Letter to the Editor: Unions offer employees a voice at the table (counter-opinion)

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OPINION — Once again, I find myself reading yet another myopic opinion piece vilifying unions while Mr. Seirer (sic), and so many before him, paint with a wide brush in order to portray the fiscal problems of each state to be a result of union strong-arming.


Read Sierer’s column here: Right On: Public employee unions are enemies of the state


As with any business, the only way to attract and retain the best and brightest is through better wages and benefits. The only way for public employees, in particular, to achieve that is to become politically active in order to gain a voice at the table, because unions are not the only group fighting for a voice at the table.

Corporations bought their place at the table a long time ago, yet I doubt that they consulted their employees or stockholders when it came to donating profits to certain politicians or creating their own, often obscure, political action committees.

Additionally, corporations are not required to abide by the same strict political spending disclosure and spending restriction laws that unions must follow, so Mr. Seirer (sic) may want to ease up on the union bashing.

In California for example, the state has reduced benefit percentages while raising the age of retirement eligibility for new hires, and employees are contributing much more towards their retirement fund in order to right the ship.

As a matter of fact, 6 percent of my salary was taken to shore up Social Security, a benefit I will not be eligible for due to my public pension. While so much is being done to improve the long term health of the retirement system, the politicians continue their wasteful spending habits.

I am a former political action committee member for a Southern California employee association. After years of watching our city council spend but not save, it took the threat of a union backed a rainy day fund ordinance to get the council to finally adopt their own. Why? because union members understand that they are stakeholders in their future and that politicians are not always looking out for their best interest.

Defined pension benefits are not free to the employees and were often negotiated in lieu of wage increases. Many politicians have been talking about a pushing public employees to 401K style benefits, but the truth of the matter is, the only people who get rich with these plans are the fund managers.

Defined benefits are the most equitable way to ensure that a union member can retire with dignity and their pensions continue to support local economies. While I understand that public pensions may be a wide brush topic, unions are but a few bristles of that brush.

Written by LEONARD CORREA, Ivins.

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

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4 Comments

  • tcrider September 16, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I disagree with the part of article listed below,
    (Defined pension benefits are not free to the employees and were often negotiated in lieu of wage increases. Many politicians have been talking about a pushing public employees to 401K style benefits, but the truth of the matter is, the only people who get rich with these plans are the fund managers.)

    In reality many companies with union negotiating can use the matching 401k contributions as a bargaining chip.
    granted there are many situations where some fund managers ripped off union funds and the unions bargaining units.
    In the end the majority of your younger retirees that you will see around the greater Saint George are were either, Union
    employees or private business owners.
    You will really notice a difference in the number of younger retirees, when you compare stats from the East and West coasts, because
    unions are much more prevalent on the East coast.

  • DRT September 16, 2017 at 10:08 am

    While I agree with Mr. Correa’s letter, for the most part, there is one glaring error in it. He stated, “As a matter of fact, 6% of my salary was taken to shore up Social Security, a benefit I will not be eligible for due to my public pension.”
    Unless the SS Administration has changed the rules, (again,) this statement is only partially correct. As an example, I retired from law enforcement in California. For much of my career, my salary was exempt from paying Social Security taxes, as I was paying in to the Public Employees Retirement Pension.
    So for that reason, (or excuse,) my SS benefits have been greatly reduced. Even though a part of my LE career, I paid into that system, and ALL of the rest of my working life, I paid into SS.
    So, the Social Security Administration figures my benefit based on the money I did pay into their system, then they take away almost half of that benefit as a penalty for the years I was exempt from paying SS tax. But I do still receive a very small SS check every month.
    Some of the “talking heads” on talk radio, try to lump Social Security into the bunch of “entitlements” that the government pays out. This is blatent misinformation! Each and every one of us that pays or has ever paid Social Security taxes has and is financing Social Security. In other words, that is OUR MONEY! And it’s our money that we have absolutely no say about! We don’t have a choice as to whether or not we pay into it. We don’t have a choice as to how our money is used.
    It is like any other tax, in that our money goes into the belly of the government, to disappear into the excrement of the government. With one exception! That exception is that by law, the government is supposed to hold that money in trust, to be invested to earn more money, so that funds are available to be paid BACK to us, upon our return. Instead, Congress has seen fit to embezzle, ( there’s no other word that fits,) that money to use as they see fit.
    “WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT, AND WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU!” Except that needs to be changed to “We are the government, and we are here to help ourselves to your money.”
    Sheesh, this post really did get off track. I apologise for that, but it is something that every one of us needs to keep in mind, particularly at election time.

    • Mike P. September 17, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      DRT, Dude, you nailed it.

  • Howard Sierer September 17, 2017 at 5:47 am

    Mr. Correa sent me a copy of this letter to editor several days ago. I responded then with the following reply:

    “Thanks for your interest in my column and your thoughtful letter to the editor.

    “The measures you describe that California is taking now are “closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.” That is, years after excessive public pensions were promised to public employees. According to the LA Times, the state and its local governments have $366 billion in unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities. Read about it here:

    http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pension-unfunded/

    “From what you say, the two of us could commiserate together about wasteful public spending. But that spending was enabled in part by vastly over-promising public employees retirement benefits in the past that only now are coming home to roost.

    “Law enforcement public unions are by far the most likely to support Republicans: good for them. I only wish all Republicans were as fiscally responsible as you and your cohorts seemed to be.

    “Regards, Howard Sierer

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