Unions and Moonbeams

DN Thursday, January 6, 2011

Labor

  1. Do further research and report on one of the headlines.
  2. Crackdown on Organized Labor: States Call for Wage & Benefits Cuts, Urge Laws to Curb Union Influence: In California, the public sector unions negotiated to put their pensions into the stock market if the state taxpayers would cover their losses. Was this fair? The Santa Cruz County Teacher’s Union refused to negotiate on healthcare – either deductibles or paying a percentage of premiums – until the district closed one-third of elementaries. Was this “all about the kids?” Do negotiations by public sector employees – teachers, firefighters, police – create an adversarial relationship with the cities they serve? Do they prevent trained volunteers or part-timers from serving these functions, rather than consolidating locations to save money on staff?
  3. Zweig talks about the long history in the US of capital and corporate power resisting anything that labor wants, that labor needs. Whose capital funds public sector employees? Who is the corporation? Who profits from undercutting them? Does the union paradigm apply when the public is the employer?
  4. Greenhouse, Zweig and Levine all seem to agree that raises should not be frozen, nor union power reduced, nor pensions lowered. Levine feels that “the till’s not empty” because we’re an enormously wealthy country that’s still funding wars and bailing out banks. However, he doesn’t propose how the states would get this money from the Federal government. The others are looking at raising taxes, which would hit the parent generation hardest – who are paying for daycare, healthcare, saving for college, taking care of aging parents, and trying to save for retirement. Without pensions, ordinary workers need to save a lump sum large enough so they won’t outlive their savings, in a way that’s both secure and fast-growing. Are unionized public sector employees concerned with solving these problems, or just making themselves an exception at the expense of the public?
  5. In his first day in office, as reported by the LA Times, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he’s revisiting Prop 13: “The new governor said his budget proposal next week would include plans to return to cities and counties many government functions that Sacramento took over after Proposition 13 passed.┬áThe measure ‘started the centralization of power,’ Brown told reporters before entering the closed-door meeting. Afterward, he expanded on that idea, saying Proposition 13 ‘took away the power of counties to tax, for the most part; it sent the decisions up to Sacramento. So we want to redistribute all that.'” Will this shift responsibility for delivery of services down to the county along with the power to add new taxes, but keep the 11% income tax, 9.25% sales tax, and existing property tax in Sacramento? If a home’s potential sale value is 5X a couple’s annual income, and property tax is 1% of the value of the home, what percentage of their annual income would this be? What would be the total State taxes they would pay on every dollar they spend (income tax + property tax + sales tax.) What is it when you add in 20% Federal income tax + 12.5% FICA?
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