The Public Employee Unions: Going Sizemore One Better

Right From the Start

The Oregon Supreme Court announced that 28,000 Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) beneficiaries must repay $156 Million in overpayments from 2000 to 2004. So, you’re thinking to yourself, has the worm turned? Have Oregon’s politicians, including those on the Oregon Supreme Court, finally decided that enough is enough and are going to rein in Oregon’s corrupt PERS system with its gold plated benefits and its domination by Oregon’s public employee unions?

If you believe that then you are as naïve as those Ivy League twits at the United States State Department regarding Iran and/or the Arab Spring.

Here’s the reality of the situation. Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System is between $14 Billion and $16 Billion underwater. The future unfunded liability to Oregon’s public employees in excess of current investments is so large that it exceeds Oregon’s biennial general fund budget. Worse still is that, at the behest of the public employee unions, the Oregon legislature adopted a provision that requires that payments to the PERS system be made before any other money is spent. (Just for clarification purposes, that law was introduced, passed and signed into law when the Democrats – whose elections are financed primarily by the public employee unions – held super majorities in both Houses and their favorite governor, Ted Kulongoski, was in office.)

For taxpayers this means that before any service is delivered by the State of Oregon, current PERS obligations must be funded. And you thought that maybe some common sense had returned to Oregon’s political class.

But $156 Million is nothing to sneeze at. Okay, it’s only about one percent of the unfunded future liability but it’s $156 Million that PERS didn’t have yesterday. That is if PERS actually collects it and with the Democrats still in firm control of the governor’s office, and the public employee unions still in firm control of the Democrats, that remains questionable.

Even if you view this as a setback for the public employee unions, please understand that it is only temporary and, more importantly, anticipated. (You don’t spend twenty-five years funding a succession of Democratic gubernatorial races, and the resultant appointment of Supreme Court justices without gaining early access to which way the judicial winds are blowing.)

And the public employee unions are ready. Under the guise of their unified political arm – Our Oregon – the unions have taken a page from Bill Sizemore’s political playbook and flooded the initiative process with THIRTEEN separate ballot measures. (Actually, the public employee unions make Sizemore look like a piker based on his best performance of proposing only nine measures.) But, whereas Mr. Sizemore had to go out to the general public to find signatures and funding for his efforts, the public employee unions with their nearly $130 Million biennial warchest – collected for them by the State of Oregon and its political subdivisions – have more union members than signatures required to qualify for the ballot. Mr. Sizemore would take six to nine months to collect signatures while the public employee unions can do it in less than a week as the union stewards walk through the government offices importuning their members at work. What a system!!

If this wasn’t so deadly serious it would be almost amusing about how stacked the deck is. Even more amusing is the name chosen by the public employee unions for their unified political efforts – Our Oregon. Now you might think that was chosen to suggest that they were protecting Oregon from external attacks but nothing could be further from the truth. Our Oregon means “their Oregon” – the public employees unions own it – at least they own state government. They own it, they paid for it, and by God they are going to make sure that it does exactly what they want for the foreseeable future.

When Mr. Sizemore overwhelmed the initiative process with nine measures, his thoughts were two-fold: one, it will cost the public employee unions so much to fight all nine measures that they won’t be able to fight effectively in legislative and statewide elections; and, two, with so many measures on the ballot one or more might slip through. While Mr. Sizemore correctly identified the public employee unions as the major opposing political force, it is doubtful that he, like everyone else, understood the depth of the resources available to the public employee unions.

In addition to the $130 Million available to Oregon’s public employee unions from mandatory member dues each biennium, the unions have all of the vast resources of their sister public employee unions on a state and federal level. The national public employee unions move money to and between states to support and oppose political issues. Mr. Sizemore could have offered 90 measures and still would not have exhausted the resources available to the public employee unions.

And the most pernicious among the thirteen Our Oregon initiatives are Measures 42 and 43 which embed in the Oregon Constitution the right of public employee unions to utilize the payroll checkoff system for their political activities. While the unions widely criticized Mr. Sizemore for trying to burden the Oregon constitution with matters better left to the legislature, those same unions apparently think its just fine to embed their issues in the Constitution.

Despite all of the warts, flaws and questionable activities of Mr. Sizemore, Oregon’s public employees unions and their unified political arm, Our Oregon, with their enormous financial and manpower advantage, make Mr. Sizemore look like an unsullied virgin.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in 2012 Election, PERS, Public Employee Unions | 38 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    Will the public employee initiatives pass? Yes.

    Will there be any actual enforcement of collection of over payments should the initiatives fail? Not on your life.

    We are talking about trying to collect from people who are retired. As public employees that means they are at least 45. Court delays and lax enforcement will tie up any repayment until beyond life expectancy. 

    This has to be the stupidest court battle I have ever seen. Extracting money from public employees is a fools errand. I would not expect to see one cent of the money repaid.

    You can stem the flow of money to thieves far more easily by building a better vault at the outset than you can from chasing down robbers long after they have fled.

    • Ronglynn

      Rupert, you are a pretty smart guy as I have seen your posts in the past. However, you do not know what you are talking about. I am a retired Public Employee and PERS has already extracted $6,000 from me previously over this issue. Now, they seek to extract another $10,000. I fully expect that I will have to pay it. I believe the money is being stolen from me. I acted honorably as did about 25,000 other people and I was told that would be paid a certain amount of money when I retired in 2003.
      People keep acting like the individual PERS retirees are the villian because they get a good pension for their years of service. Hey, we were not the dopes that set the system up to fail. Now, we have to pay.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        I have heard of public employees having to pay back due to this sort of thing some years ago. However I am skeptical of this kind of thing because of all the hijinks in the past, where it appears public employees pay but really don’t. An example would be the taxing of federal employees pensions, while claiming to tax pre 1994 (I think that’s the year) PERS pensions, and then giving them a rebate for taxes paid.

        Therefore I am very suspicious. This is made all the more so by a comment you make here:

        ” Hey, we were not the dopes that set the system up to fail.”

        To claim that public employees had no part in setting up the system is completely disingenuous. Public employees had a part in it every step of the way, through union demands and politicians who saw acceding to those demands as a good way to get votes.

        Please, to act like public employees have no responsibility is utterly absurd.

        “Now, we have to pay”

        Well, welcome to the party!

        Actually public employees in Oregon have had to pay far less than in most other states. From low or non existent contributions to health care plans, retirement plans, the list goes on and on. Public employees got a damn good deal from the taxpayers of Oregon and a lot better than public employees in other states as well.

        I don’t have anything against public employees as individuals. I know plenty of them. What I do object to is the way this entire state seems to be beholden to them as evidenced by the fact that PERS is the states highest funding priority, and that recouping overpayments is considered at all controversial.

  • guest
  • 3H

    public employee unions can do it in less than a week as the union stewards walk through the government offices importuning their members at work.

    LOL.. of course you have evidence of this actually happening?  Or is this just another example of your hatred of working people getting in the way of the facts?  I mean, you record for presenting actual facts is pretty spotty.  You should spend more time fact-checking yourself.  It’ll make you look a little less shrill.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Public employee’s are “working people”? Last time I checked they made substantially more than the average Oregonian.

      And yet whenever this pay disparity is brought up, all of a sudden it is defended because of all the supposedly advanced education public employees have. They go from “working people” to an elite pay class depending on the argument their defenders are trying to advance.

      “Working people” one day become the educated elite, whose salary one should dare not question, the next.

      Face it, when you have a crowd that makes more than those who pay their salary, “working people” is somewhat laughable.

      • None

        Ah, so according to Rupert, the more you make, the less you work? So, a CEO making tens of millions of dollars, and MANY, MANY TIMES what the average person makes, must not do any work at all.

        • JoelinPDX

          Hey Numbnutts, you love to twist people’s words don’t you? Or just misquote them and hope no one will notice? Well, in Oregon you’re about 50.1 percent right because the mindless Democrats will never catch on to you.

          Fortunately, when you put your blather on sites like OC there are educated Republicans around to call you out on it. Try paying attention to what people are writing and quoting them correctly…either that or go write on Blue Oregon where no one will ever catch on to your lies.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Yeah, I will never understand the liberal strategy of trying to contort an argument you cant win into one you think you can win. Its about the most losing strategy there is as it takes but a moment to point out how the person couldn’t even read a post correctly.

            My favourite attempted save on this one is when the attempt is subsequently made to claim they couldn’t understand what someone was saying.

            It then goes on from there to look like a hooked fish on the line flapping away on the dock as the person tries to obfuscate their attempt at this lame strategy. Usually dopey insults follow.

          • 3H

            But you should.  It’s no different than the conservative strategy (and I believe this includes you) of contorting an argument they can’t win.  

            I think what you can’t understand, is why you should be held to the same standard as everyone else.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >Ah, so according to Rupert, the more you make, the less you work?

          Actually according to you. I never said any such thing. What I said is that people who make more on average than those paying their salary would under no circumstances fall under the traditional meaning of the term “working people”.

          Re-read and take a logic class.

          • 3H

            So, if a plumber comes to my house, and makes more than I do, then I would be justified in not considering him a working person?   It’s based entirely upon relative wages rates of who your comparing yourself to?

            Or is this a standard that only applies to public employees?   Are you being selective in who gets compared to whom?  

            Wages are the only criteria?  And really, under “no” circumstances?

            The worst part is that I don’t think you even really believe this.  You painted yourself into a corner, and now you’re making stuff up to pretend that you didn’t.

            By the way, you should consider taking a class in logic yourself.  Glass houses, rocks, and all that.

      • 3H

        Yes, Rupert, they are working people.  I know this is shocking to you.  And, yes, there are paid better than some, but they are still, by and large, working people (I’m talking about your average employee, not the upper management).  Who has considered them an “elite pay class”?   They show up for work, they work their 40 hours a week, and then they go home to their families.  Just like everyone else.  

        If they are not working people, what are they?  Concrete examples please. And, from the general ranks of public employees, not University Presidents, Department Heads, etc…   

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >Yes, Rupert, they are working people.  I know this is shocking to you.

          No, whats shocking to me is that someone would use the term “working people” to describe a group that is neither blue collar nor in the lower half of wage earners. Its a complete misuse of the term.

          >Who has considered them an “elite pay class”?

          Basically everyone who has ever defended the fact that public employees on average make more than the general populace.

          You will take this stance as well the next time the subject comes up by the way.

          >They show up for work, they work their 40 hours a week, and then they go home to their families.  Just like everyone else. 

          So essentially anyone who works full time and has a family is to be considered “working people”?

          Sorry, you are trying to bend the use of the term to the point where it is basically meaningless.

          >If they are not working people, what are they?

          I don’t know, liberals are the ones who use the term “working people” to generally describe blue collar or lower income people. I’m just schooling you on the complete misuse of the term by you.

          >Concrete examples please.

          Examples of what?

          Oh good God, are you telling me you completely unaware public employees on average make more than private sector ones?

          Please, for the love of God don’t tell me you were yammering on about “working people” when you had no concept of the pay disparity between public and private sector employees.

          • 3H

            What you should do is teach a class on hyperbole.  You are the master!

            I don’t consider wages, in and of themselves, to be an indicator of whether or not someone is a working person.  That would be you.  

            Now, un-bunch the undies because, if you had actually paid attention to what I had written you would have seen this: “And, yes, there are paid better than some…”    But, I understand your inability to allow a chance for faux outrage to pass.

            I don’t think that Liberals reserve the term to only blue collar or low-wage earners.  I certainly don’t. Wages do play a role, but it’s also dependent upon work performed and duties.   I definitely consider secretaries and clerical workers to be working people even if they make more than minimum wage and aren’t performing traditionally blue collar work.

            The only person I’ve ever seen refer to public employee wages as being an “elite wage class” is you.  There might be a few other conservatives with no sense of proportion as well, but please point me in the direction of anyone else using that phrase when talking about your average public employee (not the ones at the top).  Bonus points if they are actually Liberal.  

            By the way, how much do you think the average Oregon Employee gets paid?  And this is, of course, ignoring that we should be comparing job to job, not simply lumping whole populations together.   

            Do you have actual data to show how much more public sector employees make than private sector employees?  Or are you guessing?  In your mind, does it even matter if the difference isn’t that significant?  If, on average, public employees make $5 per year more than average private sector employees that removes them from being categorized as working people?

            The use of people going home to their families was simply meant to illustrate that they are no different than anyone else.  Despite what some Conservatives on this blog may believe.  Being a public employee does not make someone qualitatively different than some one who works in the private sector at a similar job.  They are not any more likely to be lazy, or industrious.  Those qualities, in my opinion, are randomly distributed through all working populations.   However, I keep forgetting how literal minded you can be, and I will be more careful in the future.

            Hint: if you don’t like the term “working people” feel free to ask me what my definition is.. or complain about the phrase itself.   

            If by schooling you mean spouting ignorance than consider me schooled.

      • Ronglynn

        Come on, you are better than that. You should know better than to judge people as a group.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          I’m not sure how pointing out someone is misusing a term is judging people as a group, but thanks for the input. God knows what it relates to but okie dokie!

    • JoelinPDX

      What Huss missed was the union reps walking through the work sites and importuning the workers who were being propped up by their shovels while they slept. Of course, sleeping while standing is so remarkable that these guys should be paid a prince’s wage for the effort…oh yeah, they are.

      • 3H

        You just make stuff up, and then pretend that it’s true.  You have an amazing imagination and a scary aversion to facts.

        • JoelinPDX

          Make up what stuff? Certainly you’re not alleging that government “workers” actually work.

          • 3H

            Indeed I am.  I’m more than alleging – I’m asserting that they work as hard as anyone in the private sector.  I know this doesn’t fit your’s, or Rupert’s, assumption that public employees don’t work for their paycheck.

          • Ronglynn

            Once again, you are totally ignorant!

      • Ronglynn

        Listen, I am a retired public employee. You are so full of baloney! You have absolutely no idea of what the thousands of Public Employees do! Why are you so bitter? Did you get turned down to work for the government because you lack the ability to think. Oh, and by the way, I am a conservative Republican.

    • Ronglynn

      You are correct. I was a Public Employee Union Steward over my office. We could not do Union Business on the taxpayers dime. Why would we? We could have a meeting right after work at a local watering hole. People need to stop bashing people who happen to work for the government. The public has to be able to contact someone when they needed help with something. I fielded many thousands of telephone calls from citizens who needed help or information on some issue. I did my best to help them and give the taxpayers their money’s worth. Because of my job, many times I had to get out of my bed in the middle of the night to respond to emergency issues so my fellow citizens could rest easy so they could get up the next morning to do their work. I have no regrets for what I did for a job and I earned my pension.

  • Bob Clark

    When unions have a sick host, such as the Oregon economy and state government, they most generally just squeeze the host for more of its blood; making the host even weaker; and ultimately, the host may go down taking the leaching unions with them.

    The only way out is a concerted effort to inform the public of the risk of severe cutbacks in social services, education and other state services if the ever expanding blood thirst of public employee unions is not resisted.  This seem to work in New Jersey and Wisconsin.

    • JoelinPDX

      Face it…Democrats are the worst kind of parasites. They infect their hosts and kill them even though they know that in the end the death of their host will mean their death as well. In Oregon we have the joke that is PERS…nationally it’s called Obozocare.

      • Ronglynn

        Listen. When I was working, it was estimated that 40% of the Public Employees were Republican. The Democrats controlled the Unions. Do not condemn all Public Employee because of what Union Leaders do. For goodness sake, use your brain.

      • Ronglynn

        Will you use your brain or are you unable to? I am a conservative Republican and I do not demonize all people who happen to be Democrats. There are some Democrats who are quite nice people. I know because I had to work with them for 26 years. I do not happen to agree with them and I will do everything I can to defeat their agenda. Never the less, they are just people and also our fellow citizens. Sometimes, they even screw up and do something right.

  • Unionboss

    Most of the retirees that owe the money back will pay as they are honorable people who worked hard all their lives for Oregon and its citizens.

    • Ronglynn

      Right On!

  • bill sizemore

    Interesting comments, but it does not appear that many commenters caught the gist of the actual column.  The comments are primarily about whether public employees earn their pay.  It should go without saying that some do and some don’t.  In my opinion, many don’t.  But that is not what the column was about.
    The public employee unions are preparing a full frontal attack on this state and are using the initiative process to do the very things they accused me of doing, i.e. using the process to hurt their political foes.
    I take personal offense at Huss’s attacks on me, although they were merely an aside or a freeby tossed into the column because that’s what Huss does.  Huss had the chance to whack on someone who actually stepped into the arena and do something, which is a favorite pasttime of armchair quarterbacks, and so he did.
    Never mind that Huss is perhaps the primary reason why the unions continue to have the political clout they do in this state.  Huss is the one who kept the Round Table donors from contributing to the last union measure, which lost by four-tenths of one percent on a shuestring budget, and would have passed with a little help from the people who pay Huss’s salary had he not told them the measure had no chance of passing with my name on it.
    You don’t see the unions spending millions of dollars attacking Huss or Greg Clapper or any of the other “certified smart people” ostensibly on Oregon’s conservative side of the political spectrum.  Unions attack the people who hurt them, i.e. do things like make them defend their illicit use of public resources to collect their political funds from unwilling government workers and other things like reducing taxes in this state by more than $12 billion, something I had the honor of doing.
    I could write a much better response to what the unions are poised to do, but Watchdog does not allow me to write anything other than comments on other people’s columns, and even this comment may be deleted before many read it.


    • Ronglynn

      Thanks for your efforts. You saved Oregon property owners hundreds of millions of dollars due to your work on Property Tax limitation. Also, it saved the homes for many elderly people who were being taxed out of their homes. Most people have forgot this. The liberals made you the most villified person in Oregon history as they did everything to destroy you. Now, the current action by the Public Employees Union leaders show that they are just a bunch of damn hypocrites! Huss is big talk and no action.  

    • Lulz

      God you’re a whiner… and narcissistic to boot.  In my humble opinion of course.

      • bill sizemore

        Whoever you are, Lulz, you made me laugh out loud.  If you had gone through one-tenth of what I have gone through fighting the public unions that are destroying this state, you likely would whine a lot louder than I ever have.  I rarely complain about what the unions and liberal judges do to me, though I have plenty of grounds.  It’s the attacks by so-called conservatives like Huss, who talk, talk, talk, but never do that call for a response.

        BTW, what’s your real name, anyway? 

        • Lulz

          Not as much as I laughed when I saw your response.  Every time I see you on the TV or quoted in a newspaper article.. or even here, you are constantly whining about how you’ve been treated.  You complain all the time.  Saying “I rarely complain” is either a lack of awareness or a lie.  

          You may call me Mr. Lulz.

          • guest

            “Next to power without honor, the most dangerous thing in the world is power without humor.”- Eric Sevareid

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