Today headlines (H/T: Drudge) again proclaim what we all know to be a growing problem that is getting worse: defined benefit pensions, especially those for public employees. The city where I serve as a volunteer has budget problems, mostly because of defined benefit pensions where retirement benefits often exceed the original base pay. Today we learn that Yonkers, NY has been retiring workers with pensions of over $101,000 for employees whose base pay was only $74,000. Nice work if you can get it.
Watch Big Labor heads explode by proposing a measure that will protect union rank and file from their own leaders, and slice off a huge chunk of the labor vote for the GOP. It’s really a very simple and easily articulated idea:
Disallow political contributions, lobbying, and expenses for political communications for unions that do not have their defined benefit pensions fully funded to at least 95% of projected outlays for the next 5 years as audited by an accredited, outside private firm. The unions, of course, would bear the cost of the audit.
This would include unions that represent workers whose pensions are funded by a government entity.
Proposing such a measure would allow any GOP activist or candidate to ask any union member: Why should your union be allowed to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on political contributions and lobbying when they have not provided for your retirement?
The one exception to the lobbying provision would he the president of the union him or herself (political influence is their primary job anyway). Suddenly, you would see union presidents (and those presidents only) lobbying federal, state and local governments to get worker pensions fully funded so the unions could get back to ‘politics as usual’. Politicians would instantly begin to incline toward withdrawing the concept of defined benefit pension contracts for new workers. Raiding of future public treasuries for today’s retirees would begin to decline rapidly.
I think the measure could be drafted on a single page such that it could be introduced at city council meetings, state legislatures and US Congress.
Any talented lawyers present who would be willing to draft the measure and contribute the document to our spaces here? Just imagine the havoc this would wreak among statewide and even nationwide unions if even one city passed this measure. It would be worth City Attorney and state Solicitor General court expenses to begin to put a fine point on the fact (and begin a more honest discussion) that unions really do not look out after rank and file interests.
In my own current campaign for Central Committee here in California’s AD49 (LA County) I’ve had the opportunity at the many meetings I’ve attended to discuss this proposed measure with many, many GOP (and even independent) candidates for local and statewide office. It’s been the perfect venue to ‘test market’ the idea, and the idea is getting amazing traction among the candidates I’ve buttonholed.
All of them instantly recognize the GOP values expressed by this idea that any citizen can support, and they are both many and manifest. First, of course, the value of fiscal sanity as expressed by the desire to ensure that the ‘little guy’ is protected from larger interests that may not be working in his or her favor. Next, the concept of ensuring that governments only spend what they can currently pay for. Finally, ensuring that governments fulfill their obligation to honestly look after the public treasury and their public servants.
While the GOP needs to be focusing on many issues that every citizen can support such as better education, lower energy prices, less spending and public accountability, we’ve have little truck with organized labor, except perhaps to regard them as irreconcilable opponents. This idea changes that and could put a big portion of the individual union rank and file squarely in the GOP camp.
It will also put big labor leaders, civic negtiators, and city, state and federal officials in the unenviable position of having to explain to the rank and file why they would oppose such a common sense protection of their members’ pensions.
Candidates could gain considerable publicity by insisting that lawmakers at all levels adopt the measure before election day in November (where those bodies are still meeting). The measure could even have a short, obvious name: the Pension Protection Plan.
Nobody would vote against that, right?