Public unions sue to block voter-approved pension cuts – Cavuto on Business – The Cost of Freedom – Fox News


via Public unions sue to block voter-approved pension cuts – Cavuto on Business – The Cost of Freedom – Fox News.

Moorhead teacher fired for gay marriage stance : Winona Daily News

A Catholic school in Moorhead terminated a fifth grade teacher after she told administrators she disagreed with the church’s stance on gay marriage.

Trish Cameron was notified June 1 that she wouldn’t be offered a new contract at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. The decision came after Cameron filled out a self-evaluation form in which she admitted to personally disagreeing with the church’s stance on some issues, but said she never brought those opinions into the classroom, The Forum newspaper reported (

“We tend to focus on respect and love for one another and living out our call as servants whenever a `political’ topic crops (which it rarely, if ever, does),” Cameron wrote in a letter to families and staff at St. Joseph’s after she was terminated.

Cameron wrote that her disclosure on the self-evaluation form led to a follow-up meeting with school officials in which she specifically voiced disagreement with the church’s opposition to gay marriage. She was then asked to write a brief letter of resignation, she said.

Cameron had taught at the school for 11 years. Catholic schools are not bound by the same employment laws as public institutions and can terminate employees for not properly teaching tenets of the faith, although the law is less clear on whether they can be fired for privately held views not expressed in the classroom.

A constitutional amendment on Minnesota’s ballot this fall, strongly backed by the state’s Catholic leaders, asks voters if a ban on gay marriage in state law should be enshrined in the state constitution. The state’s top Catholic, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, has instructed Catholic priests that they must not openly dissent from the church’s support for the marriage amendment.

An employee who answered the phone at the school Monday said that no administrators were available to comment on Cameron’s termination. In a separate letter to families and staff, Principal Toby Bierl and Superintendent Monsignor Mike Foltz said Cameron was asked to resign because of “an unfortunate circumstance” related to St. Joseph’s “fiduciary responsibility” as a Catholic school.

The letter from administrators praised Cameron as instrumental to developing the school’s drama club and praised “her love of teaching and her kind and giving heart.”

Cameron told the newspaper she wasn’t ready to discuss the matter beyond what she wrote in the letter to school families and employees.

“I feel like perhaps there is a wave of interest that may need to come and go before I speak about this,” Cameron said.

via Moorhead teacher fired for gay marriage stance : Winona Daily News.

Democrats should get the message on pension reform – LA Daily News

Advocates of state pension reform have been looking for signs the cause is gaining momentum. The California budget crisis of recent years has provided some impetus to lighten this crushing expense. Will the success of pension-cutting ballot measures in San Diego and San Jose last week provide a crucial push?

Let’s hope Democrats in the state Legislature will see the movement gathering steam and will get on board Gov. Jerry Brown’s 12-point plan for reforming California’s public-employee pension systems.

This editorial page has praised Brown’s plan. It isn’t extreme, but it could save the state tens of billions of dollars in the decades ahead.

To quote an editorial last month: “(The plan) is a good start, and it is discouraging that Brown’s fellow Democrats in the Legislature have resisted, fearing their union benefactors. The plan would raise most new state employees’ retirement age to 67, and create a hybrid benefits system using 401(k)s as well as traditional pensions, among other measures.”

In a reversal of form, Republican legislators support the Democratic governor’s proposal.

Voters in last Tuesday’s municipal elections in San Diego and San Jose sent a message that pension reform’s time has come. All of the lawmakers in Sacramento should be listening.

via Democrats should get the message on pension reform – LA Daily News.

Utah Incurred No Pension Reform ‘Transition Costs’ [Mackinac Center]

Michigan House Republicans should take note

Posted by James M. Hohman on June 11, 2012 at 3:40pm

Republicans in the Michigan House have let alleged “transition costs” attached to closing the state’s defined-benefit school pension system plan to new hires halt what would be a transformational fiscal reform. The issue is how the state “catches up” on current shortfalls in underfunded state pension funds. Paying huge upfront “transition costs” is one way, but it’s not the only way – incurring these costs is entirely optional.

Utah gives a recent example. The state closed its defined-benefit pension plan to all but judiciary employees in 2010, and did not impose “transition costs” on itself. Instead, the state is paying to amortize those pension fund shortfalls by assessing their cost against total payroll for all employees, regardless of whether they are in the old retirement system or the new one.

In its financial statements, Utah’s actuaries write:

Employers will continue to contribute the amortization rate to the current systems on the pay for Tier II members. Therefore, SB 63 did not affect the benefits provided to current URS members, and it creates a mechanism for ensuring that the UAAL is amortized over the payroll for both current and Tier II members. Therefore, this law had no effect on this actuarial valuation.

To read more about Utah’s reforms, see the Arnold Foundation report on transition costs.

Credit rating agencies continue to rate Utah government bonds highly. In fact, its pension reforms were cited favorably in one rater’s affirmation of its triple-A rating.

Michigan legislators should feel free to close the school employee pension plan without fear of large upfront costs, just as Utah did.

via Utah Incurred No Pension Reform ‘Transition Costs’ [Mackinac Center].

Minnesota teacher fired for gay marriage stance : La Crosse Tribune – LaCrosse News Source

MOORHEAD, Minn. — A Catholic school in Moorhead terminated a fifth-grade teacher after she told administrators she disagreed with the church’s stance on gay marriage.

The Forum newspaper reports that teacher Trish Cameron was notified June 1 that she wouldn’t be offered a new contract at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. That’s after she filled out a self-evaluation form where she admitted to personally disagreeing with the church’s stance on some issues, but said she never brought her own opinions into the classroom.

Cameron says in a follow-up conversation with administrators, she voiced disagreement with the church’s opposition to gay marriage. She says she was then asked to resign.

A school employee said today no administrators were available to comment. A letter to the school’s families says Cameron was asked to resign because of an “unfortunate circumstance.”

via Minnesota teacher fired for gay marriage stance : La Crosse Tribune – LaCrosse News Source.

Jewell to work on staff, leader relations – The Daily Astorian: Free

JEWELL — It was standing room only at Wednesday’s meeting of the Jewell School Board, with estimates of the crowd at more than 50.

Tensions in the district have risen, dissipated and risen again during the tenure of Superintendent Brian Gander, who started in July 2009.

The biggest issue of the night was one of the first public presentations by former Knappa Superintendent Jim Carlile on the mediation of grievances he’s been facilitating between Gander and two employees’ associations.

Another issue, which could possibly reach a conclusion at Tuesday’s 6 p.m. board meeting, is the search to replace former Board Chairman Matt Samuelson, who resigned May 21 with about one year left in his term.

“Anybody who wants to talk to you ought to be given an opportunity to do that,” said Carlile about the facilitation process so far between the superintendent and teachers, adding that he’s talked to about 75 percent of the faculty and staff at Jewell School. “I basically made myself available for two full days.”

Carlile has been talking with faculty and the superintendent about exercises they can partake in to improve communication.

“We’re at the point where we need to do some of the proposed activities and others I’ve suggested,” said Carlile.

He added that depending on teachers’ and staffs’ availability, those exercises could happen this summer or next year.

The Jewell Education Association and Oregon School Employees Association filed a grievance against Gander in September, detailing what they called a hostile, uncommunicative work environment in which the superintendent misrepresents facts, withholds information and micro-manages staff and faculty too closely. Carlile was hired early this year to head up the facilitation process.

“I was hoping he’d give the board a recommendation to terminate Gander, and he didn’t,” said Jennifer Brandon, former business manager for Jewell School and a candidate for the vacant school board position.

She said many people wondered why Carlile took it so easy on the superintendent after making comments that Jewell was one of the more toxic school environments he had witnessed.

Community member Jim Hedford, a former board member and another candidate for the vacant position, started a petition two months ago that he said now has 70 signatures from parents wanting the superintendent to resign or be fired – he will eventually bring it before the board. There is also a Facebook group called Concerned Parents of Jewell School with nearly 167 members.

“I think there was and is a group of people who feel that the changes that I have been asked to implement in the district are not representative of what they would like their district to look like,” said Gander about the calls for his ouster. “I feel I’m following the directions of the board, and we’re making necessary changes.”

Gander, who recently received a mixed and sometimes lackluster evaluation by the board, said he needs to work on his communication.

“All the students know about it,” said 2012 graduate Thai Curtis, who added that students as young as the third-grade have a working knowledge of the situation. “All the students know that the staff feels hurt by him.”

“By the time school is out, we’ll have a plan developed or we won’t,” said Carlile, adding that teachers’ busy end-of-year schedules is the main variable affecting whether the plan is put in place this school year. Building some success on one or two issues, he said, is key.

Some community members say it is too late.

“The truth of the matter is that Mr. Gander has hurt too many people,” said Sandra Lerma, grandparent of a Jewell student. “If he could change, that would be good. But nobody believes he can change.”

Samuelson resigned May 21, citing the difficulties of serving on the board.

“I came to a conclusion that there were a lot more ways to serve the district … that only have positive aspects to them,” said Samuelson, who first served from 1997 through 2000 before joining again four years ago. “We have a volunteer effort building a baseball field; we’re also planning to replace a barn. It would be more positive for me personally. It’s no fun being a board member.”

He wouldn’t comment on the issues facing the faculty and superintendent, but said he has always wanted things to work out smoothly for Jewell.

The district has come up with nine candidates for thevacant seat, including Brandon and Hedford. At Tuesday’s meeting, the superintendent and board will interview the candidates and likely make a motion to appoint one. Members will also hold readings on policies concerning public complaints, communicable diseases and head lice protocol.

via Jewell to work on staff, leader relations – The Daily Astorian: Free.

Village of Niles opposes order to reinstate officer – Niles Herald-Spectator

Despite an arbitrator’s order earlier this spring that the village of Niles reinstate police officer Fotis Markadas, the village of Niles is not giving up on its opposition.

The village has filed a motion to vacate the arbitration.

In April an arbitrator ordered that Markadas be paid 21 month of back pay, in addition to benefits he would have received during that time.

In January 2010, a waitress at a bar in Niles alleged that Markadas, while off-duty, had sexually assaulted her in the basement of the business. He was fired by the village of Niles and he filed a grievance.

“The village does not want to admit they made the wrong decision,” Jerry Marzullo, an attorney with the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, said of the village’s firing Markadas.

Village Manager George Van Geem disputed Marzullo’s opinion.

“There were several issues during the arbitration that we didn’t agree with,” Van Geem said.

Marzullo said the village will likely owe Markadas more than $200,000, and that the clock will continue ticking for Niles taxpayers until the officer is reinstated.

“Arbitration awards are very sacred,” said Marzullo, who does not believe the village will be successful in its effort.

Marzullo added: “It’s really unfortunate the village made the decision it did. Officer Markadas is on a paid vacation.”

The waitress never filed criminal charges against Markadas.

Village Attorney Joe Annunzio said the Village Board of Trustees made the decision to fight the court order.

Annunzio said he is not sure how long the entire process will take.

via Village of Niles opposes order to reinstate officer – Niles Herald-Spectator.

Social worker files 13-page grievance with county

OSSIPEE — “There is a grievance, but it didn’t follow proper channels. We are checking to make sure the individual can grieve directly to us,” Carroll County Commissioner David Sorensen replied when asked at the commission’s May 30 meeting if it was true they had received a grievance from a county nursing home employee.

The 13-page grievance, filed by social worker Barbara Woodburn was sent by her to this newspaper and was distributed to several other people. Woodburn indicated in an e-mail that she has no interest in keeping the matter private.

“Let it be known that I am requesting or allowing for this Grievance to be made public to assure it gets proper attention and is not ‘swept under the carpet’ as it has been up to this point,” Woodburn writes.

This grievance comes just as another one was put to rest in which a five-month investigation was launched when the county’s human resource director filed a grievance against Commissioner Asha Kenney. The commissioners, on the advice of their attorney, are releasing no information about the findings or recommendations of that grievance. Commissioner David Sorensen has stated that fact publicly, but none of the three written requests to see the report have been officially denied in writing, in accordance with the state’s right-to-know law. The human resource director chose to resign as of June 1 to pursue a career in the private sector, though was not ready as of press time to talk about the details of the grievance but did not rule out the possibility of speaking “on the record” in the future.

In Woodburn’s grievance, she indicates numerous times that other employees, mainly a “core group of four managers” at the home treat her with hostility and she is often given an unmanageable workload. She states that she believes it is retaliation for what happened many years ago. And across the 13 pages Woodburn blasts fellow employees, managers, the nursing home administrator, the human resources director, and two of the three county commissioners.

As Woodburn describes, “I began my employment at Mountain View Nursing Home in April 2005 in the social service department. I was fired from Mountain View in July 2005 by the county commissioners, which included Commissioner Sorenson. I returned back to work at Mountain View in July 2006 per the order of the labor board. My dismissal from Mountain View was determined to be a wrongful termination by the Labor Board which is already public knowledge and widely publicized in the local media. I returned to work at Mountain View as I greatly enjoyed, then and now, working with the residents and the families, and believe myself to be a strong advocate for both. However, my return to Mountain View was not a smooth transition back. The harassment was still an issue but I opted to stay and try to work through the challenges hoping things would settle down.”

via Social worker files 13-page grievance with county.

The Claremont Institute – State of the Union

A review of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America, by Joseph A. McCartin

By Daniel DiSalvo

Posted June 11, 2012

After the 2010 Tea Party elections, American politics was consumed with disputes over public sector labor relations. To balance their budgets, governors across the country demanded that public employees accept salary freezes, furlough days, and less generous pension and healthcare benefits. Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey and Democrats Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York wrestled with government workers’ unions over wage and benefit concessions that would close budget deficits without raising taxes. Other governors, such as Republicans Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio, sought to go further and enact structural reforms eliminating collective bargaining with most state workers’ unions, halting government collection of union dues, and giving agency managers greater workplace discretion.

The unions and their allies in the Democratic Party met these efforts with massive resistance. Angry protests in the Wisconsin capital lasted for weeks. Democratic state legislators fled to neighboring Illinois to prevent a vote on the proposal, but succeeded only in postponing legislative defeat. The unions are now spearheading a recall election to remove Walker from office before the scheduled conclusion of his term in 2014. In Ohio, the unions and their allies responded by quickly putting the new law on the ballot in a referendum, then vastly out-spending and out-mobilizing the measure’s supporters to defeat it handily.

Trying to understand this new area of political conflict forced policymakers, union leaders, journalists, and citizens to play catch-up. Scholars, having neglected public employee unions for decades, had few insights to offer. Most political scientists don’t even bother to distinguish public from private sector unions, preferring to lump them under the catch-all category of organized labor. And while historians have written enough studies of Walter Reuther and the United Auto Workers to fill a shelf, there is not a single scholarly treatment of Jerry Wurf or the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which he led for 27 years before his death in 1981, laying the foundation that made AFSCME the most politically powerful union in the country today.

Why have scholars neglected government unions? Perhaps college-educated teachers and the “bad proletariat” of cops and corrections officers lacked the clear victimhood status of industrial workers battling capitalist barons. It might also be that dealing with public sector unions’ unique features would require revising the traditional story of organized labor in the United States.  read more…

via The Claremont Institute – State of the Union.