Union Bo$$ d’Arcy’s ‘Investment’ Pays Off Big Time
By Jack Humphreville, February 13, 2012, CityWatch LA
Bloomberg reporters Chris Palmeri and Rodney Yap have created quite a commotion with their February 7th Bloomberg expose which stated that our Department of Water and Power had “the highest paid employees in the City of Los Angeles, earning on average 40% more than other municipal workers, even those with identical job titles.” But do not blame these extraordinary compensation and benefit arrangements on DWP and its management. Rather, the responsibility for this very expensive fiasco that sticks it to Ratepayers to the tune of more than $250 million a year belongs to the super secretive Executive Employee Relations Committee (the “EERC”) and, in particular, the fiscally imprudent axis of Mayor Villaraigosa, Eric Garcetti, the former City Council President and wannabe mayor, and Council Member Dennis Zine, the former chair of the Personnel Committee and candidate for Controller. (read article)

In Wisconsin, assessing a new labor law’s impact
By Daniel C. Vock, February 13, 2012, Stateline
James Ladwig recently took over the job of Racine County executive. He was sworn in last April, not long after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a controversial bill curtailing the bargaining rights of state and local workers. So with the new job, Ladwig got a new set of rules for governing his county. For the most part, the new rules suit Ladwig just fine. Now that unions have less of a say, local leaders like Ladwig and school officials have more options for balancing their budgets. One way Ladwig and the Racine County board  exercised this freedom is by putting volunteer inmates from the county jail to work shoveling snow from sidewalks, mowing the medians on state highways and doing landscaping. Before the Wisconsin law passed, unions blocked the move on the grounds that if the work was to be done, it had to be done by union members. Under the new law,  unions can no longer block the program. (read article)

L.A. DWP’s gold-plated jobs
Editorial, February 10, 2012, Los Angeles Times
Few kids grow up dreaming of becoming a parking lot attendant, but the job can be quite lucrative — at least if you land one at the L.A. Department of Water and Power. According to a report in Bloomberg News, garage monitors at the DWP made, on average, $74,408 a year; nationally, the average salary for this position is $21,250. That’s just one of many eye-popping figures unveiled by Bloomberg, which found that DWP workers make on average 40% more than other city of Los Angeles employees, even when they’re doing nearly identical jobs. For example, carpenters at the DWP averaged $102,732 in 2010, compared with $65,201 at the general services department. DWP auto painters pulled down an average of $109,192, compared with $59,901 at the Fire Department. Overall, utility employees had an average salary of $96,805, while other city employees averaged $68,822. The reason for these inflated salaries isn’t mysterious. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is among the biggest campaign contributors in Los Angeles, which means that at contract time, the DWP union finds itself in the enviable position of negotiating with city politicians who may owe their own jobs to the union. (read article)

San Jose employee unions filed ethics complaint against Mayor Reed, other city officials over pension costs
By Tracy Seipel, February 10, 2012, Mercury News
In the first salvo of what promises to be a fierce battle over a June ballot measure involving city worker pensions, employee unions Thursday accused San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and other top city officials of overstating projected retirement cost increases. In an 11-page complaint to the city’s Elections Commission, which investigates allegations of ethical violations, the unions allege that Reed, city Retirement Services Director Russell Crosby and former retirement services employee Michael Moehle “knowingly misled and misrepresented” to the City Council and public the five-year projections for city retirement costs, saying it could be as high as $650 million. That figure, the complaint alleges, was used often enough by Reed that it became the basis of a proposal by the mayor and council last year to consider officially declaring that the city was facing a fiscal emergency. And during a Thursday news conference to announce the complaint, some union officials also said the mayor’s actions forced employee concessions that did not have to be made. “They can spin it however they wish,” said Reed on Thursday. “The reality is what drove negotiations with the unions was the fact that if we did not get the 10 percent reductions in total compensation, we would have had to lay off more police and firefighters.” (read article)

‘Right-to-work’ bill is official in Indiana
By Stephon Johnson, New York Amsterdam News, February 10, 2012
Despite a Herculean effort by labor unions and high-profile support from the NFL Players Association in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Indiana’s labor unions lost its battle with the anti-union Republican Senate and the state became the 23rd so-called “right-to-work” state. With the loss, agency fee workers, those who refuse to join a union but are still protected by its collective bargaining agreement and are represented by the union in labor disputes, no longer have to pay any fees to the union to receive union benefits and protections. The legislation passed because Democrats were outnumbered 60-40 in the State House. It is a bill that Indiana labor isn’t too happy about. (read article)

Arizona Lawmakers Target Public Workers’ Unions
by Ted Robbins, February 9, 2012, NPR
Labor unions plan to rally in front of the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday afternoon to protest four bills quickly moving through the state Legislature that could make last year’s Wisconsin labor laws look modest by comparison. Three of the four bills restrict the way unions collect dues and the way workers get paid for union activities. The fourth bans collective bargaining between governments and government workers: state and local. Unlike Wisconsin, it affects all government employees, including police and firefighters. Nick Dranias of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, a libertarian/conservative think tank that helped Murphy write the bills, says public-sector workers in Arizona make about 6 percent more in salary and benefits than their private-sector counterparts. “You’re not in government, you know, to collect a fat paycheck,” Dranias says. “You’re in government to serve. And if you get paid reasonably, that’s nice, but the moment you feel the need to organize collectively and create laws like collective-bargaining laws that give you special privileges to negotiate and extract compensation not seen in the private sector, you’ve gone too far.” (read article)

Fresno County, union agree to March talks
February 9, 2012, The Fresno Bee
Fresno County has reversed course and will come back to the bargaining table with workers from a union that walked off the job for three days in January. The 4,100-member Service Employees International Union will meet with the county March 2-4 in Fresno to discuss contract and unfair labor practice disputes, both sides said Thursday. The meeting comes after the union staged a strike in protest of pay cuts that averaged more than 9% — a reduction that union officials called unaffordable and unfairly negotiated. County leaders said during the strike that they’re willing to entertain a written proposal from the union if serious concessions are offered. Union officials countered that concessions mean submitting to county demands, and they would prefer to sit down and talk with county negotiators. (read article)

Right-to-Work Revolution Takes on Big Labor
By Edward Morrissey, The Fiscal Times, February 9, 2012
Last week, Indiana became the 23rd state in the US to adopt right-to-work laws that prohibit closed shops and mandatory union-dues fees in workplaces. The change was notable for two reasons.  First, it had been more than a decade since any state adopted right-to-work laws. But more importantly, Indiana is the first rust belt state – where manufacturing provided most of the economy and unions controlled large portions of the labor force – to pass such laws. Few doubt that Indiana needs some changes to boost its economic development.  At the time of the law’s passage, Indiana ranked 38th in employment with a 9 percent jobless rate.  Their ranking for per capita income had fallen from 33rd in 2000 to 42nd in 2010, and their state rankings for 10-, 20-, and 30-year improvement in per-capita income range from 45th to 48th.  Only Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan did worse on the 10-year measure. (read article)

SC House approves another anti-union measure
February 9, 2012, CBS Money Watch
The South Carolina House has approved a bill Republicans say further strengthens the state’s already tough anti-union law. Democrats argued Wednesday the measure is unnecessary duplication in a state that already ranks among the least unionized. Union members in 2011 made up just 3.4 percent of South Carolina’s workforce. The bill approved by an 86-25 vote in the House would require unions to submit detailed financial data to the state’s labor agency. They already must report the information to the federal Department of Labor. The measure would also increase civil and criminal penalties for unions that break the state’s right-to-work law and require employers to post that law. (read article)

Maine Union Members Rally to Protest Bills They say Hurt Workers
By Patty B. Wight, February 9, 2012, Maine Public Broadcasting Network
More than 200 workers from across the state gathered in Augusta today for the Maine AFL-CIO’s annual Labor Lobby Day. They’re worried about three bills that they say would attack workers’ rights. After a morning meeting to discuss the bills and get tips on how to lobby, they capped off the event with a press conference asking legislators to “walk in their shoes” before deciding to pass the legislation. Workers packed a grand staircase in the Hall of Flags, holding signs that said, “Stop the Attacks” and “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes.” To emphasize their point, there was a table at the bottom of the stairs displaying shoes from a variety of jobs: a nurse, a ship builder, a firefighter, and an office worker, among others. The workers say there are three bills that, if enacted, would be equivalent to kicking them when they’re down. One puts limits on union dues, another on workers’ compensation, and a third on unemployment insurance. (read article)

New Hampshire bill to curtail union returns
By Garrett Brnger, February 9, 2012, Associated Press
New Hampshire legislation curtailing union powers that Democratic Gov. John Lynch squelched last year resurfaced Thursday in revised form at a legislative committee hearing. Supporters and opponents once again lined up on the issue of collective bargaining during the meeting of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee. Rep. Will Smith, R-New Castle and the bill’s sponsor, said the revised legislation was “clearer” and would be more acceptable to the legislature. He denied accusations that he was pushing a “union-busting bill.” “This is not an anti-union bill. It’s a pro union-member bill,” Smith said as the largely union audience laughed. Currently, public workers do not have to be in a union and pay union dues. But when a union negotiates worker contracts, both union members and non-union members must pay agency fees and both are covered by the contract. (read article)

Occupy DC, labor unions to protest CPAC meeting
By Aubrey Whelan, February 8th, 2012, Washington Examiner
Occupy DC will join several major labor unions to protest the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, hoping to divert attention from appearances by Republican presidential candidates at one of the premier gatherings of the nation’s conservative activists. The “Occupy CPAC” protest is being organized by the AFL-CIO but will trumpet a message popularized by the Occupy Wall Street movement — “let the voices of the 99 percent be heard” — during the protests scheduled for noon and 5 p.m. Friday. The demonstration at Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where CPAC is meeting from Thursday to Saturday, will include Occupy tents, an “inflatable fat cat” and mock stump speeches, said AFL-CIO organizer Chris Garlock. “It’s all in good fun, but with a very serious message in terms of representing the 99 percent,” said Garlock, who expects the protest to be non-confrontational. (read article)

Unions push back against Sacramento’s charter commission
By Ryan Lillis, February 8, 2012, Sacramento Bee
Labor unions – those influential groups that have powered many a City Council campaign – aren’t thrilled with the council’s decision Tuesday night to place a charter review commission on the November ballot. Hours after the council voted 7-2 to move forward with the ballot measure Tuesday, the president of the city police union told City Manager John Shirey he was suspending negotiations between his union and city officials. Other unions are worried about allowing an outside commission to dive into – and potentially rewrite – the way the city is governed. The police union’s argument is about dollars and cents. Mark Tyndale, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said he was concerned about the cost of a commission and that he refuses “to consider further concessions that will only be used to fund the commission.” The cops aren’t alone in their feelings. The firefighters union also blasted the commission idea. (read article)

LA’s $100,000 Carpenters Show Union’s Clout
By Christopher Palmeri and Rodney Yap, February 7, 2012, Bloomberg
In the first salvo of what promises to be a fierce battle over a June ballot measure involving city worker pensions, employee unions Thursday accused San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and other top city officials of overstating projected retirement cost increases. In an 11-page complaint to the city’s Elections Commission, which investigates allegations of ethical violations, the unions allege that Reed, city Retirement Services Director Russell Crosby and former retirement services employee Michael Moehle “knowingly misled and misrepresented” to the City Council and public the five-year projections for city retirement costs, saying it could be as high as $650 million. That figure, the complaint alleges, was used often enough by Reed that it became the basis of a proposal by the mayor and council last year to consider officially declaring that the city was facing a fiscal emergency. And during a Thursday news conference to announce the complaint, some union officials also said the mayor’s actions forced employee concessions that did not have to be made. “They can spin it however they wish,” said Reed on Thursday. “The reality is what drove negotiations with the unions was the fact that if we did not get the 10 percent reductions in total compensation, we would have had to lay off more police and firefighters.” (read article)

Bloated Union Contracts Have Busted State Budgets
By Liz Peek, January 18, 2012, The Fiscal Times
Is it possible that the real divide in the United States today is between unions and… everybody else? Consider the issues making headlines: education reform, busted state budgets, the battle to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, free trade agreements, Occupy Wall Street,  the fight to make Indiana a right-to-work state. What these stories have in common is the waning influence of organized labor and the all-out battle by union leaders to hold on. Take the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top initiative. Education Secretary Duncan recently warned that several states, including New York, might not receive monies earlier awarded through that program because they have not followed through on required reforms. The stumbling block? Teacher evaluations. In New York, the opposition to proposed reforms by unions – unions that constantly complain about inadequate funding — could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. (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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