Californians Break With Unions on Pensions
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  • One may wish to consider that when the high speed rail boondoggle is finally constructed, each and every employee will have a public pension.

  • Patricia

    Yes, attitudes are changing here. I recently told some very savvy, educated people at dinner that 80% of my dues (a number arrived at by litigation) at my former job went back to politicians in the form of campaign donations.

    They had no idea.

    We need ads here, GOP, education. Prepare the battlefield or prepare to lose California forever.

  • Dotar Sojat

    Every public employee’s pension should be immediately recalculated based on an average of the last 3 years’ salary, exclusive of bonuses and overtime. Promotions in the last year should be excluded from the calculation. This will eliminate the “spiking” of salaries that is used to game the system. Pensions should be reduced by the amount of post retirement public employment. Full benefits should not be available until age 60. All medical insurance should involve a co-pay and a yearly deductible.

    “But we had a contractual pension!!!” Not to bankrupt the State, you didn’t.

  • MarkJ

    Patricia,

    “Prepare the battlefield or prepare to lose California forever.”

    Gee, you talk as if losing California would be a BAD thing. 😉

    In my view, the worst thing we could do to the Mexicans is to give California back to them. I guarantee within six months they’d be on their knees begging for us to take it back.

  • Andy

    Convert from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans. Immediately! This way, the pension contributions will be immediately visible and understandable. Politicians cannot make promises that won’t have to be kept for then years as they only focus (understandably) on the next election.

    You can still have employer contributions to the plans, just like my university plan in TIAA/CREF. But, when I retire, their obligation to me is done.

  • Leon0112

    California needs an initiative to make union dues an opt-in activity and make the workers send them a check out of their own account if they want to participate.

    This would dramatically reduce union income and influence in political races.

  • AlanH

    “To be sure, Californians haven’t embraced the Scott Walker agenda. By and large, they don’t want to make public unions illegal.”

    Public employee unions aren’t illegal in Wisconsin, and that has never been a part of Scott Walker’s agenda. These unions have had their ability to bargain for wages and benefits reduced, and they can no longer force public employee to pay union dues.

  • mojo

    I don’t care if they’re “illegal” or not – as long as they’re forbidden to give money to anybody whatsoever. ALL their money should be spent on collective bargaining.

    You know – like the old CSEA. Before it got gobbled up by the horribly corrupt SEIU.

  • willis

    “Voters want a salary cap for determining benefits, they want to raise the retirement age, and they support a hybrid pension system that mixes in elements of a traditional, defined-contribution plan”

    But they want to stay to the left of Scott Walker and leave them their bargaining rights. They just don’t want to leave them anything to bargain about. Smooth, real smooth. I like it!

  • harkin

    I don’t remember Scott Walker saying he wanted to make public unions “illegal”, however FDR said they never should be and we are seeing the results of his vision.

  • boqueronman

    “Californians haven’t embraced the Scott Walker agenda. By and large, they don’t want to make public unions illegal.” That statement is both outrageous and factually false. Or do you equate restricting collective bargaining rights – which, given the actions of today’s public sector unions, amounts to funding the installation of politicians who will then bow obsequiously to their every demand once in office – “wanting to make public unions illegal!”

    Look, here’s how it works. Union members lobby vociferously for untenable wages and benefit packages. Greedy politicians willing to accept bribes… err massive campaign contributions… to get reelected, go along. On any threat of reduction in benefits, union organizers get out the vote to punish the rebel (ask Scott Walker about this). At election time unions donate massively to candidates willing to back the union sponsored agenda. Over time, school boards, city halls, and legislative bodies in general get packed with bought and paid for politicians. At the state and local levels the union muscle is overwhelming.

    Here are six common sense public sector employee reforms (ht: Mike Shedlock at Global Economic Analysis):

    Scrap Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wage laws.
    Scrap collective bargaining for public union workers entirely.
    Implement national right-to-work laws.
    Outsource every public sector job possible including police and fire departments to the lowest cost private sector provider.
    Kill defined benefit pension plans for all new hires and for all public employees that do remain in the system.
    Tax public union retiree benefits over a certain amount.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Mead

    “When voters “get” just how much of a tradeoff they face between services for kids a… vs. paying pensions, then sentiment will likely harden on the pension front. Better schools for your kids, or better pensions for people who taught other peoples’ kids twenty years ago?”

    Money do not make schools better, better pupils make schools better.
    It makes more sense to pay overpaid, overbenefited gov workers pensions that equal 100% of their best earning year (loaded with overtime in retirement preparation) when they rich 50 then burn money trying to deal with unteachable gangsters-in-training.

  • Kevin M

    1) No one who lives elsewhere has any right to an opinion unless we ask you for money (and you should say no. Please say no).

    2) The union contracts are the result of barely disguised bribery of government officials from union slush funds, which themselves are kickbacks from state funds. They are the fruit of a poisoned tree and should be discarded as such. The payments are no more binding than any other discovered fraud.

    3) Attitudes would change about union bargaining if the degree of self-serving became known. In Wisconsin, unions owned the service companies providing contract benefits (such as health care), rather than the bidding process one would expect. These companies relet the contracts, pocketing the difference which they then used to bribe more politicians. Put that in front of the voters (or union members, for that matter) and the numbers will change.

    At the very least limits need to be applied on non-payroll, non-workrule issues, as they did in Wisconsin.

    4) Reformers need to be clear about whether they are talking about future pensions (30 and 40 years from now), pensions for current workers, or pensions for retired workers. Reporters, too. Unless current pensions are shaved (starting with the 50% payout bump everyone got in 2000), and current workers transition to sustainable plans, there is no reform. Making changes only for new hires may help the state mid-century, but we’ll all be dead/broke by then.

  • Kevin M

    “California needs an initiative to make union dues an opt-in activity and make the workers send them a check out of their own account if they want to participate.”

    Schwarzenegger tried that. It lost.

  • SukieTawdry

    I only wish choice were between “better schools for your kids” and better pensions for the teachers. Alas, if we’re really, really serious about wanting better schools, we will need to get rid of the teachers unions altogether (or at the very least render them toothless).

    I’ve been voting along side my fellow Californians for a good many years now and I must say the majority are a pretty sorry bunch. Get back to me on this when sufficient numbers in that majority finally join the rest of us in understanding what a scourge public employee unions are.

    You know, we never had the chance to vote on this issue like the citizens of Wisconsin did those many years ago. No, Gov. Moonbeam created the right for state employees to form unions and collectively bargain with a stroke of his magical pen. He, like JFK before him, understood what a gold mine of money, organization and votes public sector unions would be for Democrats. I for one would have absolutely no qualms about repealing that which the governor was so generous in bestowing.

  • Patricia

    mojo, the union that we sued for using our dues for campaign purposes was CSEA! Jerry Brown had the year before given them the right collect fair share dues.

    MarkJ, maybe you’re right: let the lights go out.

  • Al Moncrief

    PROOF THAT COLORADO’S GOVERNMENT LIES: COLORADO PERA’S ATTEMPT TO TAKE CONTRACTED RETIREE BENEFITS.

    When I was young I held the belief that public service in the United States is honorable, that the United States of America was exceptional in the world, that governments in the United States, while flawed, deserved the respect of citizens.

    Now that I am old, I see that I was naive . . . that governmental entities in the United States will intentionally deceive to achieve their goals, and that over two centuries our soldiers have died for a country that will countenance, and even celebrate, base behavior on the part of its public sector instrumentalities. It saddens me, but if this state of affairs persists in the United States . . . Honor is dead.

    Some background . . .

    You may know that an entity of Colorado state government, Colorado PERA, is attempting to breach its public pension contracts with its retirees. Colorado PERA is attempting a retroactive taking, a “clawback” of accrued, fully-vested pension benefits that were earned by retired PERA members over decades.

    Colorado PERA public pension benefits include a “base benefit” that is set at retirement and a “COLA benefit” that adjusts pensions annually to compensate for inflation. The “base benefit” and the “COLA benefit” are set forth in Colorado statutes with identical force of law and legal status.

    In its attempt to breach retiree contracts Colorado PERA has created a contrivance. The contrivance that Colorado PERA is using is that somehow the “base benefit” is a contractual obligation, but the “COLA benefit” is not a contractual obligation, in spite of the fact that both pension benefits are set forth in law in an identical manner. What this boils down to is attempted, unabashed, theft by government.

    Whether or not Colorado PERA’s attempt to take fully-vested public pension benefits from PERA retirees is ultimately successful in the courts, one fact has been incontrovertibly established . . . Colorado PERA, as an instrumentality of the State of Colorado, is an organization that will lie to achieve its policy goals.

    This is a sad fact for the many employees of Colorado PERA, for the trustees that have served on the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees over 80 years, and for the thousands of PERA members and retirees.

    And now, the proof of the deceit . . .

    Colorado PERA has told us, in writing, that the PERA COLA benefit IS a contractual obligation of PERA . . . and then, after initiating their attempt to breach contracts, Colorado PERA has told us, in writing, that the PERA COLA benefit IS NOT a contractual obligation of PERA. Both of these statements cannot be true.

    Colorado PERA in a written document, to the Colorado General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee on December 16, 2009 states that the PERA COLA benefit IS a contractual obligation of PERA:

    “The General Assembly cannot decrease the
    COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

    Link:

    http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf

    Colorado PERA on page 23 of its May 6, 2011 “Reply Brief” in the pension case Justus v. State states that the PERA COLA benefit IS NOT a contractual obligation of PERA:

    “Plaintiffs seek to create a contract right that has never existed—an unchangeable COLA for life triggered (inconsistently) by either the date of their retirement or ‘full vesting.’”

    Link:

    http://saveperacola.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/2011-05-06-pera-defendants_-reply-in-support-of-summary-judgment.pdf

    That is simply unbelievable.

    In one document PERA writes “the contract right has never existed.” In the other they write that the COLA benefit is a contractual obligation protected under the Colorado and US constitutions.

    When PERA writes that they need “actuarial necessity” to take the COLA benefit, they are not denying that it is a contractual obligation, in fact, it is an admission of the contractual nature of the COLA benefit.

    For further information regarding Colorado PERA’s attempt to take fully-vested pension benefits from retirees visit saveperacola.com or Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook.

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