State audit faults Caltrans lapses
Published: Friday, Mar. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
In an investigation released Thursday, the Bureau of State Audits sharply criticized theCalifornia Department of Transportation for numerous lapses in managing a unit that tests foundations of bridges and other freeway structures to verify their soundness and safety.
Among the key findings of the four-year probe:
• Employees falsified test data in a total of 11 cases – 10 involving a technician and one involving an engineer. Caltrans eventually analyzed the suspect structures and deemed them safe.
• Caltrans allowed the technician who falsified data to access digital test archives for eight months after his fraud became known – leaving records open to deletion or manipulation. Thousands of data files necessary to understand the unit's testing history were lost or destroyed, either intentionally or by accident, making a comprehensive review of possible falsifications impossible.
• The test unit manager secretly misappropriated state property for personal use with the help of two technicians. The manager also approved improper payments of $13,788 to those technicians.
The audit report recommended efforts to recover misspent funds and improve data handling in the testing unit.
"These findings are very much in keeping with the hundreds of pages of reports Caltrans delivered to the Legislature in February," Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck said in a written statement. The agency has adopted most of the solutions recommended by the state auditor, he said.
The Bee previously reported those findings, among many others, in a series of articles over the past 16 months.
Mar 29, 2013
Not a good day for Caltrans: A scathing report by the state auditor notes that some Caltrans workers falsified data, put in for huge amounts of false overtime and committed sundry other on-the-job acts.
From the Mercury News' Lisa Vorderbrueggen: "Several Caltrans workers falsified test data on transportation projects, claimed hundreds of hours of overtime they didn't work and engaged in an "inexcusable neglect of duty," California State Auditor Elaine Howle concluded in a probe released Thursday."
"Much of Howle's findings have already been disclosed through media accounts, legislative hearings and Caltrans' own reports."
"But the audit compiles the transgressions of a handful of Caltrans workers whose misdeeds cast doubt on the structural integrity of every project they touched, including the new Bay and Benicia bridges."
Everybody's looking at the skimpy Sierra snowpack this year, including Gov. Brown, who sees it as a good reason to support his plan to build tunnels in the Delta.
From the LAT's Anthony York: "“The security of California’s water supply is threatened,” said Natural Resources Secretary John Laird in an email statement, citing the “urgent need to continue work on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.”
"The snowpack in the Sierra Mountains, the source of the bulk of California’s water supply, is about half of what it should be, according to snow surveying crews."
"Brown’s $23.7 billion water plan, first introduced publicly last year, includes the construction of two new massive tunnels that would divert as much as 67,500 gallons of water per second around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California and bring that water to the southern half of the state."
The feds, taking the lead from California, are poised to announce requirements for cleaner gasoline.
From the LAT's Neela Banerjee: "The Obama administration is expected to propose new rules Friday that would slash the amount of sulfur in gasoline, one of the most significant steps the administration can take this term toward cutting air pollution, said people with knowledge of the announcement."
Court: Obama appointments to labor panel are unconstitutional
Published January 25, 2013
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruled Friday that President Obama violated the Constitution when he sidestepped the Senate to fill open spots on a labor relations panel, in a major setback for the president.
The suit had been brought by a local business in Washington state challenging the National Labor Relations Board. Supported by dozens of Senate Republicans, the case argued the president didn't have the power to make three appointments to the NLRB.
Attorneys for the Obama administration argued that he had the authority because the Senate was in recess.
But a three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia said the appointments were not valid because the Senate was not officially in recess. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions.
"Either the Senate is in session, or it is in the recess. If it has broken for three days within an ongoing session, it is not in 'the Recess,'" the panel said.
The court said the president could only fill vacancies with the recess appointment procedure if the openings arise when the Senate is in an official recess, which it defined as the break between sessions of Congress.
"Considering the text, history and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception," a panel said.
Republican lawmakers lauded the decision. "Today's ruling reaffirms that the Constitution is above political party or agenda, despite what the Obama Administration seems to think," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said. "With this ruling, the D.C. Circuit has soundly rejected the Obama Administration's flimsy interpretation of the law, and will go a long way toward restoring the constitutional separation of powers."
Unions Crumble Without Stimulus Spending
Published January 24, 2013
“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
-- President Franklin Roosevelt in an August 16, 1937 letter to the National Federation of Federal Employees.
President Obama laid out some ambitious liberal goals this week, including gun control, same-sex marriage, reversing global warming and increased federal spending.
But it’s that last one that he’d better get busy with if he means to get any of the rest.
Obama’s Department of Labor released the unhappy news for Democrats: Union membership in America has fallen to the lowest level since before the New Deal laws to encourage union organization.
Whatever Democrats say about Republicans and the changing demographics of America, it’s perfectly clear that the blue team cannot survive as constituted without their patrons in the government worker unions.
Overall union membership dropped by about 400,000 members from 2011 to 2012, a decline of 11.8 to 11.3 percent of the U.S. workforce. But the worst news for union leaders is where the decline occurred: in what had been their only growth sector, government workers.
More than half of the loss came among government workers. The majority of union members are now government workers and government workers have a union membership rate of 37 percent, about five times higher than the private sector.
Thoughts on Reactions to the Sandy Hook Tragedy
Teacher union leaders offer heat but no light after the mass murder in Newtown.
In the aftermath of the December 14 mass murder of 26 children and school staffers in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been the understandable finger pointing and a full range of suggestions for ensuring that such a horror doesn’t happen again.
On the lunatic end of the spectrum we have teacher union apologist Diane Ravitch, the formerly venerable education historian, who took up residence in the land of Bizarro several years ago.
Every one of the teachers was a career educator. Every one was doing exactly what she wanted to do. They’ve worked in a school that was not obsessed with testing but with the needs of children. This we know: the staff at Sandy Hook loved their students. They put their students first, even before their own lives.
Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure, despite the fact that “reformers” (led by ConnCAN, StudentsFirst, and hedge fund managers) did their best last spring to diminish their tenure and to tie their evaluations to test scores….
Ravitch’s loopy rant is Rahm Emanuel’s “Never let a good crisis go to waste” philosophy taken to an obscene level. And when in response, Teach For America V.P. and self-described “lefty Dem” David Rosenberg took Ravitch to task, Chicago Teacher Union president Karen Lewis (perhaps shocked that someone could outdo her in the outrageous comment category) weighed in with,
There might have been a time where “politicizing” tragic events, especially mass shootings was thought to be in poor taste. That has changed with the 24/7 news cycle that continues to focus far too much time and energy on the perpetrator of the massacre than that of our precious victims. Rosenberg’s “false outrage” needs to be checked. That same false outrage should show itself when policies his [TEACH FOR AMERICA*] colleagues support kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation. (Emphasis added.) We in Chicago have been the victims of their experiments on our children since the current secretary of Education “ran” CPS.
Yes, you read that correctly. Lewis is saying that TFA, an organization that places exceptional, idealistic young teacher-leaders in the most challenging schools in the country is responsible for killing kids. After uttering those shameful words, Lewis should resign in disgrace.
Then we have a rare joint statement issued by the leaders of the two national teachers unions – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. NEA’s Dennis Van Roekel and AFT’s Randi Weingarten came out with a press release with a sub-head which reads: “Focus Needs to Be on Investments in Mental Health Services, Reasonable Gun Safety Legislation.”
In the body of the brief statement they say,
Long-term and sustainable school safety also requires a commitment to preventive measures. We must continue to do more to prevent bullying in our schools. And we must dramatically expand our investment in mental health services. Proper diagnosis can and often starts in our schools, yet we continue to cut funding for school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists. States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. It is well past time to reverse this trend and ensure that these services are available and accessible to those who need our support.
While this may sound good, it has nothing to do with what happened in Connecticut. The shooter had been identified as having a type of autism, perhaps Asperger’s; he had been assigned to a high-school psychologist and there have been no reports that he was bullied. So this statement is really nothing more than a pitch to advance the teachers union agenda of spending ever more money on education.
The other part of the press release deals with guns:
Our duty to every child is to provide safe and secure public schools. That is the vow we take as educators. It is both astounding and disturbing that following this tragedy, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, Bill Bennett, and other politicians and pundits have taken to the airwaves to call for arming our teachers. As the rest of the country debates how to keep guns out of schools, some are actually proposing bringing more guns in, turning our educators into objects of fear and increasing the danger in our schools.
Guns have no place in our schools. Period. We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.
December 4th, 2012, 4:09 pm · · posted by Keegan Kyle, staff writer
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this year aimed at reducing pension costs, he argued for a simple concept: Public employees should contribute to their own retirement plans.
But a month before the new law goes into effect, some of the highest paid employees at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have seemingly found a way around it – at least for the near future.
Their pathway required no public notice and no action by the powerful water district’s board of directors. All they did Monday was quietly join a labor union.
The group of employees is mostly comprised of top executives, attorneys and managerial staff who were unrepresented by a collective bargaining unit. We don’t have anything on paper outlining why the group decided to make the switch this week, but an anonymous tipster told the Watchdog that the group wanted to prevent the district from changing their retirement benefits.
Today, the water district pays both a 7 percent employer contribution and a 7 percent employee contribution for unrepresented employees’ retirement plans. The perk benefits the employees in two ways. First, they don’t have to contribute to the plans from their own paychecks. Second, the setup boosts their final retirement payout.
The governor’s pension law pushes public agencies to eliminate this same kind of retirement spiking. It requires agencies including the water district to end the practice before 2018 and have employees contribute to their own retirements.
By shifting to a union right now, the executives can delay the water district’s board of directors from ending the retirement spiking practice for several years. Courts have found a union’s existing labor contract generally supersedes new state law.
The union’s president, Rick Lynds, said their pay and benefits will now fall under the protection of the union’s existing contract, which expires in 2015.
The Watchdog reached out to some of the executives in the group but they either declined comment or did not respond.
Lani Lutar, head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, said the switch illustrates a limitation of the new state law and sets a poor example for other public workers.
“Managers should be providing a leadership role on the changes that need to occur for the financial stability of the Met,” Lutar said. “Ratepayers will be paying for their actions.”
Public scrutiny of executive pay at the Metropolitan Water District has grown in recent years as the agency has hiked water prices that trickle down to ratepayers across southern California. Most unrepresented employees at the district earn more than $100,000 per year in salary. Top executives earn more than double that amount.
This new development appears to unilaterally schedule the same employees for raises, though it’s unclear how much. Lynds said the group will fall under the union’s existing contract, which includes across-the-board raises, step increases and possible merit-based raises over the next two years.
If the district’s board of directors wanted to change executive pay or benefits following the vote, it would have to convince the union to reopen contract negotiations. That step doesn’t typically come easy for public agencies, as it can expose the union to a forced agreement.
Agencies across the state have been scrambling in recent months to understand the new pension law’s impacts. It generally aims to reduce pension costs by changing how future employees can be compensated. Only a few parts of the law affect existing employees like the executives at the water district, according to state pension officials.
District spokesman Bob Muir said board members were aware of the potential change before the vote Monday. He said the district had reviewed how the switch could affect its budget and an informal, preliminary analysis found no negative financial impacts.
CA Teacher Union Thug Propaganda Alert: Classroom Video Promotes Class Warfare With “Rich” Urinating on “Poor”
Posted by Gateway Guest Blogger on Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 4:34 PM
Guest Post by Mara Zebest
This video, narrated by Lib 1-percenter kook Ed Asner, is being shown to your children. The video blames every economic woe on the “rich” – don’t expect your children to learn about Obama’s role in the mess. Statist-run Department of Education producing the OWS communist generations of the future. It may be time to call your local school and find out if this video is being seen in the classroom and complain.
Eagnews reports the following:
SACRAMENTO – A new video produced by the California Federation of Teachers – which could be playing in your child’s classroom as we speak – drums up the typical class warfare images we’ve come to expect from Big Labor.
“Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale,” written by CFT staffer Fred Glass (2011 compensation: $139,800) and narrated by proud leftist actor (and 1 per center) Ed Asner, advocates for higher taxes on the “rich” as the cure for government’s insatiable thirst for spending.
The video claims the rich got rich through tax cuts and tax loopholes and even tax evasion.
But when the 99 percent fought back, the “rich” apparently urinated on the “poor,” at least according to the video. What a classy way to frame your argument for children, Big Labor.
The video also claims that when the housing market crashed, the government printed money for “rich people” but they didn’t give any to “ordinary people whose houses and jobs were broken by the crash.”
That’s a patently a false statement, as evidenced by a handy-dandy chart courtesy of the New York Times. Here’s a sampling of what was contained in President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package:
- Help states prevent cuts to essential services like education
– $53.6 billion
The California Federation of Teachers’ video is little more than unsurprising leftist propaganda, aimed to indoctrinate children with no basis in fact. Do you know if your child is watching it in school?
November 27, 2012
SEIU Local 1000's political action committee has reported some $4.3 million in expenses this year, with more than $1 of every $3 spent on defeating Proposition 32, the campaign reform measure that voters rejected on Nov. 6.
The local's PAC also gave $1 million to Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30, which won with organized labor's get-out-the-vote efforts and the governor's barnstorming in the crucial final weeks of the campaign season.
As you look through the tables below, tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheets open worksheets with more detailed information.
Remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations given to political campaigns and causes. Late contributions are money that came in after the regular filing deadline.
Political spending via larger umbrella organizations, such as SEIU California, is not reflected in the data.
In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” then-presidential candidate Barack Obama wrote: “I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away. I don’t consider this corrupting in any way.”
After Big Labor spent nearly $1 billion to get President Obama and his forced-unionism allies elected in 2008, Obama did not disappoint.
Here is a breakdown of the top 10 most outrageous Big Labor paybacks of the Obama administration:
1. Hiding union boss expenditures.Obama started his term strong. Shortly after getting elected, Obama appointed forced-unionism partisan Hilda Solis to run the Department of Labor. Solis, in combination with numerous Obama executive orders, promptly rolled back any (albeit modest) progress in union boss transparency and disclosure that had been made the prior eight years. Now it is even more difficult for workers to know where their forced dues dollars are being spent.
2. Neutering the watchdog.Obama’s first budget funding for the Office of Labor and Management Standards (OLMS), the federal agency that enforces union disclosure laws. It’s one of the few areas of the budget that Obama has proposed cutting.
3. Fox guarding the henhouse.Obama appointed union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that administers and enforces federal labor law. Becker was never confirmed by the U.S. Senate because of bipartisan opposition to his nomination. Obama appointed him to the NLRB via recess appointment.
4. Throwing away election ballots.Becker was a key vote in striking down any protections workers had against card-check union organizing drives, despite the fact that he previously participated as a union lawyer in the very case that established those worker protections. These limited protections allowed workers to petition the NLRB for a secret ballot election within 45 days of a coercive card-check union organizing campaign. Ballots from any pending elections to remove a union after a card check were chucked into the trash. This decision directly affected thousands of workers such as Barbara Ivey, a Kaiser IT depar tment employee in Washington State who is now stuck under Service Employees International Union (SEIU) boss control for at least two years.
5. Ambushing workers.The Obama NLRB pushed new rules to make union organizing campaigns as one-sided as possible by ambushing workers into union membership and dues payments. The new rules dramatically shortened the time frame individual workers have to share truthful information with their coworkers about the adverse effects of unionization and to hear their employers’ views on the subject.
6. Compelling employers to promote unionism. The Obama NLRB pushed new rules requiring job providers to post pro-union notices in their facilities. Tellingly, no new requirement was made for unions to post notices informing workers of their right to refrain from union activities or throw out an unwanted union.
7. Persecuting job providers.Obama-appointed NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon used the federal agency to punish Boeing for locating production of its 787 Dreamliner jets in right-to-work South Carolina over non-right-to-work Washington State. The frivolous persecution of Boeing eventually fizzled, but only after the company guaranteed future jobs would go to Washington State, where union bosses get to collect forced dues as a condition of employment.
8. Constitution out on “recess.”Earlier this year, Obama subverted the U.S. Constitution and installed two pro-forced unionism lackeys onto the NLRB as “recess” appointments even though the U.S. Senate was not in recess. Not surprisingly, the NLRB continues to churn out lopsided decisions in favor of union bosses.
9. Runaway (unionism) train. Obama’s appointments to the National Mediation Board (NMB), the federal agency that administers labor law in the railway and airline industries, changed the election procedures of unions organizing under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The two Obama-appointed NMB members who approved the new rule, Harry Hoglander and Linda Puchala, are former union officials with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) unions, respectively. Both unions are a major part of an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) union-led coalition that urged the three -member board to discard its election policy of 75 years. The new procedure stacks the deck in favor of unionization by granting a union monopoly bargaining power over railway or airline industry workers if the union acquires support from just a bare majority of eligible workers in an election, no matter how few actually vote. This means that a small bloc of workers could force union boss “representation” on the whole group rather than having a true majority of all workers deciding for themselves.
10. Obamacare(s) for union bosses. The effects of Obama’s pro-forced unionism agenda will be felt long after his stay in the White House ends. Obamacare is full of sweetheart deals aimed at placating union bosses. For example, nonunion medical facilities are basically ineligible to participate in Obamacare’s professional-development grant program for healthcare workers. The funds in this program must be administered jointly with a labor organization — much like the Department of Labor’s grants for construction apprenticeship programs, which have turned into a cash cow for construction industry union officials on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Obamacare is full of these sorts of provisions — provisions that further unionize the healthcare industry.
Article by Mark Mix,
President of the National Right to Work Foundation, Washington, DC.
In a book set for publication Tuesday, a politics and government professor at The Citadel claims President Obama’s 2009 health care reform law was, in part, a union-driven effort to organize 21 million health care workers.
In ”Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind,” Mallory Factor describes a December 9, 2008 memo from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare president Dennis Rivera to the Obama-Biden transition team.
That memo outlined a legislative proposal calling for “increasing the capacity of the health care workforce” as part of a larger health care reform initiative.
The SEIU and the Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Factor writes, later coordinated with other public-sector unions to spend “literally hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Obamacare.”
The Daily Caller requested comments for this article from the SEIU, AFSCME and a White House spokesman. None of them responded.
A booklet published by SEIU during the 2008 election season called for “building a new American health care system,” in part by “ organizing “workers.” The publication argued for outcomes nearly identical to those later adopted in the Obamacare legislation. [ … ]
[ ... ] In 2010 the SEIU elected Mary Key Henry as its new International President. Henry’s background was in health care organizing. She led efforts to unionize workers at Beverly nursing homes, Catholic Health Care West, Tenet Healthcare Corporation and HCA Healthcare.
Factor, who is also a Forbes columnist and senior editor of money and politics for The Street.com, recounts emails from former federal Office of Labor-Management Standards staffer Don Loos, now a senior adviser to the president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
“It is clear that Big Labor is banking on the probability that all healthcare workers eventually become federal, state, and municipal healthcare employees,” Loos told Factor. That, he said, would make them eligible for involuntary unionization through public-sector unions like AFSCME and the SEIU.
“Obamacare is an SEIU and AFSCME membership ‘net,’” Loos claimed, “designed to eventually capture 21 million forced-dues paying government workers.” New health care jobs created by Obamacare, he said, will eventually be filled by “federal, state, and municipal healthcare employees.”
The Obamacare law, once fully implemented, will dramatically increase the number of health care workers receiving payment for their services through government programs, including Medicaid and so-called “public option” government-run insurance plans.
“The government employee unions can then enlist pro-union state governments to treat these health care workers as ‘government employees,’” Factor told The Daily Caller, “and unionize them just like they unionized the care providers” themselves.
“For every million additional health care workers unionized in the 27 non-right-to-work states,” he told TheDC, “the unions stand to earn $1 billion in dues.”
Factor writes in “Shadowbosses” that Canada’s national health care system has provided an apt example. Heritage Foundation labor economist James Sherk told him that “60 percent of Canadian health care workers and a stunning 80 percent of nurses belong to unions — more than quadruple the levels in America.”
Only 10 percent of them
were union members before the advent of socialized medicine in Canada, Factor
said. [ … ] (Read more at the link below.)
Former Amalgamated Transit Union local 689 president Mike Golash, now an “Occupy” movement organizer, was caught on tape Sunday revealing his political goals: overthrowing capitalism in the United States and instituting a communist government.
“Progressive labor is a revolutionary communist organization,” Golash said during an Occupy DC “People’s Assembly” on August 19.
Former Amalgamated Transit Union local 689 president Mike Golash told an Occupy DC gathering on August 19, 2012 that their goal is to overthrow capitalism in the United States and institute a Communist government. (YouTube)
“Its objective,” he added, “is to make revolution in the United States, overthrow the capitalist system and build communism.”
Golash said he and his comrades are “trying to learn something from the historical revolutions of the past: the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the revolutions in Cuba and Eastern Europe.” [ … ]
“An organization has to be built which can bring down capitalism,” Golash said. [ … ]
(Read more at the link below.)
Unions line up against an initiative that would end payroll deductions for politics.
For the third time since 1998, California voters face a ballot initiative that would rein in special-interest political spending in the state. Proposition 32, which will appear on the November general-election ballot, would ban unions and most corporations from making direct contributions to state and local candidates. The measure would also bar government contractors from contributing to political campaigns. The most significant provision, though—the one giving public-employee unions, especially the California Teachers Association, fits—would prohibit corporations, unions, and government employers from deducting money from workers’ paychecks to use for political purposes. To read more, go to
Obamacare Bans New Physician Owned Hospitals And Increases College Health Plan Costs.....Other News
Want to be a civil servant? It may cost you.
By Mark Mix, President, National Right to Work, 09/04/2011
(Note: There is an additional ‘take away’ in this article, which is addressed briefly at the end.)
American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers’s famous adage that “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion” is as relevant as ever this Labor Day.
You see, today’s union officials considercompulsion the key element of their agenda — and millions of American workers are forced to pay dues and fees to a union in order to work and provide for their families.
And no worker is out of bounds for the union chiefs, as even millions of public servants — police officers, firefighters and teachers — have to pay dues or fees to a union for the privilege to work. In fact, a majority of government employees nationwide work under monopoly unionism, and the union bosses are trying to increase these ranks and dues revenue through any means necessary.
Take Wisconsin. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his allies passed measures that sharply limit government union officials’ monopoly bargaining power over Badger State public workers and taxpayers by protecting the right to work — that is, the right to choose whether or not to affiliate with a union — of most government employees and banning automatic forced-union-dues seizures from public employees’ paychecks.
Angry union militants stormed the Wisconsin capitol in an attempt to thwart the governor’s efforts to pass those reforms. After losing the legislative (and electoral) fight, public-sector (government) union bosses are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their forced-dues powers in the courts.
In their legal brief, union officials admitted that under the reforms public-sector union bosses would lose at least a quarter of their forced-union-dues revenues. For example, Wisconsin teachers’ union bosses would not be able to force independent-minded teachers to pay $5.4 million in forced dues and $375,000 toward union boss’s political activism.
Fortunately, courageous public servants like 13-year Kenosha-area teacher Kristi Lacroix, with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, are seeking to protect their right to refrain from union affiliation in order to work. As Lacroix said, “I’m not against the union; I just don’t want to have to join it in order to teach.”
Greenhut: Another Union Giveaway Almost Becomes Law
No doubt about it–unions, using money extorted from workers (either you pay dues or you are not allowed to work) control Sacramento.
“Evidence for such an expectation is a scheme to enrich unionized police and firefighters that came within a whisker of becoming law.
Even in its watered-down form, Assembly Bill 2451 would have exposed California cities and municipalities to an endless amount of financial liabilities for the families of deceased police and firefighters. The legislation also illustrated the surreptitious strategies used to expand benefits in California, as government unions quietly work the system for higher compensation.
The story of AB2451, even though it ended with a veto, also confirms that legislators have in no way reformed their free-spending ways.”
That is why California will stay in a Depression until a voter revolution happens.
By Steven Greenhut, Union Watch, 10/12/12
If California voters grant the state government the billions in higher taxes in Proposition 30 that Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats have been demanding, those same officials might be expected to squander the money by shoveling even more benefits to already well-compensated government workers.
Evidence for such an expectation is a scheme to enrich unionized police and firefighters that came within a whisker of becoming law.
Even in its watered-down form, Assembly Bill 2451 would have exposed California cities and municipalities to an endless amount of financial liabilities for the families of deceased police and firefighters. The legislation also illustrated the surreptitious strategies used to expand benefits in California, as government unions quietly work the system for higher compensation.
The story of AB2451, even though it ended with a veto, also confirms that legislators have in no way reformed their free-spending ways.
In the private sector, employees typically receive injury and death benefits through insurance, and such benefits are linked to work performed on the job. In “public safety” jobs in the public sector, taxpayers foot the bill for disability and death benefits.
Politicians – always currying favor with the unions representing police, firefighters and prison guards – continually expand the categories of illness presumed to be caused by job-related injuries.
So if a retired firefighter or police officer develops heart disease, cancer or any number of other common diseases, the illness often is presumed to be caused by the retiree’s former job. That presumption releases a stream of taxpayer-funded benefits. Under current law, if that employee dies from myriad ailments within four-and-a-half years after the date of injury, the family can receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in survivorship benefits. In the public sector, it’s far easier to make a claim than in the private sector.
Apparently, this wasn’t generous enough for Assembly Speaker John Perez and the Democratic leadership. They came up with a plan that allows family members of deceased police and firefighters to claim more than $300,000 in survivorship benefits up to a year after the person’s death, no matter how old that retired public-safety official may be.
The bill also specified the ailments that are considered “hero ailments” – deaths cause by working as a cop or firefighter. These include: hernia, pneumonia, heart trouble, cancer and leukemia, tuberculosis, blood-borne infectious diseases and certain skin infections.
As the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, summarizing arguments against the bill by local governments, explained: “Thus, any retired safety officer who dies in his or her 80s or 90s of a cancer or heart-related condition would be presumed to have a work-related cause, and his or her dependents would be entitled to a death benefit.http://capoliticalnews.com/2012/10/12/greenhut-another-union-giveaway-almost-becomes-law/
Union leader leaving high-speed rail board
By Tim Sheehan - The Fresno Bee
Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 | 11:35 PM
Construction union leader Robert Balgenorth resigned from the California High-Speed Rail Authority's board, creating a third vacancy among the board's nine positions. Balgenorth's departure was announced by the agency Friday afternoon.
Balgenorth, who is president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, was appointed to the high-speed rail board in March 2011 by the state Senate's Rules Committee.
In his resignation letter dated Thursday, Balgenorth said extensive travel plans upon his retirement from the trades council later this month will keep him away from many of the rail board's meetings.
Two other seats on the board remain unfilled. Matthew Toledo, a Los Angeles businessman who was appointed in late 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, stepped down at the end of 2011.
And Russ Burns, business manager for the Operating Engineers Union Local 3 in Sacramento and a 2009 appointee of then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, resigned in August.
NEW: The coming great California pension property tax earthquake
Aug. 16, 2012
By Wayne Lusvardi
The most widespread and persistent folktale about California is that some day the entire state will break away from the North American continent and fall off into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. That day may not be too far off if what is unfolding in the growing number of municipal bankruptcy court cases in California plays out to its logical consequence without massive and politically legitimate pension reform.
As reported by urban economist Steven Malanga, municipal bond insurers may lose out in court in their attempt to get bankrupt California cities to reduce pension costs. This may lead to more than just bondholders getting wiped out and much higher borrowing rate costs across the state.
If the courts uphold pensions as a constitutional right over bondholders’ rights, municipal workers will be entitled to earn more in pensions and health benefits than cities can currently pay. About 70 to 80 percent of municipal operating costs are allocated to salaries and benefits. And the lion’s share of salaries and benefit costs go to police and fire protection. There is little room for large budget cuts in most municipalities.
Some municipalities with pre-existing pension bonds may be able to refinance them without voter approval and shift the explosion in pension costs into long-term debt. Issuing brand new pension bonds would require voter approval. But such cities would have to have enough extra budget cash flow to handle the added debt.
Tax Flight: Voting With Their Feet
The only choice left would be to raise property taxes enormously. The inevitable result would be a tax flight to other California cities or out of state. What is called Tiebout’s Law would prevail. People would “vote with their feet” rather than at the ballot box.
As a consequence, property values would fall into a death spiral. As cities raised taxes on ever-declining property values to try to maintain their revenue base, the great California property value earthquake would unfold. It would be spotty at first. Communities with huge pension-driven property tax hikes would end up with a stigma on their high property tax rates. Disinvestment would compound the problem of tax flight.
The shrinkage in property values would result in a zero sum game. The gain to municipal employees would result in a corresponding drop in property values that would only further erode the property tax base and municipal revenues. Cities caught in this death spiral would over time end up like Detroit.
But many cities might not wakeup to this nightmare for 20 years in the case of deferred interest school district bonds such as those recently revealed by me in the Poway School District in San Diego County. Deferred interest bonds — with sugarcoated terms such as “capital appreciation bonds” — are just a way to suck the equity out of home values twenty years from now after many public school retirees have likely expired. It’s a time bomb with a long fuse to blow Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax limitation initiative, to smithereens.
Eroding Values Would Ruin Underwater Mortgage Buyouts
CalPERS investing $530 million in China, Asia offices, malls
By Dale Kasler
Published: Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 - 8:42 am
CalPERS today said it's investing $530 million in office buildings and shopping malls in China and elsewhere in Asia.
The California Public Employees' Retirement System said it's putting the money into a pair of funds operated by ARA Asset Management, an Asian real estate investment company. CalPERS has been investing with ARA since 2007.
Although numerous economists say China's economy is slowing down, CalPERS officials said they still see great potential in the country.
"Income growth and urbanization remain the key themes for growth in Chinag. China's office and retail sectors offer stable rental income and potential for capital value growth," said Joe Dear, the pension fund's chief investment officer, in a press release.
CalPERS' first investment with ARA earned annual returns of 8.4 percent the past three years. It earned 19.2 percent in the 12 months ending March 31.
Former SEIU leader charged with fraud
Published August 02, 2012
The Wall Street Journal
A former rising star within the Service Employees International Union has been charged with bilking his ex-employer, one of the nation's most powerful labor groups.
Tyrone Freeman, 42 years old, who once led a large Los Angeles-based local representing low-wage health-care workers, was indicted Tuesday on 15 criminal counts, including mail fraud and the embezzlement of $100,000.
Mr. Freeman is accused of diverting union funds in $2,500 monthly payments in 2007 and 2008. The federal grand jury that indicted Mr. Freeman late Tuesday said he also improperly took $17,000 from a low-income-housing nonprofit group and used a union credit card to pay $8,000 toward his Hawaii wedding.
The charges cap a four-year probe by the Labor Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Freeman, who now lives in Pittsburgh and has recently worked as a business consultant, faces a maximum sentence of more than 200 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
July 20, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 gives $500,000 to fight Proposition 32
SEIU Local 1000 has contributed $500,000 more to fight Proposition 32, the campaign-funding initiative, according to records filed Thursday with the state.
Local 1000's latest donation nearly doubled the $503,000 it previously donated to the cause, pushing its total contribution so far to just over $1 million.
Unions so far have given nearly $9 million to defeat the measure, which would ban money obtained via payroll deductions from being used for political purposes. The ban would extend to both unions and corporations, but it would clearly hurt labor interests more, since they receive nearly all of their political operating money from payroll deductions of their members' dues.
Corporations, on the other hand, draw most of their political funds from executive donations and company resources. Those kinds of business sources have donated a little over $4 million to support the measure, which goes before voters on Nov. 6.
Prop. 32 also bans both groups from donating directly to political campaigns, although it leaves room for unlimited spending on independent expenditure efforts to support or oppose politicians or political causes.
SEIU Local 1000 Contribution to No on 32 Campaign
Public Unions Are A Privileged Class Built On Greed
Posted 07/13/2012 07:19 PM ET
With regard to the exponentially worsening economic crisis here in the United States, maybe we are just not being direct and honest enough.
The next time you see a city, county, state or federal public employee — be they teachers, postal workers, librarians, in the mayor's office, or even police or firefighters — don't view them as neighbors, friends or friendly civil servants, but rather as the destroyers of your economic future.
To be sure, the vast majority of these people are incredibly decent human beings — and no doubt see themselves that way. Just as the vast majority of them are very intelligent and know right from wrong.
And yet, given those absolutes, they also fully understand that their unfunded public pensions and elaborate health-care plans are depleting the savings desperately needed for the vast majority of Americans who are not public employees, and they just don't care. They are putting themselves before all.
When asked about it, many hide behind their corrupt unions and try to justify their naked greed as deserved compensation for the "measly salaries" they are paid.
Give me a break.
Every honest American knows that if one of these public service jobs was offered tomorrow with zero pension — jobs that pay from $20,000 to well over $100,000 per year — thousands of the unemployed would line up immediately and consider themselves blessed with good fortune if they landed one.
In large part because of the unchecked greed of the public employee unions and workers, San Bernardino this week became the third California city to seek bankruptcy protection.
Of course, if you were looking for that honest explanation from Democrats and pro-public employee union media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times or Reuters, good luck. They either ignore the elephant in the room (pun intended) or mention the toxically unfunded public employee pension issue in the last half-sentence of the story.
With regard to our economic crisis, the conduct of the majority of the mainstream media has not only been unethical and unconscionable, but legally questionable.
They have known for years that these unfunded public employee pensions and health care plans were destroying the budgets of cities, counties and states, but purposely looked the other way to protect liberal politicians and corrupt unions.
Because most of the mainstream media are in the tank for the Obama White House or the liberal "cause," you will not hear or read in their outlets that Moody's just tripled their estimate of the national pension debt to $2.2 trillion. That's trillion with a "T." Some analysts believe it's even higher.
July 3, 2012
California ballot proposal puts Big Labor's
political future in the hands of voters
By Ashleigh Costello
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After two near misses over the past 14 years, political reformers inCalifornia have succeeded in putting another "payroll protection" proposal on the statewide ballot.
If approved by voters in November, the "California Payroll Protection Initiative" would ban corporate and labor union contributions to political candidates.Unions would also be prohibited from "collecting political funds from employees and union members using the inherently coercive means of payroll deduction," according to Stop Special Interest Money Now, the group endorsing the measure.
The proposal would also put an end to "pay to play," the nasty system in which government contractors make political contributions to the government officials who award the contracts. It’s an age-old system of "You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours," and many California citizens are apparently tired of it.
In recent years, campaign spending has reached an all-time high in California, as special interest groups pour money into the campaigns of friendly candidates who can be counted on to support their agendas.
According to Maplight.org, 79 percent of campaign contributions made to California state legislators come from donors outside their districts. In fact, corporations, business associations, and labor unions contributed a combined $87 million to Golden State political campaigns in the 2010 election cycle.
What’s even more disturbing is that 40 percent of legislation introduced in the California legislature in 2010 was written by special interest lobbyists, and those bills are more likely than others to be adopted as law, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Should it pass, the ballot proposal would strike a blow to organized labor, since it would eliminate their ability to contribute to – some would say purchase – political candidates. It would also eliminate unions’ primary method of raising campaign contributions.
After a similar law was adopted in Washington State in 1994, the number of school employees donating to the Washington Education Association’s political action committee dropped from 49,000 to 11,000, according to Heartland.org.
When given the choice of whether to contribute, most of the potential contributors took a pass.
Big Labor money killed two previous efforts
Payroll protection first appeared on the California ballot in 1998, and again in 2005.
Ironically, those efforts may be perfect examples of why reformers believe a new law is necessary to limit special interest influence in the electoral system.
The 1998 proposal, Proposition 226, began with a huge lead in the polls, but a heavily financed counter-offensive by Big Labor resulted in a 53-47 percent defeat at the polls.
Opponents of Proposition 226, mainly the unions, spent $30 million to defeat the measure, while supporters only managed to raise $3.5 million. Unions had the upper hand since they were able to collect money through member dues without the permission of the original "contributors."
Supporters of the proposal were limited to voluntary donations.
In the final month before the election, opposition ads outnumbered proponent’s ads by more than 2-to-1, reportsthefreemanonline.org. The unions even threatened companies that supported Proposition 226 with negative publicity campaigns that would portray them as anti-worker.
John Sweeney, president of AFL-CIO, called the outcome of the election "a modern political miracle." Reformers called it an atrocious example of how money extorted from unwilling contributors can influence the outcomes of crucial elections.
But the reformers didn’t quit.
Proposition 75, on the ballot in 2005, would have prohibited unions from using dues for political contributions without annual written consent from members.
A field poll conducted a few months before the election found that 57 percent of likely voters approved of the paycheck protection initiative, according to heartland.org. But again Big Labor outspent supporters, contributing $54 million in another successful effort to defeat reform.
Reformers ready to battle again
Despite two heartbreaking losses, California reformers are trying again this year. They collected approximately 800,000 signatures of registered voters to put payroll protection back on the ballot.
Advocates of the proposal had hoped to get the initiative placed on the June ballot, but the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature recently approved legislation placing all initiatives on the November ballot, reports Human Events.
That’s not hard to understand, since millions of pro-union Democratic supporters will be flocking to the polls for the presidential election. The unions obviously hope they will vote to defeat payroll protection after casting a vote for President Obama.
"Clearly, the Democrats feel they will have a better chance of stopping us in November rather than June," said Lew Uhler, head of the National Tax Limitation Committee, the group pushing the ballot proposal.
"And Democrats here are the wholly owned subsidiary of public employee unions. That’s one reason this is so critical, and they will fight us so hard—because this measure’s enactment will change the entire rules of the political game in California."
Nevertheless, the initiative is again gathering strong support from Golden State voters.
"[This] time, the money will be there to counter the unions’ campaign," said Uhler, noting that theLincoln Club of Orange County has jumped on board. Soon, he added, "every Lincoln Club in the state will join with us."
Stanford Physicist Charles T. Munger has also demonstrated his support for the measure with a $237,000 campaign contribution, according to Uhler.
Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz has lent his voice to the chorus of officials calling for approval of the proposal. Said Shultz:
"The grassroots-driven qualification of this measure underscores the fact that Californians are sick and tired of the dysfunction caused by the outsized influence special interests maintain over politicians in our state.
"In recent years, California voters have started to take back their government by passing redistricting and other fundamental political reforms. This measure is the next step in the process. It minimizes the influence of the well-funded few and empowers the nearly-silenced many."
Contact EAGnews at firstname.lastname@example.org or (231) 733-4202
By LIZ PEEK, The Fiscal Times, 5/16/12
Californians should know better. Their state, best known for red carpets, is awash in red ink, just like the federal government. Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state’s budget deficit will approach $16 billion this year, up from $9.2 billion projected just a few months ago. Years of misguided financial policies have led to this: stifling taxes and savage cuts to public services – including Medicaid, childcare and welfare programs.
Even movie stars occasionally venture out. What do they find? A state with 12 percent of the country’s population and one third of its welfare recipients. A state with the nation’s lowest bond ratings, the second-highest marginal income tax rate and the third highest unemployment rate. Most important – a state that CEOs rank the worst in the country for doing business. Dead last! For the eighth year in a row.
The upshot? Businesses are leaving California. Spectrum Location Solutions reports that 254 California companies moved some or all of their work and jobs out of state in 2011, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year and five times as many as in 2009. According to the Labor Department, California’s private employment actually shrank 1.4 percent over the past decade, while Texas added 1.15 million jobs.
Last year California – once considered the most prosperous state in the land – passed Assembly Bill 506, specifically designed to keep cities in the state from rushing into bankruptcy. Vallejo became one of the first in the nation to resort to this ultimate measure a few years ago; Stockton, a city of 290,000, teeters on the edge.
What makes California so special? A profound antipathy to private enterprise and simultaneous embrace of public employee unions. (Does this sound familiar?) In Shakedown, author Steven Malanga notes that public school teachers in the state are the highest-paid in the country, prison guards make six-figure salaries and that “state workers routinely retire at fifty-five with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life…”
Blew $3.5 Million of Forced Dues on Phony Ballot Drive
by Randy Shaw‚ Beyond Chron, 5/16/12
Newly released campaign spending reports reveal that SEIU-UHW squandered a staggering $3.5 million of its members’ dues on an initiative it never qualified for the ballot. After launching its so-called hospital cost containment bill with great fanfare last November, the union failed to disclose that it had exempted both Kaiser and Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health) from the cost-limiting provisions. The union then recently dropped the initiative in exchange for creating a “partnership” with the California Hospital Association that involves the forming of “task forces to find solutions to cost and quality of care.” The bottom line: members’ money that could have gone to a wide range of political activities that actually would have helped working people was instead siphoned off to high-paid political consultants – rarely has so much money been spent so quickly to achieve so little for union members.
Students Forced to Sue School District and Unions to Get Quality Education, Not Union Permitted
Thanks to unions, when schools cut back on teachers, it is based on seniority, not quality. In other words, unions protect bad teachers who have been bad teachers for a long time. While, forcing good teachers to be fired because they have been teachers for a shorter period of time.
The losers? The students. Who pays? The taxpayers. My big question is why does the PTA support the unions instead of working hard for quality education for the children? Simple answer—the PTA is a tool of the unions.
“The lawsuit asserts that five “outdated statutes” prevent administrators from making employment decisions in students’ interest. The tenure statute forces districts to decide after teachers are on the job only 18 months whether to grant them permanent job status. Once granted tenure, they gain due-process rights that make it expensive and difficult to fire them even if they’re “grossly ineffective.” And then, when an economic downturn comes – witness the last four years – a Last In/First Out (LIFO) requirement leads to layoffs based strictly on seniority, not competency.
The protection of ineffective teachers “creates arbitrary and unjustifiable inequality among students,” especially low-income children in low-performing schools, where less experienced teachers are hired and inept veteran teachers are shunted off, under a familiar “dance of the lemons” since they cant be fired. Because education is a “fundamental interest” under the state Constitution, the five statutes that “dictate this unequal, arbitrary result violate the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution” and should be overturned. The lawsuit doesn’t prescribe a solution.”
Why is government education a failure? Look for the union label.
New nonprofit with big name attorneys files lawsuit
By John Fensterwald – Educated Guess, 5/17/12
A nonprofit founded by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur has filed a sweeping, high-stakes lawsuit challenging state teacher protection laws. A victory would overturn a tenure, dismissal, and layoff system that critics blame for the hiring and retention of ineffective teachers. A loss in court could produce bad case law, impeding more targeted efforts to achieve some of the same goals.
Students Matter is the creation of David Welch, co-founder of Infinera, a manufacturer of optical telecommunications systems in Sunnyvale. The new nonprofit filed its lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday on behalf of eight students who attend four school districts. A spokesperson for the organization told the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and a few other individuals are underwriting the lawsuit. They have hired two top-gun attorneys to lead the case: Ted Boutrous, a partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and Ted Olsen, former solicitor general for President George W. Bush.
The lawsuit asserts that five “outdated statutes” prevent administrators from making employment decisions in students’ interest. The tenure statute forces districts to decide after teachers are on the job only 18 months whether to grant them permanent job status. Once granted tenure, they gain due-process rights that make it expensive and difficult to fire them even if they’re “grossly ineffective.” And then, when an economic downturn comes – witness the last four years – a Last In/First Out (LIFO) requirement leads to layoffs based strictly on seniority, not competency.
The protection of ineffective teachers “creates arbitrary and unjustifiable inequality among students,” especially low-income children in low-performing schools, where less experienced teachers are hired and inept veteran teachers are shunted off, under a familiar “dance of the lemons” since they cant be fired. Because education is a “fundamental interest” under the state Constitution, the five statutes that “dictate this unequal, arbitrary result violate the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution” and should be overturned. The lawsuit doesn’t prescribe a solution.
Daniel Borenstein: State retirement systems placing risky wagers at taxpayer expense
By Daniel Borenstein
Posted: 12/17/2011 04:00:00 PM PST
Updated: 12/18/2011 03:15:18 PM PST
California taxpayers should ask themselves, in the words of Clint Eastwood's famous movie character, "Do I feel lucky?"
We're not staring down the barrel of "Dirty Harry" Callahan's gun wondering whether there's a bullet in the chamber. Instead, we're gambling our financial future on whether public pension fund investments will surpass reasonable expectations.
If state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, union leaders and the state's largest government employee retirement funds have their way, they'll continue betting against the odds. It's not surprising. It's not their money at risk. They won't have to cover the losses. Taxpayers will.
Last week, a study led by Joe Nation, a Stanford public policy professor and former Democratic assemblyman from Marin County, made explicitly clear the magnitude of the risk. He found that there's a better-than-even chance we're going to lose the wager.
It was an insightful analysis of the high-stakes gamble we're taking by counting on unrealistic investment returns for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the nation's largest government pension fund; the California State Teachers' Retirement System, No. 2 in the nation; and the University of California Retirement Plan.
If Californians understood their risk exposure, and Nation's findings, most would be outraged.
Here's how it works: Public-employee pension systems are supposed to be pre-funded. That means employees and employers should contribute enough money in advance, when combined with investment returns on those funds, to pay those workers in retirement.
The assumption about the investment returns is critical. The higher the expected return, the less money must be contributed now. But here's the kicker: If investments don't meet expectations, the employer -- the taxpayer -- must make up the entire shortfall. The employee has no risk.
U.S. probe links Caltrans pair to thefts
Published: Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 - 9:25 am
A federal investigation has found that two Caltrans employees recently fired over problems in the agency's unit that tests underground foundations for bridges were involved in the theft of construction materials owned by the state and federal governments.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing, said the report sheds new light on a possible nexus between the thefts, which benefited former unit chief Brian Liebich, and the handling of fabricated test results for three freeway structures by his subordinate, technician Duane Wiles. Both issues originally were reported in a recent Bee investigation.
"Criminal activity gave Wiles and maybe others the opinion that people in the (foundation testing) branch didn't need to do their jobs because their supervisor couldn't do anything about it," DeSaulnier said.
LAO: CA Govt. Pensions ‘Generous’
NOV. 11, 2011
By JOHN SEILER
The California Legislative Analyst’s new report on state pensions is a thorough and sobering look at what’s really going on. The report points out that the plans are “Not Just One Pension System…But Many.” So generalizations are imperfect. Nevertheless, the LAO found:
* “Generous” pensions:
“We believe that the data shows that defined pension benefits offered to California’s state, city, county, and special district employees have been among the most generous in the country in recent years. While there have been some reductions in these benefits recently, some California governments still offer among the most generous defined pension benefits available anywhere in the United States public or private labor market today. In many cases, California public pension benefits for career public employees—coupled with other sources of retirement income—can replace far more than the 65 percent to 75 percent income replacement ratio described earlier.”
* $100K club growing:
“In recent years, there has been considerable public attention related to retired California public employees receiving annual pension benefits of $100,000 or more. These individuals are a small, but growing, segment of California’s public sector retirees. About 2 percent of CalPERS and CalSTRS retirees currently receive such payments. Payments to these retirees now equal around 7 percent to 9 percent of total pension payments from the two systems.”
* Pensions still high:
Despite changes since 2005, the LAO notes, “Nevertheless, some local governments have continued to offer particularly generous pension benefits, including ’2.5 percent at 55,’ ’2.7 percent at 55′ and ’3 percent at 60′ for miscellaneous employees, as well as ’3 percent at 50′ benefits for public safety employees. In pension parlance, for example, 2.5 percent at 55 means—in simplified terms—that a retiree can receive a benefit equal to 2.5 percent (the benefit factor or multiplier) of his or her final compensation multiplied by the number of years of service if retiring at 55.”
* Above replacement level:
“As we suggested in our 2005 report, these kinds of generous benefit levels result in some career public service workers receiving pension benefits above—and in some cases, well above—the 65 percent to 75 percent replacement ratio described above, particularly when Social Security and other sources of retirement income are considered.” The replacement level is the amount of retirement income it takes to replace a salary during one’s working years.
* Benefit formulas still generous:
“While the state and some other public entities have negotiated with employees for reductions in these generous benefit formulas, CalPERS’ most recent annual report shows that a few governments were still switching to some of these particularly costly benefit packages as recently as 2009–10.”
S. Diego Pension Reform Makes June Ballot
NOV. 10, 2011
By JOHN HRABE
It’s official. San Diego’s Comprehensive Pension Reform measure has qualified for the June 2012 ballot.
It’s dubbed “CPR” from the initials of the measure, but also from the CPR medical procedure for reviving a nearly dead patient. The ballot CPR would bring San Diego’s finances back from cardiac arrest.
“According to the official count by the City Clerk, a total of 115,991 valid signatures were contained on our petitions — well in excess of the required 94,500 signatures necessary to force an issue on the ballot,” Councilman Carl DeMaio announced in an email blast to his supporters on Nov. 8. “After years of fiscal crisis, service cuts, and higher fees, voters can now impose a comprehensive solution to end unsustainable pension payouts in city government.”
For those keeping score at home, that’s 21,491 more signatures than were needed to qualify the city-charter amendment for the primary ballot. The campaign’s meticulous internal verification process produced a valid signature rate of 80 percent.
It hasn’t been an easy road for proponents of the measure, who spent more than $1.1 million to qualify the measure for the ballot. They also faced what can only be described as a signature-gathering street fight.
A Competitive Edge Research poll from earlier this year showed 70 percent of San Diego voters supported major changes to the pension system. But leaders of the pension reform coalition aren’t taking any chances. They’ve invested too much sweat equity into the campaign to become overconfident or complacent.
During my weekend shadowing the initiative campaign, Tony Krvaric, the chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party, and Tom Sudberry, the past president of the San Diego County Lincoln Club, both went door-to-door to collect signatures.
Public pensions are protected in Constitution
But some believe the contracts clause doesn't prevent the state from changing costly retirement plans.
November 14, 2011
In Philadelphia, 224 years ago, some men tucked these words
into the nation's new Constitution: "No state shall … pass any … law
impairing the obligation of contracts…"
Those words, squeezed into a very long sentence in Article 1, Section 10, listing powers denied the states, became known as the "contracts clause." And it is playing havoc with modern-day public pension reformers, including Gov. Jerry Brown.
As widely interpreted — most importantly by the
courts (or so we laymen are told) — the clause means that pensions promised
state and local government workers on the day they were hired cannot be reduced
without giving them a new compensating benefit.
In other words, some kid walks into a state office seeking a junior clerk job. He lands it. That constitutes a contract. The new hire is entitled to the pension benefit then in effect if he sticks around long enough to collect it — even if the subject of retirement perks never was discussed, as it surely would not have been.
"Employees are entitled to benefits in place during their employment," asserts the California Public Employees' Retirement System in a recent report.
"Promised benefits may be increased during employment, but not decreased, absent the employees' consent.... The courts have established that this rule prevents not only a reduction in the benefits that have already been earned, but also a reduction in the benefits that a member is eligible to earn during future service."
That's a jaw-dropper, I suspect, for most private-sector workers. They don't enjoy such constitutional protection. They're covered by a federal law that basically guards only the pension benefits they've already earned.
As too many of us know, there has been an epidemic of private pension butcheries in the last decade. Companies simply have announced that they're freezing benefits. Employees will get what they've accrued — what they're vested in — but will earn no more in the future.
The company's new retirement plan will be a 401(k), where the financial risk is borne by the employee rather than the employer. Forget what, if anything, the worker was told when hired. The world has changed.
Naturally, this has created a great deal of pension envy among the vast majority of voters who don't work for a state or local government.
And it's at the heart of voter demands for public pension reform — with plenty of legitimate justification: The future liabilities of public pension systems are underfunded by hundreds of billions of dollars.
The deficit-ridden budgets of state and local governments need immediate relief from the escalating cost of pension contributions for current employees. And the long-term fiscal health of these governments requires a significant reduction in retirement benefits for future hires.
Law seeks to protect teacher jobs
School districts uncertain of impacts
By Karen Kucher & Maureen Magee • U-T
7:29 p.m., June 30, 2011
San Diego County school districts on Thursday were assessing surprise state legislation that could prompt some teacher layoffs to be rescinded and throw budgets into disarray.
The last-minute school legislation emerged publicly less than an hour before lawmakers approved it in a late-evening Tuesday session as part of the budget package approved by the Legislature.
Assembly Bill 114, pushed by the powerful California Teachers Association, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown late Thursday.
Representatives of San Diego County districts, like their counterparts across the state, were caught off-guard by the bill and uncertain about whether it would force them to undo recent budget actions.
On Tuesday, for example, the San Diego Unified School District board adopted an austere budget that included eliminating 750 teacher positions and 600 other positions. Officials said it will take time to figure out how to respond to the legislation, which as if not yet been signed by the governor.
Monica Henestroza, director of governmental relations for the San Diego Unified School District, has been working to figure out what the budget could mean. San Diego Unified authorized layoffs to help offset a $114 million deficit to its $1.04 billion operating budget.
“From a state perspective, this is a source of a lot of contention,” she said. “There are a lot of different interpretations right now... There will be some time until there is consensus — if there ever is. There are also questions about enforceability.”
Linda Zintz, spokeswoman for San Diego Unified, fielded emails and calls from teachers and others on Thursday who wanted to know if the state budget deal would cancel layoffs.
The People’s Republic of Kalifornia: Unions’ Takeover Nearly Complete Posted by LaborUnionReport (Profile) Wednesday, June 29th at 8:00AM EDT 3 Comments It was only a matter of time, you know. As unions in California have long placed their cronies into political office from San Francisco to San Diego, their control over the state legislature in Sacramento is nearing final completion. What little Republican resistance there is will likely be decimated in the coming years as the SEIU’s plan to mate liberals with RINOs comes to fruition. Now, though, the unions have a plan to complete their takeover of the state entirely. Sponsored by AFSCME and introduced earlier this year by Democrat assembly member Nora Campos (whose husband is the CEO at Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council), California Assembly Bill 455 provides the following: …when a local public agency has established a personnel commission or merit commission to administer personnel rules or a merit system, the governing board of the public agency would appoint 12 of the members of the commission, and 12 of the members of the commission, nominated by the recognized employee organization, would be appointed by the governing board of the public agency . Whenever multiple bargaining units are represented by different recognized employee organizations , the employee organization representing the largest number of employees would designate commission members pursuant to that provision. In sum, if AB 455 passes, it will give unions all across the state the power to… …directly nominate half the members of the bodies that establish wages, work rules, and benefits; adjudicate workplace disputes; and set minimum qualifications and standards for job examinations. In certain cities, like San Francisco, the civil service commissions even set the salaries of the public officials. San Jose Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, a critic of AB455, says the bill would give unions too much power. [Ya think?] “The way it’s done now, the whole council selects members from San Jose to the civil service commission, which is better than the unions appointing only people they like,” he said. “I can see nothing but skewed outcomes.” [snip] “Its pretty clear that certain assembly members are aligned with certain groups,” Oliverio said. “And it’s no surprise Assembly Member Campos is a big supporter of and supported by unionized groups. “It’s a business model, because if the work is not done by union workers, there’s no dues. When we outsourced the graffiti program, they lost those union dues.” Even as Marxist “progressive” as San Francisco is, AB455 also has its critics: “Were the Board of Supervisors to appoint members of the Civil Service Commission, all of its direct appointees, it’s safe to say, would be pro-union,” says Don Casper, a commissioner for 11 years. “The members nominated — that is, appointed — by SEIU would be union advocates.” Of course, the check and balance to AB 455 is that the unions would only get to seat one half of the public agency. Presumably, elected officials would appoint the other half… Oh, wait… If the unions are the ones who get those public officials elected, then… Never mind. Let the exodus of the sane continue.
Californians are abandoning public education
Larry N. Gerston
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown and public education leaders now warn that failure to extend the temporary taxes on income, sales and motor vehicles could reduce the school year by as much as 20 days. As it is, only four states now have shorter attendance requirements than California. In the past, such admonition might have galvanized public support. But this time around, growing numbers of Californians seem to be saying, so what? Instead, Californians should be outraged.
With the latest round of cutbacks enacted by the Legislature a couple of months ago, California is slated to spend about $7,000 per student in the upcoming year, leaving the state ranked at 48th among the 50 states. That amount is about $3,000 per student below the national average, and less than half the per-student expenditures of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Even Texas spends $11,000 per pupil. And California's figures don't include the new cuts now on the table.
So, why the blase attitude? Because people are abandoning public education.
Large numbers of Californians are moving their children from public to private schools. Meanwhile, incomes have gone in two different directions. Whites had median personal incomes in 2006 of $35,000, significantly higher than Asians ($27,862) and African Americans ($26,000), and nearly double the median incomes of Latinos ($19,000).
Clearly the "haves" are doing fine, thank you, so much so that many are placing their kids in private institutions. With that done, why should they worry about spending in an area that consumes 40 percent of the state budget? Another reason for muted clamor may relate to the nature of the electorate. Although the state is now 42 percent non-Hispanic white, this same group amounted to 65 percent of the voters in 2010. At the same time, 50 percent of all public school students are Latino, compared to 25 percent who are white - far different from the composition of private schools. So the folks who need public benefits the least have the votes to impact the folks who need public benefits the most.
None of this is to suggest that all wealthy white people are withdrawing from public institutions and leaving poor minorities holding the bag, or that poor kids never go to private schools. But the combination of wealth differences, voter distributions, racial compositions in public schools, and the spike in private school interest is hard to ignore. California no longer carries the same promise for some as others, and as the state continues to desert public education, many are bailing out.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/25/EDCH1JJQSP.DTL#ixzz1NTn2VK2R
update: CTA STILL EXTREME
Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 11:10
Friday, 15 April 2011 10:56
UPDATE: CTA Pulls Back on some extreme ideas…
By Ron Nehring
The militant “community organizers” who run the California Teachers Association union have been forced to pull back on some elements of their controversial plan for a Wisconsin-type takeover of the state capitol after it was exposed here on BigGovernment.com.
The Sacramento Bee reports that once the news media and the public got to see just how extreme the union’s plans are, leadership decided to pull back on some of the more “creative” (read: kooky) elements of the plan set to be implemented the week of May 9 – 13.
“Some of the union’s ideas went beyond the usual letter-writing and rallying,” the Bee reported this morning, but, “By Wednesday, the more creative ideas on the list had been removed.”
The union’s plans to provoke a major confrontation in the state capitol to force the legislature to raise taxes were exposed in this 10-page plan, which contains instructions for using public school facilities and children to which the union has direct access in the campaign culminating in a takeover of the capitol in Sacramento.
While union officials have not backed down on their plans to take over the building and yank thousands of teachers out of classrooms and put them into protests, they are awkwardly running away from plans to use the kids.
The Bee reports a CTA spokesman “said the list was ‘brainstorming’ from the union’s 800-delegate state council, and that CTA is not suggesting students be used as props.”
Really? That’s exactly what they were suggesting throughout this published plan. In “State Council Ideas for Potential Activities” the CTA document suggests: “Take mug shots of teachers and students to make point that prisons receive better funding.” Taking photos of students and use them in the campaign — How is that not “suggesting students be used as props.”?
‘Second pension’ payments have cost $4.3 million
The checks come from a separate fund because they exceed IRS limits
BY KELLY THORNTON, WATCHDOG INSTITUTE
SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2011 AT 4:04 A.M.
Payments from the excess pension fund:
2007: $12,596 to two retirees
2008: $1.6 million to 63 retirees
2009: $1.15 million to 43 retirees
2010: $1.52 million to 69 retirees
2011 (projected): $1.5 million
2012 (projected): $1.6 million
San Diego has used general tax money to make $4.3 million in supplemental payments over the past three years to retirees whose pensions cannot be funded by the city retirement system because they exceed IRS limits.
Because the IRS does not allow the supplemental payments to come from the pension portfolio, city taxpayers and ratepayers fund the entire amount, not sharing the burden with employee contributions or interest earnings.
Congress set limits on benefits to keep pension funds from becoming tax shelters for the rich, but the IRS has set up ways for public employers to legally pay what it calls “excess benefits.” The limits vary depending on age; the maximum for a retiree age 62 to 65, for example, is $195,000.
The payments are most likely required as a vested benefit promised to employees, and pension officials say there is no more cost than $15,000 a year for extra bookkeeping for the supplemental fund.
Still, with policymakers increasingly looking for ways to lower pension costs, some are examining whether the IRS limits provide a justification for ceasing the payments, which go only to the city’s highest-paid pensioners — who top out around $300,000 a year thanks to this program
Ethics panel fines labor union, three lobbyists
BY CRAIG GUSTAFSON
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2011 AT 3:16 P.M.
The San Diego Ethics Commission has levied fines totaling $5,000 against a labor union and three lobbying groups for not properly disclose their activities at City Hall.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 received a $3,000 fine for failing to timely disclose roughly $10,600 it spent last fall on behalf of Democratic candidate Howard Wayne’s failed bid for City Council, a seat that went to Republican Lorie Zapf. Two expenditures were never reported and a third was three days late.
A $1,000 fine was levied against Gerding Edlen, the Portland, Ore.-based developer that sought to build a new $293 million City Hall in downtown San Diego, for disclosing its lobbying activity from July through September a month later than the required deadline.
This was the developer’s third such violation, resulting in a larger fine than is typical.
The City Hall project, which would have replaced the current version built in 1965, was abandoned by city leaders late last year as they focused their efforts on a proposed sales tax increase, which voters rejected in November. There are no plans to resuscitate the project despite widespread agreement that the existing structure is inefficient and requires millions in repairs.
Convicted city workers keep pensions
In some other states, work-related crimes can mean revoking retirement
BY CRAIG GUSTAFSON
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MARCH 19, 2011 AT 6:24 P.M., UPDATED MARCH 19, 2011 AT 7:32 P.M.
A San Diego city parks employee convicted of stealing nearly $74,000 from a South Bay recreation center. A councilman convicted on felony corruption charges for accepting campaign contributions and then trying to lift a “no touching” ban at local strip clubs.
In many parts of the country, such public employees face the loss of part or all of their taxpayer-funded pensions as a result of their misdeeds. Not in San Diego, where no city employee has ever had a pension taken away or reduced because of wrongdoing.
The ex-parks worker, Helen Ferrell, collects an annual pension of nearly $30,000 while Ralph Inzunza, the former councilman who resigned in disgrace in 2005, receives about $24,000 each year.
The expected lifetime pension benefits for Ferrell and Inzunza — $710,000 and $1.1 million respectively — is a pittance compared to the $6.5 billion promised to the city’s current and retired workers. But the payouts raise questions about a pension system that doesn’t give taxpayers any recourse when an employee violates the public’s trust in such a profound way.
NASSCO issues layoff notices to 350 workers
By Gary Robbins
Originally published March 25, 2011 at 3:19 p.m., updated March 25, 2011 at 4:39 p.m.
NASSCO is almost finished with $72 million in repairs and upgrades to the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard.
For the second time in less than a year, economic problems will force major lay-offs at General Dynamics-NASSCO, one of nation’s largest ship repair and shipbuilding companies.
NASSCO said Friday that it is notifying 350 of its 3,600 employess in San Diego that they will be laid off indefinitely in late May or early June “due to the federal budget stalemate and lack of recovery in the commercial shipbuilding market."
Congress has yet to approve the fiscal 2011 defense budget, which is leading to the delay of many major projects, including $24.7 million in repairs and upgrades NASSCO was scheduled to make on the amphibious assault shipPeleliu, starting in May.
GOP Foolishly Ignores Recall Battle in Wisconsin
Salena Zito | Townhall.com
For weeks the national media focused on union protests in Wisconsin.
Aging hippies trashed the state capital, union members were bused in from across the country in color-coded T-shirts, and Democratic state senators hid in an Illinois motel.
Each little drama was an organized response to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill that negated labor’s influence with state employees.
You could not turn to any cable or network newscast without seeing Walker, or see other states’ Republican governors and legislators copying him.
Then, through a legislative maneuver, Walker outfoxed the Democrats and passed his budget bill.
The TV crews’ klieg lights went out. The political circus packed up. Our attention turned to Japan and Libya.
Perhaps we all looked away too quickly.
The story that no one talks about, that has the biggest impact on the 2012 election, is slowly brewing – with Republicans barely paying attention.
FL - House votes to end pay deductions for union dues
Posted on Friday, Mar. 25, 2011
By BILL KACZOR | MiamiHerald.com
In a blow to public employee unions, the Republican-controlled Florida House passed a bill Friday that would ban payroll deductions of dues and require labor organizations to get individual members' OK before using their payments for political purposes.
The Florida legislation, which still needs Senate approval, is part of a Republican push in several states to curtail the power of public-sector unions that generally support Democratic candidates. The efforts follow GOP election gains in November.
Republicans insisted in floor debate that the bill's intent is not to harm unions but to empower public employees by giving them more control over how their dues are spent and to separate government from politics.
Organized Labor Embattled in a Class War
March 28, 2011, 12:18 AM
The question is, what are the classes involved with the unions warfare. is it rich vs. poor? I think not.
Unions have a war on workers. They steal money; give to candidates that oppose the workers keeping their hard earned money. Unions give money to officeholders who prefer union education to quality education. Unions give money to the likes of Perez, Nunez and Steinberg--people who kill jobs--their jobs.
The media does not understand.
"Pro-union voices say that there are political forces that want to disenfranchise union members and deny their constitutional right to assembly and free speech. The anti-union Republicans say that unions have captured City Council and Statehouses and have disproportionate influence over legislators. They also claim, falsely, that overly generous pension plans are breaking the financial backs of state and local government.
The issue of unfunded liability became real as the nation’s financial system collapsed. While for the short term, the unfunded liability seems enormous, but it can be safely dealt with without placing the city into foreclosure."
Republicans are not anti-union, we are pro worker. It is the unions that are anti-worker. We want the middle class to grow. Unions want to end free elections, want higher taxes, demand exemptions from ObamaCare--though they used forced union dues to promote this killer health care program.
The mainstream media, itself dying by suicide, is still lying about the role of unions. The good news is that unless people have dogs or birds, most do not need the Times or Post any more.
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