More than 55% of voters favor California’s Prop. 32
By Jon Ortiz, August 20, 2012, Sacramento Bee
More than half of California voters favor Proposition 32, according to new poll by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University, although the support for the measure has declined in the last two weeks. The decline is probably tied to the union-backed No-on-32 radio ads that launched statewide during that period. The university and business association have been running bi-weekly online polls on ballot measures since mid-July. Click here to see more detailed test results from Aug. 12 to Aug. 15 poll. (read article)

Caterpillar and its Illinois union try to stay competitive
Editorial, August 20, 2012, Wall Street Journal
If your employer manages to get along without you for more than three months, should you continue to make contract demands? On Friday, union workers at Caterpillar’s Joliet, Illinois factory concluded that the answer is no. They voted to accept a new six-year contract that limits wage increases and transitions workers from a defined-benefit pension system to a 401(k) retirement plan. Workers received $3,100 bonuses for signing the new agreement. Tradition in the U.S. seems to hold that organized labor pursues an adversarial relationship with management. And it’s true that unionized employees… (read article – subscription required)

The economic impact of public employee unions
By Jim Tapscott, August 20, 2012, Ramona Sentinel
We are all aware of the several cities in California that have recently been forced to declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is usually due to a company or person allowing its obligations to exceed its abilities to pay them back. This is exactly what these cities and counties have done and this is just the beginning. There are several other cities in California that are also on the brink of insolvency. Meanwhile our governor is begging us for a tax increase to cover our “$16 billion shortfall.” Have you wondered what these governments have obligated themselves to that has caused this circumstance? In almost every case, it is their underfunded obligation to their employees’ retirement, medical benefits and salaries or all of the above. How did this happen? The short explanation is the incestuous relationship that exists between the public service unions and the politicians who run our government. (read article)

Labor’s Last Stand? Donovan’s fall could shift Connecticut’s Democratic base
By Matt DeRienzo, August 15, 2012, Connecticut Register Citizen
Top Democrats in Connecticut saw a train wreck coming if Chris Donovan won the party’s nomination for 5th District Congress. But they were ready to let it happen. Gov. Dannel Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, Congressman Chris Murphy, the rest of the delegation, and others, were paralyzed by their dependence on future support from the state’s labor unions. Their fear, and it was no doubt well-placed, was that turning on Donovan would be perceived as turning on labor. So they stayed out of it. Even as the FBI swooped in to arrest more of his campaign staff. Even as the language in indictments brought the scandal closer to the candidate himself. Elizabeth Esty’s decisive victory on Tuesday night could change that dynamic in Connecticut. Labor did not come through for Donovan as predicted. He didn’t even win Waterbury or Danbury. His margin in New Britain was only 300 votes. And Esty completely dominated the suburbs and small towns. By double digits, Democratic primary voters said that the values MoveOn.Org and labor called “Republican-like” were their values, too. And “the only candidate who has stood up for working families” lost by a 2-to-1 margin, when you include Dan Roberti’s vote total in the anti-Donovan tally. (read article)

CPS, union both prepare for possibility of teachers strike
By Fran Spielman and Rosalind Rossi, August 20, 2012, Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Public School officials Monday were crafting contingency plans to keep students busy in the event of a strike, while Chicago Teachers Union members hoisted signs to kick off a week of planned informational picketing outside schools. Both sides dug in their public heels and stepped up preparations for a strike Monday in the nine-month struggle to resolve a Chicago Teachers Union contract before classes begin for most Chicago Public School students Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day. CTU officials planned to brief the union’s House of Delegates this Wednesday on what it characterized as intransigent negotiations — and possibly ask for issuance of a 10-day notice of intent to strike. (read article)

Union: No link between pension vote and $97,000 contribution to Madigan
By Dave McKinney, August 21, 2012, Chicago Sun Times
One of Illinois’ most influential labor unions denied Monday that nearly $100,000 it contributed to a campaign fund controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan was part of a “quid pro quo” designed to kill a pension-reform package in his legislative chamber last week. State campaign records show the Democratic Majority fund reported receiving $97,000 last Friday from SEIU Healthcare Illinois and SEIU Illinois Council, the same day a special legislative session called by Gov. Pat Quinn to fix Illinois’ $83 billion pension crisis ended in failure. (read article)

I Guess Public Safety Unions Just Get Whatever They Want
By Jon Fleischman, August 19, 2012, The Flash Report
Today there is a very important article for you to read in the FlashReport by longtime FR contributor Bruce Bialosky. Bruce, a certified public accountant, pens a lot of sobering material bringing into question the sanity of many policies enacted by politicians at both the state and national levels.  In his column today, Bruce shines a bright spotlight on a particularly egregious piece of bad legislation that has almost finished winding its way to the Governor’s desk — only a State Senate floor vote remains for Assembly Bill 2451.  AB 2451 represents a giveaway to public safety unions that reminds me of SB 400 back in 1999 which allowed for the outrageous practice of granting retroactive pension increases. (read article)

Police union members divided on lawsuit against Indio, California
By Xochitl Pena, August 19, 2012, Desert Sun
Four members of the Police Command Unit want to separate themselves from a lawsuit filed by the union against the city and have asked for a recall of the union’s president and vice president. The PCU filed a lawsuit against the city in May alleging unfair labor practices after the city announced plans to reorganize the police department, which included eliminating the positions of captain and lieutenant. Lt. Henk Peeters, one of the four, said they have opposed the lawsuit from the beginning and sent a letter to the union last week stating a desire to be removed from the lawsuit. “We just don’t agree with the whole basis of the lawsuit. We’re trying to get onboard with what the city is trying to do. We want the public to know not everyone agrees,” Peeters said. As for asking to recall the union president and vice president: “We don’t feel that the direction the PCU is going in is in the best interest of the PCU and police department and the city,” Peeters said. (read article)

California Teachers Association a powerful force in Sacramento
By Michael J. Mishak, August 18, 2012, Los Angeles Times
Last year, as Gov. Jerry Brown hammered out final details of the state budget, he huddled around a conference table with three of the most powerful people in state government: the Assembly speaker, the Senate leader — and Joe Nuñez, chief lobbyist for the California Teachers Assn. California was on the edge of fiscal crisis. Negotiations had come down to one sticking point: Brown and the legislators would balance the books by assuming that billions of dollars in extra revenue would materialize, then cut deeply from schools if it didn’t. Nuñez said no. Opposition from the powerful union, which had just staged a week of public protests against budget cuts, could mean a costly legal challenge. So the group took a break, and the officials retired to another room to hash out something acceptable to CTA while Nuñez awaited their return. It may seem unorthodox for an unelected citizen to sit with Sacramento’s elite as they pick winners and losers in the annual spending sweepstakes. But few major financial decisions in California are made without Nuñez, who represents what is arguably the most potent force in state politics. The union views itself as “the co-equal fourth branch of government,” said Oakland Democrat Don Perata, a former teacher who crossed swords with the group when he was state Senate leader. (read article)

Illinois Legislature Fails to Act on State’s Woefully Underfunded Public Pensions Because of Opposition From Unions
By James B. Kelleher, August 18, 2012, Reuters
The Illinois legislature failed on Friday to take any action to fix the state’s woefully underfunded public retirement system because of fierce opposition from unions and concern about the response of voters in the November elections. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn had called lawmakers to the special one-day session to reform the most underfunded state pension system in the nation with $83 billion in liabilities. But negotiations quickly collapsed amid partisan bickering, with Quinn accusing minority Republicans of blocking reform and Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno saying Quinn had failed to lead. The predicament of Illinois is the latest example of a nationwide problem of ballooning costs on pensions for government workers, such as teachers, as the population ages. State and local governments are facing tough decisions on how to cut pension costs that are taking a huge bite out of budgets. Illinois’ financial condition is among the worst in the United States, on a par with California where three large cities have filed for bankruptcy protection, citing out-of-control pension costs. California and Illinois, the nation’s most populous state and the fifth most populous, respectively, have some of the lowest credit ratings among the states. (read article)

Costa Mesa’s fight over outsourcing has received nationwide attention
By Mike Reicher and Joseph Serna, August 18, 2012, Daily Pilot
The Ruhls are a throwback to simpler times. The sweet smell of fresh-baked coffee cake drifts out their front door. Their tidy Mission Viejo townhome’s bathroom is stocked with wholesome magazines like Good Housekeeping. Megan can stay at home with their two young children because her husband, Costa Mesa firefighter Mike Ruhl, makes enough to support them. His base salary is $74,000, and overtime brought him to about $115,000 in 2011. “It’s all about being a dad and a husband,” said Mike Ruhl, 26. The city compensates Ruhl for risking his life while fighting fires, but the pay and benefits that allow him to provide for his family are illustrative of a different kind of blaze — a political one — engulfing Costa Mesa. Public employees like Ruhl say the compensation they receive affords them middle-class lifestyles, while the reform-minded City Council majority sees those employees’ salaries, benefits and retirement plans as impediments to the city’s long-term fiscal stability. (read article)

A Costly New Benefit for California’s Police and Firefighters Is Not Pension Reform
Editorial, August 17, 2012, Press Democrat
Some readers say we’re too focused on the rising cost of pensions for public employees. Without pressure from newspapers, and especially voters, it’s unlikely that state legislators would be promising to deliver a pension reform measure before they adjourn at the end of this month. Even with public scrutiny, and despite promises for reform, the Legislature is inexplicably poised to expand some post-retirement benefits at the urging of police and firefighter unions — and at great expense for local governments, many of which already are struggling to balance their books. Assembly Speaker John Pérez is carrying legislation to eliminate the long-standing 4½-year statute of limitations on death benefits for survivors of police officers and firefighters who succumb to heart attacks, cancer and other diseases presumed to be work-related. Spouses and other survivors are entitled to the benefit, which can exceed $250,000, if a public safety officer dies in the line of duty. That’s appropriate considering the nature of the job. A limited post-employment benefit, such as the current 4½ year period, is appropriate, too, and it has been offered in one form or another since 1917. (read article)

San Francisco hedge fund manager donates $500,000 to defeat Prop 32
By Jon Ortiz, August 17, 2012, Sacramento Bee
The list of big donors to the campaign against Proposition 32 reads like a laundry list of unions — with a notable exception: Thomas Steyer. Recently-filed state records show that Steyer, a San Francisco hedge fund manager and major player in California politics, gave $500,000 to the No on 32 campaign on July 30. (read article)

Illinois public employee unions bluff on pension reform
By Paul Kersey, August 15, 2012, Illinois Policy Institute
Lawmakers will return to Springfield for special session Friday to consider a woefully inadequate fix to the state’s pension system. On Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times published comments about the pension mess from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: “If we do nothing throughout … our five funds, we have to raise property taxes 150 percent, and I will not do that. So, we cannot run from this issue. We must deal with it. Time is running short for both our taxpayers and our retirees. We owe both of them the honesty of the conversation and the tough choices that are necessary.” Illinois’ government unions recently offered a “framework” for pension reform. Union bosses said they are willing to increase government employee contributions to retirement funds, but there’s a catch: pensions must become the state’s second highest funding priority – second only to bond debt and ahead of education, law enforcement, prisons, roads, social programs and just about everything else that taxpayers expect government to do. Oh, there’s another catch, too: no changes to the generous, annual cost-of-living adjustments enjoyed by government pensioners. (read article)

Unions spoil Illinois Gov. Quinn’s day at state fair over pension reform
By Rick Pearson and Monique Garcia, August 15, 2012, Chicago Tribune
Gov. Pat Quinn sat at a picnic table at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday, munching a pork chop on a stick as state police kept hundreds of union worker protesters at bay. But the chanting of “Respect Illinois workers” and “Gov. Quinn, keep your word” did not stop as Quinn left the Pork Patio and headed for the agriculture director’s lawn, his security detail growing larger. When the governor got up to speak to a crowd of Democratic supporters, the screaming grew so loud that folks could hardly hear his remarks. “Thank you for that warm welcome,” Quinn tried to say above the crowd as an airplane flew overhead, towing a sign that read “Gov. Quinn — Unfair to workers.” Not exactly the picture of unity the party sought to project on Democrat Day at the state fair. The protest provided a vivid display of the high political stakes surrounding an election-year special legislative session Quinn has set for Friday on reforming public employee pensions that could result in financial pain for government workers. (read article)

Union Contracts Are Driving the Public Pension Crisis
By Matt Patterson, August 14, 2012, Washington Examiner
Gov. Pat Quinn sat at a picnic table at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday, munching a pork chop on a stick as state police kept hundreds of union worker protesters at bay. But the chanting of “Respect Illinois workers” and “Gov. Quinn, keep your word” did not stop as Quinn left the Pork Patio and headed for the agriculture director’s lawn, his security detail growing larger. When the governor got up to speak to a crowd of Democratic supporters, the screaming grew so loud that folks could hardly hear his remarks. “Thank you for that warm welcome,” Quinn tried to say above the crowd as an airplane flew overhead, towing a sign that read “Gov. Quinn — Unfair to workers.” Not exactly the picture of unity the party sought to project on Democrat Day at the state fair. The protest provided a vivid display of the high political stakes surrounding an election-year special legislative session Quinn has set for Friday on reforming public employee pensions that could result in financial pain for government workers. Organized labor is a vital political constituency in the Democrat-controlled state. But the unionized show of force, which included workers wearing green shirts that featured messages like “Pensions are a promise” and “Governor Quinn’s Illinois, the new Wisconsin” resulted in Democrats cutting short their afternoon program at the fairgrounds. The governor left via a back exit. (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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.
UNIONWATCH WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Yes! Please send me your weekly email with more articles like these.
NEVER DISPLAY THIS AGAIN.