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Was it constitutional for Proposition 124 to replace PSPRS' permanent benefit increases with a capped 2% COLA?

In this blog I and multiple commenters have broached the subject of the suspect constitutionality of PSPRS' replacement of the old perma...

Friday, January 25, 2013

What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable

This article, Sacramento city manager details unfunded debt obligations, by Sacramento Bee reporter Ryan Lillis gives another account of a California city with huge unfunded liabilities.  In this case, it involves a monthly subsidy for medical costs that has been promised to retirees.  This liability has grown over the years and now stands at $440 million.  This is hardly surprising, but this matter-of-fact line in the article is worthy of commentary:
Sacramento has taken some steps to ease the burden moving forward. The city's largest labor union – Local 39 – has already agreed to forgo the benefit for newly hired employees. Middle managers and high-ranking officials not represented by a labor group also have agreed to that change.

Middle managers and high-ranking officials agreed to give up the benefit for themselves, but the union only agreed to this for new hires.  Maybe in their own minds the union feels like they "gave something up," but it appears more like they dipped into the pockets of future members to help themselves.  What a sacrifice!

For those of us who are union members, we know that, despite talk of brotherhood, solidarity, and shared sacrifice, unions often act as seniority protection organizations.  This is not to bash seniority as a criterion since it is a fair, and sometimes unavoidable, factor in personnel decisions and the most objective criterion available.  However, the notion that a more senior group should give up nothing as long as some more junior group exists to take all the sacrifice is sometimes a guiding principle for unions.

For PSPRS, we have three distinct groups separated only by a single date: retirees and those who had 20 years on before January 1, 2012, current workers hired before January 1, 2012 but without 20 years as of that date, and those hired January 1, 2012 or later. Depending on when you were hired, your career and retirement will be very different.  The pension reforms put in place two years ago disproportionately affected those hired since January 1, 2012, who, of course, were not even on the job to protest the changes.

The sacrifices expected of new PSPRS members did not end there.  The COLA lawsuits (Have a COLA and a smile) currently filed against PSPRS are an even more egregious assault on those new members of PSPRS since these lawsuits place the personal gain of more senior members over not only more junior members, but over the long-term financial viability of PSPRS itself.  I can find no formal position by any of Arizona's fire fighter and law enforcement unions regarding the COLA lawsuits, but PSPRS mentions no support from any unions in fighting the lawsuits.

As a union member, I know of no argument that can be made for consigning one group to a lower standard of living so another group can continue to get automatic raises.   This strikes at the very heart of a union's purpose to achieve higher benefits as a group than can be gained individually.  If the unions stand by and allow an every man (or group) for himself philosophy to take hold, they will be planting the seeds of their own destruction.

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