Fleecing the taxpayers: it’s not just the Chicago Way

September 23, 2011

Yesterday I linked to a John Kass column about how some union bosses are legally ripping off the taxpayers of Illinois. (ST covered it in much more detail here.) But lest one think this kind of “authorized corruption” is limited to Blue states like Illinois, California, or New York, consider how the public sheep are being sheered in deep-Red Arizona:

Phoenix taxpayers spend millions of dollars to pay full salary and benefits for city employees to work exclusively for labor unions, a Goldwater Institute investigation found.

Collective bargaining agreements with seven labor organizations require the city to pay union officers and provide members with thousands of additional hours to conduct union business instead of doing their government jobs.

The total cost to Phoenix taxpayers is about $3.7 million per year, based on payroll records supplied by the city. In all, more than 73,000 hours of annual release time for city workers to conduct union business at taxpayers’ expense are permitted in the agreements.

The top officials in all of the unions have regular jobs with the city. But buried in the labor agreements are a series of provisions for those employees to be released from their regular duties to perform union work.

For top officers, the typical amount of annual release time is 2,080 hours, a full year of work based on 52 weeks at 40 hours each. They continue to draw full pay and benefits, just as if they were showing up for their regular jobs. But they are released from their regular duties to conduct undefined union business.

Union officials say the time is a good investment that leads to a more productive workforce. Critics say it amounts to an illegal gift of taxpayer money.

Be sure to read the whole thing. I’m not surprised the union officials think this is a good investment. While no mention is made of union political donations,  it wouldn’t surprise me to learn they “invest” a little cash (drawn from member dues) in the campaigns of pliant councilmen, which then leads to the sweetheart clauses that allow them to collect a public salary while never doing a bit of the work they’re being paid for. Or they threaten to use their members’ dues to campaign against uncooperative officials, giving them an incentive to play along to the detriment of the public interest.

This is what happens in general when labor unions are allowed to become a labor cartel, to have a monopoly over the supply of labor: with no fear of competition, union bosses can concentrate on feathering their own nests. (I wonder how long it’s been since Trumka actually got his hands dirty in a mine?) With public employee unions, the situation is even worse, since political leaders are negotiating with the public’s money, not their own, and thus have less incentive to worry about the economic consequences, which may not come about until years later. (I posted a good video explaining this last March.) Combine a labor cartel with control over other people’s money, and you have a recipe for what we see so often at the local, state, and federal levels: a kickback scheme.

It may not be illegal, but it surely is corrupt.

via Jazz Shaw

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


When did the Wisconsin Supreme Court become Fight Club?

June 26, 2011

This is one of the weirder stories I’ve seen in a while, and it’s illustrative of how heated Wisconsin politics have become in the wake to the government’s efforts to rein in public employee union privileges: either newly-reelected Justice David Prosser tried to strangle a colleague in her chambers in front of witnesses, or she attacked him and he was defending himself. Byron York has the story(ies):

Over the weekend, a Madison-based liberal journalism group reported that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser “allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week.”  Prosser, a conservative, was recently re-elected in a contested election in which he was the target of an intense union-funded effort to defeat him.  The argument was said to be about the court’s 4-3 decision allowing the Walker budget law, with its restrictions on organized labor, to go into effect.

The report said details of the incident were “sketchy” and came from three sources who insisted on anonymity, “citing a need to preserve professional relationships.”  Neither Prosser nor Bradley commented.

But wait, there’s another version:

As the activist press was running with the story, new evidence emerged in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report to suggest the matter was more complicated than originally reported.  Whatever happened, happened during a meeting of six of the court’s seven justices; in other words, there were several witnesses.  One witness supported the original accusation.  But another witness said that during a heated conversation, Bradley “charged [Prosser] with fists raised” and that Prosser had put out his own hands defensively.  According to one of the paper’s sources, Bradley then accused Prosser of choking her, to which another justice reportedly replied, “You were not choked.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, first: whatever did happen up there, it’s evident one of the two justices physically attacked the other. This is unacceptable in any case, but particularly from people who are supposed to be sober interpreters of the law and upholders of the rule of law. Whoever is at fault should resign and allow Governor Walker to appoint a replacement. (1)

As much as it is about the conflicting stories of what happened, York’s article also shows how, for the Left and Big Labor, the Battle of Madison is not yet over. Leftist papers and web sites, while piously saying Prosser should not be judged before all the facts were out, were quick to paint him as the aggressor and to point out ways he can be removed from office. (You may recall Prosser’s vote was crucial to upholding the controversial collective bargaining law passed over union screeching a few months ago.) In other words, fearful that the reforms Wisconsin enacted will spread, as they already have in Ohio and Tennessee, the Left is taking any shot it has to overturn election results and quash democratically enacted laws. And when you look at the groups involved and who’s funding them (2), it’s likely there’s coordination at well-beyond the state level.

And we’re going to see many more efforts like this as other states try to right their finances, while public unions and their Democratic allies try to keep the money-train rolling.

Footnotes:

(1) Which the Left should not want, since Walker would almost certainly appoint conservative justices. Be careful what you ask for, progressives…

(2) Both the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which broke the original story rumor, and the Center for American Progress, parent of the web site Think Progress, which described ways to remove Prosser from office, receive money either from George Soros as an individual, or through his Open Society Institute. While not probative, it’s certainly suggestive.

UPDATE: Some good discussions at both Althouse and Legal Insurrection. At the latter, Professor Jacobson points out that only one justice is saying a crime was committed: Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, accusing Justice Prosser. She should either back up her charge with evidence, or retract it and apologize.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Giving public employees raises disguised as bonuses

June 24, 2011

Here’s an interesting (and maddening) video from the California branch of Americans for Prosperity that shows how city governments disguise raises for public employees as “incentive bonuses,” often given for meeting the basic requirements of their job. For example, a licensed veterinary technician can get a $3,132 bonus for… being a licensed veterinary technician, which is prerequisite to even getting the job.

Oh, and it gets better than that:

Now, I usually have nothing against public employees (1), except when they try to treat the public treasury as a piggy bank. However, I reserve the bulk of my ire for public officials who are supposed to be responsible stewards of the public’s money (2) and instead use that money to buy votes, favors, and election help. And I have no respect for the dishonesty required to disguise a pay raise as a bonus because the elected official is too scared to honestly ask his bosses, the voters.

While this video is local to Los Angeles, we can be sure this dishonest graft-by-another-name goes on in other cities. It’s wrong at any time, but it is especially galling in an age when many municipalities are facing bankruptcy. And who would be surprised to find similar shenanigans at the state level?

The age of pigs-at-the-trough is coming to an end, and it’s past time to treat a public trust –the power to spend the people’s money– as a trust. Los Angeles can start by putting a stop to its ridiculous bonus system.

Footnotes:

(1) Being one myself, that is. But I do have to wonder how I missed out on the gravy train. Must’ve picked the wrong agency to work for. Danggit.

(2) Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that one, too.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Because the right to Viagra equals the right to vote!

March 18, 2011

AFL-CIO Top Thug head Richard Trumka and his colleagues in the (shrinking) labor movement must live in a really good echo chamber, because only in a world isolated from reality could one claim that the struggle for African-American civil rights is the same as the tantrums being thrown by well-compensated public employees:

Union equates lavish benefits to black civil rights

“Madison is just the beginning!” AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka told a union rally in Annapolis on Monday. “Like that old song goes, ‘You ain’t seen n-n-n-n-nothing yet!’ “

Fresh from defeat in Wisconsin, union leaders are planning a new campaign not just to head off future challenges to their collective bargaining powers but also to make the case that organized labor’s benefits and prerogatives — wages, health care, and pensions that are more generous than those of comparable workers in the private sector — are the moral equivalent of rights won by black Americans during the civil rights movement.

To make the point, the AFL-CIO is planning a series of nationwide events on April 4, the 43rd anniversary of the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated after speaking in Memphis, Tenn., on behalf of striking black garbage collectors. The message: King’s cause, and that of angry schoolteachers in Madison, are one.

“April 4 [is] the day on which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for the cause of public collective bargaining,” Trumka said in another speech, in Washington, on Wednesday. And on the AFL-CIO blog, there is this notice: “Join us to make April 4, 2011, a day to stand in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and dozens of other states where well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for.”

Yep, you read that right.

“Shameless” and “chutzpah” don’t begin to describe it.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Andrew Klavan: Your public-sector unions in action

March 12, 2011

Klavan on the Culture returns with an incisive and satirical look at the many good things public-sector unions bring to our national life, such as kickback schemes, a corrupted political process, and threats of violence:

Now aren’t you glad you work for them?

PS: The journal he mentions at the end, City Journal, is a very good magazine on conservative politics and culture, which I highly recommend. And, while I haven’t read “Obama and America’s Public Sector Plague,” if it’s as good as the rest of the Encounter Broadsides series, then it is must-reading.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Wisconsin has the real “Governator”

March 9, 2011

California’s Governator turned out to be mostly a bad joke, but Wisconsin’s Scott Walker looks like the real deal for sticking to his principles to reform abusive collective bargaining procedures for government employee unions. And the Wisconsin state senate Republican caucus deserves a lot of credit for at last realizing the Democratic minority had no intention of acting in good faith and finally passing those collective bargaining reforms:

Wisconsin’s Senate has been paralyzed on dealing with its budget because it requires a 20-vote quorum to address budget issues. And tied into the governor’s budget bill was the provision that caused all of the Democrats in the Senate to flee the state — a provision diminishing collective bargaining rights for state workers too wages only, leaving benefits and work rules for most state employees to be determined by the legislative process instead.

But Wisconsin’s Senate does not require 20 members to be present to pass non-budget legislation, and some people have asked why the Republicans haven’t simply passed the union provision separately. Well, tonight, they did just that.

The state assembly is scheduled to vote tomorrow. Passage is all but assured, and Governor Iron Man Walker should sign it soon thereafter. Unions are already talking about a general strike, so things should be quite… interesting, tomorrow.

Meanwhile, let me pose an Allahpundit-style exit question: Minority-party legislators have fled the state to prevent a democratically elected legislature from doing its job and instead are trying to impose its own will on the majority — in effect, attempting to overturn the results of the last election. Meanwhile, union members are using extremist language, vile insults, and inciting violence to intimidate those same elected official and, by extension, the voters who put them in office. Now, riddle me this: Who are the anti-democratic fascists here?


Why collective bargaining for public unions is a corrupt deal

March 5, 2011

I wrote about this earlier, but the Heritage Foundation has put together a nice video illustrating the problem:

In other words, it’s a kickback scheme, and we have to end it for the good of the nation.