Topsy turvy

Oct 28, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to force public employees to pay more toward their pensions and retire later roiled the Capitol, confusing his traditional allies -- the unions -- and delighting his traditional enemies, the Republicans.


From Steve Harmon in the Mercury News: "Republicans and business leaders loved it. The governor's natural allies -- public employee unions -- hated it and could very well kill it."


"It's quite possible for labor to shut the whole thing down," said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "The question is whether they just say no or they're willing to compromise."


"Proposals to require state workers to pay more into their pensions and retire a lot later were just a couple of proposals labor leaders said were non-starters, particularly in light of earlier collective bargaining agreements to increase state workers' pension contributions from 5 percent to as much as 11 percent of their salary."


"Causing the most concern in labor circles is Brown's proposal to require both current and new employees to pay at least half the cost of their pensions."


Here are some details of the proposal, courtesy of the LAT


Meanwhile, the Bee's Dan Walters, no fan of Brown, wonders whether Brown's propposal is really simply a ploy to keep a campaign pledge, knowing that the package will get trashed in the end by the Legislature's Democratic majority.


"Legislators could take cover in the unions' position that "we simply cannot stand for imposing additional retirement rollbacks on millions of workers without bargaining."


"However, the 1999 bill that hugely increased state pensions was rushed through the Legislature without even the veneer of collective bargaining."


"In fact, the state's largest union, the California State Employees Association, declared in a 1999 memorandum that "retirement benefits are not part of the Dills Act (and) CSEA should not be required to bargain for retirement benefits when the money for these benefits is coming from the Public Employees' Retirement Fund and not state coffers."


"Only Brown, who loves political chess, knows for certain whether pension reform is something he's willing to go to the mat to accomplish, or just a sacrificial political pawn."


Reality or fantasy, Brown's proposal faces a skeptical Legislature. From David Siders in the Sacramento Bee.


"Brown's record of legislative accomplishment does not suggest great likelihood of success. Republican lawmakers blocked his bid for a bipartisan budget deal and for passage of a tax and jobs plan this year."


"Opposition to his pension plan is likely to come primarily from fellow Democrats."


"I think the problem will be with his friends and allies," Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said. "We've been willing to do this for a long time."

The Occupy Oakland movement is intensifying its efforts -- and grabbing more attention -- and now is considering a general strike to shut the whole city down.

From Scott Johnson and Angela Woodall in the Oakland Tribune: "Occupy Oakland protesters debated Thursday evening the practical difficulties of organizing a citywide general strike with the aim of shutting down the city of Oakland on Nov. 2. Speakers urged teachers, students, union members and workers of all stripes to participate in whatever way they could, and said the entire world was watching Oakland.

"Oakland is the vanguard and epicenter of the Occupy movement," said Clarence Thomas, a member of the powerful International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union who urged the hundreds of assembled people to support the strike..."


"The call for a strike originated Wednesday evening during a General Assembly which drew at least a thousand people from all walks of life to Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, which protesters had turned into a de-facto camp site before police kicked them out last week. Many people said they felt mobilized to participate after seeing videos and pictures from Tuesday night's violence, when at least 200 riot police from around the Bay Area clashed with protesters, lobbing tear gas, flash-bang grenades and so-called "nonlethal" projectiles to attempt to corral and contain them."

And from our "Cute and Cuddly" file comes a quick look at how the otter half lives.  Enjoy.


"A family of furry otters paws for a rest and float in balmy waters off the coast of California."

"The sleepy sea mammals rest by drifting on their backs with their flippers in the air."

"They let the current carry them towards the shore then they wake up and paddle back out and go back to sleep."

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