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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The unions’ playbook for public pension defense

SacbeeChuck Reed’s public-employee pension initiative is a long way from making it to a statewide vote – money being the biggest hurdle – but labor unions have already started blasting the proposal.

The San Jose mayor’s measure would, among other things, change the California Constitution to explicitly allow state and local governments in a fiscal emergency to cut future retirement costs by lowering current employees’ benefits prospectively but leave accrued benefits untouched. Right now, court rulings appear to give government workers an ironclad right to the pension promised on their first day of work.

The unions say that Reed’s proposal will speed government pensions down the same road to near-oblivion that private-sector pensions have traveled. Here are some ways they’ll fight it:

Kill it in the crib. Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat with strong union backing, assigns ballot measures’ titles and summaries. Last year she essentially killed efforts to put a different pension initiative on the 2012 ballot with summary statements that were “either provably false or grossly misleading,” the measure’s proponents said at the time.

That, in turn, waylaid raising the $2million or so for signature collection needed to put the proposal on the ballot. Unions would love Reed’s measure to get the same treatment. continue reading...

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