By Victor Skinner
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Americans from every corner of the nation are sending a message: Public employee benefits are out of control and must be curtailed.
That was the theme in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker survived a historic recall election after severely curtailing collective bargaining privileges for public sector unions and forcing members to contribute more money toward their own retirement and health care costs.
California voters also sent a strong message to Big Labor bosses last Tuesday when they approved pension reforms in San Diego and San Jose that will save the public millions of dollars in coming years, the New York Times reports.
Two-thirds of voters in San Diego approved a plan to shift future public employees to a defined-contribution 401K-style retirement plan, with staffers responsible for contributing their own money toward the plan. The city will also freeze the amount of pay used to calculate public workers’ pensions, “which the city estimates will save it $1 billion over the next 30 years – savings that unions say are overstated but that some critics say will not go far enough,” the Times reports.
The San Jose reforms passed with 70 percent voter approval. The measure will allow city workers to either keep their current pension plan and contribute up to 16 percent of their salary toward the costs, or move to a less generous plan with a higher retirement age and smaller cost-of-living adjustments.
The changes come in the wake of painful local government decisions (in California and throughout the nation) to cut the number of police officers on the street and close firehouses and libraries, due to skyrocketing labor costs, according to the Times.
The unions in both cities have vowed to fight the pension reforms in court. We certainly hope they lose.
The margin of voter approval in San Diego and San Jose is an obvious sign that taxpayers overwhelmingly support efforts to rein in union labor costs. Big Labor’s legal wrangling is a waste of the public’s time and money.
The most high-profile battle between the public and its money-grubbing unions was fought and won in Wisconsin. But voters in California – one of the most liberal, union-friendly states in the union – showed they aren’t afraid to address their own local labor pains head-on.
We hope these monumental victories will continue to embolden public officials and voters across the nation to challenge the union special interests whenever necessary.
Voters in San Diego, San Jose address their own public labor pains
June 11, 2012
By Victor Skinner