It’s the Economy, Stupid- Public Sector Unions are not the Cause of State Budget Deficits

Ohio voters will decide “Issue 2” on Tuesday, Nov.8, a referendum on a law which limits collective bargaining for government employee unions. As many as 12 other states (including Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming) have already enacted anti-union legislation, which proponents justified with claims that public sector unions are behind the state budget deficits.

Their central argument does not withstand scrutiny. A report I co-authored with two of my colleagues from UC Berkeley, entitled “The Wrong Target: Public Sector Unions and State Budget Deficits,” analyzes the relationship between public sector workers, their unions, and state budget deficits. We found the that budget shortfalls in states across the United States were caused by the housing bubble burst and the continuing effects of the great recession, and not public sector workers or their unions.

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Tricking Taxpayers and Truck Drivers: Goldman Sachs Brings Wall Street to the Waterfront

by Patricia Castallanos

What’s fueling the ire behind the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread from Manhattan’s financial district to cities in every state of the country and around the world? For starters, a certain corporation that 99 percent of us bailed out received $23 billion from the government but only paid one percent of its 2008 income in taxes after raking in $2.3 billion in profit.

And a new story by Andrew Leonard, “Employers’ New Ruse: ‘Independent Contracting,” may help expose another master scheme in which Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs’ tax-avoidance maneuvering runs amok, only this time, the  industry they’re manipulating isn’t banking – it’s global shipping transportation and the tens of thousands of port truck drivers that keep our economy moving.

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Social Security—A Pillar of Retirement Income

, PhD

Last week, my friends down the hall at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education released a new book, titled Meeting California’s Retirement Security Challenge, edited by Nari Rhee. The book (available free for download) addresses many issues pertaining to retirement, and my part reports the lay of the land for current retirees in the United States and specifically for California. This figure is from my contribution in the book’s second chapter, and it illustrates current sources of income for retirees in California.

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California on the Edge

Big business and their Republican allies have repeated the laundry list of why California’s economy is struggling so many times that it is practically written in stone—Taxes, Regulations, Public Employees. These are the unholy trinity that supposedly crashed California’s economy and threatens to smother any business growth in the future.

The facts, however, contradict the well-worn talking points of big business. The Council on State Taxation, a business-friendly group led by CEOs of major corporations, found that California has a moderate tax burden, taking less in taxes from business than many other states, including the sweethearts of the right, Texas and Florida.

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Do California’s Unions Support Pension “Reform”? You Bet

Beginning with a special conference committee hearing in Carson City on October 26th, Sacramento is slated to begin a timely and deliberate re-crafting of California's public pension system. Both the governor and the Legislature plan to launch a thorough review of the system — with meaningful hearings and in-depth exploration of fair and workable fixes — which will be a positive step toward ensuring the system's stability and long-term affordability.

The condition of public pensions in California is not a crisis despite the best efforts of pension slashers to portray it as such. Pension costs make up just three percent of the state budget, a percentage that has actually fallen $600 million over the past two years as collective bargaining has increased the share public workers contribute to their pensions and as funds have taken tougher lines on pension spiking.

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The 99% Foreclose on Wall Street West

As part of the Foreclose on Wall Street West action on Wednesday Oct, 12, more than 30 people barricaded the doors of Wells Fargo corporate headquarters in a nonviolent direct action blockade in San Francisco. The blockade was joined by a community march of 1,000 that started at the Occupy SF location that rallied in support.

The blockade follows bank branch sit-ins at Bank of America in Boston and Chase in San Francisco as the latest in a growing popular protest movement to hold big banks and corporations accountable for economic injustice. Calling themselves “the 99%,” the group includes local residents, community organizers, labor unions and people who have personal experience with bank foreclosures and predatory lending.

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Preventing Wood Chipper Deaths

Antonio Barajas, 33, died last year after being thrown against a wood chipper, leaving behind his wife and four-month-old son. A tree trimmer’s climbing rope, which became entangled in branches fed into the wood chipper, snapped tight, sending Barajas into the machine. Barajas was one of nearly 200 grounds maintenance workers who die on the job every year in the United States, many of whom are Latino or Hispanic. About a quarter of those deaths involve contact with wood chippers or other equipment or objects.

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Celebrating Latino Heritage Month

As a Latina working at the AFL-CIO, I take particular interest in the impact Latinos have had on our nation and on our union movement. I am honored to join my colleagues, labor and community leaders today to celebrate the contributions of Latino working families in the United States.

From the start, Latinos have played an integral part in the labor movement. My grandfather did so, while working in the California fields for 35 years and organizing for more equitable wage standards and the right to form a union. He was part of the Brazero Movement, where the United States recruited Mexican workers to pick the California fields and work on the railroad. Today, America is a richer and more vibrant country and our union movement is stronger because of the contributions of Latino working families. Latino Heritage Month offers a time to recognize the stories of the nearly 47 million Latinos living in the United States and to highlight the issues facing our working families.

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New Pro-Worker Laws Will Put California on Path to Stronger Economy

At the close of the 2011 legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a number of bills relating to worker health and safety, good jobs and wage protection that put the state on a path to a stronger economy. No legislative session is perfect — and this was no exception — but it’s clear the state has come a long way under Brown’s leadership to tackling the pressing problems we face. Still, our economic problems demand even bolder solutions moving forward.

Here's a sampling of bills Brown signed — on issues ranging from tackling the underground economy to preserving public libraries to creating jobs — that will immediately give a boost to workers and their families upon going into effect on January 1st.

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