West Coast unions cave in to Democrats – Tehran Times

The big public sector unions of California and Oregon had their courage examined recently — both were found lacking. The unions backed down from a challenge from their respective Democratic governors, before any fight could be waged. The issue at stake was whether to tax the rich of both states to offset the state deficits caused by the Great Recession, itself caused by the rich.

In both cases labor unions had readymade tax-the-rich ballot measures they were preparing to wage campaigns for: in California the Millionaires Tax and in Oregon a similar measure without the flashy nickname. In both cases the Democratic governors asked the unions to back off and choose a “less controversial” path. The unions succumbed.

In California’s case the unions agreed to a rotten compromise, which taxes the rich at a lower rate while including an increase in the state sales tax that disproportionally affects working and poor people — unacceptable given the dire economic circumstances that have pushed many working people into poverty.

In Oregon’s case the unions agreed not to tax the rich and pursue instead the elimination of the “corporate kicker,” a reference to the refund that corporations get from the state if their revenue exceeds state economist expectations. Yet even if the refund is eliminated, it’s possible that — given the sour economy — zero revenue will be raised.

Revenue is desperately needed. Across the country states and cities are slashing services, cutting jobs and attacking unions because politicians claim “there is no money.” That is a lie. There is plenty of money in the United States, though it has accumulated at the very top; the richest 1% continue to take the lion’s share of the national income, just as they did before the Great Recession.

via West Coast unions cave in to Democrats – Tehran Times.

Keith Hamre selected as Director of City’s Planning and Construction Services

Keith Hamre selected as Director of City’s Planning and Construction Services

[Duluth, MN] – The City of Duluth has announced that Keith Hamre has been selected as the new Director of Planning and Construction Services. Mr. Hamre will oversee the building and construction permit services, planning and land use, and community development and revitalization efforts for Duluth’s neighborhoods.

Mr. Hamre has worked for the City of Duluth for 15 years managing 15 staff in the Community Development Division and filling in as interim manager for the Planning Division when called upon. Hamre brings to the job a lengthy career in land use planning, community revitalization, management of Community Development Block Grant and Housing and Urban Development funds and has extensive experience building relationships with community organizations and constituents.

“Keith is well respected within City Hall and in the community. We are thrilled to have his expertise, credibility and leadership as we look at news ways to improve service to our customers and fully implement our new One-Stop Shop for Planning and Construction Services,” said Mayor Don Ness.

In addition to his planning experience, Hamre has also held management positions at the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission. Hamre is a member of the American Planning Association, the National Community Development Association, and is a Certified HOME Program Specialist.

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via Keith Hamre selected as Director of City’s Planning and Construction Services.

Gov. Quinn’s plan for shifting pension costs to local districts results in outcry from school officals | WBEZ 91.5 Chicago

Approximately $44 billion of Illinois’s underfunded budget is attributed to pensions owed to the Teacher’s Retirement System, according to the Chicago Tribune. Retired teachers earn 75 percent of their annual salary in pensions, with a 3 percent increase in benefits every year.

That’s a pretty nice deal, if you’re a retired teacher. As the state becomes increasingly unable to support that rate, however, there has been heightened disagreement over who should pay for it in the future.

Gov. Quinn — and the majority of his pension reform panel — believes that it should be the school districts. The districts, they argue, negotiate salaries and contracts, and should therefore have the responsibility of paying for them. The system already works this way in Chicago, and Quinn says the transition to this system throughout the rest of the state would be gradual.

School officials see things differently. They argue that shifting the burden doesn’t solve the pension problem from a systemic standpoint at all, and call Quinn’s plan an “unfunded mandate.” Since decisions about pension law are made at the state level, they argue, TRS pensions should be funded by the state. Estimates for what the cost to individual districts could be range from $750,000 to $18 million a year depending on size. School districts across the board, already running on lean budgets, say that property tax hikes and teacher layoffs would basically be guaranteed if pensions were their responsibility.

via Gov. Quinn’s plan for shifting pension costs to local districts results in outcry from school officals | WBEZ 91.5 Chicago.

Teachers’ Union May Not Aid Rehiring Process At 24 Overhauled Schools – NY1.com

Now that the Department of Education is ready to close 24 schools this summer and replace them with new schools, there are still major questions about how that is supposed to happen and whether it can work. NY1’s Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

The Panel for Educational Policy approved on Thursday night a new strategy for dealing with failing schools. The Department of Education is closing two dozen schools this summer, and all the teachers will have to reapply for their jobs.

“We are simply your lab rats. You’re experimenting with our education,” a student said before the panel’s Thursday vote.

“There is still a lot of information that we don’t even know,” said Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said an obscure provision in the teachers’ union contract will govern the process of rehiring the best teachers from each school. There is one major catch, however, as the process requires union cooperation, which does not seem likely.

“This process is a sham. It’s illegitimate and it has no honor,” said Leo Casey, the vice president of the United Federation of Teachers.

There are about 3,000 teachers at the 24 affected schools and the DOE says every single one has to re-apply for his or her position. DOE officials say the rehiring decisions will be made by “Personnel Committees” made up of the school principals, two DOE representatives and two union reps.

via Teachers’ Union May Not Aid Rehiring Process At 24 Overhauled Schools – NY1.com.

Three labor unions will combine in negotiations with Revel – Breaking News

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2012 11:22 am | Updated: 12:02 pm, Mon Apr 30, 2012.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI, Staff Writer |

ATLANTIC CITY — Three major labor unions have formed a coalition to pressure the new $2.4 billion Revel casino into negotiating union contracts.

Leaders of Teamsters Local 331, the United Auto Workers Region 9 and Local 54 of UNITE-HERE say they want to make sure Revel’s workers “have the benefits and protections of a union contract.”

“Revel wants to open a non-union casino in the midst of a union town, and destroy the standard of living that generations of workers have walked picket lines and gone on strike to achieve,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54. “That is unacceptable and impossible for us to ignore.”

The unions took the first step today by proposing an agreement that they characterized as a fair and simple way for Revel’s workers to decide their union status. They said the process has been used across the country in the hospitality industry and is similar to what occurred at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa when it opened in 2003.

Revel had no immediate response to the union’s announcement.

via Three labor unions will combine in negotiations with Revel – pressofAtlanticCity.com: Breaking News.

The Minnesota Labor Force Facts: An aging population with minimal natural growth

The Minnesota Labor Force Facts: An aging population with minimal natural growth

65+ Year-olds surpass school-age generation in 2011

In three years the baby boomer generation will start turning 65, and by 2020 the 65-plus generation will surpass the grade-school population. In 2008, Minnesota had a 30-percent jump in workers turning 62 and by 2012 there is projected to be an additional 15-percent increase.

The 2008 high school graduating class was the largest graduating class Minnesota will have for over a decade.

Growth in Minnesota’s workforce is expected to sharply decrease over the next 15 years. By 2020, the growth in the workforce is estimated to slow down by over 90-percent from the growth levels during 2005-2010.

Migration will be an increasingly important component to the slowing labor force growth. By 2020-2030, almost all of the labor force growth is anticipated to be from migrant populations.

via Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition.

Editorial: No good reason to wait on reform of teacher layoff rules – TwinCities.com

Gov. Mark Dayton has an opportunity to advance one of Minnesota’s most important education reforms. He should sign into law the measure that would end the so-called “last in, first out” practice of laying off teachers based on seniority, rather than performance.

It’s time for this change: A recent poll by the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now found that teacher-tenure reform has 90-plus-percent bipartisan support among Minnesotans. The Minnesota branch of the reform advocacy group Students First released similar results last week.

Under current law, teacher seniority is the sole consideration when layoffs are necessary, unless districts negotiate otherwise. The Pioneer Press reported earlier this year that Minnesota is one of only 11 states that require districts to use seniority as the deciding factor in layoff decisions.

via Editorial: No good reason to wait on reform of teacher layoff rules – TwinCities.com.

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Retirement reform bill takes shape despite opposition Public employee unions concerned

Public employee unions concerned

A bill to transition the state’s retirement system into a “defined contribution” plan will be finalized by House lawmakers in the coming weeks, despite strong opposition from public employee unions and an uncertain reception in the Senate.

House Republicans have been considering the move since last year’s pension reform effort, which increased contribution rates for employees and has been challenged in court by a coalition of unions. Rep. Ken Hawkins, the Bedford Republican who heads the House’s special committee on pension reform, said he set up six subcommittees to consider moving New Hampshire’s public employees from a defined benefit plan, under which the New Hampshire Retirement System guarantees certain pension benefits, to a defined contribution plan, a sort of mandatory 401k under which employees would invest their money in an individual account.

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Arbitrator sides with Merrimack district in spat with union over layoff procedures

MERRIMACK – Despite opposition from Merrimack educators, a new School District policy to consider teachers’ education level in addition to seniority when issuing layoffs will stand after an arbitrator’s ruling.

The independent arbitrator, hired to review the Merrimack teachers union’s complaint over the policy, has sided with the School District over the rule, which the School Board implemented in February in response to a new state mandate.

The law, implemented last summer, requires school administrators to consider factors other than seniority alone in their layoff practices. Merrimack school officials say neither the law, the district’s policy or the arbitrator’s decision will have much of an impact this year.

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Dick Spotswood: Will politicians walk their talk on public pensions?

WHEN Assemblyman Michael Allen appeared before the IJ editorial board and at the Citizens for Pension Reform candidates’ night, he laid out surprisingly credible “first steps” toward public employee pension reform.

Allen called for passage of most of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 12-point pension reform plan.

At the IJ, he upped Brown by filling in the blanks on three key changes the governor mentioned, but lacks details: placing an annual $105,000 cap on benefits, removing administrators from current pension schemes to avoid conflicts of interest and killing loopholes that encourages double-dipping, among them.

Californians understand state and local government finances are so far out of whack that pension and retiree health care costs are overwhelming the public, obliterating critical services.

Even Brown admits that due to judicial rulings “vesting” existing retirement benefits for life, his 12-points will not cut the Golden State’s ruinous $500 billion pension debt.