Archive | January, 2020

Opt Out Today: California Teachers Association collected over $178 million in dues in just one year – how does that affect our elections?

17 Jan

 

I went to optouttoday.com, where public employees can get more information about opting out of union dues, and maybe get a refund of illegally collected dues. You can look up the union that owes you money at their website:

California

Since we’ve been talking about the teachers’ union, I looked at CTA – California Teacher’s Association, who collected over $178 million in dues in just one year. The site also tells you where the money goes – some of these union employees get paid more than $400,000/year in salary – just think what the pension deficit for this agency looks like. 

California Teachers Association

Public employee unions are private organizations with minimal obligations to disclose financial information to members. The lack of accountability makes it easy for unions to take advantage of the easy income.

However, the IRS requires unions’ 990 tax returns to be publicly available, and these can be found online at sites like Guidestar.org. CTA reports using the Employer Identification Number (EIN) 94-0362310.

CTA’s form 990 for 2016 shows it collected $178.4 million in dues and fees from public employees that year. CTA’s highest-paid employee, associate executive director Emma Leheny, was paid $480,529. Former CTA executive director Carolyn Dogget was paid $370,610 in 2016, even though she performed no work on behalf of the union. At least 11 other CTA executives are paid hefty six-figure salaries. The union even loaned CTA president Eric Heins nearly $50,000 to finance a new car.

A portion of the funds CTA collects are forwarded to the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington, D.C.

Reports NEA must file annually with the U.S. Department of Labor indicate it collected $373.6 million in the 2017-18 school year and had a paid staff of around 700.

  • $26.7 million was spent by NEA on divisive political candidates, causes and lobbying.
  • $108 million was paid or contributed to ideological organizations and political advocacy groups.
  • The highest-paid NEA international employee, president Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, was paid $414,824 in 2018.
  • Nearly 400 NEA employees were paid six-figures in 2018.

NEA’s 2018 LM-2 report is available here.
NEA’s 2017 LM-2 report is available here.
NEA’s 2016 LM-2 report is available here.

On the unions’ annual “Hudson Notice” breaking out how much was spent on core union services, CTA reported that $55 million (29.7 percent) was not used for workplace services. Likewise, the NEA reported that $192 million (58 percent) was not used for workplace services.

Kathie Moloney: If you are frustrated with how your union dues are spent and/or unhappy with the direction our state and taxes, it’s time to stop giving these unions millions of dollars to push their political agenda

16 Jan

Given what I’ve learned over the past 10 years about the public pension system, it has been hard for me to keep any kind of respect for public employees. I’ll admit – I think anybody who would go along with the system is a creep, and doesn’t deserve any of my consideration. Especially school teachers – I went to public school, it kills all your trust and respect for adults.

But every now and then I meet a public employee who is not a total scumbag. Once a woman followed me out of a meeting at Chico City Hall, said she hadn’t wanted to talk to me in front of her coworkers, but  didn’t explain. She told me not all public workers enjoyed the kind of Gravy Train management was on. Then she took my hand and looked directly into my eyes and said she liked my letters – “keep doing what you’re doing”, she told me, and she slipped out of sight down a hallway. 

Looking at publicpay.com, you can see, not all city employees are considered equal – the “classified” staff don’t make nearly the salaries bestowed on management, who are like some kind of royalty compared to the people who actually do the work. 

Then a county worker called me, didn’t want to identify himself, but told me county workers are not all paid that great. He also explained to me that your union rep isn’t some popular co-worker elected by his peers – the county hires the union rep, he makes a management salary, and he bargains for his own salary separately from the workers he supposedly represents. Unions are a lot more “On The Waterfront” than “Norma Rae” these days. 

So I wondered how these people felt about forced conscription into a union that does not necessarily represent your interests – or your political beliefs. Then I heard about Janus vs AFSCME – the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that forcing employees to pay union dues is ILLEGAL. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus_v._AFSCME

 “The Supreme Court ruled that such union fees in the public sector violate the First Amendment right to free speech…”

And, they ruled that employees who had opted out of the union but still been forced to pay dues (the city of Chico collected union dues from all their paychecks) would be eligible for REFUNDS.  But I’ve been left wondering how many employees would actually ask for the refunds.

Finally today I saw a letter in the Enterprise Record from a woman who describes herself as a retired teacher and says she was forced to pay union dues. She reports that she was never even told she could opt out of the portion used for political purposes – that was the law even before Janus vs AFSCME.   I bet a lot of union employees were unaware they were being ripped off. 

Unfortunately, I think she made a very pertinent grammatical error in her letter – I think she meant to say, “CTA used a portion of these dues to fund politicians and political campaigns that I did [NOT?] support” but left out the “not”. I think the ER is a piece of shit – that’s what editors are supposed to do. It’s an obvious mistake, but the ER staff didn’t think to contact this woman?

But, Mike Wolcott contacted my husband again and again about a letter my husband had sent, telling him he had to rewrite it extensively because Wolcott didn’t like the use of the words “shack” or “dumpster diving” regarding the Simplicity Village proposal. Wolcott’s not a journalist, he’s not even a very good editor. 

Here’s the letter from Kathie Moloney, you decide for yourself what she’s trying to say. 

And I’ll apologize now for thinking all public school teachers are money-grubbing kid-haters. 

 

I am a retired educator of 34 years and was required to pay dues to CTA each month in order to work. CTA used a portion of these dues to fund politicians and political campaigns that I did support nor give money to. CTA usually endorsed liberal politicians and their agendas.

While I often appreciated my local unions representation, I was never told I had the right to opt out of a portion of my dues CTA sent to political campaigns until late in my career. Educators are getting notices in the mail on how to opt out and possibly get a refund thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court decision. Go to http://www.OptOutToday.com for more information. This website indicates this ruling applies to all public employees who are mandated to pay union dues in order to have a job.

If you are frustrated with how your union dues are spent and/or unhappy with the direction our state and taxes, it’s time to stop giving these unions millions of dollars to push their political agenda.

— Kathie Moloney, Orland

 

Dan Walters documents a history of promises broken by state legislators – the same applies to our local legislators

14 Jan

As we watch “the homeless” overwhelm our parks and public areas, and Chico PD arrests more and more transients for burglary and assault,  the Chico city council is actually thinking about rescinding the “sit-and-lie” ordinance soon. I watched a video of county supervisor candidate Sue Hilderbrand claiming that transients should be allowed to do anything in public places that the rest of us do in our homes. The state is considering forcing the mentally ill into treatment. Gavin Newsom wants to penalize cities that are not, in his opinion, doing enough to house the homeless.

Meanwhile, according to Dan Walters,

https://www.marinij.com/2020/01/05/dan-walters-promises-made-but-not-kept-in-push-to-fund-criminal-rehab-programs/

billions of dollars meant to reduce repeat criminal activity by improving local jails and probation services were siphoned off for other purposes.”

You know what other purposes – “the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) was pressuring local governments to contribute more money to offset the system’s investment losses during the Great Recession, and to pay for pension benefit increases.”

Walters reports that CalMatters published a similar article about the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which was meant “to depopulate the state’s mental hospitals, curb involuntary commitments and divert the mentally ill into local treatment programs. 

“However, the promises of the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short act to create a network of easily accessible local mental health services were never kept. The money that had been saved from closing mental hospitals was swallowed up in state budgets approved by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and his successors from both parties.”

And those promises continue to be ignored, you can look at the Butte County Behavioral Department website for yourself:

https://www.buttecounty.net/behavioralhealth/

For one department – one department in a county of less than 300,000 people – with nearly a $100 million budget, I’m not impressed. I don’t see any directory of mental health professionals. I do see a number you can call if you’re experiencing a crisis, but I don’t see any programs – like AA – that can help a person avoid crisis. And while they’ve promised a “street crisis team,” I have yet to see county workers walking the parks or other public areas in Chico to counsel anybody toward getting off the street.

Look here – you can see where the Behavioral Health Budget goes.

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Counties/County.aspx?entityid=4&year=2014

You see the highest paid employee in Butte County, with a salary of almost $290,000/year and a benefits package of almost $50,000, is the Behavioral Health Director. Two BCBH employees make over $200,000/year, just in salary. If you search “Behavioral Health”, you find 66 pages of salaries – including the lower paid interns and “extra help” who actually work with the patients.

The funding they “saved” by not providing hospitalization for people in mental crisis has gone to management salaries, benefits, and, the county pension deficit.

Like Walters says, “We should keep the 1967 mental health law, the Local Control Funding Formula and realignment in mind the next time the state’s politicians tell us they are enacting a transformative solution to a pressing problem.” And, the next time our city or county leaders tell us they need more revenue to solve a problem, we should say NO! and vote them all out of office.

Yeats: What rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches toward Chico to be elected?

3 Jan

The other day I wrote this post

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/12/31/city-of-chico-double-ends-us-on-our-utilities-collecting-utility-tax-on-our-total-bill-while-adding-franchise-fees-to-our-rates/

about how the city inflates our utility bills with franchise fees and then turns around and adds 5% Utility User’s Tax to the total. The city takes over $7 million a year in UUT, from our PG&E, water and landlines, after adding a franchise fee to our PG&E rates.  They also add franchise fees to our garbage and Comcast bills. In addition to constant rate hikes, none of which the city of Chico has ever protested, we have two taxes, both fairly well hidden. 

In this way the city of Chico took advantage of people who had been through a horror story known as “The Camp Fire”.  I asked city finance manager Scott Dowell just exactly how much the city of Chico profited from the tragedy, and I was shocked with the total.

“Utility Users Tax receipts exceeded budget by $99,738 for the year ended June 30, 2019.”

That’s only seven months after the fire. $100,000 in seven months – wow. That’s about $14,000/month. I’m assuming most of the evacuees had relocated out of Chico by June, but I also believe we can assume that most of this “boost” came from those people who were still driving cars with the rear-end lights melted off. 

I didn’t live in Paradise but I saw stuff that changed my life. It changed the way I feel about Chico, a  town I’ve known since I was born, and lived in most of my adult life. I saw an ugly side of Chico – city management – and I’ll never feel the same way about this town again. 

Orme, Constantin and Dowell need to go. Schwab, Stone, Ory and Morgan are at the end of their terms, and I think it’s time to show them the door as well. But what candidates do we have to choose from? Good question.

Letter: Your tax hike went to raises, pensions

1 Jan

I saw in my stats that somebody read this old post – and I realized, it was worth a re-run. 

In 2012, Chico voters rejected Measure J, the cell phone tax proposed by council member and former mayor Ann Schwab. I didn’t take a poll, but something I heard from people when I spoke to them about it was outrage – “what does the city of Chico have to do with my cell phone service?”

Good question. Answer: NOTHING, it was just an outright grab into your wallets.  I hope people are still asking good questions, because what Joseph Neff is saying here, in a 6 year old letter, is still true. The majority of our budget goes toward salaries, benefits, and now, the employees’ pension liability.

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

Below Joseph Neff reminds us, even well paid private sector positions do not usually include pension, but we are all forced to pay outrageous benefits to public employees.  And he offers a solution – I bold-faced the last paragraph, cut it out and send it to Chico City Council, and then you might want to send a copy to your county supervisor. 

This letter still stands, so I’m running it again. Thank you Joseph Neff, wherever you are.

Letter: Your tax hike went to raises, pensions

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   12/06/2013 10:41:12 PM PST

Conservative voters realized that Gov. Jerry Brown’s sales tax increases would not be used to benefit taxpayers but to provide lawmakers a raise and to protect the golden pensions of public employees.

As a 45-year career employee with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering and an MBA, my two private-sector pensions are $15,000 yearly. Only two of six career employers had pensions during the past 50 years of plant closures from union strikes, global competition and company moves to right to work, more business friendly states.

None of my wife’s 30-year employers, including 11 as a teacher and 20 as either a degreed hospital medical records administrator, or as an advanced degreed nuclear medicine technologist supervisor, had pensions. Only one had a 401(k) plan. That is typical of the private sector for degreed private sector employees since the 1950s.

Public employee pensions should be halved to civilian levels, delayed to age 65, never adjusted for inflation, and based only on the first $50,000 of pre-retirement income. A $25,000 maximum annual public employee pension would be fair since savings and Social Security will provide the needed additional two-thirds of retirement spending.

— Joseph J. Neff, Corning