Taking it to the Ballot
Earlier today Amy highlighted the latest New York Times account of the war on public workers and referenced her Nation piece on the issue. As she points out, the conservative attack on public sector pay and benefits serves more to delegitimize public goods than to save taxpayer money. And conservatives in cities in California have been using that line of attack, paired with the power if ballot initiatives, to chip away at the benefits of public workers.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi—who himself received labor backing—has become a crusader against city workers by championing an initiative that would force police, firefighters, and other city workers to pay 10 percent of their wages toward their pensions and 50 percent of their families’ health coverage. And in San Diego, a Council member with the backing of a business group has petitioned for a ballot initiative that would allow the city to bypass union talks to privatize city services.
But the article on the San Francisco initiative highlights the real issue that “skyrocketing” pension costs have more to do with a recession brought on by Wall Street than the contributions of police and firefighters:
During boom years, San Francisco's retirement system has been flush and a high return on investments could largely cover the pension liability without much help from the city or its workers.
But in this down economy, the investment returns have not been enough.