Union Watch Highlights

The states ban union political bid-rigging; Obama demurs
Editorial, July 19, 2011, Wall Street Journal
One benefit of the squeeze on state and local budgets is that politicians are finally having to confront their sweetheart deals with labor unions. The latest reform movement is moving against project labor agreements, or PLAs, that limit bids on construction projects to contractors that agree to union representation. Only about 13% of construction workers belong to unions, and PLAs are a union invention to use their political muscle to organize more companies. Proponents argue that PLAs ensure the speed and quality of construction plans. But PLAs are one of the reasons that Boston’s Big Dig was estimated at… (read article – subscription required)

In Connecticut, Unions Amend Voting Rules to Revive Deal
By Peter Applebome, July 18, 2011, New York Times
Facing 6,500 layoffs and punishing program cuts, the leadership of the state employees’ unions in Connecticut voted on Monday to change their bylaws to make it easier for union workers to approve a concession agreement whose rejection last month scrapped a budget-cutting deal with the state. A new vote, which would require a simple majority rather than the 80 percent threshold that previously was in place, could set in motion what has seemed for weeks to be a possible endgame after 57 percent of union members and 11 of the 15 unions voted in favor of the deal. (read article)

Are NY Gov. Cuomo’s labor contract wins good signs for pension reform?
By Colby Hamilton, July 18, 2011, WNYC
This past weekend showcased another win for Governor Andrew Cuomo. Even when the legislature’s out of session the governor continues to pick up pieces of his agenda. The latest victory was the signing of a five-year deal with the state’s second largest public employee union, the Professional Employees Federation that the governor’s office estimated would save the state $400 million. Governor Cuomo made it clear last week that he intends to make pension reform one of his top priorities for the coming legislative session. Last week, Mayor Bloomberg’s office made the case for pension reform, despite the city’s comptroller’s disagreement on the pressing nature of pensions reform. (read article)

Judge halts Costa Mesa layoffs until trial
By Sonali Kohli, July 18, 2011, Orange County Register
A judge has upheld a preliminary injunction requested by the city’s employee union that will halt hundreds of planned layoffs. Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Namoto Schumann overruled the city’s objections to the injunction Friday, prohibiting outsourcing to private companies and layoffs until the Orange County Employees Association’s case against the city goes to trial. A trial date has not yet been set. The city plans to outsource 18 services and gave six-month layoff notices to almost half its employees in March, as is required by union contracts. The OCEA sued the city on behalf of the Costa Mesa Employee Association in May to stop the layoffs. (read article)

Judge’s decision in Costa Mesa case is baffling and, if we understand it, probably wrong
By Will Swaim, July 18, 2011, Republic of Costa Mesa
You knew on July 5 that Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann needed one of those–what are they called?–$3,000-per-week spokespersons. That was the day attorneys for both sides of Costa Mesa’s outsourcing streetfight politely listened to the judge, nodded in agreement, and then left her courtroom, each to declare victory. Attorneys for the Costa Mesa Employee’s Association said the judge had slapped Costa Mesa. But the city said it had won, crowing in the headline of its press release, “Judge rules Costa Mesa can continue outsourcing process, but can’t lay off employees until all ‘proper procedures’ are followed.” A transcript of the day’s proceedings seemed* to suggest the city had it right. (read article)

The Internet Will Reduce Teachers Union Power
By Terry Moe, July 18, 2011, Wall Street Journal
This has been a horrible year for teachers unions. The latest stunner came in Michigan, where Republicans enacted sweeping reforms last month that require performance-based evaluations of teachers, make it easier to dismiss those who are ineffective, and dramatically limit the scope of collective bargaining. Similar reforms have been adopted in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana, Tennessee, Idaho and Florida. But the unions’ hegemony is not going to end soon. All of their big political losses have come at the hands of oversized Republican majorities. Eventually Democrats will regain control, and many of the recent reforms may be undone… (read article – subscription required)

Rhode Island Judge to Consider Tossing Out Challenge to Pension Reforms by Public Employee Unions
By Mike Stanton, July 18, 2011, Providence Journal
A Rhode Island judge will weigh arguments Monday on whether to throw out a lawsuit by public-employee unions challenging reductions in pension benefits. The high-stakes lawsuit by eight unions representing state workers and public school teachers asks the court to block cuts in pension benefits enacted by the General Assembly in 2009 and 2010. The changes increased the number of years that employees must work before retiring, reduced the size of their pensions and limited post-retirement cost-of-living allowances. The fate of the lawsuit not only will determine whether strapped taxpayers can realize those savings –– projected at $59.6 million in this fiscal year alone –– but also will set the legal backdrop to current changes being considered by state leaders as the General Assembly prepares to meet in special session this fall to take up comprehensive pension reform. (read article)

New York Unions Press Members to Accept Deal to Avoid Layoffs
By Thomas Kaplan, July 17, 2011, New York Times
New York labor leaders, spooked by public workers’ rejection of negotiated concessions in Connecticut, are beginning a carefully planned campaign to persuade more than 100,000 state employees to accept a wage freeze and other measures in order to avoid sweeping layoffs. The state’s largest union of public workers, the Civil Service Employees Association, has sent contract negotiators across the state as part of an effort to persuade health care, maintenance and clerical workers that it would be better to stomach furloughs, benefit cuts and three years without a salary increase than to risk losing thousands of jobs as the state cuts costs. The second-largest union, the Public Employees Federation, also plans to campaign for its members’ approval after agreeing Saturday to nearly identical concessions. Together, the two unions represent more than half of New York’s public work force. (read article)

Another swing and a miss for public unions in Minnesota
By Katherine Kersten, July 16, 2011, Star Tribune
Minnesota’s government shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — may soon be over. The breakthrough came on July 14, when Gov. Mark Dayton announced he was taking higher taxes — his signature issue — off the table. Much remains to be done before the deal is wrapped up. But now is the moment to reflect on what happened, and why. For the left, especially government employee unions, the stakes in Minnesota’s budget battle were momentous. Raising taxes is at the heart of the progressive agenda. More tax money is essential if government is to continue its rapid expansion, which they ardently desire. But in recent months, the left has repeatedly struck out on that front. In New York and California, among the nation’s most liberal states, Democratic governors have slashed services and spending to balance their budgets, without raising taxes. (read article)

Union Yields on Benefits in Deal With Cuomo
By Thomas Kaplan, July 16, 2011, New York Times
New York State’s second-largest union of public workers, facing hundreds of layoffs that had been scheduled to take effect within days, agreed on Saturday to significant wage and benefit concessions in order to save the jobs of its members. The five-year agreement between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Public Employees Federation largely mirrors the deal struck last month with the state’s largest public employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, which also agreed to big concessions in exchange for giving its members immunity from most layoffs. (read article)

Disunion: 3 Stories on TV Labor No-Shows
By Will Swaim, July 15, 2011, Republic of Costa Mesa
There’ll be no televised showdown between blogger Will Swaim and any representative of the OC Employees Association. Inside OC host Rick Reiff had scheduled a July 20 taping in which Swaim would discuss Costa Mesa’s ongoing budget fight with OCEA General Manager/union boss Nick Berardino and/or union spokesperson Jennifer Muir. But according to Reiff, after several conversations with Berardino and Muir, the union officials “declined” to debate Swaim. (read article)

A Fall Classic: The Auto Workers vs. Ford
By Logan Robinson, July 15, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Every four years, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union sits down to negotiate a labor agreement with GM, Chrysler and Ford, the unionized “Detroit Three.” The current, much amended, 2007 contract expires on Sept. 14. Typically the union picks a target company among the three, negotiates a book-length contract, and then imposes the same terms on the other two companies to preserve a “pattern” of standard wages and benefits across the domestic industry. The target is whichever company the UAW deems most likely to concede to a generous contract. This time things are different, thanks to the bankruptcies and bailouts… (read article)

Initiative would outlaw collective bargaining, tax pensions
By Teri Sforza, July 15, 2011, Orange County Register
A rather quixotic visiting economics professor at UC Santa Barbara has submitted three initiatives for the California ballot that are sure to enrage: (1) would strip public employees of the right to collective bargaining, (2) would impose hefty taxes on public pensions in excess of $100,000 a year, and (3) would hike the retirement age of public employees to 65 (except for public safety officers, who could retire at 58). Lanny Ebenstein, who got his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics and Political Science (his dissertation was The Greatest Happiness Principle: An Examination of Utilitarianism, according to his CV), heads up the California Center for Public Policy which is behind the initiatives. It’s  a rather right-leaning organization that has its own ideas on how to reform public employee compensation. (read article)

Democrats’ political payoff to teachers may come back to haunt them
Editorial, July 12, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle
It was bad enough that Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats in the California Legislature “balanced” the 2011-12 budget on the assumption that tax revenue from the fledgling economic recovery would exceed earlier projections by $4 billion. But that was only one of their last-minute rolls of the dice. It turns out that Brown and his fellow Democrats also locked in a promise to the teachers’ union that none of its members would be laid off in 2012 – regardless of what happens with the economy. Now, no one wants to see teachers laid off in this state. But the notion that any line item would be made sacrosanct at a time when the decisions facing governments at all levels range from unsavory to excruciating is just plain irresponsible. (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.

2 replies
  1. Montana says:

    You know what this current crowd of GOP liars want is to turn the United Sates into China, where only a few giant corporations run things, they own the factories, the apartments, the grocery stores, the gas stations, the newspaper and magazine publications, the radio stations, the television stations and you pay them and they get all the benefits, and if you do not like it go jump off cliff. Well some Chinese workers seeing that as individuals that they cannot progress have done just that by committing suicide.

    The current crowd of GOP liars want to steal Medicare from the elderly, they want to abolish a woman’s right to choose and have control over her own body, they want to abolish collective bargaining rights for our Unions, and on top of it all they want to blame the poor, the middle class and the public sector workers for a recession that the GOP created (Thanks to the Dullard “W”), while their beloved “Fat cats” continue to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits.

    The GOP is like the “Chicken Littles” always saying that the “Sky is Falling”, like the same ones that were the “Chicken Hawks” (“W” Wars), big talk no courage.

    The United States, favors creativity wherever it can be found. We’re apostles of prosperity and defenders of the free exchange of ideas and when more people in more countries are free to rise, to invent, to communicate, to dissent, it’s not the doom of United States leadership, its the triumph of the American way.

    Generations have worked hard and sacrificed much for the country to reach this point (individuals and our Unions!), and with further hard work and sacrifice (along with our relentless self-doubt) the United States will rise again, we do not tire and we are coming back, no matter what Faux News and their GOP “Chicken Littles” lackies keep saying about our nation. Never Bet Against the United States, watch out GOP, we are coming for you! The win in New York was the beginning but the next will be Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and later the other states of our nation.

  2. Editor says:

    Montana – you are laboring under a fundamental misunderstanding regarding this website: Our goal is to educate the public regarding examples of corruption and unsustainable demands of unions, especially public sector unions. Nothing more. You apparently think we are following a Republican agenda because we are shining light on this problem. You also apparently think we somehow want to give corporations a pass and have nothing critical to say about them. Both of these assumptions you are making are false.

    First of all, there are countless examples of Democrats who have also realized we can’t afford to offer pay and benefit packages to unionized public employees that were negotiated during the economic bubbles of the past 15 years or so, because these bubbles have now burst and everyone else has come down to earth. What part of that don’t you understand? Do you really think we can afford to pay MORE each year in public sector pensions to 20% of the retired population than we pay in social security benefits to the other 80% of the retired population? Because that is what we are doing. It’s that out of whack, and it has to change.

    Secondly, and this is a bit complicated, these giant corporations you criticize (and think, falsely, that we support) are in cahoots with the big labor unions. There is no better way to choke off competition and raise prices than by encouraging unionization and over-regulation, because these forces will kill small competitive companies. Big corporations are not capitalists in any positive sense of the word. Like unions, they are monopolies, and they find common interest and, more often than not, promote a common agenda with unions, especially public sector unions.

    Finally, the most anti-capitalist phenomenon of all is Wall Street, which is totally in synch with public sector unions. Nobody else pours more new money into Wall Street investments every year than public sector unions, whose pension funds now control over $3.0 trillion in assets and add about a quarter-trillion to that total – new money – every year. And the excessive risks being taken by these massive funds in a desperate attempt to achieve the long-term rate of return of 8.0% per year is a primary reason for instability in our markets, crowding out of small investors, and the asset bubbles and derivative scams we are coping with today.

    Ultimately, unions and Wall Street are perfectly aligned in their rhetoric and their appeal – they encourage people to feel entitled to things they haven’t earned – whether it is a pension that is literally five (or more) times better than what taxpayers can expect from social security, or a home loan that puts them into a million dollar house that they have no hope of ever paying for.

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