Saturday, July 30, 2011

Revenge of the Sith Public Employee Unions

With government budgets at all levels creaking under the weight of unfunded pension liabilities, and unions facing the possibility of having their retirement benefits clawed back by ballot initiatives next year, it was perhaps predictable that the unions would head on the offensive at some point. Right on cue, two stories show us this offensive in action.

The first of these stories comes to us from the Sacramento Bee, which reports that the state's biggest unions are launching campaigns to attack ballot initiatives at their roots, by intimidating signature gatherers and misinforming the public about initiative petitions. The California SEIU is encouraging members to organize and volunteer for so-called "Think Before You Ink" goon squads, which will show up wherever signature-gatherers are stationed in order to talk passersby out of signing a measure that would prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues from members' paychecks. SEIU has also been accused of sponsoring aa union-backed effort called Citizens Against Identity Theft, which has launched radio ads suggesting that petition signature-gatherers could steal the identities of signers. The timing and financial backing of the ads has led initiative supporters and government watchdogs to cry foul, and other groups dedicated to protecting consumers from identity theft (none of which are affiliated with Citizens Against Identity Theft) have denounced the group's allegations about signature gatherers as meritless.

Meanwhile, the city of Palo Alto is taking a break from anticipating the Facebook IPO to focus on the escalating battle between the City Council and the firefighters. At issue is an upcoming ballot measure that would repeal binding arbitration for police and firefighter contracts. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the union filed an unfair labor practice charge yesterday with the state Public Employment Relations Board, and is expected to ask the board to impose an injunction to remove the measure from November's ballot. They claim that the city council violated labor law by failing to consult with them before voting to put the measure on the ballot. Of course, the union was invited to speak to the council and city staff, so it's not clear what they're talking about. But actually prevailing in court may not be the goal: as a similar action involving firefighters in nearby Menlo Park demonstrates, unfair labor practice charges can drag on for years. As such, running out the clock on the measure may be the point.

No comments:

Post a Comment