopez, who lost an attempt to come back as POA president last month, is trying to get cops to join a chapter of a competing organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 52. The movement led by the veteran sergeant prompted an extraordinary e-mail from the POA leadership that eloquently urged officers not to withdraw from the union. And the fracture between the two groups may tell you much about the current low state of morale among cops, who lost their fight to stop Measures V and W in November. Measure V, you’ll remember, weakens the binding arbitration system that has benefited cops and firefighters. Measure W opens the door to lowering pensions for new hires. When I reached Lopez Friday morning, he, as usual, pulled no punches in his critique of the current leadership. “It’s a simple enough thing,” he said. “I think the current regime has overspent, overcharged and underrepresented the guys I used to represent.” (read article)

Hardball in Wisconsin; Massive Defeat for Unions in Lame-Duck Session

By Mike Shedlock, December 17, 2010, Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis
In Wisconsin, governor-elect Scott Walker is in a showdown with state employee unions. “Anything from the decertify all the way through modifications of the current laws in place,” Walker said at a luncheon sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club at the Newsroom Pub. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers and the people who care about services.” Union supporters did not like the idea one bit and sought legislation in the lame-duck session that would tie Walker’s hands. (read article)

An interview with governor’s advisor David Crane on California’s public pension crisis
Interviewed by James Freeman, December 16, 2010, The Wall Street Journal
(watch video)

On June and November local ballots in California, unions lost 19 out of 20 contests
December 16, 2010, Ballot News
On its November 2 and June 8 ballots, California voters weighed in on a total of 20 local ballot measures that influence the pay, pension packages, healthcare retirement payments, and contract negotiation perogatives of labor unions. The pro-union/labor position lost in 19 out of the 20 contests.
* 5 measures about labor negotiations, pay rates and binding arbitration. The union position racked up a 0-5 score on these.
* 3 measures about Project-Labor Agreements. The union position went 0-3 on these.
* 12 measures about pension reform. These measures were a potpourri of different ways to rein in pension and retirement benefits. Three were advisory only. The only straight up loss for those advocating pension reform was the loss of the Adachi Initiative in San Francisco. (read article)

The tyranny of government unions
By D.C. Innes, December 15, 2010, World Magazine
If the corruption in little Bell, Calif., were merely an isolated case of bizarre circumstances, the rest of us could laugh and be glad we live elsewhere. But, sadly, Bell is a small picture of what is crippling the country. Bell is a “city” of 37,000 people and only 2.5 acres just outside of Los Angeles. Despite its small size and relatively poor populace, the city’s chief administrative officer was earning almost $800,000 a year. His assistant took in $376,288 annually, and the police chief was taking home $457,000. They’re now all in jail on corruption charges. What galls us is that while they were “officially” public servants, they were actually fleecing the public for inordinate private gain. But we are coming to understand that is what everybody who works for the government does through his or her powerful unions. In August, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the nation through The Wall Street Journal that the public service employee union was bankrupting his state. He reported that “roughly 80 cents of every government dollar in California goes to employee compensation and benefits.” (read article)

Dems vs. unions: It’s on
By Charles Lane, December 13, 2010, The Washington Post
Next to the drama in Washington, the big political story in 2011 will be the struggle to rein in public-sector unions, whose pay, pensions and health benefits are bankrupting some of the biggest states in the country. Today’s Wall Street Journal contained a tough op-ed on public-sector unionism by Minnesota’s Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a presidential hopeful. Neighboring Wisconsin’s ascendant Republicans may try to end collective bargaining for public workers in that state. But GOP moves against public employee unions, the core constituency of the Democratic Party, are no surprise. What’s really interesting, as I’ve written, somewhat obsessively, is the looming struggle between budget-cutting Democrats and the unions. (read article)

Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich wants to overhaul collective bargaining law
By Reginald Fields, December 13, 2010, The Plain Dealer
Public employees who go on strike over labor disputes should automatically lose their jobs, says Gov.-elect John Kasich. “If they want to strike they should be fired,” Kasich said last week. “I really don’t favor the right to strike by any public employee. They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?” Kasich has made it clear that dismantling Ohio’s collective bargaining law will be a top priority of his administration. In particular, Kasich is going after binding arbitration rules often used to settle police and fire department salary and benefits disputes that he says are costly and bankrupting cities. That in turn drives up the state’s share of funding for local government budgets. “You are forcing increased taxes on taxpayers with them having no say,” Kasich said. (read article)

Government Unions vs. Taxpayers
By Tim Pawlenty, December 13, 2010, Wall Street Journal
When Americans think of organized labor, they might think of images like I saw growing up in a blue-collar meatpacking town: hard hats, work boots, tough conditions and gritty jobs. The rise of the labor movement in the early 20th century was a triumph for America’s working class. In an era of deep economic anxiety, unions stood up for hard-working but vulnerable families, protecting them from physical and economic exploitation. Much has changed. The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or “strong back” jobs. They work for government, which, thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming “industry” left in our economy. (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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