They’re in the catbird seat now – but the “paycheck protection” initiative may throw public employee unions out on their ears

30 Jun

I was glad to see Wisconsin throw out collective bargaining – a system that specifically denies public participation in the bargaining process – and I’ll be equally thrilled when Californians pass the “Paycheck Protection” Initative. This initiative would prohibit – prohibit! – the government, including the city of Chico, from deducting union dues from government employee paychecks that will be used for political purposes. It will also ban contributions to “candidate controlled” committees by corporations and labor unions. Furthermore – and this seems like a no brainer – it will ban contractors who receive government contracts from donating to the officeholder who awarded the contract. Now, that last one is interesting – remind me to get back to that.

Currently, both Chico Police and Chico Fire employees have union dues collected from their paychecks by the city of Chico paymaster, whether they are union members or not. These fees go to the Chico Police Officers Association and the Chico Firefighters Legislative Action Group, both registered with the city of Chico as Political Action Committees. These fees have, in past elections, been the biggest donations to any candidates. But the romance seemed to fizzle as the council  started to balk at these groups’ salary and pension demands in the face of a deepening deficit.  In the last couple of elections, neither PAC has solidly endorsed any candidate. The CPOA instead produced a slick video portraying Chico as an urban style crime area that was not properly funding it’s “public safety” organizations and released it at election time over youtube and through an e-mail campaign.

I don’t know if these tactics have any effect on the voters, but they sure made their mark on council, who has yet to take a firm stance with either Chico PD or Fire, giving in to wage increase demands and allowing structured overtime to run average salaries over $100,000 a person, with retirement at 50 years of age,  90 percent of their highest year’s pay, including overtime, and paying less than 25 percent of their benefits package. 

I believe large PAC’s have ruined our elections, and the idea that our “public servants” would use forcibly conscripted money to mount campaigns to enrich themselves with public funds is unacceptable.  The other employee unions have also played heavily in the disenfranchisement of the Chico voter – the SEIU and the nurses union were the biggest donors to the “No on Measure A” campaign back in June 2011. They all get conscripted union dues from non-union employees. These employees are NOT considered members and are NOT allowed to vote on these matters. 

This initiative seeks not only to ban conscripted dues but to ban contributions to candidate controlled committees  by these union PACs. Of course, this doesn’t seem to matter, given that these PACs, as illustrated above, are free to mount their own campaign on behalf of or against a candidate. But, it’s a nice thought. 

Now, at the end, it says, “ban contractors who receive government contracts from donating to the officeholder”. Like I said, this seems like a no-brainer. But look – we have the police and fire department and the other employee unions  in our town, who fill the definition of “contractors.” They “contract” with us, don’t they? But they are allowed to donate to officeholders, both as  PACs and as individuals.   I don’t imagine this is what the authors of this initiative have in mind, but I think there could be a good argument made in court that no public employee should be allowed to donate to the campaign of politicians who hire them. 

I’ve been reading some interesting buzz on this issue. According to tax-happy Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Morain, the state’s public employee unions are finding themselves “torn between donations to support the (Jerry Brown) tax hike, and donations to defeat another measure…the “Paycheck Protection” initiative…”  Apparently, they are short of funds to fight both, or at least, that’s what they want us to believe. I  think these unions are LOADED – they’ll pour gazillions into both measures, they’re absolutely DESPERATE to hang on to their position in the catbird seat – and fund their pensions.

Morain believes this initiative would “strip them (the unions) of their ability to raise and spend money on campaigns.”  Strip them? You mean,  force the unions to get their money by asking for it instead of stealing it from people’s paychecks?  You mean, they’d have to support candidates who actually share their views instead of buying them off?

You mean they’d have to compete with the rest of the voters, who’ve lately been shoved out of these elections by the ridiculous price tag? 

I hope Morain is right, I hope the employee unions are going bust, in a handbasket. But I’ll believe it when I see it.  Already, the California Teacher’s Union has put $1.5 million, the SEIU $1 million, the federal and state federation of teachers almost $2 million into the campaign to raise the sales/income tax. According to “ballotpedia”, the “No” campaign for the Paycheck Protection initiative has already raised over $6 million – this mainly from the the California School Employees Association, with only $500,000 coming from the California Labor Federation,  made up of private sector employees.

Let’s talk about this more tomorrow (Sunday July 1) at the library, 11:30 am.

9 Responses to “They’re in the catbird seat now – but the “paycheck protection” initiative may throw public employee unions out on their ears”

  1. Joseph June 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    These unions are very powerful and trying to get true reform will be very dificult in Colliefornia (as Ahnode calls it).

    And let’s not forget that most of those on the city council work for gummit in their day jobs and are union members. You literally have union members negotiating with the unions.

    Heck, most of those on the city council think that virtually anything that gives public employee unions even more power is Schwabtastic.

    So who represnts the tax payer?

    Well, maybe if some of this reform goes through Will Clark will have to get a real job. But I doubt it. I just wish he would have stuck with baseball.

    • Juanita Sumner July 1, 2012 at 5:26 am #

      Yeah, but see, the Nuts don’t PAY! Certainly not the kind of salary he’s toting down at the cop shop.

      As for snakes, our neighbor reported a rattler “as big as my arm” slithered through his garden recently. I think you’re right, they’re out in force in those election years. I like rattlers, good pest control.

  2. Joseph June 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Hey Juanita, you got rattle snakes out where you live?

    I just heard someone the other day say they saw one around bout where I am. And just a couple days before that there was another sighting.

    With the snakes coming out it must be an election year!

  3. Kevin July 1, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    The Truth:

    CalPERS Monthly Retirement Benefits
    The monthly retirement benefit uses the following formula:

    Benefit Factor x Years of Service x Highest Annual Base Salary = $ Annual Pension Payment

    Divide the unmodified annual benefit by 12 to get the monthly payment.

    The benefit factor is determined by the employer’s contract with PERS and the age when the member first draws upon retirement benefits. For example, if the plan is 2% at 55, that means the member cannot get the full 2% benefit factor until he reaches age 55. Otherwise, the benefit factor is reduced. All plans require a minimum retirement age of 50.

    Keep in mind that many types of compensation do not count towards a CalPERS retirement such as overtime, vacation cash-out, and bonuses. However, pension spiking is still possible if an employee goes to a position with a very high annual base salary in the final year of public employment. For example, if someone received minimum wage for 39 years of service, but is paid $200k as a city manager in the final year of service, the pension is calculated from the $200k.

    Monthly retirement payments are guaranteed for life, even if the member lives to be 120.

    Depending on the employer’s contract, the pension may also include some or all of the following optional features:

    COLAs from 2% to 5%
    Survivor continuance
    Conversion of sick leave bank to service credit
    Death benefit

    Read more at Suite101: Facts About California’s CalPERS Pension: Retirement Plan With Advantages Over an IRA and 401(k) Accounts |

    • Juanita Sumner July 1, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      THE TRUTH: Public safety personnel pensions include overtime. In both Vallejo and Stockton, public safety salaries and pensions were named as the major cause of financial distress.

      “However, pension spiking is still possible if an employee goes to a position with a very high annual base salary in the final year of public employment. For example, if someone received minimum wage for 39 years of service, but is paid $200k as a city manager in the final year of service, the pension is calculated from the $200k.”

      Yes, the entire city staff spiked their pensions when they pushed through contracts back in the early 2000’s, linking their salaries to revenue increases, but not decreases. They ramped up development, claiming to be providing $450,000 “starter” houses for “young families”, when in reality, they were just raising revenues to boost their salaries. During that boom, they took 14, 19, 22 percent raises over a period of four or five years. They tanked our housing market and put us in a Depression, and even now they are not being completely honest about the dire situation they’re in, having run up our RDA credit card paying their pension obligations. Now they expect us to be happy with their “sacrifice” – now they only want 1 – 5 percent!

      I say, it’s time to turn over the public trough.

  4. Kevin July 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Keep in mind that many types of compensation DO NOT count towards a CalPERS retirement such as OVERTIME, vacation cash-out, and bonuses.

    Juanita, you continue to express false information. All you have to do is google the question, “Is overtime included in CalPERS retirement?” Public Safety Employees, that means POLICE and FIRE, overtime is not included in RETIREMENT.

    • Juanita Sumner July 1, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

      no, I’ve been around this bush before. I’ve done my research, not just on the CalPERS website, but I’ve spoken to public safety employees, including a retired CHP officer and a retired city cop, who have confirmed to me that the practice of “spiking” one’s salary with overtime is made legal for “public safety” employees by state law.

      • K July 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

        Just a flat out lie. Your sources must have retired over 20 + years ago. Roll with the times Juanita…’s in print, black and white. You just like to stir the pot with the people who don’t care to look up the information themselves.

      • Juanita Sumner July 2, 2012 at 4:47 am #

        You know, maybe I’d believe your bullshit if you used your real name – MF Gonzales?

        Hey – care to quote to me from the city of Chico cop contracts, the one they won’t show to the public?

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