Barack Obama saved General Motors with his words—and you paid for it with your money. The Obama administration said the government will sell 40% of its ownership, amounting to 200 million shares, back to GM, and will exit ownership by March 2014.
IS it time for Taxpayers to Unionize? Lets band together and stop getting bullied around by our Politicians and the Public sector Unions. Id like to raise money to have attorneys represent the Taxpayers in all future meeting to represent us. Whos on board?
Last Wednesday, supporters of the so-called “Protect Our Jobs” Constitutional Amendment (POJA) submitted 684,286 petition signatures to the Michigan Department of State — more than double the amount needed to put the measure on the ballot in November.
If passed, the Amendment would enshrine collective bargaining in the Michigan Constitution.
POJA would effectively destroy any chance for Michigan to give workers the right to say no to a union and still keep their job –the main benefit of a right-to-work law. The proposal is already being billed as an anti-right-to-work measure, but the major impact would be the reversal of reforms to government union privileges. These reforms have helped Michigan turn the corner after a decade of economic malaise.
Supporters of the amendment say it is needed to help the middle class. In reality it will only help the roughly three percent of the Michigan population who are government union members, but will be paid for by everyone else.
The Amendment would make unions a super-legislature leaving them more powerful than the people’s elected representatives. It would remove the governor and the Legislatures’ (aka the voters’) ability to place any limits on government unions’ power except for strike clauses. POJA would mean Michigan could not continue, and would never achieve, the type of reforms that have saved Michigan taxpayers billions of dollars and turned states like Wisconsin around.
This turns into huge money: In FY2011, according to its LM-2 filing with the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO received approximately $28,163,266.00 from credit card revenue. Both the AFL-CIO and SEIU try to give their members the impression that their cards are superior to others on the market, but they’re not. The SEIU, for example, offers an introductory rate of 12.24% APR to 22.24%, which is consistent with the industry standards the union have labeled “predatory.” The SEIU card boasts that it doesn’t charge a late fee. But union members should read the fine print; if they miss a payment, their rate skyrockets to 27.99%. Nerdwallet, which Money magazine calls the “Best Credit Card Site” on the web, compares the value of more than 1,000 credit cards. They thrashed the Union Plus card’s slick advertising and complex fine print For example, the SEIU pushes its credit cards through SEIU Services and Marketing Inc., a taxable corporation. Its purpose: to provide “technical assistance and support services to financial institutions and financial services firms, aiding those institutions and firms with the promotion and marketing of their products beneficial to our members.” All this means that AFL-CIO and SEIU members have themselves become enormous profit centers for the union bosses who control them. When the banks do it, it’s called Wall Street greed at its worst. When the Big Labor does it, it’s simply working the union way. Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/this-bank-bashing-union-is-making-serious-money-with-a-high-interest-credit-card-2012-6#ixzz1wqSfB7Bp
An open records request filed by Milwaukee conservative radio personality Mark Belling has revealed that freedom of speech in some public schools is reserved for those who agree with the unions.
According to information obtained by Belling, a custodian working for a private contractor at Whitewater (Wisconsin) High School was recently fired by her employer after two school employees, including the supervisor of custodians, demanded that she remove a pro-Scott Walker sign from her car and she refused. If you recall, Big Labor is attempting to recall Gov. Walker over his new law that curtails collective bargaining privileges for public employee unions.
Mary Taylor, an employee with Diversified Building Maintenance, was allegedly sent home after school employees complained to her supervisor about the pro-Walker sign in her car, which was parked in the school parking lot.
Belling said district administrator Eric Runez initially claimed that no one from the school directed Taylor’s employer to have her remove the sign, but Belling’s public information request turned up a conflicting account of how the situation played out.
“… [M]y public records search indicates the custodian supervisor at the school,Cindy Wiedenhoeft, wrote in a memo she acknowledged discussing the sign with a Diversified supervisor and the two agreed to order Mary to remove it,” Belling wrote in an email to EAG.
To understand why the AFL-CIO this week endorsed President Obama for re-election, it helps to know that Tyrone Freeman enjoys Cognac — $175 glasses of Cognac, allegedly paid for by the SEIU local he used to run. Freeman’s union also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to companies run by his wife and family.
New, Bush-era federal rules forced unions to be more open about their spending, and brought these facts to light. Soon afterward, the SEIU forced Freeman to resign. Everyone except corrupt union officers ought to support such transparency.
It was just one giveaway of many, which is why the AFL-CIO endorsement was no surprise. For all candidate Obama’s talk of putting the common good above special interests, President Obama has given the union movement handout after handout — at a high cost to taxpayers and the economy.
Within days of taking office, Obama signed an executive order directing agencies to use project labor agreements on their construction projects. PLAs require contractors to sign collective-bargaining agreements before starting work. He also required contractors on stimulus projects to use union work rules and pay union rates. These orders reserved federal jobs for the one-in-seven construction workers who belong to a union. Nonunion workers got left in the cold.
Obama proceeded to staff his Labor Department with union officials. They’ve run the agency at the behest of their former employers — hence the rollback of union transparency. And Obama appointed the SEIU’s lawyer, Craig Becker, directly to the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB used to referee disputes between unions and management; Becker transformed it into an agency pushing workers to unionize. And while the NLRB’s drive to close a nonunion Boeing plant in South Carolina got national attention, other outrages escaped much notice.
Under Becker, the NLRB shortened the time for union elections to roughly two weeks. That gives employers little time to explain their side before workers vote. Hearing primarily from unions will make employees more likely to unionize, which is exactly the point.
And he allowed unions to cherry-pick which groups of workers will get to vote on unionizing: Organizers targeting a hospital, for example, could form a union of just registered nurses, excluding nurse practitioners from the vote.
Don’t forget the Detroit bailout. Obama spent far more than GM and Chrysler needed to stay running — his stated goal. In a normal bankruptcy, courts would’ve rewritten union contracts wholesale, junking inefficient work rules and reducing compensation to current workers. Instead, the administration insisted that the United Auto Workers get special treatment.
So the UAW recovered far more of its debts than other creditors, which is how it wound up owning half of Chrysler. And while new hires took large pay cuts, the union boasted “for our active members these tentative changes mean no loss in your base hourly pays, no reduction in your health care, and no reduction in pensions.”
The president decided that taxpayers — most of whom make far less than UAW members — would spend tens of billions of dollars to preserve UAW pay and benefits.
The special treatment extends even to the president’s signature achievement: Unions have also gotten more than half of the waivers from the president’s health-care law.
There’s a larger reason for labor’s love of Obama: The movement has changed dramatically over the past generation.
The AFL-CIO endorsed President John Kennedy’s 1963 tax cut, but now most union members work in government; the Post Office employs twice as many union members as the domestic auto industry. And government unions benefit directly from higher taxes and bigger government — Obama’s solutions to every problem.
It takes a special loyalty to protect union officers who want to hide how they spend members’ money; Obama has given unions that and much more. The AFL-CIO can expect a solid return on the $500 million it plans to spend to re-elect him.
How did America become broke and insolvent? How did we build up an unimaginable $115 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities? How did we allow the American Dream to become a nightmare?
All we need do is look at the primary demand the Eurozone and IMF are placing on hopelessly bankrupt Greece to get their new $170 Billion bailout — Greece has agreed to cut 150,000 government employees. Even Cuba’s leader Raul Castro recognizes government employees are at the root of economic destruction, as he is cutting over 2 million of them to save Cuba from bankruptcy.
The truth is that government employees are the true 1%. We have far too many of them (21 million), many of them are paid too much, and their union demands are straining taxpayers to the breaking point.
They have become a privileged class that expects to be treated superior to the taxpayers — the same folks who pay their salaries and pensions. But it is their obscene pensions that are the big problem moving forward for America.
How would you like to retire with $6 million? $8 million? $10 million? All you have to do is become a government employee to hit the jackpot.
You don’t believe me? Do the math.
I recently talked with a retired New York City toll taker. His salary averaged about $70,000 per year over 20 years. But in his last few years he worked loads of overtime and added in accumulated sick days to get his salary in those final years up to $150,000.
His pension is based on his final years’ salary. This is a common pension-padding ploy.
He bragged that he will now get a taxpayer funded pension of $120,000 a year for the rest of his life. He’s only 50 years old.
The average 50-year old male has a life expectancy of almost 80. With automatic cost of living increases, that’s a bill to taxpayers of $5 million for the next 30 years –for not working. THREE TIMES WHAT HE EARNED WHILE WORKING.
And, of course, we’re also paying his medical bills.
No country, no budget, and no taxpayers anywhere in the world can afford this. Ask Greece.
But here’s a frightening question- what if he lives to 90? Or 100? His pension could rise to $8 million or higher.
Multiply this times 21 million government employees (on the federal, state and local level) and you now get a sense of what is bankrupting America.
Are these stories the exception, rather than the rule? Over 77,000 federal government employees earned more than the governor of their state.
On the federal level, it was just reported by USA Today that the average federal civil servant compensation is $123,049 per year.
That’s more than double what private sector workers earn (average of $61,051). Since 2000, federal government employee compensation has grown by 36.9% versus 8.8% for private sector employees.
In Las Vegas (Clark County) the average firefighter earns $199,678 per year.
When he retires at age 45 or 50, we owe his pension based on that obscene salary. But here’s the clincher –when he finally dies, the taxpayer has to continue paying the pension to his spouse. Add up the damage to the economy. It is catastrophic. Talk about a 1 per center — a single firefighter could retire with $8 to $10 million for not working for the rest of his life.
This is madness.
Now it’s true that policemen and firefighters are heroes. But they make up a small portion of government employees.
Recent studies prove the average janitor that works for government makes over $600,000 more in his career than a private sector janitor. Are janitors heroes too?
Again, this is madness.
Three stories on the same day in this past Sunday’s Las Vegas newspapers sum up this national outrage.
Let’s start with the Las Vegas teachers union. It was reported that more than a third of the union’s entire $4.1 million annual budget went to pay just nine union leaders.
The Teachers Union Executive Director received $632,546, while the CEO of the union-created Teachers Health Trust was paid $546,133.
So next time you hear educators scream that we must spend more money on education, because “it’s for the kids,” you’ll know the truth. It’s for the unions.
It’s always been for the unions.
Bernie Madoff has nothing on the government employee union scam.
Article number two in Sunday’s Las Vegas Review Journal was about those highly paid Las Vegas firefighters.
It turns out they weren’t satisfied with making almost $200,000 per year. They also abused sick leave, rigged work schedules to pump up their pensions, and appear to have engaged in widespread disability fraud.
About half of all Clark County firefighters retired with work-related injuries in recent years- garnering bonus payments averaging $320,000 apiece. That’s in addition to their obscene pensions for life.
Is this also “for the kids?”
Article number three in Sunday’s paper was about a now retired Las Vegas homicide detective and possible police brutality. It had nothing to do with pensions. But interestingly, the retired homicide detective they quote in the story is 47 years old.
He’s 47 and already retired?
Want to bet that you and I are on the hook for $5 to $10 million in pension and health benefits from now until the day he dies- for not working. Is this also “for the kids?”
I’ll say it one more time… this is madness.
These aren’t CEO types. These are average government employees retiring with the equivalent of $5 to $10 million. These are the true 1% privileged class that are bankrupting our country and destroying the once great U.S. economy.
Something is very wrong here.
No one has a right to complain about the high incomes of business owners in the private sector (the 1%). We rarely have pensions and our compensation doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. We risk our own money to start our businesses and often work 16 hour days, weekends and holidays.
Yet for all that risk and hard work, do you know any small business owners who retire with $5 to $10 million? They are few and far between. But that’s exactly what a private sector employee would need in the bank on the day of his or her retirement to match the $100,000 per year pensions (plus health care benefits and cost of living increases) of government employees paid out over 30 to 50 years.
Keep in mind that government employees never risk a dollar of their own money. They have lifetime job security. And they rarely work beyond 9 to 5, let alone weekends or holidays.
Yet government employees are paid millions by taxpayers to retire early, often on pensions fattened by gaming the corrupt system.
They are the true 1%.
This is a national disgrace that is bankrupting America. The gall of this scam would make Bernie Madoff blush.
But hey…”It’s for the kids!”
In January and February of this year, the Internal Revenue Service began sending out letters to various local Tea Parties across the country. Mailed from the same Cincinnati, Ohio IRS office, these letters have reached Tea Parties in Virginia, Hawaii, Ohio, and Texas (we are hearing of more daily). There are several common threads to these letters: all are requesting more information from these independent Tea Parties in regard to their nonprofit 501(c)(4) applications (for this type of nonprofit, donations are not deductible). While some of the requests are reasonable, much of them are strikingly onerous and, dare I say, Orwellian in nature.
What are local Tea Partiers to think with requests like “Please identify your volunteers” or “are there board members or officers who have run or will run for office (including relatives)”? What possible reason would the IRS have for Tea Parties to “name your donors” when said donations are non-deductible? These are just a few of the questions asked by the IRS in these letters, and one cannot help but suspect an intrinsic threat encompassing all these demands.
The other question is the timing of these IRS letters requesting reams of copies and hundreds of hours of work and potentially thousands of dollars in accounting/legal fees (all due in two weeks). Some of these Tea Party groups have not received anything concerning their nonprofit status since 2010 prior to these letters.
These documents are further undermined by a letter sent to the IRS Commissioner Shulman. Signed by six Senators, it requests that the commissioner investigate 501(c)(4) groups to determine whether they are engaging in substantial campaign activity, including opposition to any candidate. Who signed this letter? Senators Schumer, Franken, Udall, Shaheen, Whitehouse, Merkley and Bennet — all Democrats.
Could it be that these Senators want the IRS to investigate the nonprofit status of Media Matters and its coordinated political activity with the White House? Or perhaps they are concerned with nonprofit ACORN groups’ record of voter fraud, and other previous campaign abuses including alleged close ties with President Obama’s Project Vote? No, when these Senators sent this letter to the IRS commissioner, the message would be very clear. The 501(c)(4) groups they want investigated are not those with Democratic liberal ties.
But why would a department like the IRS cave to Democrat demands? Could it be because this Democratic administration proposed a budget earlier this month that would result in “$1.1 billion in new funds for the Internal Revenue Service… that would translate to 5,112 new hires, or a 5 percent expansion of enforcement operations”? Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, couldn’t contain her glee at the prospect of over 5,000 new union hires, exclaiming in response to the announcement that “the administration’s 2012 funding level for the IRS would permit the agency to improve services through increasing response rates to inquiries, deploying enforcement resources to what the White House called high-return integrity activities and by modernizing information technology systems.”
The IRS is already focusing on “deploying enforcement resources,” as Kelley put it, toward targeting small, local Tea Parties; we’re sorry to report that these “high-return integrity activities” are generating a higher fear factor, not necessarily higher returns.
In the near future, the Affordable Healthcare Act mandate and all things related to healthcare are to be policed and enforced by the IRS. This means thousands more IRS agents will be added, but the actual number is yet unknown. Considering that healthcare accounts for 1/6th of the U.S. economy, it will probably be a significant number of additional agents. According to the tax administration inspector general, Russell George, “The new Affordable Care Act provisions represents the largest set of tax law changes in 20 years.” That’s an overwhelming thought considering there are over 70,000 pages of federal tax code.
The Tea Party movement is well known for wanting to shrink the size of government and decrease government spending because of the ballooning deficit. This means that unionized government employees that may be out of a job if the Tea Party is successful also have the power to choose whether or not Tea Party groups get nonprofit status. And those same employees are also requesting names and information of board members, volunteers, donors, invited speakers(and party affiliation) and just about anyone that has had any association with the Tea Party.
It is apparent that there is a potential conflict of interest and it could be used to stifle the right to free speech of the Tea Party members, or any other citizen willing to question the system and powers that be.
Many Tea Party boards are afraid to speak out publicly about these intrusive requests because of fear of being personally targeted and singled out by the IRS. This is especially scary to citizens of modest incomes that don’t have the financial means to hire accountants or tax attorneys. And that is probably the point. Cower and fade away, or face possible persecution at the hands of government bureaucrats.
Some people may read this article about this possibly-coordinated effort against Tea Parties and be glad. But, the tables can easily be turned if and when another party takes control. The potential of using the IRS as a weapon against those that disagree with the people in power is exactly why the Tea Party fears the growth of government.
If your Tea Party has received similar letters, please let me know (Colleen Owens, firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will put you in contact with other Tea Parties that have also received them. I will not publish your Tea Party or names publicly.
Remember the words of Ben Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The American Airlines bankruptcy reveals the scope of President Obama’s political payback to the UAW. Unlike General Motors and Chrysler, American Airlines is undergoing a “normal” Chapter 11 bankruptcy according to the rule of established law. The GM (and Chrysler) bankruptcies of 2009 were directed by a White House task force that upended regular bankruptcy procedures. The White House objective was not to create a competitive new GM, but to get the best deal possible for the UAW and make GM a de facto “Government Motors.”
It’s not that the airline unions failed to deliver for Obama and the Democrats in 2008. The Airline Pilots Association contributed three quarters of a million dollars – small change compared to the UAW’s more than four million to Obama and the Democratic Party. Apparently you have to pony up big to get a deal from Obama.
The White House Auto Task Force and its Czar spared UAW the dismay and outrage of renegotiated union pay scales, revised work rules, and loss of defined-benefit pensions that American Airlines union members face. American’s anticipated fifteen percent job loss is about the same as GM’s, but without a dime of taxpayer money. Obama did not save GM jobs, he saved UAW pay scales and pensions. UAW members left their jobs with a $25,000 new car and $20,000 cash. (Chrysler employees left with much more). Laid-off American Airlines pilots, mechanics and flight attendants will likely leave with little or nothing.
I can imagine the UAW’s unspoken message for the White House in June of 2009: “Mr. President, in a normal bankruptcy, we might end up with the same wages as those scabs at Toyota and Volkswagen in the South. The court might order cuts in our pensions. We gave you our money, and you protect us. You can claim you are doing it for the middle class. That story might sell.”
The NLRB, meanwhile, unveiled a new rule in June to reduce drastically the time elapse between a union filing for representation petition and workers voting on whether to unionize. The board finalized the regulation in December in the face of intense House GOP opposition, thus assuring (for now) that employers will have little time to oppose a union organizing campaign. And the NLRB ruling by 3 to 1 in UNICCO Service Co. made it more difficult for an employer taking over a unionized company to avoid recognition of the union as a bargaining agent (i.e., the “successor bar”).
The board invited scrutiny in other ways. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in September wrote Becker on what role he played, if any, in preparing an anti-corporate organizing manual for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where he formerly served as associate general counsel. The SEIU found this manual highly useful in its more than year-long campaign to destroy the brand name of Sodexo, which eventually, this March, countered with a racketeering suit against the SEIU. Sen. Hatch’s request might seem moot in the aftermath of President Obama’s withdrawal of his nomination in December of Becker for a full term on the board. But the president, faced with another protracted period with a nonfunctioning two-member board, only days ago appointed Left-leaning Democrats Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, along with the obligatory second Republican, Terence Flynn, to the board during a Senate “recess” of dubious constitutionality.
The Service Employees revealed themselves once more to be masters of political agitprop. Not only did the union engage in an intimidation campaign against Sodexo, it also played a central role in fomenting Occupy Wall Street and offshoot campaigns. Moreover, as reported in February, two of the Midwest residences raided by the FBI in September 2010 for possible linkages to the terrorist groups Hamas (Gaza and the West Bank) and FARC (Colombia) belonged, respectively, to a current and former official of Chicago-based SEIU Local 73, Joe Iosbaker and Tom Burke. Iosbaker, at least, is back in the news. He and another FBI suspect, Andy Thayer, helped lead Occupy Chicago protests in October. And a longtime prominent SEIU organizer, Stephen Lerner, not only was active in the Occupy movement, but earlier in the year laid out an economic destabilization plan – caught on tape during a speech in New York – to decimate America’s banks and corporations. Lerner, several times a visitor to the Obama White House, has been all over the map since, identifying and denouncing “billionaires” at whom activists could vent their wrath.
Other unions flexed their muscles at the perfidious “1 percent.” AFL-CIO-affiliated labor federations in Boston, Chicago and Orange County, Calif., for instance, organized “Occupy” protests. Along with the SEIU, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, AFSCME and the New York State United Teachers each endorsed Occupy Wall Street squatters. Even AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka paid the Wall Street occupiers a friendly personal visit. Trumka had plenty else to keep him busy, most notably, a fledgling “Super PAC” to raise money for progressive candidates in 2012. He’ll have plenty of allies in Wisconsin, where public employees unions spearheaded a three-week mass takeover of the State Capitol in Madison and surrounding grounds starting in mid-February. Supportive Democratic state senators fled town in unison with the intention of preventing a quorum for a vote on GOP Governor Scott Walker’s budget, a large portion of which contained proposals to curtail union collective bargaining authority. They lost – temporarily. After the AWOL senators returned home to a hero’s welcome, the GOP-majority legislature passed the bill and the Wisconsin Supreme Court in June, by a 4-3 margin, upheld the law, reversing a permanent injunction issued the previous month by a state circuit court. A union-driven recall campaign against certain pro-Walker legislators proved mostly unsuccessful. But activists on November 15 launched a petition drive to recall the governor and are reportedly close to acquiring the minimum required signatures for submission by the January 17 deadline.
Political confrontation wasn’t the whole story in 2011. As usual, union officials and functionaries produced numerous examples of financial impropriety. Among the more dramatic stories: Tim Foley, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134 in Chicago, resigned his post in October following revelations that he and three other union officials had been illegally double-dipping into their municipal and union pension plans. The leaders of a United Food and Commercial Workers local in Brooklyn, N.Y. were arrested and charged with shaking down or stealing $2.4 million from employers and members. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) health and pension plan boss Bruce Dow and his cronies faced unexpected scrutiny for the disappearance of possibly $10 million in union benefits. Hundreds of FBI and other law enforcement agents in a single January morning arrested well over 100 Mafia wise guys and associates, mainly in the New York City area, for murder, racketeering, money-laundering, loan-sharking, extortion and other offenses going back some three decades. The FBI in October arrested nearly a dozen persons, including retired union employees of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), for conspiring to concoct phony medical histories in order to expand eligibility for outsized pension and “disability” checks, a scheme that over the long term could cost U.S. taxpayers at least $1 billion. And Melissa King, first exposed in late 2009, pleaded guilty to fleecing the New York-area Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) “Sandhogs” local where she served as benefits manager, though in an amount less than the alleged sum of more than $40 million.
Taking into account the subjective criteria used in the past for ranking importance, here are the ten corruption/aggression stories, in reverse order, that stood out most in 2011:
10) Chicago Electrical Workers bosses collect lavish pensions and stick city taxpayers with bills. Collecting two pensions, one from an employer and the other from a union, isn’t unknown in organized labor. But sometimes it’s illegal. And Tim Foley, former business manager-financial secretary of IBEW Local 134, along with other officials of the 15,000-member Chicago local, likely broke Illinois law by purchasing credits for a city pension plan to be based on their higher union salary, while falsely claiming they were not participating in any other plan. The city pension credit program itself is a legal scam, potentially costing taxpayers possibly tens of millions of dollars. Foley, under intense media scrutiny, resigned his union post in October.
9) FBI raid nets dozens of New York City-area mobsters and associates. There’s almost nothing like a good mob takedown to keep union bosses honest. A year ago, hundreds of FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and various state and local law enforcement agents fanned out and in single morning arrested nearly 120 Mafia members and associates named in a lengthy indictment for murder, racketeering, extortion and other acts committed over three decades, mainly in and around New York City. The raids netted wise guys of all five New York Mafia families, especially the Colombos. Equally significantly, many of the crimes centered upon three New York-area unions with a reputation for being mobbed-up: the Laborers-affiliated Cement and Concrete Workers Local 6A; Teamsters Local 282; and International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1235.
8) United Food and Commercial Workers officials in Brooklyn charged with massive extortion, fraud. Extracting payments from employers and stealing from member benefit plans came easy to the leaders of UFCW Local 348 in Brooklyn. It helped that the leaders of the racket were family. A six-count federal indictment handed down in October ended the decade and a half run of Anthony Fazio Sr., Anthony Fazio Jr. and John Fazio. Arrested and charged with racketeering, extortion, money-laundering and other offenses, the Fazios allegedly pocketed $2.4 million in coerced employer “donations” and fake invoices paid out of local accounts.
7) Organized labor foments, endorses Occupy Wall Street protests. Time magazine named “The Protestor” as its Person of the Year for 2011. And no protesters, at least in the West, made a bigger impact than those taking part in Occupy Wall Street and similar Left-populist appropriations of public space. While spokesmen for these outpourings of anti-capitalist street theater may pride themselves on their leaderless resistance, the reality is that unions have been more than ephemeral players. The Amalgamated Transit Union, the Teamsters, AFSCME and the SEIU each publicly endorsed the demonstrators, while AFL-CIO area labor councils made protests possible in any number of cities. SEIU revolutionary organizer Stephen Lerner appears to have a prime mover in Chicago and elsewhere. Belated municipal crackdowns, cold weather and no doubt a certain amount of tedium have forced most occupiers indoors for now, but the movement they birthed will be here for years to come if unions have any say in it.
6) Unions were major recipients of waivers from Obama health care law they lobbied to create. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” promised better and more affordable health care to a wider range of Americans when it was enacted in March 2010. Yet few people want to pay for the law’s mandates, including – ironically – organizations, such as labor unions, that lobbied for the law. By last spring, the Department of Health and Human Services had awarded nearly 1,400 waivers to various group health plans from a requirement forcing sponsors to offer at least $750,000 in coverage per enrollee in 2011, a figure set to rise even higher until its phase-out in 2014. About a fourth of the waivers went to union- or unionized employer-sponsored plans representing about half of all covered workers. Hypocrisy rarely has been so expensive.
5) Former official of Screen Actors Guild benefit plan files complaint against SAG benefit plan bosses. Actors who belong to SAG have gotten a rude set of revelations over the last several months: The people in charge of their health and pension funds are in it for the money. Last September a recently terminated SAG benefits official, Craig Simmons, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor that it investigate plan managers for fraud, excessive compensation and other acts of malfeasance totaling anywhere from $5 million to $10 million. The likely culprits are SAG benefits plan CEO Bruce Dow and his cronies. Simmons and lately various SAG members are accusing Dow of whitewashing facts and blocking outside probes. Hopefully, this movie will have a happy ending.
4) Public-sector unions lead Wisconsin legislature shutdown. The unprecedented occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol and surrounding area, far from being a spontaneous happening, was well-planned and coordinated. And it was state and local affiliates of AFSCME and teachers unions who provided the main guidance for this paramilitary campaign to turn the city of Madison into a virtual combat zone. All Democratic state senators, as an act of solidarity, absconded town and decamped to undisclosed locations in order to block a quorum necessary for action on new Republican Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposals to close a two-year $3.6 billion deficit. The Battle of Wisconsin, in a sense, marked a new chapter in union aggression, going well beyond the strike as a tool to advance employee interests. And thanks to a union-dominated recall campaign, Walker’s tenure in office remains in the balance.
3) SEIU anti-corporate radical activism continues. Andrew Stern resigned the presidency of the Service Employees International Union more than a year and a half ago, but the union under successor Mary Kay Henry continues to set the gold standard for labor radicalism. In 2011 the union, which now claims more than 2 million members, among other activities, stepped up its corporate campaign against Sodexo until slapped with a racketeering suit by the company, organized and endorsed “Occupy” rallies in cities throughout the nation, worked with a reconstituted ACORN chapter to invade a Southern California bank, and played a key role in the ongoing recall effort of Governor Walker in Wisconsin. In other words, the SEIU is being its usual self.
2) National Labor Relations Board serves as union advocate. Facing a clear Republican majority in the House and a significantly reduced Democratic majority in the Senate, organized labor last year found itself relying heavily on the executive branch to realize tangible gains. It knew it had an ally in the NLRB. The board, among other things, ruled in favor of unions in a ”successor bar” case; established a rule shortening the time elapse between a petition filing for representation and a worker vote; and most dramatically, sided with the Machinists union’s attempt to block production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jumbo jet at a second, nonunion plant in South Carolina. The board called off the dogs in December only because the international union and the company had just reached an agreement favorable to the union. As long as Obama, or any other Democrat, is president, more actions like these are likely.
1) FBI arrests 11 in probe of $1 billion+ Long Island Rail Road disability scheme. Since the late Nineties a thousand or more retired LIRR workers have known how to boost their income on the sly: Declare themselves “disabled.” And they did it by visiting doctors with a reputation for manufacturing phony medical histories. FBI and New York State law enforcement agents, following a three-year probe, this past October arrested nearly a dozen persons, including a former United Transportation Union local president. But the damage has been done and may continue. A federal agency, the Railroad Retirement Board, may be on the hook for at least $1 billion in long-term payments if it can’t declare beneficiaries ineligible. That the scam occurred and continued for so long owed largely to lavish benefit packages negotiated by various unions representing LIRR workers.
(Dis)honorable mention. Florida IBEW local benefits manager Gregory Sims sentenced for $800,000 embezzlement; Cincinnati public employees boss Diana Frey charged, pleads guilty to $750,000 embezzlement; Melissa King, benefits manager of New York City Laborers local, pleads guilty to theft, but denies she took the alleged $40 million; NYC ballet dancers union representative Leonard Leibowitz indicted, pleads guilty to $350,000 theft; Pittsburgh-area Iron Workers bookkeeper Jennine Prince indicted, pleads guilty to $400,000+ theft; Mia Garza, California SEIU health care local benefits clerk, sentenced for $1 million+ theft; ILWU workers riot at Washington State rail terminal to block grain shipment; Michigan Plumbers secretary April Franklin sentenced for stealing more than $400,000 from union; Louisiana-based Laborers benefits manager Theresa Waters pleads guilty to nearly $500,000 embezzlement; builders trade association boss Joseph Olivieri sentenced for role in $10 million NYC-area Carpenters benefit scam; SEIU and Teamsters-affiliated City of New York snow removal crews likely engaged in post-blizzard work slowdown as political payback; NYC-area bus drivers union boss Warren Annunziata sentenced for extorting $500,000 from bus companies; Wayne Mitchell, president of Communications Workers of America (CWA)-affiliated newspapers mailroom employees local in New York, sentenced for embezzlement; Puerto Rican sugar workers union boss pleads guilty to $450,000 in thefts; Montana Plumbers local secretary Teresa Wilson pleads guilty to stealing about $200,000; civil turmoil at Verizon employees CWA Local 1101 in New York takes new turn; Florida CWA local secretary-treasurer James Drury pleads guilty, sentenced for $300,000+ embezzlement; business agents of New Jersey Iron Workers, Laborers locals arrested for bribe-taking, while son of the Iron Workers agent pleads guilty to $560,000 theft.
They take your cash . . . in so many ways.
Port Authority toll collectors not only grab your money at New York-New Jersey crossings, they’re now pulling down stunning six-figure salaries funded by the levies you pay at bridges and tunnels.
Twenty-four toll collectors at the bi-state agency have made more than $80,000 so far in 2011 — payments pumped up by massive overtime. Seven of those workers took in $90,000 or more.
But that’s chump change to the top toll taker.
Warren Stevens has made $102,670 so far this year — $40,614 of it OT.
Karen DuPree is the No. 2 highest-paid toll taker, making $97,621 — more than a third of it from overtime pay of $37,470.
The annual salaries will only swell since the figures released Friday for all 6,777 PA employees do not include December paychecks.
Princesella Smith, 51, who has made $89,599 working the toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge this year, understandably loves her profession.
“I’m blessed,” she told The Post. “I have a great job, and in this economy it’s great that I can cover everything with my eight hours a day and overs.”
The driving public is a little less enthused, especially after the PA hiked tolls $4 this past summer at its six crossings.
“Any commuter is going to be outraged,” said Cathleen Lewis, a spokeswoman for AAA New Jersey. “Any toll increase should be paying for infrastructure . . . It shouldn’t be paying for excessive salaries.”
Toll collectors — whose ranks have dwindled to 147 as they are replaced by the electronic E-ZPass system — aren’t the only ones cashing in.
Port Authority gardeners are raking in big bucks, too. At least 11 of them bring in annual salaries of more than $80,000.
Michael Finlator has earned $94,106 in 2011 as a gardener. More than $24,000 of that comes from overtime.
Fernando Ippolito, a blacksmith, took in more than $146,000.
Louis LaCapra, the PA’s chief administrative officer, made the most of any agency employee, bringing in $324,940 so far.
Kevin Cottrell, the agency’s top paid cop, made $265,059 in 2011.
The PA — being sued by motorist groups who claim chronically increasing tolls don’t go to pay for transportation projects — is now conducting an audit of its finances.
“The Port Authority is conducting an agency-wide review led by a special committee of its board,” spokesman Ron Marsico said. “That review will address compensation and benefits.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who shares oversight of the PA with Gov. Cuomo, believes more scrutiny must be paid to the agency’s finances and skyrocketing salaries.
“There has to be some rational basis for individuals making their salaries or more than their salaries in overtime,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak.
“Management practices need scrutiny at the Port Authority.”
Cuomo’s office did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.
The PA’s 1,300 cops are also getting huge overtime payments, but Robert Egbert, the board of trustees chairman for the union that represents them, said a shortage of cops is to blame. He said the agency hasn’t hired new cops since 2008.
“That’s mismanagement by the Port Authority,” he said. “Their response is it’s cheaper to pay the overtime than to hire the new employees.”
Writing at RedState, blogger LaborUnionReport highlights this amazing interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from last week, in which she declares that Boeing should be forced by the government to close down its non-union South Carolina plant, although she mercifully adds, “I would hope that they would make it union” to avoid this fate.
LaborUnionReport is willing to cut Pelosi a little slack and allow that she might just be an uninformed boob spouting off about something she doesn’t understand at all:
In fairness, Pelosi’s advisers may have neglected to tell the former speaker that the South Carolina plant was once unionized before employees chose to exercise their rights to become union-free. Her advisers may have also neglected to tell the former speaker that the only reason the Machinists union likely filed charges against Boeing is because those employees chose to exercise their rights to become union free–which would be unlawful retaliation on the part of the union.
[Of course, the NLRB seems to be dragging its feet on the union's retaliation as it may complicate things for the union-run agency--like how the NLRB has allowed itself to become a union pawn and allow its prosecutorial process to become a joke by going after Boeing instead of the union for its apparent retaliaton.]
(Emphases mine.) This story really caught my attention because there’s so much anger at “special interests” these days. Why, people have taken over public parks and converted them into squalid dens of iniquity and circular drumming to protest the way working Americans are getting screwed by special interests.
Well, here is the ultimate, 190-proof, straight-up-no-chaser example of special interest politics. The woman who was once Speaker of the House – and will resume the position if people are foolish enough to vote her party back into power next year – just declared that raw government power should be used, in defiance of the law, to literally destroy a private entity that refused to cooperate with the demands of the most powerful special interest there is.
Labor unions are almost wholly dependent upon the corrupt use of government power to maintain their riches. They don’t just use political contributions to cadge a few favors here and there from the political elite. Labor unions are mega-corporations, and their entire business model, as currently construed, depends on using government power to rig the marketplace against their competitors. That would be you, if you don’t belong to a union.
Destroying the South Carolina Boeing plant would wipe out a good 4,000 jobs, on behalf of a corporate entity that sells extravagantly overpriced labor to other corporate entities. Here’s a little snapshot of the mega-corporation in question, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, courtesy of an informative March 2011 look at Big Labor by Fox News:
IAM, which grew out of a secret meeting of 19 machinists in a Georgia rail yard in 1888, represents machinists and aerospace workers in over 200 industries. At the union’s Maryland headquarters near Washington, 34 officers and employees earn over $200,000 in salary and benefits. Robert Buffenbarger, who became president in 1997, received $284,975. Over the past two years, the IAM donated $1.98 million to Democratic candidates and $34,000 to Republicans. Popularly known as the machinists union, IAM is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Its membership jumped in the 1950s and 1960s with the growth of the airlines and aerospace industries. More than 1 million belonged to the union in 1968. In the early 1970s, membership began declining, a change the union blames on layoffs in the defense industry.
How about it, Occupiers? Are you really against “special interests,” or not?
Occupy Wall Streeters Afraid We Think They’re Crazy ( Yea Wall Street greed bad Union greed good LOL )
Poor Occupy Wall Street. They just can’t win! They don’t list demands, and the media calls them an unorganized bunch of hipsters who have no idea what they want (OK, so the “unorganized hipsters” line was mine). They do list demands, and suddenly everyone can see how insane they are (“Demand Four: Free college education.” Riiiiight).
Indeed, they are doing conservatives’ work for us. Every time they open their (corporately manufactured) laptops to blog (on the corporately developed Internet), or their (corporately manufactured) iPhones to tweet, or their mouths to speak to the press, they sound even dumber than we imagined.
The more astute occupiers have taken notice of our derisive laughter, and have begun issuing cease-and-desist orders on demands. Take, for instance, this recent blog post:
No more demands – it not only makes Occupiers seem like nuts, I’m waiting to find out who the hostages are.
Create a clear list of Crimes and who committed the crimes. Then we can lawfully go after them through the court system with a Trial by Jury.
Yep, that’s the way to stop looking like you’re crazy!
I hate to break it to you, Occupiers, but while plenty of the behavior exhibited by banks has been reprehensible, it hasn’t been illegal. Take, for example, those bonuses you love to complain about. Sure, that was a bit of an insensitive move, but the banks were contractually obligated to pay them, and most executives returned the money. I’d suggest you read up on the financial collapse of 2008. Understand what you think you’re protesting.
Jesse Watters had some brilliant (er, well…) footage of the protesters talking about why they’re there and what they want. Without further ado, Occupy Wall Street, in their own words:
This week the Chicago Tribune and WGN TV have found up to 23 retired union operatives that are collecting millions in taxpayer dollars because they had pals in government tweak the state’s pensions laws to favor them.
Now this is the sort of corruption we are used to seeing in Illinois, eh? This week the Chicago Tribune and WGN TV have found up to 23 retired union operatives that are collecting millions in taxpayer dollars because they had pals in government tweak the state’s pensions laws to favor them.
These former government workers that were government union members got pliant politicians to alter the pensions laws to say that their pension remuneration would be calculated not on the lower pay they received when they retired from government, but from the much higher salary they received when they worked as union operatives. These folks worked as union bosses at the same time as working on the clock for government.
The “luck” of former union boss and Dept. of Streets and Sanitation worker Thomas Villanova is a typical example. Villanova last worked full-time for the city in 1989 and made $40,000-a-year. But he was also a union big wig making $198,000 annually upon his retirement in 2008 at age 56. His city pension, it appears, was calculated on the union salary of $198,000 instead of his real salary of $40,000 — itself obviously a no-show job in the first place.
Villanova stands to make millions off the taxpayers.
Speaking of making millions, as mentioned above, the media folks also found some 20 more government union members that could make a combined $56 million in unearned pensions off the taxpayer’s back.
One of these crooks even retired at 50-years-old, then was hired back by the city for one day so that he could bump up his pension returns!
Worse, I was listening to a local Chicago radio program and one of the reporters involved in this story was saying that there may be several hundred more union/government workers that are similarly getting cushy, undeserved riches from the state pension system.
All this at a time when the pensions system is about to crash because it is so deeply in the red.
Now, don’t imagine that these sort of sweetheart deals between politicians and government unions are only happening in Chicago. These deals are endemic throughout government at every level. From your smallest city to the county, state, and federal government, these union thugs are ripping us all off on a daily basis.
Without question, this is the sort of unethical, even criminal, double dealing that you get when government employees are allowed to unionize. These people are cozy with government officials and other elected folks, donate money to their campaigns so that rules can be changed in their favor, then live off the taxpayers for decades. And for the cash in their pockets, politicians bend to union wishes every time. All the while the taxpayers get raped repeatedly.
Government workers should never, ever be allowed to unionize. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew that!
In many ways, Boeing should be a boon to President Barack Obama. In a faltering economy, the aerospace titan opened a $750 million factory in South Carolina and hired thousands of workers to build the world’s most fuel-efficient commercial jet.
But instead, it’s become a drag on his job creation agenda and a boon for candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination.
In a case that has become a cause célèbre among Republican lawmakers and 2012 hopefuls, the National Labor Relations Board has accused Boeing of opening its South Carolina shop in a “right-to-work” state to retaliate against union worker strikes at its main manufacturing base in the Seattle area. An Obama appointee is now asking a judge to order Boeing to relocate all 787 Dreamliner production to Washington state — a move that’s feeding the GOP narrative that Obama’s Big Government is meddling with job creation, just as the first plane nears its first commercial flight.
“It’s like a lightning rod,” said Gary Chaison, an industrial relations professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “The Boeing case is so dramatic. All the anti-union forces and all anti-Obama people are coalescing.”
At the same time the president was selling his American Jobs Act in the Rose Garden last week, Mitt Romney was visiting Boeing’s South Carolina factory. The former governor of Massachusetts drew loud cheers for suggesting that any stimulus package should include legislation telling the board to drop its complaint.
“It’s an egregious example of political payback where the president is able to pay back the unions for the hundreds of millions of dollars they have put into his campaigns at the expense of American workers,” Romney said.
Newt Gingrich toured the new plant and called for cutting the NLRB’s funding, while Jon Huntsman did his own swing through the manufacturing facility, advocating that the president step in before it scares business from South Carolina. Rick Perry has accused Obama of stacking the board with “anti-business cronies.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been driving this debate in her early-voting state, made a surprise appearance at a Michele Bachmann town hall to ask her opinion. The candidate warned, “If the NLRB would also be continuing their current stance, they may not last very long.”
Congress has also jumped into the fray. This week, the House passed a bill that would strip the board of its enforcement power, but the Senate Appropriations Committee narrowly rejected a GOP amendment to deny funding for the NLRB to pursue any order threatening Boeing’s South Carolina production.
Despite the assertions of his critics, Obama’s hands are tied — and the case could get dragged out for years with delays and appeals. Beyond vetoing any congressional proposals, if they make it to his desk, the president has little influence over the complaint or the board’s acting general counsel Lafe Solomon.
“We are an independent agency. It would be inappropriate for the White House to get involved,” said NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland. “There has not been any communication with the White House about this case.”
Obama broke his silence about the complaint this summer but walked a careful line in his response.
“We can’t afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we’re competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world,” Obama said at a June press conference. White House spokesman Eric Schultz declined to comment on the law enforcement actions of an independent agency, referring questions to the NLRB.
The case originates with an unfair labor charge filed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Engineers last year, declaring that Boeing was illegally punishing its Washington state members for exercising their right to strike. Since 1977, the union has gone on strike five times, including a 58-day walkout three years ago.
In April, Solomon filed his complaint at the behest of the union. Then in June, an administrative law judge in Seattle denied Boeing’s request to dismiss the case.
What happens next hinges on Boeing’s intent. While companies can move a factory anywhere they choose, the law prohibits it if a move rebukes employees for exercising their federally protected right to unionize or strike.
Boeing officials deny violating any labor laws, arguing the main reason for choosing South Carolina was to lower production costs and that it has hired 5,000 union workers in Washington since the complaint was filed.
At the same time, the company’s top executives have mentioned past strikes as a reason for the South Carolina move on several occasions. Most explicitly, the chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes told The Seattle Times, “we can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years.”
The legal battle hasn’t stopped the aerospace company’s production lines, as it gets ready to deliver its first Dreamliner to Japan’s ANA. In South Carolina, the factory’s 1,000 workers have begun the final assembly process on the factory’s first Dreamliner. The goal is that by 2013, the company will be churning out 10 planes a month — seven in Washington and three in South Carolina.
Obama’s one hope for respite is for the two parties to reach a settlement. Cleeland of the NLRB said that while general counsel is not planning to withdraw the complaint, he is willing to participate in any discussions at the request of either Boeing or the union. The NLRB settles about 90 percent of its cases, she said.
The union is willing. “We are and have been open to settlement negotiations,” said spokesman Frank Larkin.
But Boeing isn’t budging. “We feel facts are so strongly on our side,” Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said, adding, “It’s really hard for us to envision what a settlement would look like that would be reasonable.”
And while it’s gotten a bunch of attention from Congress, Neale said Boeing is “not seeking a legislative remedy here.”
In fact, congressional Republicans’ best intentions might go awry should Boeing lose the trial and appeal its case to the full board. In December, there will be three vacancies on the five-person board, as Republicans continue their vow to block Obama appointees. But if there’s a Boeing appeal, the board will fall short of a quorum needed to take it under consideration.
Bill Gould, who served as chairman of the NLRB under President Bill Clinton, noted that even when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress during his tenure, the NLRB still had strong GOP advocates like the late Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon.
“We don’t have anyone on the Republican side of Congress like Sen. Hatfield anymore,” he said. “They’re gone. The dominant voice is that tea party voice. That’s produced extremism even above and beyond what I experienced in [the] ’90s. It was extreme, but not quite like this.”
Schools Superintendent in Upscale New York District Rakes in More Than $500,000 a Year ( Fire her and strip her Pension )
A schools superintendent on New York’s Long Island is under fire for her annual pay: more than half a million dollars.
The base salary of Carole Hankin, who’s in her 21st year as superintendent of the Syosset School District, is just over $400,000 a year, but with benefits factored in, her final haul is $542,000, MyFoxNY.com reports.
The Syosset district also pays 37 other employees more than $100,000 a year each, LongIslandSchools.com reports.
The district defended Hankin’s salary, indicating that she serves around 7,000 students in 10 schools, and they spent more than $18,000 per pupil in 2009.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a less favorable view, saying Hankin’s pay rate was an example of wasteful school spending.
“Police and fire have been expecting this assault,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar. “They knew it was coming. They don’t deserve it. And it defies common sense.”( 5.8 percent of their pension benefits and 12 percent of their health care costs Poor babies )
MADISON, Wis. — The Legislature’s budget committee reopened the fight over collective bargaining rights shortly after midnight on Friday, proposing that newly hired police and firefighters be forced to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.
The change, approved by the Republican-controlled committee on an 11-4 party line vote, would force police and firefighters to make the same level of contributions of other public workers as required under a bill pushed by Gov. Scott Walker and passed by the Legislature in March.
Police and firefighters were exempt under that bill.
That measure, which also took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state workers, was voided by a circuit court judge last month and hasn’t taken effect. The state Supreme Court is hearing arguments Monday as to whether it should take the case and allow the law to be enacted.
The Legislature is also considering passing the law again as part of the budget in case the court fails to act or strikes down the law.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/03/wisconsin-reopens-fight-over-collective-bargaining/#ixzz1ODpfo5wn
The change added to the budget Friday by the Joint Finance Committee deals only with police and firefighters. It would force newly hired police and firefighters to pay 5.8 percent of their pension benefits and 12 percent of their health care costs, just like other public workers under the bill passed earlier.
It would also forbid collective bargaining over the design and choice of health insurance coverage plans for police and firefighters, but the cost could still be negotiated.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/03/wisconsin-reopens-fight-over-collective-bargaining/#ixzz1ODpbXva1
Committee co-chair Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the measure gave local governments “reasonable tools” to help save money.
The change becomes part of Walker’s budget, which the Legislature is expected to debate later this month. It must pass both the Republican-controlled Senate and Assembly and be signed by Walker before it takes effect.
Democrats on the budget committee blasted the move.
“Police and fire have been expecting this assault,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar. “They knew it was coming. They don’t deserve it. And it defies common sense.”
Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, predicted the move would energize the public again. During the height of the fight over the collective bargaining bill, tens of thousands of people marched on the Capitol for weeks in an ultimately vain attempt to block the bill’s passage.
Dozens of protesters attended the committee’s meeting that began Thursday evening, and more than two dozen were removed by police for shouting at lawmakers and disrupting the process. The collective bargaining changes didn’t come up for consideration until five hours later, shortly after midnight, when the room was nearly empty.
“For you to slip this through at whatever time it is, it’s disgusting, it’s union busting, whatever chant you want to yell,” Grigsby said. “It’s sickening.”
The budget process got off to a rocky start Monday night, as several residents – members of the local Republican committee and the Tea Party – all spoke out against an initial proposal to increase property taxes by the maximum of 4.25 percent.
In light of a proposed Narragansett municipal budget with the maximum 4.25 percent property tax rate increase, town republicans heatedly voiced their opposition, with one claiming that town residents are “permanent captives and slaves” to unions.
The remarks came at the first public hearing for the budget, held Monday night during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting. Town Manager Grady Miller spent about 30 minutes presenting the budget to the full house of residents in attendance. About 10 people spoke out against the first budget proposal, with no supporters for the proposal.
In his presentation, Miller highlighted the main shortfall in the budget – a loss of about $1.8 million in state aid for the town, with additional cuts in state aid to the school district. The proposed property tax would increase taxes on a $400,000 home by about $136, as the rate goes up from $8.86 per $1,000 to $9.20.
“In trying to solve the state budget issues, there has been a lot of shifting to the town,” Miller said. “These are some major, major factors that are going to be facing the town and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions.”
The municipal budget would provide a $500,000 increase to the Narragansett School Department. However, at the presentation of the school budget on April 25, Superintendent Kathy Sipala said the drastic loss of state aid would require steep steps to correct. Among the options on the table were eliminating up to 10 teaching positions, and offering early retirement en masse to replace experienced, top-step teachers with entry-level hires.
Also included in Miller’s proposed budget is a 40 percent increase in water fees, because according to budget proposal, “the current rate structure has not been fully recovering the cost of operations and capital costs over the past several years, plus United Water, a major provider of water to the town, has requested a substantial water rate increase totaling nearly 40 percent.”
The idea of raising taxes to the maximum levy and user fees in general to cover budget gaps drew the ire of several members of the Republican Town Committee in attendance, who spoke against the proposed budget.
Richard Vangermeersch, a member of the committee, said he was speaking as a Republican when he called for the town to take a harsher stance with unions.
“Woe is to the taxpayers of Narragansett,” he said. “We are permanent captives and slaves to the public employee unions and to their henchmen, Governor [Lincoln] Chafee, who was elected by these people.”
Vangermeersch read from a prepared statement, and repeated this portion twice, after being asked to identify himself for purposes of the record. Vangermeersch is a retired University of Rhode Island professor.
He added that it was “really quite sick” that raising taxes seemed to be the only solution for solving the state and town’s economic woes.
“Wake up taxpayers of Narragansett,” he said. “Privatization of services is part of the solution.”
Resident Stanley Wojciechowski said he wanted the town to explore raising more revenue through its planning department, and to stop spending money on open space and preservation projects unless they could fund themselves in the future with increased revenue to the town.
“Our planning department needs to look at raising money,” he said. “Double the charges for weddings … Can we rent out our school buildings for second shift [education, such as URI night classes]?”
Robert Palmer, a resident living on Exeter Boulevard, said he didn’t buy into Miller’s statistics and projections for the budget.
“Those are a lot of fancy numbers and a lot of fancy talking,” he said. “It takes a lot of intelligence to do that. All it takes is common sense to know that the residents of this town can’t accept even a one percent tax increase … The people cannot afford it.”
Phil Duquette said that with the current trend of forcing taxpayers to bear the brunt of budget shortfalls, in the future Narragansett could instead resemble the crumbling Detroit.
“We know we’re not going to get any relief from Governor Chafee,” he said. “We cannot tax our way out of our problems.”
Meg Rogers, a Narragansett resident and member of the Patriots of South County, asked Miller what the town’s unfounded pension liability currently is.
“As far as the pension fund, I believe we have roughly a $23 million unfunded liability,” he said.
Town Council President Glenna Hagopian, at the urging of several of the speakers, reiterated that they had petitioned the town’s state senator and representative to pursue some budget relief options – dropping unfunded mandates from the General Assembly, and opposing binding arbitration for teacher union salary disputes.
However, councilor Christopher Wilkens expressed pessimism in Narragansett’s state leadership.
“They are working quite opposite to the town’s best interests,” he said.
Carol Stuart, who runs the preschool at St. Peter’s and is a frequent critic of URI student behavior, said the town needed the support of legislators, especially as it dealt with handling the tenant population and zoning.
“I do have confidence in the council and the town manager, I don’t have confidence in the general assembly or our representatives,” she said. “We have landlords who are irresponsible and who are contributing to [high police overtime costs].”
Hagopian said that after reviewing the budget, she and other councilors would look to trim in certain places.
“The council’s first look at the budget was last week,” she said. “I spent some time with [budget officials] before this meeting, and I would like to see a lot more economies made.”
In response, Miller said, “We will sharpen our pencils and come back with something.”
In the case of public-sector unions, the union guy represents government workers. On the other side of the table are elected officials (other government workers) who most often speak for … government union workers, and not taxpayers and non-union constituents. The union bargains with itself, and the potentially conspiratorial negotiations will likely result in an agreement that satisfies the government union, which will continue to enjoy higher and higher wages and benefits, and the elected officials, who will be able to build larger and larger union voting blocks.
The absurdity of public employee unions is becoming apparent to the 97 percent of American workers who do not belong to a union and whose interests have not been well represented by their elected officials in the past. It’s time for these taxpayers and non-union constituents to ask themselves, “Who speaks for me? Does my elected representative at the table collectively bargain for my rights?”
Quanah Parker, Reno