Friday, May 7, 2010

Of Bucks and Boards: The MEA extends its tentacles

Witness the power and influence the union can wield during May elections.

The MEA's website (found here) brags about local school election victories -- apparently satisfied the union will reap its rewards during future contract negotiations -- yet ignores the full impact of union interests trumping those of students and taxpayers.

The MEA will often funnel money into elections (as shown here), but they usually do so quietly. More often they attempt to influence behind the scenes, with the union providing "soft" backing during elections.

The claims they make are nothing short of outrageous. Look at how they connect the dots: Electing pro-union candidates equates to a pro-education mood? Electing pro-union candidates equates to support of "quality of life"? Where was the ballot question on "unstable funding" that voters reportedly recognized?

In Warren, they claim to have unseated an incumbent. Check out the vote results here. 78,042 registered voters. 7,443 bothered to show up. That's 9.53%. Rest assured that a good portion of them are MEA members, family of MEA members, etc.

In Durand, the famed epicenter of the "wake-up call... for the working class", had some 800 votes cast. I tried to lookup the vote totals, but I'm not even sure where Durand is located! I found Durand votes in Genesee County (found here), where a whopping 7.90% of the registered voters cast ballots.

These local board members live in anonymity, yet collectively control one-third of your state budget -- some $13 billion dollars -- as well as billions in local property taxes and billions in federal tax grants.

You don't think it's happening in your district? Think again.


Election results: Schools win at the polls

Will Lansing get the message?

May 6, 2010 - Voters statewide sent a strong message at the polls this week, approving taxes to pay for education and public safety, electing union-backed candidates, and unseating scores of school board incumbents.

“It’s about quality of life,” said Jim Ward, a media specialist at Forest Hills Northern High School. “The voters are supportive of activities that they define as quality of life – and that’s public service and public education. This broke the whole ‘cut, cut, cut, don’t talk about taxes’ approach. We need to support essential services.”

Hopefully, legislators will get the message: Enough is enough!

Voters support their schools – and other vital public services – and recognize that unstable funding hurts students and communities.

From St. Joseph to Adrian to Bessemer, voters were in a pro-education mood Tuesday.

In Durand, a school custodian whose job was outsourced to a private company in December, won a contested school board election. Paul Mayers, a former union president who now works for the private company, is one of two union-supported candidates who won in Durand.

“I hope it’s a wake-up call,” Mayers said. “This is a victory for the working class.”

Other election victories included:

  • In Warren, voters unseated incumbents in favor or Sue Jozwik, a job recruiter with MEA support, and Elaine Martin, a retired school secretary.

  • The Petoskey News-Review trumpeted election results – the headline was “Big night for millages in Emmet, Charlevoix” – as voters passed several millage proposals in the area.

  • Holland voters OK’d $73 million in school bonds to pay for better buildings, computers, and athletic facilities.

  • In St. Johns, voters passed a $64.3 million proposal to fund high school improvements, new buses, and technology upgrades. Funding requests were also approved in Stockbridge, Portland, Bath, and Ionia County.

  • In Ironwood, two of the three school board races went to candidates recommended by the MEA affiliates there.

  • St. Joseph voters approved a $38 million bond issue for renovations, additions, and equipment upgrades including replacing aging computers.

Despite these positive results, much work remains to secure adequate funding for public education and other necessary services.

MEA is part of a coalition – A Better Michigan Future – that advocates a four-point priority plan to help Michigan. If you’d like to learn more about the coalition and its work, go to

You are also encouraged to take five minutes to contact your legislators and Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Tell them to support efforts to provide adequate, stable and equitable funding for education!

And, finally, to learn more about MEA’s “Enough is enough” campaign, a strategic action plan, go to

April 27, 2010


Public Sector Unions are the New Fat Cats said...

Fred Barnes: Public-sector employees are the new fat cats
By: Fred Barnes
Sunday Reflections Contributor
May 9, 2010

John Edwards was right. There are two Americas, just not his two (the rich and powerful versus everyone else).

The real divide today is, on one side, the 20 million people who work for state and local governments and the additional 3 million who've retired with fat pensions. On the other, the rest of us, about 280 million Americans. In short, there's a gulf between the bureaucrats and the people.


Public Sector Unions are the New Fat Cats said...

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, puts his fight with teachers and their unions in roughly those terms. He says there are "two classes of citizens in New Jersey: those who enjoy rich public benefits and those who pay for them." The teachers want to keep a pay raise and continue to pay a minimal share of their retiree benefits.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, state and local government salaries are 34 percent higher than those for private-sector jobs. OK, that's partly because government workers tend to have white-collar jobs. Benefits, 70 percent higher for these workers, are the real rub. And benefits for government retirees are the most flagrant.

They've become a national scandal, a fiscal nightmare for states, cities, and towns, and an example of unfairness of the sort liberals routinely complain about but are mostly silent about just now.

Public Sector Unions are the New Fat Cats said...

Let's start with horror stories of pensions run amok.

o In Contra Costa County, Calif., the final salary of one fire chief, 51, was $221,000. He was given an annual, guaranteed pension of $284,000. Another chief, 50, whose final salary was $185,000, got a pension of $241,000. Credit the Contra Costa Times with uncovering this.

o Christie cited two tales in February when he declared a state of fiscal emergency in New Jersey. One retiree, 49, paid "a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments and health benefits." A retired teacher paid $62,000. She'll get "$1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime."

o In New York, a pensioner in the state retirement system received $641,000 in state payments in a single year. He was a triple dipper. He had a pension of $261,000, the highest in the state. He had a post in the state university system in which he made $280,000. And he was paid $100,000 a year as a consultant for the agency from which he'd retired, the teachers retirement system.

o Except for new hires, state workers in New York can retire at 55 with guaranteed benefits to which they contribute only in their first 10 years of work. They pay no state income tax on their pensions, and overtime is counted in computing the size of pensions. "Compared with the average New York worker, state and local government employees receive the gold standard of pensions," the Syracuse Post-Standard said last year.

o Also in New York, the retirement system is riddled with lucrative pensions for retirees who were fired or convicted of crimes related to their state jobs. Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who once ran the state's $154 billion pension fund, was found guilty of defrauding the state. Yet he's got a pension of $104,123.

Public Sector Unions are the New Fat Cats said...

o In California, 9,111 retired government workers have pensions of more than $100,000. One retiree draws an annual pension of $509,664. Among retired teachers, 3,065 receive more than $100,000. One gets $285,460. Pensions for retired state workers and teachers will rise 2 percent this year, though Social Security recipients aren't getting any cost-of-living increase. The increase in California isn't tied to inflation.

o The city of Vallejo, Calif., declared bankruptcy in 2008, largely because the payroll for police and firefighters, and their pensions and overtime, consumed three-fourths of the budget. City employees could retire at 55 with 81 percent of their last year's salary guaranteed as pensions. In bankruptcy negotiations, however, Vallejo officials declined to reduce current pensions.

The lofty pay scales and benefits for government workers -- as compared with those in the private sector -- suggest the idea of "public service" isn't what it used to be. Once, taking a government job meant a sacrifice in pay and benefits. No more.

Most bureaucrats have secure, recession-proof jobs with automatic salary increases, paid leave and lavish benefits, notably in retirement. And they get to retire earlier than private-sector workers.

Christie has asked, Is this fair? The answer is no.

But if you happen to think it is fair, I'd advise you to click on the Web site It's operated by one person in California who daily posts fresh examples of pension abuse across the country.

Lack of fairness isn't the biggest problem with exorbitant pensions. The pension explosion has created a fiscal crisis in many states, cities and towns across the country, California being the worst off. Not only are pensions for government workers a perilously unfunded liability for many states, their soaring cost is causing sharp cuts in other programs.

"Paying for those pension promises is already crowding out funding for higher education, for parks, and for other areas like health care ... and that crowding out is only going to get worse," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said last week in touting a pension reform plan. "In California, we had the Internet bubble, we had the housing bubble, and I see in the very near future a public pension bubble."

He's not exaggerating. State pension funds have gone up 2,000 percent in the past decade. The unfunded pension debt in California is $500 billion, according to a new study by Stanford University's public policy program. It's seven times greater than the state's general obligation bonds, says Schwarzenegger adviser David Crane.

Public Sector Unions are the New Fat Cats said...

A staggering pension shortfall "is not just [in] California," Crane told me. "It's every state." Nationwide, unfunded retirement benefits are $3.2 trillion, according to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. On top of that, he estimates the unfunded debt for the health coverage of state and local government retirees is $1.4 trillion.

At least 17 states have either enacted or looked into cost-cutting pension reforms in the past two years, says Ed Mendel, a pension expert in California. In Illinois and New York, both with large unfunded liabilities, the rules governing pensions have been tweaked, though solely for new government employees.

Only Alaska, Michigan and the District of Columbia have adopted the obvious long-term solution to the pension mess: putting new workers in 401(k) defined-contribution plans rather than defined-benefit plans. The switch would save billions. Even Virginia's new, conservative governor, Bob McDonnell, declined to do this for new state workers, instead requiring them to pony up 5 percent for a traditional pension. (Current Virginia workers pay nothing.) But hope lies in the state with the worst pension situation. Meg Whitman, the likely Republican nominee for governor of California, says she would make the switch for new state hires.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard, from which this is adapted.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Anonymous said...

While the MEA runs ads, buys lots of radio time, steps up lobby efforts, spamms members email, they are throwing their least known members under the bus.

The RCS lunch ladies are the most recent sacrifices/victims. Their Lansing based "leadership" told the local cafeteria union (working lady)leader "no we won't bid against ourselves".

Instead the Lansing based "leadership" offered a concession. One (1) of the twelve (12) paid "sick" days per employee.

Of course the administration dismissed this as not even a token concession.

So as the clock ticked toward the manditory balanced budget, privatization became the best option for the board.

Other unions, members, managers, and their leadership worked together and put forth bids to close the gap with the privateers.

The result. Some big wage and benefit concessions and preserved local jobs.

The MEA failed to truly represent their members and left them alone to be outsourced.

Not one cafeteria worker was ever asked by MEA, "would you accept concessions to keep your job"?

NOT one!

Rochester is not a singularity. This tactic is common state wide.

Enough is enough said...

The Rochester lunch ladies dilemma serves as a great example of why voting union-backed school board candidates is a bad idea.

MEA preaches school worker solidarity by stoking the flames of righteous indignation. This serves a primary purpose - to sign up more dues-paying members to fatten the MEA’s bank accounts, and fund the union bosses own bloated salaries. They also offer helpful community services like telling us who to vote for in our local school board elections.

How many of those “School workers are politician’s punching bags “ radio commercials have you heard over the past few months? Some days it seems like MEA is buying all the radio advertising in Michigan.

This message - the good, selfless, community-oriented "education association" will defend all dues-payers against the heartless , fat-cats in Washington, Lansing and your own backyard who don’t appreciate your hard work - pacifies MEA dues-payers so that they rarely ask much of their union leaders.

This apparently includes expecting those union bosses to take the time to bid on a proposal to save local jobs?

Rochester's union-backed school board apparently didn't break much of a sweat here either. Having rolled the bus over RCS custodians and maintenance workers last year, they've extended the same courtesy to district lunch ladies.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourselves who you're in solidarity with?

A school board that protects teacher longevity bonuses and MEA administrator salaries?

Bill said...


I guess I'm one of those "union stooges." As I'm a teacher in higher ed AND I serve on our local k-12 board AND I was endorsed by the union during the election (but didn't accept any funding from anyone), I guess I'm in the best position to refute your statements.

1) Teachers endorse candidates who will give them a fair hearing. Period. That's all they want. They certainly won't and don't endorse a candidate such as yourself who goes into things with an extreme bias against them. How is that having an open mind, Mike?

2) See #1. Read it until it sinks in.

Here's what has happened since the dastardly union in Gladstone has helped endorse the puppet Bill: the board relationship with the community has improved dramatically; there is constructive dialog going on with the Teamsters union to save money and jobs; the budget is in the black.

Do I need to go on? But you and the haters keep spinning your cartoonish idiocy of what "really" is going on!

Bill said...

As for retirement/MPSERS: Mike knows as do any board member that the current law doesn't save districts one red cent of money--and in fact will cost them. I'm not in MPSERS (as we have the choice in higher ed to do a 401k--which I did), so I don't have a horse in that race. I'm not opposed to a 401k system--but you all have to realize what a massive injection of cash it will take to effectively switch over to such a system.

Bill said...

And I've got to believe there's a very special place in a very warm room in the afterlife for those attempting to spin the class-warfare bile spin. Lol...yeah, the middle-class worker bees are obviously the elite problem. How sad that the "elite enemy" is painted as the educators of your children.

And yet the multi-billionaire CEOs are the real heroes in this f-d up version of reality.


Is this the best the Right has got today? Seriously?