This Orange County Register story about top executives at the giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California figuring out a way to game Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension reform by joining a union is only going to be one of dozens, even hundreds, that we see in coming years. Public employee unions are going to leave a dime on the table if at all possible.
“Today, the water district paysboth a 7 percent employer contribution and a 7 percent employee contribution for unrepresented employees’ retirement plans. The perk benefits the employees in two ways. First, they don’t have to contribute to the plans from their own paychecks. Second, the setup boosts their final retirement payout.
“The governor’s pension law pushes public agenciesto eliminate this same kind of retirement spiking. It requires agencies including the water district to end the practice before 2018 and have employees contribute to their own retirements.
“By shifting to a union right now, the executives can delay the water district’s board of directors from ending the retirement spiking practice for several years. Courts have found a union’s existing labor contract generally supersedes new state law.
“The union’s president, Rick Lynds, said their pay and benefits will now fall under the protection of the union’s existing contract, which expires in 2015.”
This trickery by the upper ranks of MWD should come as no surprise to those who remember how the water wholesaler tried to assault its 19 million customers in 2009 by sneaking through a 25 percent retroactive pension hike for all 2,000 MWD employees even though its pension fund had a $400 million unfunded liability and water rates had been soaring for years. This is one government agency where the worst conniving is done by management — not by rank-and-file unions.