Port truck drivers strike for second day

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Some truck drivers who haul goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach struck for the second day Tuesday in a protest against four companies they accuse of wage theft.

Protest organizers said drivers are picketing the trucking yards of Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport.

The companies deploy roughly 3.5% of the trucks registered to serve both ports, according to an L.A. port spokesman.

If trucks from the struck companies enter port terminals …

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Hardball tactics pay off for L.A. teachers with 10% raise

Hardball paid off for the United Teachers Los Angeles late Friday when negotiators reached tentative agreement on a three-year deal that provides L.A. Unified teachers with a 10 percent pay raise in the first two years. That’s far more than other LAUSD unions got in collective bargaining.

The deal was sold as a win-win proposition by both LAUSD and UTLA leaders. But for nearly a year, LAUSD number-crunchers had fought for a much smaller raise in briefing L.A. school board members, citing the need to prepare for the pain of the phased-in 130 percent increase in district contributions to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System required by the 2014 CalSTRS bailout legislation.

The CalSTRS fix will cost LAUSD an extra $1 billion a year in fiscal 2020-21 when the phase-in is complete. That’s a giant burden for a district that this fiscal year has a $6.6 billion budget.

Nevertheless, school board members were ready for labor peace after the UTLA took serious steps toward a districtwide strike. They not only agreed to a 10 percent raise over two years, they dropped their hard line on making teachers pay more toward their health benefits.

Union ID’d funds for raises that were supposedly encumbered

The question of whether LAUSD had the legal authority to grant the raises never was seriously addressed. Early in negotiations, the UTLA sought a 17.6 percent immediate raise and cited the influx of funds the district had available because of the Local Control Funding Formula reform adopted by the Legislature in 2013.

That reform was supposed to earmark additional school funds for districts to specifically help troubled English-language learners and other struggling students. When the reform was adopted, Gov. Jerry Brown depicted it as a “revolutionary” step toward helping ensure California had a skilled workforce in coming generations. His aides downplayed the idea that the reform could be gamed at the local level by powerful local union chapters.

However, the Brown administration had no reaction to a Legislative Analyst’s Office report in January that none of 50 California school districts it surveyed, including the 11 largest, had adequate safeguards to make sure the funds were not diverted.

Another aspect of the labor talks also received little attention from the mainstream media. That was UTLA’s claim that members had not received a raise in eight years. In fact, in most California school districts, teachers receive automatic pay raises of 3.5 to 4 percent for 15 of their first 20 years on the job — “step” increases. They can also improve their pay classification by taking graduate coursework in any field — “column” increases.

In large school districts, this usually means at least 60 percent of teachers get pay-scale raises every year. The percentage is higher in districts with more turnover.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

LAUSD Offer Worth $122,938 Per Year – Will They Strike Anyway?

LAUSD Offer Worth $122,938 Per Year – Will They Strike Anyway?

By Ed Ring, executive director, California Policy Center

“Our demands, they’re not radical. When did it become radical to have class sizes that you could actually teach in? When did it become radical to have staffing and to pay people back after eight years of nothing?”
 – Alex Caputo Pearl, President, UTLA, February 26, 2015, Los Angeles Times

If the 35,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents employees of Los Angeles Unified School District, actually go on strike, in large part it will be because they want an 8.5% salary increase and the district is only offering them 5%. They also want smaller class sizes – tough to do when you’re passing out salary increases. But how much do these teachers actually make?

If you review the most authoritative source of public information on LAUSD salaries, the California state controller’s public pay website you will get the impression they aren’t making much. The summary page for LAUSD shows “average wages” of $40,506 per year and employer paid “average retirement and health” benefits at $10,867 per year.

This is extremely misleading. These “averages” include part-time workers such as student teachers and substitute teachers. But the “Raw Export” tab of the state controller’s website yields more comprehensive information.

If you eliminate part-time workers and eliminate workers who were hired or left employment mid-year – based on screening out of the data any individual record where the recorded “base pay” is 10% or more less than the stated “minimum pay for position” for that record – a very different compensation profile emerges. In reality, teachers who worked full-time during 2013 for the LA Unified School District made direct pay that averaged $72,781, and they collected employer paid benefits averaging $17,012, meaning their total pay and benefits package was $89,793. And they collected this in return for working between 163 and 180 days per year (ref. UTLA/LAUSD Labor Agreement, page 30).

Properly estimating how much LAUSD teachers make, however, requires at least two important additional calculations, (1) normalizing their pay to take into account their extraordinary quantity of vacation time, and (2) taking into account the state of California’s direct payments into CalSTRS as well as the necessity to increase CalSTRS contributions in order to pay down their unfunded liability.

Normalizing for vacation time is easy. Using the larger number referenced in their labor agreement, 180 days per year of work, based on 260 weekdays per year, means LAUSD teachers work 36 weeks a year and get 16 weeks off. The typical private sector worker rarely gets more than four weeks off, two weeks of vacation and two weeks of paid holidays. While many professionals earn more than two weeks of vacation, they are also required to be perpetually on call and often work far more than 40 hour weeks. Many entry level or low income workers don’t get paid for any holidays or vacation. It is reasonable to assume the typical teacher works 12 weeks less per year than the average private sector worker. This translates into a $24,260 value on top of the average LAUSD teacher’s direct pay of $72,781 per year.

“Eight years of nothing.” Really, Mr. Caputo Pearl?

Normalizing for the value of pensions is not easy, but using similarly conservative assumptions we can develop reasonable estimates. For starters, from the CalSTRS website, here’s what the state contributes:

“The state contributes a percentage of the annual earnings of all members to the Defined Benefit Program. Under the new funding plan, the state’s contribution is increasing over the next three years from 3.041 percent in 2013–14 to 6.328 percent beginning July 1, 2016. The state also contributes an amount equal to about 2.5 percent of annual member earnings into the CalSTRS Supplemental Benefit Maintenance Account. The SBMA account is used to maintain the purchasing power of benefits.”

Sticking with current contributions – 3.041 percent plus 2.5 percent, based on “member earnings” referring to “direct pay,” that adds another $4,033 to the average earnings of an LAUSD teacher.

In summary, LAUSD teachers are threatening to strike because they only make – using real world equivalents – $97,041 in direct pay, plus $21,045 in employer paid benefits. The average full-time LAUSD teacher earns total compensation worth $118,086 per year. Throw onto direct pay the 5% offer from the district, worth another $4,852 per year, and you have a total average teacher compensation proposed to go up to $122,938 per year.

Any critic of this analysis who happens to be an LAUSD teacher is invited to work 48 weeks a year instead of 36 weeks a year, or, of course, give up their pension benefit. Otherwise, these are the numbers. To verify them, download this spreadsheet analysis which uses payroll and benefit data provided by LAUSD to the California State Controller’s office:  LAUSD_2013_Compensation-Analysis.xlsx (10.0 MB).

No reasonable person should fail to sympathize with the challenges facing teachers in Los Angeles public schools. But the solution is not higher pay. The solution is to purge the system of bad teachers, reward excellent teachers, give principals more autonomy, stop promoting and retaining teachers based on seniority, measure teacher effectiveness based on the academic success of their pupils, and, gasp, improve the ratio of teachers to support staff. As it is, during 2013 LAUSD spent $2.6 billion on full-time and part-time teachers, and $2.1 billion on full-time and part-time other staff. Do they really need to spend 45 percent of their payroll outside the classroom? The solution is also to lower the cost of living for everyone, through supporting government policies that encourage competitive development of land and resources.

Finally, this estimate of the value of average total compensation for LAUSD full time teachers is still dramatically understated, because CalSTRS remains wallowed in an underfunded position that is officially recognized at $73.7 billion.

To the extent the leadership of the UTLA and their membership subscribe to “left wing” political sentiments, remember this:

There are currently $4.0 trillion of state/local U.S. government worker pension fund assets overseen by managers who rampage about the entire planet demanding annual yields north of 7.0 percent per year. This is a financial maelstrom of cataclysmic proportions that is corrupting the entire global economy. It is an act of wanton aggression against honest capitalists and private households attempting to save for retirement. Ongoing annual returns of this size require asset bubbles which require risky investments and cheap credit – antithetical to sustainable economic growth.

Remember this as you fight to enhance your compensation and defend your pensions as they are – you have exempted yourself from economic reality and are recklessly gambling with the future of the people you supposedly serve. Through your pension funds, you are benefiting from capitalism in its most aggressive and parasitic form.

Remember all this when you go on strike because you’ve had “eight years of nothing.”

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

San Bernardino Nurses “Blackmail” County Supervisors

Only one week after I was sworn in as the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, we were faced with a strike by 1,200 county nurses, demanding higher pay and work rule changes.

I’m all about protecting patients and ensuring our public employees have fair wages and good working conditions. But there is another group out there that I am determined to protect – the taxpayers who provide the money that funds all government operations. They deserve to be represented at the bargaining table and I will always be there for them.

Most things in life are about striking the right balance between competing interests. An accurate understanding of the facts is essential to finding the best solution to problems. So I researched the situation to find out whether the nurses union claims of being underpaid and overworked were based in fact.

Here’s what I found. The California Nurses Association contended that private hospitals nearby pay their nurses an average of 30 percent more than the county, thereby causing high turnover of experienced nurses, low morale and jeopardizing patient safety.

However, the fact is that the average RN II at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center makes more than the median salary of 21 Inland Empire hospitals surveyed, has over nine years of service, and receives much more generous benefits and retirement packages than those of private hospitals.

The turnover rate at Arrowhead is 5.75 percent, compared with a southern California average turnover rate of 9.5 percent, and the county has received 983 applications for nursing positions just since July 1 of this year.

The truth is that San Bernardino County nurses receive competitive wages, have good working conditions and far better benefits and retirement than their private sector counterparts. The sticking point in the over year long (so far) negotiations is the union’s rejection of the same reasonable terms already accepted by thousands of other county employees.

Restraining the spiraling cost of public employee pay and benefits is essential to maintaining the long term fiscal health of our county. We need look no farther than the city of San Bernardino to see what can happen when those costs get out of hand. My top priority is ensuring the long-term fiscal integrity of county government for the benefit of generations to come.

Bankruptcy is not an option for us. It would be bad for our employees, our patients – indeed, every single person we serve in this county. It would throw a monkey wrench into our economy and send a strong signal to private enterprise to invest somewhere else where the elected leaders can balance their checkbooks and run their government operations in a competent manner.

CNA resorted to the despicable action of abandoning hundreds of poor, mostly minority patients in a blackmail attempt called a “strike.” The Board of Supervisors was forced to spend over $4 million dollars to protect patients from not receiving essential medical care as the result of being deserted by their own nurses. That money was taken away from patients and taxpayers by a callous labor union focused only on lining their pockets.

I will never be blackmailed, and never forget that my first duty is to protect taxpayers and residents of the Fourth District and throughout San Bernardino County. The Board of Supervisors sent a clear message to the union leadership this month. It’s time to bargain in good faith, receive fair treatment from the county just like other county employees and join with the Board of Supervisors in always putting patient care first.

Curt Hagman is a  San Bernardino County Supervisor 

Cal State faculty in salary dispute set to strike at 2 campuses

From LA Times:

A California State University faculty union embroiled in a salary dispute said Monday its members will strike at two campuses next week.

The governing board of the California Faculty Assn. authorized a one-day strike Nov. 17 at Cal State East Bay and Cal State Dominguez Hills after 93% of members voted to approve the walkouts, officials said.

It would be the first strike since the union won the right to collective bargaining in 1983. The association represents 23,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches at 23 Cal State campuses.

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