Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wake Up Unions: Brown, Democrats, Not Friends of Labor

Despite spending millions of dollars to get him elected, California Governor Jerry Brown has been going after unions and the working class with almost as much gusto as his Republican cohorts. (Brown, like other Democrats, simply has enough sense to leave collective bargaining and automatic payroll dues deductions alone, thus mollifying union leadership sufficiently to get them to agree to enforce ruling class demands). In addition to the $8 billion in cuts he has already signed into law, which will results in thousands of layoffs and furloughs, as well as increased out of pocket payments for union members’ health care, Brown has been actively working to gut public employee pensions.

Public employee pensions are in fact underfunded and this is a potential long-term problem. However, most of the California public employee pensions have plenty of funds to last at least 13 years See Modern School: Relax, Public Pensions Are Fine. Furthermore, the reason that they are underfunded has nothing to do with bogus claims of worker abuse or overly generous dispensations (the average teacher pension is only $3,300 per month. They are underfunded for two reasons: the economic collapse that caused virtually all stocks and investment funds to decline dramatically and the mismanagement of the fund operators. The calls by the ruling elite to “reform” (i.e. gut) public employee pensions has several self-serving goals: (1) reduce all public spending so that their taxes can be further lowered; (2) force public employees to buy into mutual funds, thus increasing profits for fund managers and brokers); (3) weaken and ultimately crush their unions, so that wages decline further (and their profit margins go up).

The following is from the WSWS
At the end of March, the latest round of budget talks between Democrats and Republicans in the US state of California broke down despite general agreement on cuts to social spending. According to state Republicans, pension reform is the sticking point. Although pensions for public employees amount to only four percent of the state budget, both parties are using the budget crisis to demand deep cuts.
To take the initiative against Republicans, Governor Jerry Brown released seven proposals for pension reform. True to form, they overwhelmingly target the working class, and closely mirror the Republicans’ demands. These proposals come on top of $8 billion already signed into law by Brown earlier this year, including sharp cuts in education and health care spending.
Four of the seven points are aimed at supposed “abuses.” He would end “airtime,” where an employee can pay a fee to have benefits calculated as if the worker had worked for up to five additional years. Brown is also targeting “pension spiking,” a term used attack workers whose wages increase in the later years of employment, resulting in a higher calculated pension benefit. Benefits would be calculated on the basis of a three-year instead of one-year average and only include base pay. The governor would also remove benefits for those convicted of felonies relating to their employment.
To read to full article, please go here.

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