Thugocracy: Most Union Members Have Ties to Government

chicago-teachers-union-protest

For the Associated Press, Tom Raum reports: Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past half-century.

A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels.

Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector strike-union-tallworkforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in the United States are unionized, down from a peak of 35 percent during the mid-1950s in the strong post-World War II recovery.

The typical union worker now is more likely to be an educator, office worker or food or service industry employee rather than a construction worker, autoworker, electrician or mechanic. Far more women than men are among the union-label ranks.

In a blow to public sector unions, the Supreme Court ruled this week that thousands of health care workers in Illinois who are paid by the state cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union’s cost of collective bargaining.

The justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with stances taken by unions.

The ruling was narrowly drawn, but it could reverberate through the universe of unions that represent government workers. The case involved home-care workers for disabled people who are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state.

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Chart shows change in union membership as percentage of wage and salary earners; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 …

Also in June, a California judge declared unconstitutional the state’s teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws. The judge ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and teachers union.

“The basic structure of the labor union movement has changed, reflecting changes in the economy,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. “Manufacturing is a diminishing segment of the economy. Also, a lot of the manufacturing that’s being done today is being done nonunion.”

unionthugs-cartoonUnion members continue to be a powerful political force in politics, and Baker said he didn’t see the role of unions diminishing. “I just think the colors of the collars are changing,” Baker said.

In 2013, 14.5 million workers belonged to a union, about the same as the year before. In 1983, the first year for which comparable figures are available, there were 17.7 million union workers.

The largest union is the National Education Association, with 3.2 million members. It represents public school teachers, administrators and students preparing to become teachers. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Become a Public Pension Millionaire

In five states, an average full-career retiree receives a retirement income higher than his final salary

moneyocareAndrew Biggs writes: Detroit and San Bernardino and Stockton, Calif. are in bankruptcy, and across the country the costs of maintaining pensions for city and state employees more than doubled to nearly $84 billion in 2011 from 2002. Yet the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme) declares that public pensions are “modest,” noting that its average member “receives a pension of approximately $19,000 per year after a career of public service.”

The facts don’t agree. Data compiled from all state pensions show that, for employees who spend a career in state government, generous pensions put retired public workers among the highest earners in their state.

It is true that average public-pension benefits rarely seem extravagant. But these averages are reduced by two groups: older employees who retired many years ago and whose benefits are far less than those of an employee retiring today; and by short-term workers who often receive tiny pensions but almost surely have retirement savings from another job.

Unions claim that no one works for government to get rich, but many public employees become “pension millionaires” along the way. In Nevada, an average full-career state worker can expect to receive $1.3 million in lifetime pension benefits.

A far more relevant measure of the public-pension burden is how much a typical full-career state employee retiring today receives. In a new study for the American Enterprise Institute, I compiled data from pensions plans’ Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, which show the average benefits paid to a newly retired state government employee with at least 30 years of job tenure. Public-safety employees, who typically receive the most generous pensions, are excluded from these figures. These are not one-off examples of egregious abuses. They are what the average full-career employee actually received in retirement. Read the rest of this entry »


Crown Jewel of Democrat-Controlled Economic Planning Reaches Inevitable Conclusion

FILE - This Oct. 24, 2012 file photo shows a graffiti-marked abandoned home north of downtown Detroit, in background.(AP Photo)
File photo shows a graffiti-marked abandoned home north of downtown Detroit (AP Photo)

Detroit bankruptcy trial begins Wednesday

The city of Detroit for months has disclosed the awful condition of its finances. Now it’s up to a judge to determine if the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history really can go forward.

An unusual trial starts Wednesday, pitting Detroit’s emergency manager and his legal team against unions and pension funds that claim the city isn’t qualified to scrub its books clean under Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

A city isn’t eligible for a bankruptcy makeover unless it shows that key steps were met, especially good-faith talks with creditors earlier this year. It’s a critical decision for Judge Steven Rhodes: If Detroit clears the hurdle, the case then would quickly turn to how to solve at least $18 billion in debt and get city government off the ropes.

Read the rest of this entry »