Is Union Reform Partisan?

Advocates of public sector union reform have long been accused of playing partisan politics, but the data suggests it is the unions, not the reformers, who are political partisans. According to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics, just the top 20 labor unions over the past 20 years have spent over $500 million on federal election campaigns, and 95% of that spending went to Democrats.

This data is compiled by OpenSecrets.org on their webpage “Labor: Long-Term Contribution Trends.” On the chart below the blue bars represent labor union contributions to Democrats, and the red bars represent labor union contributions to Republicans. They show the total reported political contributions for the last eleven two-year election cycles through 2010. The red bars are scarcely visible.

The next table, which extracts data from the OpenSecrets webpage “Heavy Hitters: Top All Time Donors” (below) shows the top 20 labor union’s political contributions to each party for the same 22 year period. Among most of the major labor unions, the contributions are nearly 100% to Democrats. Overall, 95% of political contributions by labor unions have gone to Democrats, and only 5% to Republicans.

One can argue as to whether or not the agenda and policies of Democrats and Republicans are the cause or the effect of political contributions. But there can be no doubt that [...] Read More

Unions and the American Worker

A great irony of American politics is that the agenda of the left, especially big labor, causes more economic harm than good to the average American worker. Explaining this irony is not easy, but a contributor to the Washington Times, Doug Ross, did a pretty good job yesterday in his guest column entitled “Union members should know their leaders are betraying them.”

Ross gets to the heart of the matter as he connects the money from union dues to support for big government bureaucracies whose current agenda is to curb economic growth while flooding the nation with cheap labor:

“When you get your next paycheck, take a minute to calculate how much money is going to union dues (say, for example, $90). Multiply that by the number of pay periods per year (say, 26). The total (in this example, nearly $2,500) is going to line the pockets of the union bosses who will give your money exclusively to one political party, Democrats.

Your money — the product of your labor, of your finite time on Earth spent working — is being stolen and funneled to the same political party bent on destroying you. The EPA is destroying jobs. The Department of the Interior is destroying jobs. The Department of Labor’s open borders advocacy is destroying jobs.

All of these immense bureaucracies, which you pay for with your taxes (more money stolen from you) are targeting union workers, America’s backbone. [...] Read More

The Cost of Government Pensions

Earlier this week the Sacramento Bee hosted a chat on the topic “Should States Rethink Collective Bargaining.” In addition to journalists from the Bee, participants included Steve Greenhut, editor of CalWatchdog.org, and Art Pulaski, the chief officer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

During the hour-long discussion, the topic of public sector pensions came up a few times, and Mr. Pulaski stated that the average pension collected by retired state workers in California are not much more than social security. Referencing the chat log, he said:

“ArtPulaskiCLF: the average state worker gets a pension of $24,000 and often without social security. Not lavish by any means Tuesday March 8, 2011 12:48 ArtPulaskiCLF”

This is a profoundly misleading statement. When Pulaski, and others who share his perspective on these issues, use numbers this low, they are reporting an average that includes everyone on the CalPERS retirement rolls, even people who have barely vested their retirement benefit by only working five years for the state. Furthermore, this average includes part-time workers, and it includes long-time retirees who left the workforce before base pay and pension formulas had been increased significantly – and unsustainably – as they have in the last 10-15 years during the economic bubbles.

A more realistic way to gauge the fairness and financial sustainability of state worker pensions is to reference the average pension for [...] Read More

Trumka’s False Choice

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But when the imitator inverts the meaning of the phrase they’re imitating, clarification is called for. Such is the case with the esteemed Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, who has penned an essay in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “Scott Walker’s False Choice.”

According to Trumka, Wisconsin’s embattled governor Scott Walker has presented the following false choice to the unionized public employees in that state, “if you want to keep your job, give up your rights, if you want to keep your rights, you’re going to get laid off.” But what if it isn’t Governor Walker, but Richard Trumka, who is presenting a false choice to America?

Back in 2009, a courageous reformer in San Diego, California, councilmember Carl DeMaio, was already talking about the false choice that powerful labor unions in that city were presenting to voters. In an April 2009 press release from DeMaio’s office entitled “City Makes Progress with Labor Contracts,” DeMaio had this to say about the choices facing voters:

“City taxpayers have long been presented with the false choice that we must either raise taxes or suffer severe cuts in citizen services. Today’s action reflects my long-held belief that the better path to solving the city’s financial problems is to make our city government more efficient by reducing labor costs to sustainable levels in line with our local labor market.”

By extension, [...] Read More

Redefining Environmentalism

The “Breakthrough Institute,” was founded in 2003 by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of “The Death of Environmentalism” and Break Through, and aspires to be “a paradigm-shifting think tank committed to modernizing liberal thought for the 21st Century.” Last week Nordhaus and Shellenberger delivered a lecture at Yale University that provided myth-shattering explanations for recent failures of the environmental movement. Equally significant, and very encouraging, is that in their lecture, Shellenberger and Nordhaus also set forth principles for redefining and revitalizing environmentalism that are realistic and thoughtful. The full text of their remarks, entitled “The Long Death of Environmentalism” are posted on their website.

Here is the problem with environmentalism according to Nordhaus and Shellenberger:

“Today, environmental efforts to address climate change and build a green economy lie in ruins. The United States Congress this summer once again rejected climate legislation that even had it succeeded would have had virtually no impact upon U.S. carbon emissions over the coming decade. The magnitude and consequence of this defeat are poorly understood outside of Washington. Greens had the best opportunity in a generation — a Democratic White House and large Democratic majorities in Congress. But they banked everything on a single bill and walked away with nothing — or rather worse than nothing, since today environmental credibility with lawmakers of both parties is today at an all-time low. Meanwhile, green stimulus investments ended up creating very few jobs. Those that [...] Read More