» Steve Eide

The public-private union gap: does it weaken or strengthen public sector unions?

The private sector makes up 80% of all American employment. 40.7% of the public sector workforce is covered by union representation, in contrast to only 7.6% of the private sector. Thus, to the extent that union-represented public employees enjoy compensation packages and working conditions unavailable to most of the general public, public employee unions will become less sympathetic. Recent results in Wisconsin, San Diego, and San Jose confirm this lack of sympathy.

Project labor agreements on the rise in Massachusetts

Unionwatch.org reports that the Sacramento and San Diego school boards have just voted to place bond measures on the November ballot, totaling $346 million and $2.8 billion, respectively.  Both districts require project labor agreements on all projects above $1 million. Thus, in addition to approving the funds, voters will also have to decide about “the wisdom of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.”

Sergeant Rembrandt

There’s nothing quite like a high-profile contract dispute to showcase the bizarre inefficiencies that prevail in much of the unionized public sector. 
Against union opposition, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is trying to reform his city’s police department through a program that he calls “Civilianization.” This would mean giving city government the right to “use civilians in positions currently held by police officers (i.e. including payroll, mechanic, and janitorial functions).”

Does Medicare reform threaten states’ fiscal stability?

One major theme of the State Budget Crisis Task Force Report is how attempts to stabilize federal finances may increase fiscal instability at the state level. Examples include cuts to K-12 and various grant programs (who knew that 47% of Mississippi’s 2009 revenues came from the federal government?), and the elimination of the muni bond tax exemption. But the one cut mentioned in the report that could have the most direct impact on the problems discussed in this forum is raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. 

The high costs of pay-as-you-go

Buried in the
released yesterday by the State Budget Crisis Task Force is a terrific
chart prepared by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The
chart neatly explains why governments should pre-fund retiree health care
benefits and also why they don’t.

Why we need politicians now more than ever

These are troubling times for the supporters of council-manager government, among whom I count myself. The Rogue’s Gallery of recently distressed, bankrupt and/or scandal-plagued cities seems to include just as many council-manager cities as strong mayor cities.


Vallejo, Bell, Stockton and San Bernadino are all council-manager cities. (Note the remark about “terrible governance” in this Reuters blog post about San Bernardino. Ouch!) San Diego was a council-manager city during its “Enron-by-the-sea” moment in the earlier part of the last decade. In recent years, city managers have been implicated in some egregious cases of pension-spiking, such as in Vernon and Elk Grove, CA (via Steve Greenhut’s Plunder!).