China, Climate Change, Unions

AUDIO – In-depth discussion on the topics of China, climate change as it relates to energy policies and how that’s connected to population growth, with a bit of time left over to explain the difference between public and private sector unions. An always challenging one hour on the Andrew Schatkin Show.

http://schatkinshow.com/2020/05/podcast-with-edward-ring-2/

Rates of Pay and Pension Debt in California’s Distressed Cities

Nobody needs reminding that California’s cities, like every other going concern in America, are heading for tough economic times. As recently as two months ago, robust collections of sales taxes, utility taxes, transient occupancy taxes, property taxes and other sources of taxes and fees were pouring money into municipal coffers. Now, with the economy abruptly ground to a near standstill, these revenues are all but dried up. But municipal expenses haven’t dropped proportionately, if at all.

What bears reminding is the fact that even before the sudden pandemic shutdown, California’s cities were in financial trouble. Just six months ago – and it seems like a century has passed – the California state auditor released a fiscal health analysis of California’s cities. Measuring factors including cash liquidity, debt burden, financial reserves, revenue trends, and retirement obligations, the report ranked the cities from the healthiest to the most afflicted.

During the economic downturns already endured by California cities in this century, public sector pay and benefits continued to increase even as the private sector workforce experienced layoffs and pay cuts. In the aftermath of the tech bubble bursting, pension benefit enhancements continued to gain approval by cities, one by one, justified by the reasoning that if a neighboring city had done so, then every city must follow suit. In the aftermath of the real estate bubble bursting, city workers took furloughs, where they worked one day less per week and received 20 percent lower pay – but their rate of pay […] Read More

Public Sector Unions Continue Their Attack on Property Rights in California

California’s legislature is controlled by Democratic super-majorities in both houses. These Democrat politicians, in turn, are controlled by public sector unions. They are now considering Assembly Bill 828, which will empower courts to summarily reduce rents by up to 25 percent and create additional barriers to the eviction process.

Passage of this law would be a disaster. It’s not just a blatant usurpation of property rights. It also adds a hefty shove to an economy already teetering on the brink of an epic deflationary spiral.

But supporters have the votes to pass this measure, and Gov. Newsom is likely to sign it into law. This is happening in a state where the pandemic emergency has already induced the legislature to ban evictions, and already had capped rental rate hikes. In California today, there is no longer any legal incentive for renters to pay rent, whether or not they are impacted by the current state of emergency. But landlords get no similar relief from property taxes or mortgage obligations.

A look at who funds these Democratic politicians yields unambiguous results. The money trail works like this: California’s citizens pay taxes, which fund state and local government payroll departments, from which, paycheck after paycheck, money automatically pours into the coffers of public sector unions. These unions use that money to buy the allegiance of politicians via campaign contributions.

The three primary sponsors of AB 828 are assemblymembers Phil Ting (D, San Francisco), Ash Kalra (D, […] Read More

Politicians Who Accept Government Union Money Betray the Public

Public sector unions should be illegal. They have very little in common with private sector unions, which, properly regulated, play a vital role in society. The differences between public sector and private sector unions are significant. For example:

1 – Private sector unions cannot be unreasonable in the demands they bring to negotiations with management, because if they ask for too much, they will bankrupt the company. Public sector unions, on the other hand, know that government agencies can simply raise taxes to fund their demands.

2 – Private sector unions negotiate with management that is either elected by shareholders or represents private owners of the company. Public sector unions negotiate with politicians who are often elected using campaign contributions that came from those unions. Politicians know that if they reject union demands, the unions will fight their reelection and replace them with a politician who will do what they want.

3 – Private sector unions are not generally pushing a political agenda that goes beyond their pay and benefits, their work conditions, and the practices specific to their industry. Public sector unions are unified in their drive for higher taxes, and more tax revenues allocated to pay and benefits for public employees. Increasingly, equally significant, and unlike private sector unions, public sector unions share an ideological agenda that favors bigger government.

The inherent political agenda of public sector unions is more pay and benefits for public employees, work rules that result in more government employees than might actually be […] Read More

Public Sector Unions – The Other Deep State

When government fails, public-sector unions win. When society fragments, public-sector unions consolidate their power. When citizenship itself becomes less meaningful, and the benefits of American citizenship wither, government unions offer an exclusive solidarity.

Government unions insulate their members from the challenges facing ordinary private citizens. On every major issue of our time; globalization, immigration, climate change, the integrity of our elections, crime and punishment, regulations, government spending, and fiscal reform, the interests and political bias of public-sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. Today, there may be no greater core threat to the freedom and prosperity of the American people.

In the age of talk radio, the Tea Party movement, internet connectivity, and Trump, Americans finally are mobilizing against the uniparty to take back their nation. Yet the threat of public-sector unions typically is a sideshow, when it ought to occupy center stage. They are the greatest menace to American civilization that nobody seems to be talking about. Ask the average American what the difference is between a government union, and a private sector union, and you’re likely to be met with an uncomprehending stare. That’s too bad, because the differences are profound.

While America’s labor movement has always included in its ranks varying percentages of crooks, Communists, and thugs, it derived its mass appeal based on legitimate and often compelling grievances. Most of the benefits American workers take for granted—certainly including overtime pay, sick leave, and safe working conditions—were negotiated by private sector unions.

Over time, […] Read More

Estimated Impact of Janus on California’s Public Sector Unions So Far: $50M/year

On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Janus vs AFSCME. An immediate consequence of this ruling was that public sector unions could no longer collect so-called “agency fees” from workers in their bargaining units who had opted out of full union membership.

The other main consequence of the Janus ruling was that those workers who were full dues paying members of public sector unions would have the right to terminate their memberships. In anticipation of a result unfavorable to them, which Janus certainly was, public sector unions have used their influence with lawmakers to pass numerous pieces of legislation designed to make it harder for union members to quit. As a result, the full impact of union members terminating their membership will not be felt immediately.

With nearly a year passed since the Janus case was decided, however, it is possible to begin to quantify the impact so far on union membership and on union revenues. It’s not at all an easy task. The mandatory disclosure requirements for public sector unions are minimal. Public corporations and private sector unions are both required to disclose much more information about their finances and operations than are public sector unions.

Nonetheless, over the past several months, the California Policy Center has filed numerous public information requests with public agencies in California, asking their payroll departments to disclose how many of employees had union membership dues and fees deducted, and how much those deductions amounted to. While […] Read More

Can Public Sector Union Power Ever Be Stopped?

Imagine you’re hoping to support a candidate for local office who will enact reforms that will improve your city, maybe even save it. Someone who will fight tirelessly to eliminate work rules that force agencies to hire more people than are actually necessary. Someone who will insist that incompetent public employees are fired. Someone who will finally do something about compensation and benefit packages that are threatening to bankrupt the city.

What do you say to them, when their response to your suggested reforms is this: “That’s all great, and I’d like to do it all, but who’s going to give me the million dollars for my campaign that I’m not going to get from the public employee unions if I actually try to do any of it?”

That is the sort of conversation that takes place, or would take place if anyone bothered to ask, multiplied by thousands, every election cycle in California.

Public employee unions run California. They exercise nearly absolute power in the state legislature, and in nearly every city, county, school district and special district. Can public sector union power ever be stopped?

Earlier this year, a California Public Policy Center analysis estimated that for 2016, total membership in California’s public sector unions was 1.15 million, and total revenue was $812 million. This equates to a stupefying $1.6 billion that these unions collect and spend every election cycle.

 

California’s Public Sector Unions (including local affiliates) Estimated Total Membership and Revenues

[…] Read More

Imminent Janus Court Ruling May Severely Impact Government Unions

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on Janus vs AFSCME, a case that challenges the ability of public sector unions to force government workers to pay union dues. Depending on the scope of the ruling, this case could dramatically affect the political power of big labor in the United States.

The case hinges on the assertion by plaintiff Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, that everything a public sector does is inherently political. As a result, Janus argues, even the so-called “agency fees” the union charges – ostensibly to fund nonpolitical activities such as contract negotiations – are a violation of his right to free speech. He’s got a strong case, because nearly everything public sector unions negotiate have a direct impact on public policy.

When a public sector union negotiates for increased pension benefits, for example, every other budget item is affected. In states like California and Illinois, costs for public employee pensions are exceeding 10% of total tax revenuess in some cities and counties, crowding out other public services with no end in sight. And everywhere public sector unions are active, their impact on budgets, along with their negotiated work rules, significantly alter how our elected officials set policy priorities and how they manage our government agencies.

HIGH STAKES

The stakes in the Janus case are epic. Nearly half of all unionized workers in the United States are government workers. Public sector unions collect and spend nearly $6.0 billion per […] Read More

U.S. Senate to Force Unionization of Police?

Within the next few days the U.S. Senate may consider Senate Bill 3194, the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act,” that will require states to grant collective bargaining rights for all public safety workers, including police, firefighters and emergency medical workers.

Residents of California have had a front row seat to witness the consequences of allowing unrestricted collective bargaining by public employees. It is increasingly arguable that the root cause of many of California’s most serious problems – the insolvency of the State and most local governments, and the mediocre public school system, to name two big ones – are because of the influence of public sector unions. And public sector union control over California’s State government, which most insiders will acknowledge is “absolute,” is matched by union control over California’s county and city governments. Now we’re going to export California’s problems with public sector unions to the rest of the United States?

A report written by Kris Maher for the June 17th, 2010 Wall Street Journal entitled “Bill Gives Public Workers Clout,” quotes the Executive Director of the 325,000 member National Fraternal Order of Police, Jim Pasco, who said “unions wouldn’t be able to negotiate wages and benefits that governments couldn’t afford.” It’s interesting to wonder how Pasco can justify this statement, because if history is any indication, the opposite is going to happen.

As documented in “The Price of Public Safety,” […] Read More

No Profits, No Pensions

California Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown knows he’s in a fight. His presumptive Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, not only is doing a good job presenting herself as a socially moderate, fiscally conservative candidate, but she has abundant personal wealth she can tap in order to finance her campaign. So Jerry Brown has to turn to the only reliable source of campaign cash out there, the public employee unions.

In Joel Fox’s report of March 22nd entitled “Brown Embraces the Public Unions,” Fox quotes Brown as saying “California’s fiscal problems are not the unions’ fault but that of Wall Street and corporations.” Get ready for a campaign season filled with more bashing of corporations. And here are some reasons why this rhetoric is absurd, nihilistic, corrosive, deceptive, utterly bankrupt, and at least to-date, tragically effective:

Public sector unions are by far the most powerful source of campaign cash in California. They can pretty much spend as much as they want to make sure their candidates get elected, and their opponents are defeated. Without these unions, Jerry Brown wouldn’t have a chance against Meg Whitman. But is Brown only singing the union song in order to get their financial support? After all, in late February 2010, in a closed meeting with a group of California business leaders, Brown admitted the single greatest mistake he made as Governor back in the 1970’s was his decision to sign legislation allowing public sector workers to unionize.

Public sector unions have […] Read More