California shields public sector unions from Supreme Court ruling

California has found itself in a legal standoff against the federal government and Trump administration over a variety of issues, but one could affect union workers who want to decline union membership.

“California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that aims to give public employee unions legal cover from potentially expensive lawsuits demanding that they repay certain fees to workers that the Supreme Court in June determined were unconstitutional,” reports The Fresno Bee.

“The law, which takes effect immediately, says unions and public agencies cannot be held liable for fees that unions collected before the Supreme Court ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME on June 27 of this year.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision ended a 41-year precedent that allowed public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees from workers who declined to join a labor organization but were still represented, according to the newspaper.

Pensions Next Target For Cutbacks?

Courthouse workers and other public employees should take notice of a Detroit judge’s ruling that public employee pensions are just contracts, not really guarantees at all. If that ruling is upheld on appeal, it means that funds like the California Public Employee Pension System are not as protected as many thought. In effect, the judge is saying that federal laws trump state assurances.
The Press-Democrat newspaper in Sonoma County is among those offering analysis of the decision, writing in an editorial that “… to cover soaring retirement costs, which in some places are approaching 50 cents on every payroll dollar, cities and counties in California and across the country have laid off workers and slashed spending on parks, street maintenance and other public services. A handful have filed under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code; others are weighing the possibility”
You already see pensions at issue in the high-profile San Bernardino bankruptcy debate. You also hear whispers that, should public employee pensions be questioned, the issue could be real leverage in the next round of budget negotiations. Read the Press-Democrat editorial, which outlines the issue pretty well, here.

Fresno: Union Blasts Court-Linked Supervisor Pay Hike

In Fresno County, the same judicial pay increase that raised eyebrows statewide is giving county supervisors more money. That pay hike comes after the supes took a hard line on rank-and-file salaries, and it happens because the county leaders years ago tied their salaries to judicial pay.
Last week, the Judicial Council of California and the state Judges Association sent out a memo to announce a 1.4% judicial pay increase. That same memo noted that a 4.5 percent hike is expected in the next year or so.
The Fresno supervisor raise brought sharp comment from a labor group, with the Fresno Bee newspaper quoting Alysia Bonner, a county employee and Region 4 vice president for SEIU Local 521: “It’s just incredible that they’d take another raise before they’d invest in Fresno… they constantly talk about cutting services and tightening belts, but they don’t have any trouble taking more money for doing less. They are part-time workers. The rest of us work for a living.” The union represents more than 4,000 county workers.
Read the Fresno Bee story by John Ellis here.

Marin County Superior Court on ‘losing end’ of budget reallocations

Photo: Marin Independent Journal as part of their report on 10/25/13 "Marin court employees, raiseless for five years, rally for better pay"

Photo: Marin Independent Journal as part of their report on 10/25/13 “Marin court employees, raiseless for five years, rally for better pay”

According to a report by Gary Klien of Marin Independent Journal, dozens of court employees in Marin County, with representatives of their union, SEIU Local 1021, rallied outside the courthouse late last month to campaign for better pay, benefits and dispute resolution after five years of frozen wages.  

Doesn’t look like this will be resolved anytime soon…Court employees are seeking a $4,000 one-time payment, while Marin Superior Court, which is run by the state judicial branch, is offering a one-time payment of $725.  

According to the Marin IJ report, Kim Turner, the court’s chief executive officer, said the entire state judiciary has been underfunded for years and that things are not going to get easier in the next five years. Turner explained that it is because the state has adopted a new allocation process that will send more of the limited resources to courts that are perceived, based on caseload calculations, to be needier.

“Marin is on the losing end of that bargain,” Turner said.  Read or view the story here.



Paper Notes $93 Million Question For Trial Courts

The Desert Dispatch newspaper in San Bernardino County is among few outlets noting that the California Judicial Council will decide THIS WEEK where to allocate up to $93 million of “special funds” to support trial courts. Meeting in San Francisco starting Thursday, that group will evaluate recommendations from yet another committee, the “Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee.”
Citing the “state judiciary,” the Desert Dispatch says “… the two special funds provide primary support to self help centers, technology support and initiatives, the civil litigation program, education of judges and court staff and reimbursement for other court costs.” To some, especially to labor leaders, that seems like money that is not going directly to save courthouse jobs – an issue that links back to the state budget mandate for some budget increases to target jobs and keeping courthouses open.
To read more, check out the story here.