Pension Reform and Union Shenanigans in San Diego


"Carl DeMaio, the councilman who's the primary author of [the comprehensive pension reform ballot measure] could be the Howard Jarvis of the pension reform movement."

–Chris Reed, San Diego Union Tribune

On November 8, 2011, San Diego's Comprehensive Pension Reform ballot measure qualified for the June ballot. Like so many other cities around the country, San Diego is facing a fiscal crisis. Currently, the city's pension fund budget is facing an unfunded liability of over $2 billion. The Comprehensive Pension Reform ballot measure, if it passes in June, will switch new public employees to 401(k)-style plans, put an end to "pension spiking" and cap pensionable employee compensation for five years.

As mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio puts it, "all eyes are on San Diego" because San Diego could become a national model for pension reform.

The labor unions didn't sit back and watch the signature gathering process. Instead, they created a fake organization that took out ads warning people that their identities could be stolen if they sign a petition and sent burly men to initimidate people at signature gathering locations.

Approximately 6.5 minutes.

Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning. 

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    1. Don’t worry, we’ll be right on it…Hey! Look over there, it’s Herman Cain!!!

      1. Fanny? Freddy? Who? Dodd Frank what?


    2. He was doing God’s work in some of America’s toughest neighborhoods.

  1. Instead, they created a fake organization

    Paul and Alex (if those are your REAL names), that’s not a “fake” organization. They created a very real organization that did “terrible, nefarious and awful things”. And lied and stuff. But it was a real organization or people, an…association, if you will. Nothing “fake” about it.

    Let’s tighten it up a little, huh?

    Carry on.

  2. Instead, they created a fake organization that took out ads warning people that their identities could be stolen if they sign a petition and sent burly men to initimidate people at signature gathering locations.

    1. “I like a burly man….there are so few any more. I want a man with a tattoo…and chain saw….”

      /retro chicks

    2. But MNG told us that it is irrational to worry about union intimidation, so this must be wrong.

  3. You can’t treat the working man this way! One of these days we’ll form a union, and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve! Then we’ll go too far, and become corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!

  4. fwiw, i am a union member. our state pension plan *is* quite generous.

    it is also very well funded (amongst the best in the country) and completely solvent (LEOFF II)

    1. Cool story, bro

      Are you a “burly” man, dunphy?

      1. well, i am a nationally ranked strength athlete. i guess that would make me “burly”.

        although i do get my back waxed.

        1. Waaaay TMI.

          1. i also pick things up and put them down

        2. awesome. I don’t think I’m willing to massacre myself that much. Mad respect for power lifters, but I think there’s a bit more athletic prowess involved in endurance/cardio-related training.

          1. i’m not a powerlifter.

            i like powerlifting, but i (primarily) compete in a MUCH more athletic sport

        3. yes, but how high can you jump?

          Like, normal human activity, being that snatch-lifting is not a practical human application.

          perhaps apropos.. and just fun.. =


          1. the # 1 proxy that soviet sports schools used to predict future success in olympic style weightlifting in kids was … vertical jump

            contrary to popular belief, explosiveness (which vertical jump is a good proxy for) is the key component of olifting, and much less trainable than limit strength.

            iow, somebody may start out relatively weak. you can build strength

            but it’s much more difficult to improve explosiveness.

  5. AS someone who has been working for a Political Consulting Company gathering signatures (for muni ballots Sunday spirit sales) I cannot believe that there would be paid ‘intimidators’ trying to block such a standard democratic process.

    Sickens me. Then again, people who work for my company have been accosted by police for exercising their 1st amendment right to petition.

  6. I’m from San Diego, and a BIG supporter of DeMaio and his efforts. It’s been an epic battle.

    My experience with the blockers is that, while some are paid, most seemed to be city firefighters — those much-loved heroes who have FAR too much time on their hands. If you look at the blockers, they were almost all big, white, fit and brighter than you would expect.

    Yes, firefighters ARE bright — many are college grads — making more in this blue collar job than they could possibly earn in the private sector (what economists would call a misallocation of resources). Hundred thousand dollar pensions are becoming increasingly common here.

  7. I’m a big fan of DeMaio’s efforts to reform our city pension system. It’s been an epic battle.

    My experience with the blockers was a bit different than what the video mentions. In addition to paid blockers, it seemed to me that most of the blockers were our beloved firefighters, who it turns out have WAY too much free time on their hands.

    Almost all the blockers were male, big, white and trim — far beyond what one would expect from a more representative demographic.

  8. To give you an idea the extent of the blocking effort, here’s the worst example I heard.

    When blockers learned the location of petition gatherers going door-to-door, they’d rush out a crew to “accompany” the volunteers (usually only volunteers did door-to-door). When a petitioner would start up a sidewalk to a house, the blocker would run ahead, ring the doorbell and yell to the people not to open the door — that an identity thief was there to collect their info.

  9. Until about four years ago a typical “non-safety” (all but police and firefighters) could retire as early as age 55 with TWO full pensions. In addition to the “standard” lucrative defined benefit plan, our city ALSO provides a remarkable fully matching 401k-type plan — matching up to 6% of salary. With 8% growth and taking ONLY the eanings at age 55, a 30 year worker could look forward to retiring with about 130% of their highest salary.

    Oh, and when they died, their beneficiary would receive an additional lump sum IRA distribution of about 8 year’s salary.

    The 401k plan has dropped to match “only” 3% of salary, down from the 6% figure.

    And they there’s the (until recently) largely free lifetime health care coverage.

    The answer is, of course, to GET A SAN DIEGO CITY JOB!

  10. Bankruptcy is the best option. Current retirees and employees should not be entitled to anything more than exists in the current pension fund. It should be paid out to them and all government workers should be put on 401k plans. It is the only fair way. Anything else just perpetrates a ponzi scheme that currently exists.

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