Now, the Union Pushback: Following big victories for public-pension reform in California, the union empire takes to the courts
The nation’s public-sector unions have become so emboldened by years of political victories, and so insulated from voter concerns, that they apparently never considered the possibility that voters, given a clear choice, would turn against them. Last Tuesday was as close as the nation gets to a clarifying election, the result of union overreach in Wisconsin and union intransigence in California. “Election results in California and Wisconsin this week are being viewed as a turning point for organized labor—to its detriment,” reported the Los Angeles Times, echoing a story line repeated nationwide.
The biggest news, of course, came from Wisconsin, where angry and increasingly militant public-sector unions tried to recall the governor, lieutenant governor, and three state senators (one incumbent resigned, thus leaving a seat to fill, but no actual recall). Governor Scott Walker pulled out a strong seven-point victory, and the unions appear likely to gain only one senate seat by the slimmest of margins. The California results were almost as impressive, as San Jose voters approved a pension-reform measure with 70 percent of the vote.
Immediately after San Jose’s Measure B passed last week, the unions filed a court challenge against the initiative. Measure B reduces benefits for current public employees; they will have a choice between a new, lower-benefit retirement package or keeping their current benefit plan but contributing more to pay for it. In the private sector, employers can reduce employee-pension benefits going forward, but in California, anyway, the courts have prohibited benefit reductions for public employees.