Archive for Unions

No Way to Run a Railroad

During the winter just past, I believe I referred to Boston’s transit system, the MBTA or T, as a retirement plan that ran a railroad to lose money. But they can multi-multitask.

They are also a travel and leisure service:


We few, we happy few

Unscheduled absences by employees of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority resulted in the cancellation of more than 6,400 bus trips in January and February, a panel appointed to assess T management has found.

The panel, convened by Governor Charlie Baker as the MBTA struggled to recover from a series of heavy snowstorms, found that T workers were absent 11 to 12 percent of the time in 2014, roughly twice the rate reported by transit systems in other major US cities.

Overall, T employees are out of work for an average of 57 days per year, the report found. Those numbers include vacation days, as well as categories such as jury duty, sick leave, injuries, and family medical leave.

In the report, the panel attributes what it calls “excessive absenteeism” at the T to “weak MBTA management.”

As a result, “tens of thousands of trips are canceled each year due to unplanned absences,” according to a draft portion of a report obtained by the Globe.

Fifty-seven days off? That’s 11 1/2 weeks! Do they think they’re school teachers too? And that’s the average!!! Many would have had even more off days.

James O’Brien, the president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, called the numbers “distorted” because they combine so many categories of absences. Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the T, declined to comment on the report.

It’s the “categories” that are the problem. How many “sick days” does our “average” reader get? Jury duty occurs once every three years at most, and even then is often just a day.

There are 260 work days a year, and the average—average—T “worker” takes off 22% of them, more than one a week.

But that might not even be the worst news:

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has failed to spend almost half of the money it has budgeted since 2009 for crucial upgrades to its aging vehicles, stations, and other infrastructure, according to findings from an expert panel convened by Governor Charlie Baker.

Though the T planned to spend about $4.5 billion on upgrades from the fiscal year 2010 to 2014, the agency left unused about $2.2 billion in grants and money it could have raised through bonds. That contributed to “chronic underinvestment and an acute backlog in fleet, facilities, systems, and infrastructure,” according to a portion of the report obtained by the Globe.

In the 2014 fiscal year, the report said, the T planned to spend $1.3 billion on crucial long-term upgrades. In reality, the agency spent just $631 million.

In early March, the agency said it would cost about $6.7 billion to repair and modernize its trains, rails, and stations. But an administration official said the panel believes the number is actually substantially higher.

They didn’t buy new trains, and their employees could barely bother to show up for work. It’s a wonder anything ran this winter. The only public service the T provides is a dry place for the bums to sleep and the buskers to play.

Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the T, declined to comment on the report.

He was probably on “family medical leave”. Why should he be the only one to show up for work?

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Obama v Legislature

Not the US Legislature, i.e. Congress. Wisconsin’s:

President Obama seems to be inserting himself into the Republican presidential race, blasting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over a new state law that prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues.

“I’m deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy,” Obama said in a statement issued late Monday by the White House.

It’s relatively unusual for the administration to weigh in on a state law with a formal statement.

“So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I’d encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans — by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave,” Obama said.

That’s what Obama doesn’t get (one thing among countless): neither the governor nor the legislature pay anyone’s wages. Though Walker’s signature may put more money in “folks'” pockets if it eliminates mandatory union dues. Tax cuts, which Walker has delivered, do the same thing. If only other working Americans could get a similar deal. Sounds like someone’s talking out of his bony behind again.

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If at First You Don’t Succeed

Go after the old folks:

More than 100 education union workers, who were protesting Walker’s proposed budget that they said would harm public schools and universities, descended upon the house on Monday, as its legally owned by Walker. They chanted slogans but remained peaceful during the demonstration.

Problem is, Walker now lives in the governor’s mansion, and his parents, Pat and Llewellyn, both in their mid-70s, were the home’s occupants during the protest.

“I just think in the end it backfires,” Walker said Tuesday on “The Kelly File.” “Taking it to someone’s home, particularly with elderly parents, that takes it too far.”

That’s not all he said:

I think my dad said this morning when I talked to him that he turned his hearing aid down a little bit. My mom, my mom is so wonderful she was actually half-tempted to send them some chocolate chip cookies ‘cause she sends those to our neighbors all the time.

Good Republican people.

Pity the poor unions: they’ve gone after Walker every way they can, legal and decidedly illegal, and he’s left them dazed, and with their pants around her ankles. What do they have left to them but to go after Walker’s mom and dad? At least they didn’t kick his dog—don’t get any ideas, goons.

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Illinois, Have You Met Detroit?

You two have so much in common!

Republican Bruce Rauner has his work cut out rehabilitating Illinois from years of liberal-public union misrule, but now he may also have to cope with a willful state judiciary. Consider a lower court judge’s slipshod ruling last week striking down de minimis pension reforms.

The fiscally delinquent state has accrued a $111 billion unfunded pension liability—a 75% increase from five years ago—in addition to $56 billion in debt for retiree health benefits. Incredibly, the state is spending more of its general fund on pensions than on K-12 education. One in four tax dollars pays for retirement benefits. Last year the state had to defer $7 billion in bills to contractors. This is after Democrats in 2011 raised income and corporate taxes by 67% and 30%, respectively. Little wonder that Illinois has the nation’s worst credit rating.

They could be twins, couldn’t they? And Chicago has a hell of an art museum if they need to sell off a few Old Masters to pay for the golden decades of a few SEIU purple-shirted, pinkie-ringed thugs.

Give Illinois credit (albeit CCC- credit) for trying to trim a few microns of fat from its liabilities.

It’s the thought that counts:

Yet Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz last week rejected all pension trims as a violation of the state Constitution, which holds that “[m]embership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.” According to Judge Belz, there is “no legally cognizable affirmative defense” for impairing pensions benefit.

Except, well, 80 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Federal courts have established that states may invoke their police powers to impair contracts. In the 1934 case Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that emergencies “may justify the exercise of [the State’s] continuing and dominant protective power notwithstanding interference with contracts,” which the U.S. Constitution otherwise prohibits.

The Supreme Court has since developed a balancing test that allows states to impair contracts when it is reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose. The level of legal scrutiny increases with the severity of the impairment.

A contract cannot be binding if it promises something that was not the contract’s to promise. Generous retirement benefits are not generous to the fewer and fewer workers who are left to pay for them; not generous to the poor who are left with fewer services; not generous to outsiders who are tapped to pay for the contracted benefits when the local authority runs out of money, even though they had no say in how those benefits were granted, therefore no duty toward the recipients’ retirement condos in Boca.

If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.

With the facts showing the practice unsustainable, and the law showing the practice unsupportable, what is left?

Table-pounding appeals to our fairness and humanity. Whenever I hear that, I always check to see that my wallet is still in my pocket. We the taxpaying public have met our obligations toward the social contract. What about the obligations of those on the receiving end who took too much? Isn’t their position motivated by greed? Why can’t they be shamed for taking from the poor and vulnerable?

And what in G-d’s name is sacrosanct in a contract between two conflicted parties, the unions and decades of corrupt one-party Democrat rule? One side lavishes excessive benefits on the other in exchange for kickbacks in the form of campaign contributions and votes.

It’s a win-win, except for everybody else.

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He IS a Racist President

Remember one of Obama’s first move as presidents (after dismissing the Republicans, with a wave of his hand, “I won”) was to scuttle school choice in Washington DC?

If you don’t, what Juan Williams had to say at the time:

This is an outrage to me. … This is so important that you give young people a chance to have an education in America and especially in a failing public school system like you have in the District of Columbia. This voucher system is a direct threat to the unions. And so I think everybody on Capitol Hill, that’s getting money from the NEA or AFT, they should be called on the table. They should ask them, ‘where do you send your kids to school? And are you willing to say these kids getting the vouchers…and doing better than the rest of the kids, that these kids aren’t deserving of an opportunity to succeed in America?’ You just want to scream. Why Duncan and Obama aren’t in the forefront of education reform is an outrage and an insult to the very base that voted for them.

It’s five and-a-half years later now:

[Condoleezza] Rice said, “Poor black kids trapped in failing neighborhoods schools, that’s the biggest race problem of today. That’s the biggest civil rights issue of today. Anybody who isn’t in favor of school choice, anybody who isn’t in favor of educational reform, anybody who defends the status quo in the educational system, that’s racist to me.”

Obama still opposes vouchers. I don’t know whom else Ms. Rice could be talking about.

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From the Folks That Brought You the Weekend

As they never get tired of reminding us.

But what have they done to us lately?

Two Pennsylvania teachers are fighting the state’s largest teachers union for interfering with their charitable giving.

The teachers allege in a suit filed in district court that the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is blocking them from exercising their right to donate union dues money to charity. Pennsylvania allows religious objectors to cut ties with unions as long as they donate an equivalent agency fee payment to charity. That money is given to the union, which is then supposed to send it to the charity of the teacher’s choosing.

Jane Ladley, an elementary school teacher for 25 years before retiring in June, said that the union prevented her from directing her $435 donation to a scholarship fund to teach high school seniors about the Constitution because it was “too political.”

Ladley, 61, began teaching in the 1970s and was a member of the teachers union for seven years. She put her career on hold to raise her children before returning to the workforce in 1996. This time, she refused to join after discovering that the union “funneled money to Planned Parenthood.”

Which is not political in the least. Perish the thought.

Well, not much:

Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), the “political arm” of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, combined with other Planned Parenthood affiliates to spend several million dollars during the last five weeks of the 2000 general election campaign to broadcast two ads criticizing George W. Bush’s record on abortion rights.

Because Planned Parenthood’s overall structure includes a 501(c)(4) entity, a 501(c)(3) entity, a federally regulated PAC and a 527 organization, it is difficult to determine which pots of money paid for which ads.

Planned Parenthood also has announced plans to file with the Federal Election Commission as a Qualified Non-profit Corporation (also known as a “Massachusetts Citizens for Life,” or MCFL, group), a status set aside for ideological 501(c)(4) corporations that do not accept funds from labor unions or corporations.8 Such groups are permitted to use unlimited donations from individuals to pay for “express advocacy” communications, which urge the election or defeat of candidates. They also may make “electioneering communications,” which are defined as broadcast ads that mention candidates during the 60 days preceding general elections or the 30 days preceding primaries or conventions. Other independent groups are prohibited by the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (BCRA) from making electioneering communications unless they set up separate, segregated funds that do not receive corporate or union money.

Except when they do receive union money, that is. And engage in politics.

The Mafia was never so brazen with its fronts and shell corporations. Planned Parenthood doesn’t even try to hide it. Neither do the unions. Who, yes, brought us the 40-hour work week. (If we work at all.)

Meanwhile, any group with “dog whistle” words like “liberty”, “rights”, and “patriot” in their name had to undergo months (years!) of delays and a body cavity search to earn 501 (c)(4) status. Compare and contrast.

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Your Government at Work

Not at work for you—oh God no!

For itself:

As he prepares to leave office, Governor Deval Patrick is quietly transferring 500 of his managers into the state public employee union, a move that will qualify them for a series of 3 percent raises and insulate them from firing when the next governor takes over.

The change will automatically convert 15 percent of the 3,350 executive branch managers into members of the National Association of Government Employees, which has been fighting for the change for years, arguing the employees were “improperly classified” as managers.

While smaller clusters of management positions have been converted into union positions in the past, this is the largest sweep into the union in at least two decades, according to administration and union officials.

Rolling the managers into the 22,000-member union will effectively protect them from any house-cleaning that might occur when the next governor takes office in January — a particular likelihood if Republican Charlie Baker were to take over after eight years of Democratic leadership.

Union employees generally have to be removed “for cause,” while managers serve at will.

“With just a couple of months to go in the current administration, this has the whiff of a job protection action just before the governor leaves office,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative research organization.

The election to replace Patrick is barely two weeks away, and he pulls this stunt. One could almost dismiss it as Massachusetts being Massachusetts, but for the size (unprecedented) and the timing (cynical). This is Patrick (mini-me to Obama) being Patrick. Still, if it means he’s finally gone, it might actually be worth it.

Eric Kriss, who was secretary of administration and finance under Romney, was critical of the decision. “What this will do is continue to reduce, as has been done since the 1960s, any layer of what you would call managers,” he said. And once managers are moved into the union, “removing anybody is virtually impossible,” he said.

Here’s the state government, Governor Baker. Don’t choke on it.

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Milwaukee’s Worst

Remember Wisconsin? Mid-sized state next to Michigan? It was in the news a few years ago when its Republican governor tried to pry the fingers of the public sector unions off the throat of state government. For his efforts, Scott Walker was vilified and subjected to every legal and illegal punishment the Democrats could imagine. We were tangentially involved when our reports on the thuggish behavior of the union goons drew churlish, tendentious comments from hired hacks.

What was all that about?

Teachers in Wisconsin’s public schools have learned a major lesson from the state’s landmark 2011 law neutering public sector unions, with more than a third dropping out of their labor organization.

Given no choice but to join and pay dues to the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) for decades, teachers have for the last three years been able to opt out. And that is what tens of thousands have done as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, also known as Act 10.

“Given the evidence, it shows that the union’s hold is softening,” Patrick Wright, vice president of legal affairs for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told FoxNews.com

Softening? I’ve seen diapers with firmer resolve.

“As soon as I was given the choice, I left,” Amy Rosno, a teacher with the virtual class program at the Waukesha school system, told FoxNews.com. “I never really understood the union anyway.”

Rosno said she had a better understanding once she was asked to be a representative for her department and attended her first WEAC meeting.

“I realized that it was all political and not about teaching,” she said.

No! What was your first clue, Amy? (These are the people to whom we entrust the education of our children?)

Teachers who spoke to the nonprofit education think tank EAGnews.org said they were glad to be free of the union’s grip, especially because of the perception their dues were spent on political contributions.

“It’s important to have a choice, because we are all professionals,” Michelle Uetz, a special education teacher at Prescott High School told the education news site. “We shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into contributing to politics we don’t believe in.”

WEAC has been accused of having a partisan political alliance with the Democratic Party in the state and backed a failed recall against Walker. Despite losing the policy battle, the union still pressures teachers to join, according to some interviewed by EAG.

“I worked with a young teacher who was thinking of leaving the union and she was actually scared to leave,” Deena Ferguson, a teacher at Fox Prairie Elementary, in Stilton, told the site, adding that WEAC often uses fear to recruit new teachers, suggesting they need protection from administrators.

“If the union is so beneficial and good, people will want to join on the principle and the merits and not be forced to join,” she said.

Rosno agreed, telling Foxnews.com that many teachers are left in a precarious position.

“There’s still a lot of fear,” she said. ‘A lot of teachers are afraid to admit that they support [Gov.] Walker. Many of them felt a lot of backlash. It still continues and they are afraid to show public support for the governor.

“I think it’s interesting the union hasn’t chosen to change its business model, even though teachers are leaving in droves,” Kristi LaCroix regional membership director for AAE said. “It’s just business as usual with them, so I see more and more professionals leaving.”

“Union” and “business model” rarely appear in the same sentence. But she’s right. Fascists never do change.

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Out: Do it for the Children—In: RACIST!

If a equals b, and b equals c, what do we know about the value of a compared to the value of c?

As Eric Holder would say, you don’t want to go there, buddy:

In late March, the Chicago Board of Education announced an ambitious plan to implement its “turnaround” model for three low-performing elementary schools in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

The turnaround process involves the sacking of every teacher and staffer at each of the schools, according to an email from the Chicago Teachers Union obtained by The Daily Caller.

Naturally, the union bosses aren’t happy that the nation’s third-largest school district is employing such sweeping measures to improve some of its worst schools.

The email from the teachers union also suggested that the effort to improve the schools is an effort spearheaded by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to damage black children and black families.

“This is an attack on Black schools that continues the assault carried out by” Byrd-Bennett “last year, when she closed 50 schools (claiming they were the last closings for at least five years).”

Byrd-Bennett is black.

No way!

Way.

What is the insidious plan this Aunt Jemimah has in mind for black children?

One of the three schools facing turnaround plans is Ronald E. McNair Elementary School, which has been on academic probation for the past 14 years. Another school is Dvorak Technology Academy, which has been on academic probation for the past 7 years. The third school is Walter Q. Gresham Elementary School, which has been on academic probation for the past 6 years.

If the Board of Education approves the plan at its board meeting on April 23, the three schools will be managed by the Academy for Urban School Learning (AUSL), a nonprofit organization which already manages 29 public schools in Chicago where over 17,000 students are enrolled.

The turnaround process involves bringing in teachers and staffers who have been specifically trained to work in low-performing schools.

And we can’t have that.

Woody Guthrie once wrote the refrain, “You can’t scare me, I’m stickin’ to the union.” If it read today “stickin’ it to the union”, it would be relevant. The union sure has been sticking it to kids—black kids—for decades.

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Stick it to the Union

We’ve already commented on the very satisfying thumping meted out to the UAW at the VW plant in Tennessee. But we still wanted to know what Robert Samuelson had to say.

This nugget caught my eye:

Unions’ eclipse has been stunning. At the end of World War II, roughly a third of private-sector jobs were unionized, especially in large firms. By 2013, the comparable figure was 6.7 percent, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The rate of unionization for all workers was 11.3 percent, but that figure resulted only from greater unionization — 35.3 percent — among government workers. As late as 1983, the total unionization rate was 20 percent.)

Consider: each private sector new-hire (i.e. worker) is only one-fifth as likely to join a union as a public sector new-hire (i.e. hack). Is it any wonder that so many new jobs are in the public sector? Any wonder that Obama’s policies are so hostile to private job creation? Unions like SEIU are Obama’s purple-shirted shock troops; they’ve got his back and he’s got theirs.

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The Last Mastodon

Imagine you’re enjoying a light lunch of lichen and tundra—maybe a side shrub for roughage—and you look up to see that you’re all alone. Any and every of your kind has been hunted, starved, or otherwise disappeared. It’s just you between existence and extinction.

That’s how I’d feel if I were these folks:

Volkswagen workers in Tennessee narrowly voted to reject joining a union, crushing the United Automobile Workers union’s attempt to unionize a foreign-owned car factory for the first time, officials announced late Friday.

The 712-626 vote (53%-47%) against unionization at the German automaker’s three-year-old factory in Chattanooga is a setback for UAW because labor experts had thought Volkswagen gave the union its best shot of setting a precedent to make inroads with transplants such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Nissan.

“It would have been a confidence booster, a relevance factor and message saying that we’re growing and doing things people didn’t think we could,” said Art Wheaton, director of The Worker Institute at Cornell University.

Who’s the mastodon in this scenario? The workers who just want to be left alone to do their jobs without “benefit” of outside representation? The auto company that believes it can deal directly and fairly with its workers without the union mob muscling in for its cut? Or the union itself, which has so overgrazed its habitat that Detroit is a sterile wasteland? In different ways, they are all mastodons.

But so is the reporter who wrote this. A 53-47 victory isn’t all that narrow. If it were, President Obama’s election wins would be so described every time 2008 and 2012 were mentioned. Only later in the story does the reporter mention that 165 workers didn’t bother to vote at all. Which means those who voted to bring in the union amounted to barely 41% of all workers. More landslide than squeaker, I’d say. Those who don’t recognize facts, or try to disguise them, are in danger of extinction themselves.

Unions had their day; still do, of course. But they thrived in conditions different from today’s. Trying to maintain an obsolete model (or species) ignores evolution. Shame on Democrats for their anti-science beliefs.

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From Motown to No Town

It’s a simple recipe, really

Anyone can do it:

A couple of weeks ago I attended the premiere of the new movie “Bankrupt: How Cronyism and Corruption Brought Down Detroit.” It is a terrific movie and traces the dual collapse of the American automotive industry and the city of Detroit.

[T]he bankruptcy of the automakers and Detroit largely arose from the same forces: horribly inept and unaccountable management and insatiable demands by labor interests that drove both the automakers and the city into the ground. This manifested itself in rising costs and deterioration in quality (cars in one case and city governance in the other, such as failure to supply basic public services).

Indeed, the parallels between the automakers and Detroit became even closer in the days following the premiere of the film. Detroit’s bondholders are about to be fleeced for the benefit of Detroit’s politically powerful public employees, suffering the same fate as the bondholders in the auto bailouts at the hands of the United Auto Workers (or as he writes it, Detroit’s bondholders are about to be “GM’ed” for the benefit of public employees).

And in another coincidence, it now appears that Michigan’s politicians are considering a taxpayer bailout of Detroit. As reported by Shikia Dalmia at Reason.com, Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder is considering pouring taxpayer money into Detroit’s bankruptcy in order to bail out public employees.

If a state, a semi-sovereign entity, chooses to reward one set of profligate citizens (Detroiters) with the hard-won earnings of another set (Michiganders), I suppose it is no business of mind (no matter how much I may disapprove). But money is fungible. Any federal money Michigan receives can offset money it chooses to pour into the unfunded liabilities of unrealistic and unaffordable retiree benefits. We all pay for Detroit’s waste and corruption.

We’re about to find out how much:

The city of Detroit plans to file its proposed bankruptcy restructuring plan with the court next week, the city’s top bankruptcy attorney said today.

A draft version of the plan acquired by the Free Press earlier this month revealed the city plans to offer pensioners more than other unsecured creditors — in part because foundations are pledging nearly $400 million to reduce pension cuts and spin off the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The plan also involves a proposal to lease the city’s water and sewerage department to an independent authority in exchange for $47 million per year over 40 years.

Attorneys for the city and for several bond insurers were in court today to deliver updates on a dispute over how the city plans to treat general obligation bonds.

Rhodes plans to conduct a hearing Feb. 19 to hear the objection by insurers that say the city is unfairly treating the bonds as unsecured debt.

Detroit has shown the first spark of life in decades since announcing it’s intention to declare bankruptcy. Now that the running of the reprimitivized city is out of the hands of the irresponsible and corrupt locals, it finally stands a chance. Local leaders are offering assistance; even foreign investors are interested. (See the Peruvian investor who wants to buy the old Packard plant.) I’d even be willing to put my money behind the effort—but only if the pain is shared equally.

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