A poll and memo from Washington, DC-based pollster Garin-Hart-Yang Research tells union leaders how to lie and misrepresent San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposed 2014 ballot measure for California pension reform. Californians for Retirement Security, a union front (see talking points), commissioned the poll to help defeat any meaningful California pension reform. Reed’s proposal would give state and local governments authority to prospectively reduce pensions for current employees. The unions will decry the “elimination of pubic employee pensions.”
Unions to lie and misrepresent proposed California pension reform
The memo suggests unions play up horrific visions of total injustice instead of dealing honestly with California pension reform as some cities are already going into second bankruptcies because they never dealt with unfunded public employee pension and retiree healthcare costs:
Note that ‘eliminating’ fosters a visceral negative response from voters. Over 50 percent are VERY unfavorable to ‘Eliminating Police, Firefighters, and Other Public Employees’ Vested Pension Benefits’ (54% VERY unfavorable) AND “Eliminating Public Employees’ Vested Benefits” (51% VERY unfavorable),” the Garin memo says. “In short, ‘eliminating’ appears to nearly usurp the advantage that naming specific workers brings to the debate.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Mayor Reed said of his proposed ballot measure for California pension reform:
That is consistent with their messages so far,” Reed said. His measure doesn’t eliminate pension benefits, “but (the unions) have to mischaracterize what we’re doing … We’re not proposing to eliminate public pensions.
The Bee states, “Reed and his supporters contend the measure is vital to dealing with mounting pension obligations that are threatening core public services, particularly at the local government level. The unions counter that pension terms should be bargained, not imposed, that retirement costs are overblown and that Reed’s measure legalizes reneging on contractual benefits.
The Garin group concludes that labor has a head start if the measure makes the ballot:
The bottom line is that your coalition beats the opposition at the ballot box regardless of how the ballot language is written, and even after hearing facts about the initiative, as well as positive and negative messages, you are still up over the opposition by 8 points. Your base of support is broader than Reed’s, you start ahead, and the public does NOT seem to fundamentally want drastic pension reform – but this will still be a hard fought battle.