Labor

California Unions Sue to Prevent Pension Reforms as Citizens Turn Against Them

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The people don't seem to be listening

San Diego and San Jose voters took public pension reform into their own hands Tuesday in a way Sacramento has proved mostly unwilling, voting for some significant changes and cutbacks to benefits for their city employees.

This morning, public unions in San Jose are announcing the suit they'll be filing to try to block the implementation of Measure B. Via the San Jose Mercury News:

An email from the unions sent early this morning said, "Following the passage of San Jose's Measure B—a City ballot measure that unlawfully modifies pension benefits for city employees-San Jose's Police Officers, Fire Fighters and other workers will file multiple lawsuits to enjoin the City from implementing the unlawful changes to employee pensions, health care and disability benefits."

The changes include requiring current employees to contribute a greater amount to their pension funds or choose a cheaper plan, requiring future hires to contribute half the cost of their pensions, and requiring voter approval for pension increases.

The Mercury News explains that key to pushing the measure has been the explosion in the amount of San Jose's budget taken up by pension costs:

[San Jose Mayor Chuck] Reed proposed Measure B a year ago after his efforts—from championing new tax measures to imposing 10 percent pay cuts on city employees—failed to erase budgetary red ink that has soaked the city ledger for a decade. Though the city projects a modest $9 million surplus in the upcoming budget, thanks largely to the pay cuts and hundreds of job cuts, a $22.5 million shortfall is expected the year after.

A key deficit driver has been the yearly pension bill that has more than tripled from $73 million to $245 million in a decade, far outpacing the 20 percent revenue growth and gobbling more than a fifth of the city's general fund. A city audit blamed the rise on a combination of benefit increases, flawed cost assumptions and investment losses.

In San Jose, the measure passed with 71 percent of the vote. In San Diego their reform measure passed with 67 percent of the vote. San Diego's measure would shift all new hires (except police) into 401(k) programs instead of pensions and would put a five-year freeze on the portion of current employees' salaries used to calculate pensions. Unions are planning to sue there, too. Via the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Labor unions, which strongly opposed the measure, say Proposition B is illegal and will be tossed out by courts. They contend the mayor violated labor law by using his position to advance the initiative and avoid required negotiations with employee unions.

Frank De Clercq, head of the city firefighters union, said the initiative also ignores many of the concessions that workers have made in recent years, including a 6 percent compensation cut and reducing the value of taxpayer-funded health care benefits they receive upon retirement. He said he wasn't surprised by the results but noted a legal challenge will be made.

Regardless of the union concessions, San Diego faces a $2.2 billion pension deficit. Given the significant number of voters turning against them, surely the unions must realize that trying to push for more tax increases on these very same people to make up the gaps just isn't going to work out for them. Right? Are they going to keep blaming it on millionaires when two-thirds of their own community is voting against them?

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  1. Fire them. Fire them all.

    1. “Shoot zem. Shoot zem both.”

  2. Given the significant number of voters turning against them, surely the unions must realize that trying to push for more tax increases on these very same people to make up the gaps just isn’t going to work out for them.

    Parasites don’t know how to stop leeching. Don’t expect them to start.

    1. Leaches gotta leach.

  3. It depends on what has been negotiated, on how well these people work and on how big their benefits are compared to the privately employed taxpayers who are complaining. These evil union parasites could very well be hard-working and in fear of foreclosures, mortgages and of course medical costs that could bankrupt them.

    And, of course, the money they receive is spent and contributes to the economy. The money they get doesn’t disappear.

    1. Changing your handle just makes you look as stupid as ever, Gabe. Fuck, you’re pathetic. Can’t you just kill yourself, or just severely maim yourself, and spare us your vapid idiocy?

    2. Money that is forcibly taken from the economy and then given back to other people does not contribute to the economy.

      1. Forcibly?

        You agree to pay taxes when you decide to work over the table in a country where you are legally obliged to pay taxes on income. And if you then decide to break the law, they come to punish you. And if you resist arrest you might get shot. That is how civilization works and it is vital to you and me. A perfectly reasonable application of force.

        Whining about paying taxes is like willingly having sex with someone and calling “rape” the next day because you want some attention.

        1. You agree to pay taxes when you decide to work over the table in a country where you are legally obliged to pay taxes on income.

          Absolutely you do. And the flip side of that is that you get a say in where those taxes go via the Democratic process. And the Democratic Process has spoken here. Just because you must pay taxes doesn’t mean they must go to fund this or any other sacred cow.

          Sorry dude, game over. Your cow got barbecued last night.

          1. You agree to pay taxes when you decide to work over the table in a country where you are legally obliged to pay taxes on income.

            Absolutely you do.

            Isn’t that agreement made under duress? Deciding to work under the table, or working over the table and not-paying, result in some seriously unfavorable consequences.

            And these rare moments of “getting a say” don’t really redress the balance.

          2. Is it Thursday yet?

        2. Whining about paying taxes is like willingly having sex with someone and calling “rape” the next day because you want some attention.

          I don’t see any “whining” here. I see the public voting to reduce the pay and benefits of their public servants. That’s not “whining,” that’s a perfectly reasonable application of force.

          You agree to have the public determine your pay and benefits when you decide to work for the government.

          The public employees willingly went to work for the government. Pay and benefit cuts happen; they happen in the private sector. The only attention-grabbing whiners are the public unions.

          1. The government fucks the general public by changing the rules all of the time. Where are the tears for us?

            1. Who weeps for Adonais ProL?

              1. Exactly! Who?

                The PAIN!

        3. Even if someone agrees that taxes are a necessary evil. That money has to come from someone with a job in the private sector who is paying taxes.

          Income tax is immoral because I shouldn’t have to pay for the “privilege” of putting food on the table and a roof over my family’s head.

          1. I hold that property tax is inappropriate (is immoral really the right word?), because I shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege to keep something that is “mine”.

            I’m convinced that sales taxes are the only reasonable collection method for a free society. How that ties in to people who are still buying their property…..I dunno. But once you pay that shit off, it should be unassailably-yours. Until someone wants to build a road through it of course…

            1. but we want to remake America in Somalia’s image so….no roads.

              But seriously, I totally agree with you on the sales tax thing.

        4. None of which is relevant to whether money taken through taxation contributes to the economy. It does not.

        5. You agree to pay taxes when you decide to work over the table in a country where you are legally obliged to pay taxes on income.

          Not in any meaningful sense of “agree.” For one thing, the taxes you owe are subject to change without your consent. For another, not working over the table and/or not paying your taxes exposes you to coercion, which makes your “agreement” to pay taxes the product of duress, and not a valid or enforcable agreement.

          1. We’re back to that tired old social contract bullshit. A contract where one party can unilaterally change the terms with no consent or recourse by the other party isn’t a contract.

            1. And some people on this board wonder why of all the monkeys that I see from chimpan-A to chimpan-Z I hate Hobbes the most.

    3. It depends on what has been negotiated,

      No it doesn’t. The government terminates contracts all of the time. It is called termination for government convenience. Those contracts are only as good as the public’s willingness to pay them.

      on how well these people work and on how big their benefits are compared to the privately employed taxpayers who are complaining

      Wrong again. It depends upon the public’s willingness to pay them and the ability to attract workers at that wage. There is no constitutional right to parity with the private sector. The private sector wage has nothing to do with it.

      These evil union parasites could very well be hard-working and in fear of foreclosures, mortgages and of course medical costs that could bankrupt them.

      Only if they have a gambling habit. They still have guaranteed lifetime employment and generous health benefits.

      Try again.

      1. Those contracts are only as good as the public’s willingness to pay them.

        Whoa, slow down, the same public that unlawfully changed the contracts?! They’re fucking criminals, you can’t trust them!

      2. I wonder if the people who think that the union contracts are sacrosanct also think the same about every defense contract or any other government contract? It seems pretty obvious that the democratic thing is to allow government to break any contract for convenience or because of a change in policy.

    4. hard-working and in fear of foreclosures, mortgages and of course medical costs that could bankrupt them

      Welcome to the Real World.

      1. You can keep yelling your congenial salutations until your voice goes horse, but he’s going nowhere that gate to the other side.

    5. They may be hardworking and have negotiated in good faith. I am not going to dis “Public Service Workers” for that.

      The simple fact remains that, if there is no money to pay for the benefits that were negotiated, then they are entitled to no more than the employees of any bankrupt corporation.

      They are certainly not entitled to reach into someone else’s pocket to take what they feel they should get.

    6. It sucks for all of us, this situation. We simply can’t commit economic suicide because a political party bought votes with funds it can’t provide. The largess should never have been granted in the first place.

      The same exact argument could be used to deny cuts to defense funding. Many people rely on that funding for jobs, etc.

    7. That is just patently retarded.

      If I get a job at Lockheed Martin I don’t get to elect the Board of Directors and then negotiate my employment terms with them. Public Sector Unions are an abomination (notice I said Public not Private) for their ability to do that.

      Oh and that money comes from taxes, loans (which my taxes have to pay back), or from thin air via the printing press (which devalues the money in my pocket). All three of which are fucking me in the ass to pay someone else’s salary.

      1. I’ve long argued that yes, indeed, public employees are owed that money our lowly representatives agreed to, but in order to prevent that debt owed to them from keeping us in a sustained depression we need to separate our monies from their monies by printing it out and then sending them and it to a penal colony on Mars. I’ve done the research and the math and looked into all of the alternatives, it is the only way to prevent total disaster.

        1. I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

          1. When I go all out supervillian, you wanna tag along as my archminion?

            1. I’m there. As long as I get a gaggle of fembots, my own cubicle in the lair, and a monocle that shoots lasers.

    8. Obvious troll is obvious

    9. You can dig holes and fill them back up again until you sweat blood and you may be “hard-working”, but “productive” you will not be.

  4. Oh come on, guys. It’s totally illegal to force unions to negotiate with the people who pay their salaries and benefits instead of getting to “negotiate” with lawmakers they can pay off. It’s just not fair.

  5. “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” — George Meany, AFL-CIO

    John is right. There are two reasons Meany was right, one of which John pointed out, which is that government contracts exist at the will of the government. The other is the economic calculation problem.

    Public Sector Unions are stupid from both sides.

  6. I do feel terrible for people who were lied to about the availability of money, worst of all for pensioners who planned their retirement based on the lies that they were told. No more than I do for people who trust Social Security or Medicare.

    It is, as Pro L says, much better to have the truth up front. The problem is that public employee collective bargaining seems to inevitably lead to these back-loaded unsustainable contracts.

    1. As long as your back remains strong, Mr. Thacker, the contracts are sustainable.

      *crack*

      More productivity, Thacker! No slacking!

      *crack*

      1. I’m unclear, is that cracking from a whip, or the sound of Thacker’s vertebrae being crushed into dust?

        1. Yes. As long as our nation’s birth rate remains strong, he can be replaced.

    2. I definitely feel empathy for most of the workers hit by these changes. As I do for those who can’t find a decent job or make ends meet because of the government working hard to trash our economy. But that doesn’t change that these arrangements were never right in the first place or, equally as important, sustainable.

  7. If the unions can’t get these ballot initiatives overturned in a friendly court, it’s THE END OF DEMOCRACY.

  8. other workers will file multiple lawsuits to enjoin the City from implementing the unlawful changes to employee pensions, health care and disability benefits.”

    Wow, one is beginning to get the feeling that the proles have sacked the houses of government and are now throwing documents out the windows while Ceausescu protests bitterly about the illegitimacy of the court!

  9. “Are they going to keep blaming it on millionaires when two-thirds of their own community is voting against them?”

    False consciousness!

    1. obviously sheep brainwashed by big-spending super pac’s.

  10. And still more long-overdue justice finally catching up with yet another naked and unapologetic rent seeker today:

    Maxine Waters’ Ethics Case WILL Proceed

    Oh, yessssssssssssssssss!

  11. It’s time for the Supreme Court to declare defined benefit pensions unconstitutional on the grounds that they bind a future legislative body to a course of action.

    Come on SCOTUS if you guys can pull qualified immunity out of your asses you can do this.

    1. That is just it, they are not bound. Those contracts are only as good as the next year’s budget.

  12. It just gets better; from some California moron over at dkos:

    What bothers me is talking to a parent of one of my daughter’s friends who was downtown tonight. She is a state employee and told me she’s having a hard time deciding how to tell her daughter that she will have to cut out dance lessons. She also told me that their house upgrade and remodeling plans are now scrapped. Maintenance is always one of the first things to be cut when budgets are tight.

    The horror! Tears are welling up in my eyes just thinking about it, and I can’t stop laughing long enough to wipe them away.

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