Curry County: Unions, PERS & Impacts
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June 6, 2012 By Joel Summer, Publisher, Curry Reporter…
Commissioner candidate Greg Empson is absolutely correct about one thing. Until the county commissioners, a county executive, their lawyers – whoever – negotiates union contracts with the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters that put county employees on the same playing field as all the rest of us in the private sector, there is nothing – and I mean nothing – the county can do to get its financial affairs in order.
And the same thing holds true for the Oregon Education Association that bargains on behalf of the teachers in the Central Curry School District and just about everywhere else in the state. The dirtiest four-letter word in the state of Oregon in my opinion begins with a ‘p’ and ends in an ‘s’. It’s PERS.
County and school district employees are being laid off in droves throwing their families, our cities and the counties in a disastrous tail spin so that we, the taxpayers, can pay these people’s retirements at such exorbitant amounts that these people will become closer to the 1 percent than any of the rest of us ‘99 percenters’. The numbers keep changing depending on how badly the stock markets are doing. And right now the stock markets are doing very poorly and will continue to do poorly until after a very ugly national election fueled by huge corporate and private money from all over the world thanks to the Citizen United decision. And if Greece goes belly-up followed by Italy and Spain, or there is a terrorist event at the London Olympics, it won’t matter whether Obama or Romney wins.
But for the public employees in our state and the retired public employees in Oregon – who cares? They’re laughing all the way to the bank, because we the taxpayers make up the difference. Last I heard that was about 17 percent of the county and school budgets! Just imagine the number of deputies and school teachers that could be hired with that money. In some of the contracts, we the taxpayers, actually pay for employees’ contributions.
And health insurance? How sweet is that for these public employees? The county and school district have to pay somewhere between the first $1,000 and $1,400 for each employee. And get this! In certain county contracts the employees must ‘purchase’ a policy whether or not they are covered by their spouses’ or domestic partners’ contracts. I say ‘purchase’ in quotes because we, the taxpayers, are the ones who are actually purchasing those contracts.
I am not against collective bargaining, per se. But how about some real bargaining? When will management develop the cajones to stand up to these union bullies and say no more sweet deals?
Finally, and this is almost laughable. Oregonians say nothing can happen until the legislature changes the PERS’ laws. Well that’s not going to happen when every legislator, and every judge, gets his or her PERS’ benefits. That’s about the biggest and obvious conflict of interest imaginable.