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Public Union Employees Outnumber Private Union Employees

Its official…there are now more public sector union employees than private sector union employees. Mark 2010 as the year that the union label no longer means Made in America, but bankrupted America. After decades of raising American labor costs and consequently seeing these jobs move overseas, unions have long had their eye on taking over the government sector and we can expect to see an expansion of that plan for years to come under the Obama administration. Approximately 35% of all government workers now belong to a union, numbering about 7.6 million, or nearly 52% of all union members in the United States.

For years unions have seen their ranks shrinking and why shouldn’t they? Every sector of the economy that they’ve become a dominant force has been bankrupted and because of their high labor costs, we have seen the majority of their jobs exported overseas. Textile industry…gone. Steel industry…gone. Automobile industry…decimated. Airline industry…non-profitable. You name it, if the unions grew in strength, that industry is virtually unprofitable or the jobs went overseas.

Remember Sally Field standing up on her table with her union banner, that shouldn’t be a rallying cry for union members, it should be a symbol of financial ruin. So I ask the workers of those ruined industries…where’s your union now? They’ve abandoned you and left you with no jobs. And because they believe that government jobs cannot be sent overseas and that the public has a negative perception of privatizing services like police and fire, they’ve made their move into the public employees sector and in a relatively short amount of time, have virtually put every state, county, and city on the verge of bankruptcy with their ponzi scheme retirement programs that you the tax payer is going to have to pay for.

Or are you? Perhaps they’ve miscalculated taxpayer ignorance, but many of those government entities are finally starting to fight back. In response to what many consider union employee arrogance, government is fighting back and going to court to try to get the taxpayers off the hook…as they should. The problem is, the people paying those hefty retirement programs are revolting. And they have questions. Why should public sector union employees expect to get these hefty retirement packages guaranteed when private sector employees have no guarantees? If my 401k tanks, I’m going to have to work a few years longer, why shouldn’t they? In fact, for years many of these union employees didn’t have to contribute to their retirements, so shouldn’t we expect them to help pay for our retirements too? Fat chance!

And yet the truth is, they’re out to get more. In order to pay for the union feeding frenzy 2010 will now also have the dubious distinction of being the year that states raised their taxes by the largest amount since 1979. 29 states raised taxes by $24 billion this year. Is there any wonder why there is NO job growth? Along with all the costly mandates being passed down on businesses this year from the Healthcare Bill and the Finance Reform Bill, individuals and companies are now facing unprecedented taxes.

At least 10 states have raised income-tax rates, at least temporarily, on higher earners in recent years. California now has a special 10.55% upper bracket for people making more than $1 million, according to the Tax Foundation, a tax research group in Washington, DC. Oregon has created two new top rates, for people making more than $125,000 and more than $250,000. Top earners in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut all are facing higher rates.

When you factor in federal taxes, many individuals in the upper brackets are facing tax rates higher than what you’d see in a country in Europe, and if the Bush cuts expire, those tax rates would be higher than under the Clinton Administration.

And since most government unions are prohibited by law to strike, they don’t have to put their money away in strike funds, they can amass huge amounts of cash to buy their influence with lawmakers to keep the union machine growing. How hypocritical for them to cry wolf about corporate America’s spending on political campaigns.

And what’s really sad is every taxing paying American indirectly pays for these obscene union activities because our tax dollars pay the wages for the workers whose union dues buy off these politicians.

A current Heritage Foundation study found the following:

Arizona. Public-sector unions spent more than $200,000 to campaign for a successful ballot measure in May 2010 that raised the state sales tax by 1%. The Arizona Education Association also successfully lobbied against a repeal of a $250-million-a-year statewide property tax in 2009.

California. The California Teachers Association spent $2 million gathering signatures for an initiative on the November 2010 ballot that would raise business taxes by $2 billion a year. Separately, public employee unions protested at the state capitol demanding the legislature raise taxes by $40 billion a year, including raising the top state income tax bracket to 11%, applying the sales tax to services in addition to goods, and increasing the state’s vehicle license fee by 2 %age points.

Colorado. Led by the National Education Association’s $450,000 contribution, government unions spent $806,000 campaigning for a failed 2008 ballot initiative to roll back taxpayer rebates and use that money to increase education spending. That year, government labor unions also gave $244,000 to a committee campaigning for Amendment 58, an initiative that would have raised taxes on oil and natural gas companies had the voters not defeated it.

Delaware. Democratic Governor Jack Merkle proposed closing the state’s budget gap in 2009 with an 8% across-the-board cut in state employee pay. In response, labor unions united in a large coalition (State Workers United for a Better Delaware) to oppose the pay reductions. The coalition pressed the governor to look to tax increases instead of cutting government union members’ pay. The legislature ultimately cut state employee pay by 2.5%.

Florida. The Florida Education Association unsuccessfully lobbied for a 1% increase in the state sales tax in 2009. Labor unions also spent $1.3 million in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat a 2008 ballot initiative that expanded the state’s property tax exemption.
Georgia. The Georgia Association of Educators, the state-level affiliate of the National Education Association, has begun campaigning for a 0.5% increase in the state sales tax.

Hawaii. The Hawaii State Teachers Association is campaigning for a $500 million annual hike in state taxes, including increasing the top state income tax to 13% and raising business and capital gains taxes.

Idaho. Government labor unions spent more than $2 million promoting an unsuccessful ballot initiative in 2006 that would have raised the state sales tax by 1% and directed that money to public education.

Illinois. AFSCME Council 31 and other government unions are pressing the state legislature to close the deficit with a $6.4 billion tax increase instead of cutting spending. The unions want state lawmakers to increase the state income tax from 3% to 5% and to expand the sales tax to cover certain commercial services. The unions spent heavily in 2009 on television and radio ads pressing for these tax increases. In April 2010, government unions organized rallies outside the state capitol shouting, “Raise my taxes! Raise my taxes! Raise my taxes!” At that rally, a government union member was caught on camera chanting, “Where’s the money?” and “Give up the bucks!” In July 2010, 40,000 unionized state government employees received a 7% raise and are scheduled to receive another 7% raise in 2011. These raises will cost Illinois taxpayers $500 million.

Iowa. In 2009, AFSCME Council 61 unsuccessfully fought for tax increases instead of requiring state employees to take a five-day furlough. In the eyes of the union’s president, the state’s deficit “is not a spending issue, this is a revenue issue.”

Kansas. The Kansas Organization of State Employees boasts that it “mobilized more than 300 activists for a Lobby Day in February and formed ‘gauntlets’ outside each chamber in order to prevent spending cuts that would have eliminated 1,000 government jobs, urging wavering legislators to stand with them. They were relentless and creative—flooding House and Senate offices with hundreds of phone calls, faxes and e-mails, and utilizing social media to provide Twitter updates and action alerts.” They were successful. In May 2010, the Kansas legislature passed a budget that raised the state sales tax by 1%. The budget also raised the pay of many state employees between 2% and 10%.

Maine. Maine citizens voted on a ballot initiative in November 2009 that would prevent government spending from growing faster than the combined rate of inflation and population growth and would require the government to return excess revenues as tax rebates. The Maine Municipal Association, the SEIU, the Teamsters, and the Maine Education Association collectively spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign against the initiative, and it was ultimately defeated by a wide margin. In 2010, government unions lobbied state legislatures to raise the state sales tax by 1%, or the state cigarette tax by $0.50 per pack.

Maryland. Maryland added four new state income tax brackets in 2008. That was not enough for government labor unions. The state affiliate of AFSCME lobbied the legislature to raise taxes by another $2 billion, including expanding the state sales tax to cover additional services and increasing alcohol and gas taxes.

Michigan. Government unions, including members of the AFL–CIO, the Michigan Education Association, and the Michigan Nurses Association launched “A Better Michigan Future” campaign in September 2009. They called for a $2.7 billion tax increase. Their proposals included expanding the state sales tax to cover a variety of services, and raising the top state income tax rate from 4.35% to 6.9%. The Michigan legislature decided against raising taxes in a state badly hit by the recession.
Minnesota. AFSCME Council 5 unsuccessfully lobbied state legislators to override Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a $1 billion tax increase in spring 2009. In December 2009 Council 5 lobbied for a $3.8 billion tax increase.

Montana. The Montana Education Association– Montana Federation of Teachers (MEA–MFT) union openly portrays itself as a supporter of tax-and-spend politics. As MEA–MFT president Eric Feaver boasted, “Were it not for us almost any one of the…anti-tax-and-spend ballot issues proposed in the last 25 years would have passed.” The union pursued tax-and-spend politics in 2009, unsuccessfully lobbying the state legislature to raise taxes on oil and gas companies. The MEA–MFT also lobbied the legislature for a 6% raise for state workers. Despite the recession, it did not come away completely empty-handed. The final plan boosted government employee compensation, although not as much as the union wanted. As the union put it, “the pay plan amounts to $24 million in new money for state employees, and that’s no small change at a time when the economy is crashing.”

Nebraska. Labor unions contributed 60% of the $2.5 million spent in 2006 to defeat Nebraska Measure 423. The ballot initiative drew the fire of government unions because it would have capped state spending based on population growth and inflation.

New Jersey. Newly elected Governor Chris Christie took office in 2010 facing an $11 billion budget deficit. He closed the deficit without raising taxes by reducing spending. This drew the fire of government unions in New Jersey, especially the New Jersey Education Association, which opposed the governor’s proposal to freeze teacher pay and require teachers to contribute 1.5% of their salary toward their health insurance premiums. Up to then they contributed nothing. The union spent heavily on television, radio, and print advertisements critical of the governor. Public-sector unions in New Jersey also fought to keep the state’s top income tax from falling to 9% from 10.75% and against a proposed cap on property tax increases. The leadership of Communication Workers of America (CWA) District 1—a union representing 40,000 state workers—proposed raising member dues to fund a $2 million advertising campaign against Christie. Union membership, however, voted against the proposal by 62% to 38%.

New Mexico. The New Mexico AFSCME local lobbied the state’s legislature to raise taxes to deal with its budget deficit. The union got its wish, but it was not the wealthy who paid. The legislature increased the state’s gross receipts tax on goods and services and reinstated a 2% sales tax on food.

New York. New York government unions spent millions of dollars in 2009 on television ads opposing Governor David Paterson’s property tax cap plan and attacking his budget that did not contain the tax increases they wanted. After heavy lobbying, the governor finally agreed to raise taxes to help close the budget shortfall. Among other tax increases, he raised the state’s top income tax rate to 9% and the combined state and New York City income tax to 12.85%. Unionized employees at the Metropolitan Transit Authority were not complaining: more than 8,000 of them made over $100,000 in 2009, including one recently retired rail conductor who pulled in $239,000 in his final year on the job.

North Dakota. Government unions, including the National Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association spent $500,000 to defeat two ballot initiatives in 2008. One would have reduced the state’s income tax by 50%; the second would have established a trust fund for oil and gas tax revenues.

Ohio. SEIU District 1199 produced and ran advertisements campaigning for a rollback of scheduled income tax cuts. They wanted taxes to remain higher to prevent government spending cuts. In Columbus, AFSCME pushed a referendum on a 0.5% increase in the city income tax to victory. The union boasted that “members of Locals 1632 and 2191 stepped up to the plate, helping to make thousands of phone calls to potential voters and delivering 5,000 door hangers to homes in high-turnout Democratic precincts.… The efforts of Council 8 members proved essential: Out of more than 89,000 votes cast in last summer’s special election, the tax increase passed with a margin of just 3,050 votes.”

Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Education Association placed Question 744 on the November 2010 ballot. The measure would increase spending on public schools by $1 billion, necessitating tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere to balance the state’s budget.

Oregon. Public-sector unions provided over 80% of the $8 million spent to pass Measures 66 and 67 in January 2010, ballot initiatives that raised income and business taxes by $727 million. Government unions outspent the business community by a three-to-two margin to pass the new taxes. However the tax increases have not solved the state’s budget crisis. State budget analysts have estimated that the state still faces a $577 million shortfall.

Pennsylvania. Unions representing 1.1 million Pennsylvania workers have created the Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues (CLEAR). The union coalition wants Pennsylvania lawmakers to “find new fair and equitable revenue sources to fill the state’s budget gap and not close the gap by cutting services.” The coalition particularly warns that the state should not furlough government employees, privatize their jobs, or reduce the retirement benefits of state employees.

The sad truth is…is that all of this is going to end badly. I know several people who are union workers, heck, I worked in a union for 14 years, but I’ve told them all that if they really think that the taxpayers are going to stand by and let government workers get lavish retirements starting in their 50’s that they are in for a big surprise and that they’d better be putting money away for their retirement because wha they think they’re going to be getting, they’re only going to be getting a fraction of it. The unions have been able to use their vast financial resources to procure these ridiculous benefits, but as we are about to see on November 2nd, the voters are about to turn on them. The rising tide of conservativism will bring about changes in the laws that will finally start to put an end to these lavish benefits. In the early 1980’s the taxpayers revolted against rising property taxes by approving the now famous Proposition 13, I can only think that we can expect similar revolts against these union payouts in the future.

And in the end eventually we will start to see these municipalities going into bankruptcy if not some states. My home state of California is completely broke and heavily in debt. The cities of San Diego and Los Angeles are both on the verge of bankruptcy. And with all the wrong moves being made by the federal government and a recession that may take years to end, most of these government entities just won’t have the resources to survive. And when they finally succumb, just like all of those other industries that were destroyed by unions, the retirees can expect to walk away with pennies on the dollar.

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