How to beat California pension reform in 2014? Lie and Misrepresent

california pension reformA 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.

Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group public pension poll

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  1. Hal Bray says

    Recentaly termd out Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is leaving office warning of the “Labor-Electorial complex, what the Wall Street JOurnal calls the “new Tammany Hall”.. The journal notes that 38 local governments have filed for bankrupcy since 2010 and Desert Hot Springs in southern California is preparing to file in March (due primarily to police pensions). New York paid $1.5 billion into pension funds when he took office and is now paying $8.2 billion, a 500% increase. Mr. Bloomberg leaves office unable to re-negotiate one single union contract.

    I call the “labor-electorial complex” the “bribe crcle” with unions financing politicl campaigns then sitting down with “their” eleced officials to negoatiate pay, benefits and pensions.. It is unsustainable

    Scott Walker has somewhat broken this cycle in Wisconsin and has been attacked relentlesly since, on the streets, in the courts, and in recall elections. Under Wisconsin laws, public unions can only bargin for wage increases within the margin of inflation and members must also vote to recertify the union annually. Recently, members of 70 unions (our of (408) did not recertify their union.. It is a beginning and we must ask ourselves if the people California can be strong enmough to to fight this battle. Chuck Reed’s initiative is a good first start

  2. says

    Exercising your right to Free Assembly and negotiating work rules and contracts with management is not a cancer. Having a workplace monopoly and working in league with management via campaign funding sources is the cancer.

    What is in need of reform is monopoly unions and forced dues that violate the First Amendment.

    Unions should be able to compete for membership in any work place, and dues should not be mandatory but be based on right to work rules (like Michigan just passed (!!) .

    If unions were truly democratic instead of unaccountable, unrepresentative power elites padding their own coffers and interests, they would win dues because they represent workers’ interest instead of requiring forced payments for questionable political activities.

    • Tough Love says

      And let’s not forget the Union’s ‘demand to”negotiate” pension changes. Well, when we’re STARTING with Public Sector pensions that are ROUTINELY 3-4 times (and 4-6 times for safety workers) greater in value at retirement than those of their Private Sector counterparts, .how successful do you think getting that under control (meaning ELIMINATING that advantage) will be via such “negotiation”?

      My guess is that via “negotiation”we would be lucky to get even 5 CENTS in pension reductions for each $1 desperately needed. The VERY needed pensions reductions must be jammed down the insatiably greedy Union’s throats with 2 feet, because that’s the ONLY way to accomplish it.

      Anyone who thinks otherwise is either a Union supporter, a charlatan, or an idiot.

    • says

      That I may be all of those things is not the point and poor argument on your part. I at least pointed to one possible solution in Chuck Reed’s proposed ballot measure.

      Your list of grievances: gold plated pensions and retiree health benefits, plus intransigence to negotiate honestly with continued mathematically and politically unsustainable pension demands can only happen in a monopolistic (government and union) setting.

      We can start by backing Reed’s approach to give local municipalities an even playing field to reorganize and manage future cost structures.

      Eventually we must pass right-to-work rules in California along the lines of reforms in Michigan and Indiana, and eliminate closed shop to allow real competition amongst unions for members.

      We must reform and resize government so it need not require a workforce of career minions in favor of working with private sector partners to provide services in a more economical way.

      Ultimately, until we either break the public unions and their grip on electeds, and reform and resize government so it need not rely on a workforce of career minions instead of partnering with private sector solutions, your complaints will remain meaningless.

    • Tough Love says

      And there we agree.. Reed’s initiative is desperately needed.. At least by materially reducing the rate of pension accrual for FUTURE service we stop digging the hole we are in even deeper.

      But even doing that, which the Unions we go to the ends of the earth to stop, STILL leaves massive unfunded liabilities for PAST service accruals to deal with………and NOT solely by tax increases and further service cuts……..which means Public Sector worker pension/benefits reductions are needed even for PAST service accruals.

      The decade-long financial “mugging” of the Taxpayers by the insatiably greedy Unions (and specifically, .the pensions/benefits granted by elected officials bought-off with UNION money) must end…….and be reversed.

    • Tough Love says

      Quoting…”Ultimately, until we either break the public unions and their grip on electeds, and reform and resize government so it need not rely on a workforce of career minions instead of partnering with private sector solutions, your complaints will remain meaningless.”

      You and I are looking for the SAME outcome.

  3. R ichard Eber says

    Bill’s article underscores the notion of labor unions not identified to be special interest groups when campaign reform is mentioned. Somehow the Koch Brothers are considered to be the symbol of the “evil empire” while largely undemocratic labor unions are depicted to be the voice of the people.

    I have no problem mentioning individuals, corporations, or unions carrying the special interest label. Let’s call a “spade a spade” and not let one group off the hook..

    • Tough Love says

      Calling Public Sector labor unions “largely undemocratic” is dreadfully inadequate.

      MUCH more appropriate would be…”A CANCER inflicted upon Society”