Committee OKs bill to restrict mass picketing in Georgia
By Kristina Torres, February 28, 2012, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mass picketing outside private residences would be restricted under a bill passed Tuesday by a Senate Committee. A Georgia bill would restrict mass picketing in front of private residences. Senate Bill 469 would also require employees to put into writing every year that they want to pay union dues or organizational fees through paycheck deductions. The bill, drafted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, passed unanimously through the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee despite nearly an hour of testimony — mostly by union members, advocacy groups and individuals who opposed the bill. Committee members made one change, making it a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor and not a felony for someone convicted of conspiring to commit criminal trespass. Police escorted two of the bill’s opponents from the meeting after the vote, as shouting erupted in the standing-room-only crowd. (read article)

Labor Unions Clobber Stocks
By Jack Hough, February 28, 2012, SmartMoney
Speaking to Michigan conservatives ahead of Tuesday’s primary vote, Mitt Romney placed much of the blame for the 2009 bankruptcy of Chrysler and General motors on the United Auto Workers union, saying it made excessive demands. Republicans and Democrats may have different beliefs on the matter. But stock investors should put politics aside and take a cue from Mr. Romney’s private equity savvy. Unions and investor returns often don’t mix well, and a new study measures the relationship with striking results. Between 1961 and 1999, the average company that elected a union went on to lose more than $40,000 in stock market value for each unionized worker over two years. These losses weren’t priced in immediately; on average, they occurred over a period of about 15 months.  Losses were largest for firms with the most decisive union wins. (read article)

Pro Vs. Con: Pension Reform Initiative
By Lindsay Hood, February 27, 2012, San Diego 6
On Tuesday morning for the first time, city councilman Carl DeMaio and San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Union CEO Lorena Gonzales will discuss the ballot measure on live TV, in the same room. The initiative — if passed during the June 6 election — would give most new employees 401(k) plans instead of enrolling them in the debt-ridden pension system, except for police officers. The measure would also figure only base compensation over the next five years into the eventual retirement pay of workers. A judge ruled Feb. 21, that a lawsuit, which calls the initiative unfair, will have to wait until after the election saying it would be more appropriate to address the matter in a post election setting. The California Public Employee Relations Board took the case to court after it ruled Feb. 13 that the initiative was unlawful. PERB hoped to remove the initiative from the June Ballot. (read article)

Unions Rejigger Political Spending
By Melanie Trottman and Brody Mullins, February 27, 2012, Wall Street Journal
Labor-union contributions to candidates and parties are leveling off in the 2012 election cycle, hindering Democrats’ campaign- funding plans amid a spending surge by groups backing Republicans. The AFL-CIO is spending money in union battles in Wisconsin and Ohio. Above, a firefighter backs an effort to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Some union officials suggest that, in addition to donating directly to candidates, they plan to spend significantly on their own voter-mobilization efforts in support of Democrats, though that is hard to verify because this type of spending doesn’t have to be disclosed. In any case, the shift will leave President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates more dependent on support from new pro-Democratic super PACs—groups that spend money independently of campaigns—which are struggling to raise funds. And if the pattern continues for the rest of the year, outside entities supporting Republicans may for the first time surpass the overall spending by unions and other outside organizations backing Democrats. (read article)

Romney takes anti-union tack
By Seema Mehta, February 27, 2012, Los Angeles Times
As Mitt Romney seeks victory in his native state’s primary, he has made organized labor enemy No. 1. He has railed against union ‘stooges” and “bosses,” arguing that their demands nearly killed the auto industry and have gravely wounded America’s competitiveness. Romney’s message and his tone are popular with Republican voters in most of the country, but they contrast sharply with the conciliatory statements he has made about labor in the past, particularly during his 2008 presidential campaign. His comments could haunt efforts by Romney and other Republicans to attract blue-collar workers and economically stressed voters in Michigan and nearby states. “You get the sense Mitt Romney is only concerned about winning the primary and is not so concerned with winning Michigan in November,” said Ed Sarpolus, a nonpartisan pollster who has worked in Michigan for four decades. He said the message is squarely aimed at Tea Party voters, many of whom are skeptical of Romney. (read article)

Mitt Romney’s anti-union tone could haunt him later
By Seema Mehta, February 26, 2012, Los Angeles Times
It might help him win the Republican nomination, but it could alienate workers in states like Michigan in a general election. Reporting from Grand Rapids, Mich. — As Mitt Romney seeks victory in his native state’s primary, he has made organized labor enemy No. 1. He has railed against union “stooges” and “bosses,” arguing that their demands nearly killed the auto industry and gravely wounded America’s competitiveness. Romney’s message and his tone are popular talking points among Republican voters in most of the country, but they contrast sharply with the conciliatory statements he has made about labor in the past, particularly during his 2008 presidential campaign. His comments could haunt efforts by Romney and other Republicans to attract blue-collar workers and economically stressed voters in Michigan and nearby states. (read article)

Palo Alto declares impasse in talks with police union
By Jason Green, February 25, 2012, Contra Costa Times
The Palo Alto City Council declared an impasse late Friday afternoon in labor talks with the Police Officers Association, setting the stage for a potential showdown in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The move follows 16 meetings over the past six months to reach a new memorandum of agreement. The previous contract expired June 30, 2011. “The council’s decision to declare impasse does not come easily,” City Manager James Keene said in a statement. “The city has reached agreements that include employee pay and benefit concessions with all of our other labor groups. We expect the POA to participate fully with our other employees in concessions to help ensure the city’s fiscal sustainability.” The city is looking for a roughly 4 percent reduction in overall compensation from the 82 employees represented by the police union, said Marcie Scott, assistant director of human resources. The concessions are critical to the city’s plan for addressing an estimated $4.3 million budget shortfall. (read article)

Lower Union Membership in State Bucks Trend
By Cornelius Frolik, February 24, 2012, Dayton Daily News
Union membership in Ohio fell again last year, bucking a national trend and marking at least the 10th consecutive year of declines for organized labor in the state, according to federal labor data. In addition to fewer residents being members of unions, union membership continues to account for a dwindling portion of the state’s overall work force. Some conservative groups said the economy is changing and unions are disappearing because they are “outdated.” But union supporters said the declines simply show that employers are choosing to outsource high-paying jobs to cut labor costs and maximize profits. (read article)

How Occupy helped labor win on the West Coast
By Josh Eidelson, February 24, 2012, Salon
Earlier this month longshore workers in Washington state reached a contract with a boss that has spent the past year fighting to keep their union out.  That company, the multinational EGT, sought to run its new grain terminal in the town of Longview, as the only facility on the West Coast without the famously militant International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  A victory by EGT would have emboldened employers up and down the coast to seek to free themselves of ILWU influence.  And if the union — with the help of the Occupy movement — had not defied the law, EGT would have succeeded. The Longview struggle began last March when, after initial discussions with ILWU Local 21, EGT announced its intention to run its new grain terminal without them.  The ILWU held protest rallies, and joined the Port of Longview’s lawsuit charging that EGT was bound by the union’s contract with the publicly owned port.  The union may have had a good legal case.  But so did Washington’s Boeing workers when their boss blamed their strikes for its decision to take new work to South Carolina. Boeing mostly got away with it anyway. Rather than putting all their faith in the law while EGT did its work without them, ILWU members chose to get in the company’s way.  Literally.  Beginning in July, union members blocked railroad tracks to prevent grain shipments from passing.  According to media reports, workers also tore down fencing and dumped grain. (read article)

Labor union suing over Indiana’s new right-to-work law
By Jessica M. Karmasek, February 23, 2012, LegalNewsline.com
A labor union is suing the State of Indiana in federal court over a new right-to-work law. House Enrolled Act 1001, which was signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels earlier this month, bans unions from collecting mandatory fees for representation. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, along with president-business manager James M. Sweeney, financial secretary David A. Fagan and Local 150 members Charles Severs, James C. Oliver, Bryan Scofield and Earl Click Jr., filed their lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. (read article)

Labor unions expected to spend $400 million on Obama, Democrats
By Andrew Belonsky, February 22, 2012, Death and Taxes Magazine
Unions have come under heavy fire since the great Republican sweep of 2010. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed an anti-union “right to work” law earlier this month and New Hampshire Republicans are attempting to pass an almost identical bill. Wisconsin’s chief Scott Walker used all of his power to restrict collective bargaining rights in his state, within weeks of taking office in 2011, an effort that led to an ongoing recall effort against him. Hoping to turn the tide back in their favor come 2012, labor unions are expected to spend an estimated $400 million to reelect President Obama and get other Democrats into political posts from coast-to-coast. (read article)

Drazkowski takes on state’s labor unions
By Heather J. Carlson, February 21, 2012, The Rochester Post-Bulletin
The battle to curtail union efforts is well under way at the Minnesota Capitol with Rep. Steve Drazkowski helping lead the charge. The Mazeppa Republican has sponsored more than a half dozen bills aimed at unions. Most well known among these is a proposed “Right-to-Work” Amendment that would prohibit workers from being forced to join unions and pay dues. But he is also backing a bill requiring public employees to pay more of their health insurance costs. Another measure would prohibit public funds from being used to collect union dues. (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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