Socialists unfriend Matt Gonzalez

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Former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez has joined his old friend Jeff Adachi in supporting a pension-reform measure that has organized labor up in arms. He wants to debate the labor council director, Tim Paulson. He says Adachi's measure is necessary to protect the city's fiscal future -- but it's not an approach that the left/progressive wing of the city, where Gonzalez has his political roots, is accepting.

In fact, I learned today that the International Socialist Organization has disinvited Gonzalez from the July 1-4 conference where he was scheduled to speak. Dude, that's harsh.

From the ISO:

Today the International Socialist Organization, as part of the organizing team of the West Coast Socialism 2010 Conference, decided to rescind our invitation to Matt Gonzalez to speak.  After marching with members of Local 2 and other unions at Pride yesterday, ISO members were surprised to learn that he is supporting Jeff Adachi's pension reform initiative in San Francisco.  This was confirmed today by a press release from Matt in the SF Examiner.

The ISO strongly opposes Adachi's measure and supports the position laid out in the SF Bay Guardian by Larry Bradshaw and Roxanne Sanchez.  During these times of severe attacks on workers and union members (and especially public sector unions), we can't see any progressive basis upon which to support this measure.  While organizing this conference, we have done our best to build solidarity between union and non-union workers, students and community members from many different backgrounds.  We went so far as to move the conference location from San Francisco to Oakland in order to respect Local 2's hotel boycott and potential job actions. Under these circumstances, we feel it sends the wrong message to have a prominent supporter of the Adachi initiative speaking at the conference.

We strongly encourage Matt to reconsider his position. 

Okay, I imagine Gonzalez will survive this particular insult, and the ISO won't singlehandedly destroy his political future. (Although Matt was pals with these folks; he and the ISO's Todd Chretien were sort of buds back in the day.) But it does speak to an important point here:

Progressives who sign on with Adachi are helping drive a wedge between labor and the progressive movement. I'm certainly not one to say that we have to sign on to every misguided thing the SF Labor Council does (the Lennar deal, for example). Labor has in the past been bad on a lot of issues, particularly development issues, and until the past ten years or so was bad on public power. And sometimes, you take a principled stand, and even if your allies hate you and never friend you again on Facebook, you stick to it. I'm sure that's what Matt thinks he's doing.

But this thing just stirs up the anti-government, anti-public-employee furor that's going to become a big problem in the next year or two. And it's not in any way reflective of the sort of big-picture thinking that the left ought to be involved in.   

Comments

and he wants to be on it before it departs.

He's cunning that Matt Gonzalez, although not really that relevant ((other than in the office of the SFBG) to the future of politics in San Francisco.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

What Adachi (and now Gonzalez) are doing shows real backbone. The pension system is eating the City alive and our Mayor and Board of Supervisors won't advance any substantive measure to solve the problem. Adachi and Gonzalez recognize that pension costs are sucking money away from every other service. Anyone who cares about the future of the City should sign.

Posted by Patrick on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

As an old lefty of many decades I think Todd Chretien missed an opportunity to reach out. Why form a circular firing squad with purge mentality? Matt Gonzalez was not a keynoter; he wasn't representing a point of view on that policy at the conference. He is there to honor Peter Camejo a great lefty and a great friend of Matts. I have seen them working together on numerous occassions, and the creative juices between the two of them - Wow!. I am sure that Peter would not agree with this decision; it even kind of insults Peter in a way..

Instead of "disinviting" Gonzalez why not in the introduction, wouldn't Todd say something to the effect that acknowledges how close they were politically and personally. But before I get to that introduction I want to tell the audience that it pains me or whatever that Matt Gonzalez is supporting Jeff Adachi in the Pension Plan Reform initiative. I think it is divisive and hurts whatever. He could have in a very few words made it clear that he didn't agree with Gonzalez's position.

Chretien is an articulate orator who could have easily turned this into an acknowledgement of a great cross-generational friendship and with a brief criticism of Gonzalez's position on the issue make his discomfort clear. Then bring the focus back to the purpose of the panel.. However, that said, we are here to honor Peter and that is what this panel is going to talk about. etc. etc.

It was an opportunity for Chretien to show maturity and leadership and a statesmanship which could have taken him to a new organizing level. I am disappointed in his decision. Todd Chretien is talented, and Matt obviously recognized that natural ability because he supported him politically in numerous ways.

I think Matt's presence on the panel, the anecdotes he could have told etc would have been informative and inspiring. Because what the two men shared in common that noone could ever deny, agree or disagree with their policy positions is that they were very inspiring in their own complementary ways, and we are better off for their friendship.

Don't forget Peter asked Matt to write the introduction to his memoir. One of the reasons he did that is because he recognized the groundbreaking nature of the work Gonzalez did in getting the highest minimum wage in the country for the lowest paid workers, legiislation which included treating tips the way the unions wanted - something which many thought couldn't be done including some of those very same unions.

Posted by Jim Dorenkott on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

If this panel discussion weren't put on by a Socialist organization, one that rejects reformism no less, and weren't part of a larger event focused on "revolutionary politics, debate and entertainment", I think your analysis would be acceptable. But as it is such, the ISO only has dis-invitation as an option. And I highly doubt that Todd Chretien was the only person to make a call on this, since the ISO is nearly fanatical about being democratic. I suspect that Todd is probably rather hurt at what could be considered a betrayal. While Matt's contributions to labor in the past are certainly commendable, his present course is leading him away from being a friend of labor.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

Tim, you seem to be forgetting that the SF Labor Council allowed -one- trade union, PG&E's bought-and-paid-for Local 6, to block the Council from supporting Prop H in 2008, a measure which would have mandated 100% clean energy and a City study for public power.

The rank and file members of all of these unions need to demand of their leaders that the Council reverse its position on both Lennar, and its constant deference to retaining 'unity' with joke unions like Local 6; the latter whose most recent escapade has been screwing local Laborers of of jobs erecting solar panels so they can monopolize those jobs for themselves. Local 6 is acting a lot like its 'parent company'...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

While I agree with you on Prop H, you should get the facts right. The PG&E "bought and paid for union" is IBEW Local 1245, not IBEW Local 6.

Posted by S.Lee on Aug. 09, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

Nonsense.

As I said above, it was Local 6 that leveraged the Labor Council into opposing Prop H on behalf of PG&E.

Looks pretty bought and paid for to me...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 11, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

Wow. Even when you're corrected, you come up with a way to try to sound as if you know shit.

How many efforts were there to pass public power? Of those efforts, which ones were you involved in? The answer is 6, and I will guess all of those efforts. Sounds like your pretty unskilled as an organizer.

And so it passed this time, with a massive statewide grass roots effort. And the big difference this time is that the Unions got involved. Coincidence? I think not. It won because actual organizers got involved and made it happen.

And there was this great online viral campaign. Since you only have 85 friends on your facebook page, it is pretty safe to assume that your contribution was minimal and, my favorite accurate phrase about you, irrelevant.

Just to give other readers context, here is a copy of an early comment on Eric Brooks:

Eric Brooks,

Your claims and positions on matters in a district that you are not a part of are disingenuous.

You claim you're a community organizer, yet have no base or have any visible developed leadership. You represent yourself. You are not an organizer.

You insert yourself into arguments and issues only to create an illusion of your own relevance. By insulting, discrediting through conspiracy theory style "proof", and name dropping, I sure you actually believe that you are relevant. And that's fine. However, it's misleading to readers. You are doing SF Guardian readers a disservice.

Your claims against Lennar, Bayview Hunters Point, groups that have supported the project....

You have no interest in pushing working class family issues nor respect for the process that working class families undergo to come to a solution.
Your politics are a position of privilege and a not a necessity and that's why you have a blatant disregard for people who actually have put the effort, developed the talent, and reached the people to push an issue. You are bitter because you have none of these abilities.

I see that you have repeatedly posted comments in the Guardian. Your time would be better spent learning to organize and learning the impacts of policies on people and not just your lofty ideology.

Posted by Eric Brooks is an Idiot Fan Club President on Oct. 15, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

Get your facts straight '..Idiot..'. I have been involved in three campaigns for public/clean power, not six. Two of those were victories. These were; San Francisco Community Choice Aggregation (CleanPowerSF), and the fight against Prop 16.

Prop H (2008) was the one technical loss, but Prop H helped us show at least 40% of San Francisco voters how evil, deceptive, and anti-clean-energy PG&E is, and that helped us powerfully in the fight against Prop 16. Even campaigns which don't win can have high political value.

You sure are mighty worked up and typing up a storm about a guy you supposedly consider to be so irrelevant. Doesn't that make you the one who is wasting his time blogging too much?

Now, perhaps if you had the balls to reveal your true identity in public we could have a real debate.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2010 @ 12:14 am

So appropriate to see the sectarian divisiveness that Peter Camejo thrived on rising to taint his memorial.

And so bizarre to see myself agreeing with the ISO on Adachi's pension reform measure. Marginalizing Gonzalez to the gulag as a class enemy is just plain idiotic.

Progressives should be framing the retirement crisis in our terms, not taking advantage of global class war on retirement and health care by the financial sector. How many people will see a significant portion of their retirement income come from private retirement funds? 30%? Is that the model we should follow?

We should be promoting guaranteed retirement security for all so that government and business are relieved of the burden by such progressive taxation as removing the income cap on social security payroll tax.

They say we have an unfunded entitlements crisis, I think that our entitlements are well funded by our taxes. What we've got are unfunded military and bank bailout obligations.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

Look, anybody works full-time for a living deserves a living wage.

But the Public-Sector Unionocracy is eating us all alive!

Until January 2009, anybody who had worked for SF city government for as little as five years got healthcare benefits FOR LIFE on the taxpayer's dime.

Many city workers retire at age 55 on trumped-up pensions giving them nearly full pay at top (current) levels in their jobs for life.

This is killing us. Pension costs are rising nearly 10% a year and will soon engulf 30% of total city tax revenues.

So, Matt Gonzalez and Jeff Adachi are not afraid to stare this monster in the face. The $35 million increase in retiree benefits this year could have been used to keep all our Park & Rec centers open every day. And much more.

Think about it...

Posted by Barton on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

We do need to 'stare the monster in the face'-- giving SF city workers healthcare for life after 5 yrs. on the job seems insane to me (I worked 23 yrs. for the city). Common sense.

But the core of this proposal isn't the increase in pension contribution, but the dependent care contributions jumping dramatically. A giant proportion of the "reform" would be shouldered by the families, and it would be a much smaller percent of higher income worker's paycheck. Regressive.

C'mon, all the trumped up pensions make me sick too, but this is about struggling families. Most of them have to commute a couple of hours as it is to get by, far from the city they serve. If Matt and Willie and Jeff can't do better than this, shame on them.

Posted by Guest Mark on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

To Mr. Eric Brooks: Solar panel installation is electricians' work, not laborers. Simple as that. As for prop. H, the laborers were also against it (along with plumbers. Check the link. They're both on the list: http://www.stoptheblankcheck.com/pdf/BlankCheck_Facts.pdf). Rank and file who disagree with union leadership on issues like this one can always vote their own conscience.

Yes, labor's divided on certain issues. But those divisions are mostly along narrow, purely economic lines (i.e. laborers trying to take electricians' work) and are not insurmountable.

Right now we (union members) need to look at the bigger picture and counteract Adachi/Gonzales's opportunistic attack on public workers. There is a deficit. Fine. But making a worker pay 50% more for a dependent's health insurance is criminal. And those who think a worker's pension is "too generous" would most likely think otherwise if 1) there was no Wall Street-induced recession and 2) they haven't had anti-civil society propaganda beating them over the head for years.

This mean-spiritedness is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond the local level you have well-funded and organized interests gunning for social security among other things. Working people need to come together. Now.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

Bullshit.

Installing solar panels on a roof is not by any stretch of the imagination complex electrical wiring work. Panels are standardized as units in a chain to be snapped together like legos. The only thing an electrician needs to do is check the work at the wiring entry point to the building, to make sure the final connections and final grounding are done properly. Putting up the brackets and installing the panels themselves doesn't require any electrical expertise at all.

The only reason your union is claiming otherwise is that you are so self oriented you only care about your own welfare and not that of your brothers and sisters who live in the city and need jobs.

Local 6 should consider itself on notice. Any more bullshit like this and you are going to have a very bad time getting progressives to support you on anything.

The way unions have been so drastically weakened these days, you are going to need that support. So you'd better clean up your damned act right quick.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 9:46 am

On no jobsite have I ever been on does a laborer say to the electrician "The only thing you have to do is..." Get real, bro. Solar panels are an electrical source. Period.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:30 am

Nice display of the Civil Servant "entitlement mentality", while the Private Sector taxpayers (who pay for YOUR pension & benefits) suffers with unemployment and lost pensions.

But we'll get even .... when (not if) your Plans run dry and your checks just stop.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 11:46 am

As Thomas Friedman said, "The Great Recession was caused in part by a broad-based breakdown in ethics by key players-- bankers, rating agencies, investment houses, mortgage brokers, and consumers."

So now we all gotta pay, including city workers. Agreed. Our checks have been getting smaller, and we expect that might get even worse.

But what is with the scapegoating tactic?

By in large, city workers have been doing disagreeable jobs ethically for the last ten years. Getting out of this mess should be done on a percentage basis, not 'sock it to the families with two or three kids'. We're not scapegoating the 'private sector', and we expect respect in return.

Posted by Guest Mark on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

Todd Chretien is mistaken. It was the pension-reform campaign that issued the press release to the SF Examiner not Matt Gonzalez who was merely quoted as a supporter of the measure.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

Here is the quote referred to above:
“Pension reform isn’t the only solution that cities facing budget difficulties have to seriously employ,” Gonzalez said in a release on Friday. “But it is a key component given the unsustainability of current practices.”

Posted by Jim Dorenkott on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

So where are Matt and Jeff challenging downtown and the Chamber of Commerce with the other 9/10 of unsustainable practices?

What's progressive about leveraging resentments to spur a race to the bottom?

How about all of those special assistants remnant from the Willie Brown era who infest the highest levels of each department?

Oh, yeah, the Chamber of Commerce is not willing to pay for campaigns like that.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 7:43 am

Public-sector unions vs. private-sector unions.

Private-sector unions are great. They work to ensure living wages for working-class and middle-class people.

But the Public-Sector Unionocracy answers to no one but itself. It knows you can't fire the Police Dept. or the entire city hall. It's job security is set in stone; there is no fear of competition that will send consumers scurrying away to other businesses and cause you to lose your job.

It used to be that people took public-sector jobs for lower pay than in the private sector, and got good job security in compensation.

Now, public-sector employees are paid better than private-sector ones in clerical, IT service, janitorial, and other jobs. They get sweet benefits and can retire early. When times are good, politicians reward them with nice pay raises. When times are bad, the pols ramp up their future benefits (pensions, healthcare) instead. Politicians (Gonzalez and Adachi aside) are afraid to stand up to their power.

But the voters are goiing to make a statement loud and clear come November

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 6:44 am

Labor owns this one because they've played their hand so terribly over the past few decades, ending up relegated to the public sector after abandoning the vast majority of working Americans to the magic of the marketplace.

That said, we might expect for the Chamber of Commerce or Republican Party types, or even the local "moderate" Democrats (those who are Reagan trickle down supply siders who support same sex marriage) to support something like this.

But when progressives like Jeff Adachi and Matt Gonzalez take downtown money to move their agenda, that's when the "red" flags go up. The last time I checked, progressives did not tend to egg on the market, welcoming declining wages and shifting the burden of social problems onto individuals who have seen our wages and benefits slashed over the past 30 years.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 7:13 am

I'm 67 and a retired City worker. If Gonzalez's Campaign to blame our pensions for the cut backs in social services wins, I will have to pay $520 a month for health care for my family--more than a quarter of my $2000 monthly pension. Since health insurance companies' profits seems to be sacred to Gonzalez and Adachi, I can imagine in the near future having to pay half my monthly pension for health care-- so I guess we will join the ranks of those San Franciscans who cost the City money by using the social services Gonzalez claims he wants to fund. This is crazy--Tea Party logic. They blame government workers for the problems of other people who are struggling. I agree that those receiving more than $75,000 a year in pensions should pay more. So should corporations and those corporate managers who commute to San Francisco and take their six figure incomes back to the suburbs. But this proposal to force us to pay 50% of health care costs--regardless of our pension-- is more regressive than any plan Republicans could dream up.

Posted by Guest Arlene Eisen on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 7:41 am

I've been fortunate enough to have city funded health care for 20 years from my registered domestic partner.

In 2005, the Blue Shield copayment was $5, scripts cost $5 and the monthly share of cost premium was < $10.

Tomorrow, the copayment goes up to $20, scripts remain at $5 if on formulary, and monthly share of cost for me approaches $200.

If we were to flee San Francisco and California, the only option we would have is the $900/mo city health plan. Whee.

When progressive leaders adopt the dominant ideology and can't even recognize that they've been snowed, we're fucked.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:17 am

Quoting ..."I will have to pay $520 a month for health care for my family"

Tough S*H*I*T .... join the rest of use !

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 11:50 am

Do you like the idea that we should all be hooked up to Wall Street so that our vital cash can be milked into the finance system?

Is this something that progressives and liberals should be advocating?'

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 11:38 am

Sorry, but Matt Gonzalez and Jeff Adachi are not taking "downtown money" or any other money from special interest groups. (How could anyone accuse Matt Gonzalez of being a capitalist stooge?).

They are sick and tired of seeing valuable city services – public defenders for the poor who cannot afford lawyers, public recreation centers, schools et al – being cut and cut year after year because of swelling underfunded pension obligations that the city has to meet for retired city workers, many of whom retired as early as age 50 on nearly full pay.

Healthcare insurance for those of us who have to pay for it on our own is about $400 per person now. So, Arlene, you will have pay around $200. That seems like a lot. But welcome to the real world! Those of us not protected by the Public-Sector Unionocracy have had to pay high insurance premiums for a long time.

Get ready to get used to it.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 9:26 am

Let's take the air out of terms such as "unionocracy," "trumped-up pensions," and the like. We're talking abut peoples' livelihoods. Please leave the anti-worker hysteria, pro-business bigotry to the PR people.

Pension costs will "soon engulf 30% of total city tax revenues." This, at best, is a guess and is contingent on how the broader economy will perform. The "longer term" rhetoric of the Adachi proposal is nothing more than a snipe at workers' fought-for and negotiated benefits, which if scaled back now would not return even when times are good. In other words, the deficit is a short-term problem and has been treated as such by city workers who have re-negotiated contracts and "given back" already.

If people still insist on scapegoating workers, then those people should know that for every meager dollar that goes into an average worker's benefits or retirement there's a comparable amount that corporations could be paying into the general fund but don't because of generous tax loopholes.

There needs to be context for there to be merit. The Adachi proposal has neither.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:10 am

Two contributions were given to Adachi's campaign, $75,000 each from Jonathan "Mike" Moritz and another co resident, retired comfortably, in their home up on Vallejo Street. Moritz is a partner with Sequoia Capital and was a ground floor investor in Google.

Can't find their exact home on zillow.com, but the price of one adjacent home is $3,929,000, and the other is $4,886,000. Clearly, the interests of these members of the investment class lie with the sustainability of San Francisco's municipal finances.

Mike Moritz also gave $3000 to Montana Senator Max Baucus, the tribune of the working man who delivered on President Obama's promise that we'd have a public option to compete with private health insurers.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:12 am

Let's take the air out of terms such as "unionocracy," "trumped-up pensions," and the like. We're talking abut peoples' livelihoods. Please leave the anti-worker hysteria, pro-business bigotry to the PR people.

Pension costs will "soon engulf 30% of total city tax revenues." This, at best, is a guess and is contingent on how the broader economy will perform. The "longer term" rhetoric of the Adachi proposal is nothing more than a snipe at workers' fought-for and negotiated benefits, which if scaled back now would not return even when times are good. In other words, the deficit is a short-term problem and has been treated as such by city workers who have re-negotiated contracts and "given back" already.

If people still insist on scapegoating workers, then those people should know that for every meager dollar that goes into an average worker's benefits or retirement there's a comparable amount that corporations could be paying into the general fund but don't because of generous tax loopholes.

There needs to be context for there to be merit. The Adachi proposal has neither.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:16 am

Let's take the air out of terms such as "unionocracy," "trumped-up pensions," and the like. We're talking abut peoples' livelihoods. Please leave the anti-worker hysteria, pro-business bigotry to the PR people.

Pension costs will "soon engulf 30% of total city tax revenues." This, at best, is a guess and is contingent on how the broader economy will perform. The "longer term" rhetoric of the Adachi proposal is nothing more than a snipe at workers' fought-for and negotiated benefits, which if scaled back now would not return even when times are good. In other words, the deficit is a short-term problem and has been treated as such by city workers who have re-negotiated contracts and "given back" already.

If people still insist on scapegoating workers, then those people should know that for every meager dollar that goes into an average worker's benefits or retirement there's a comparable amount that corporations could be paying into the general fund but don't because of generous tax loopholes.

There needs to be context for there to be merit. The Adachi proposal has neither.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:16 am

Let's take the air out of terms such as "unionocracy," "trumped-up pensions," and the like. We're talking abut peoples' livelihoods. Please leave the anti-worker hysteria, pro-business bigotry to the PR people.

Pension costs will "soon engulf 30% of total city tax revenues." This, at best, is a guess and is contingent on how the broader economy will perform. The "longer term" rhetoric of the Adachi proposal is nothing more than a snipe at workers' fought-for and negotiated benefits, which if scaled back now would not return even when times are good. In other words, the deficit is a short-term problem and has been treated as such by city workers who have re-negotiated contracts and "given back" already.

If people still insist on scapegoating workers, then those people should know that for every meager dollar that goes into an average worker's benefits or retirement there's a comparable amount that corporations could be paying into the general fund but don't because of generous tax loopholes.

There needs to be context for there to be merit. The Adachi proposal has neither.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:17 am

The danger here is not just to labor, but to all of us who will see our own wages and benefits drop when initiatives like this set the lower standard.

So glad that progressives are egging on the wage deterioration trends of the past 30 years which have turned Americans from the leisure society into a work camp.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:38 am

Not lower standads, Marc. HIGHER standards

Here's some tangible data on the Public-Sector Unionocracy:

Full healthcare benefits for life after only five years of service: All SF city workers (until January 2009)

Full pension at current pay (raised with levels for peers) upon retirement until death: California Highway Patrol officers

Full pension for life upon retirement at the age of 50: California prison workers

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

So is it a progressive public policy goal to deny people health care or to take it away from them at the slightest opportunity?

I'm glad that the City funds health care for life after 5 years, my partner has worked for the City for 20. I enjoy my health care. My partner has worked hard for it.

San Francisco does not employ CHP or CDC screws.

Hopefully if Adachi gets moderates like you to support his future endeavors, we get to flip a coin to see who gets screwed, progressives or moderates if he's elected to higher office.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

Wanna talk about people's livelihoods?

Okay. Unless we do something, your own quality of life will be hurt badly. No more park & rec services, no more community drop-in centers, major cuts in libraries and all the public services we hold dear. Here's why:

San Francisco's pension and health care costs for its city employees has been rising exponentially, from $175 million five years ago to $525 million this year. Within two years, the city will be paying $675 million, cause whenever the city's pension system loses money, taxpayers make up the difference. And that $150 million will mean cuts in all public services across the board.

If the City's revenues are stable, the costs of pensions will eventually rise to the point that the city is can't pay. Now, the costs the city must pay towards pensions are about 13.5% of salaries ($525 million); by 2015, the city will be paying 25% ($812 million). (source for all stats: Harvey Rose).

This is what is driving Matt G. and Adachi mad.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

Think about it! 25% (TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT!) of all city revenues will be going to retired people.

Unsustainable

The alternative is bankruptcy.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

A lot of people say social security is unsustainable, too, because in 20 years there will be too many retired people and not enough people working. But folks: Social security can be fully funded with just a few changes, like increasing the cap on taxable income. The United States, despite its current economic problems, is still a very wealthy nation, well able to afford to care for its seniors (and its sick and homeless and needy.)

And San Francisco is still a very wealthy city. Just take a look at a few of the very, very rich who don't pay anywhere near their share of the tax burden. The horrific figures on pension problems assume that the economy will never recover, that the stock market won't rise again (both of those directly defy all of United States history) and that the city's overall budget will be stagnant.

With just a small increase in taxes on the very upper level of individuals and businesses, we could well afford to pay for our pension obligations. Yes: That's called redistribution of wealth. The rich kick in more so that retired teachers and gardeners can live decent lives in an expensive city. And guess what, all you "OMG not higher taxes" folks: This approach is better for the economy. You want recovery and growth? Put cash in the pockets of lower- and middle-income people. You want stagnation? Cut costs and keep the wealth concentrated.

That's the big-picture thinking we need here.

Posted by tim on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

You Really need an economics lesson !

Retiring at 50 with 90% of pay (COLA adjusted for life), and Lifetime retiree health after only 5 years. All NUTS as well as unfair/unsustainable.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

Tim, I agree with you about Social Security hysteria. The system is solvent and functions well.

The same cannot be said about public-sector pension benefits in San Francisco, unfortunately. Look at the numbers I posted above.

It is a fast-approaching train wreck.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

The Guardian ran a good article a while back about how union workers in Sweden saw the writing on the wall and negotiated in good faith to shed some of their benefits so they could keep their jobs and the whole system would not go bankrupt. Well worth reading

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

of the completely out-of-control MUNI worker's benefits - and they have only themselves to blame for that.

And if the city's unions keep following the advice of people like Tim and Marcos they too may be headed for a thrashing at the ballot box. Because there's no way in hell the voters in this city are going to endorse the view that city workers should be guaranteed lifetime benefits FAR and above the average worker, while services are being cut - this economy will ensure that.

So if the unions were smart they'd follow the Swedish model and negotiate a deal that will be better than the one they're going to get from the voters.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

It's only a train wreck if the economic conditions we face today continue. The city's contribution to the pension fund depends on how well the fund is performing in the stock market; in good years, the city doesn't have to contribute much of anything.

The Adachi plan doesn't cut pension spending, by the way; it just asks workers to pay more. So it amounts to a wage cut for public employees -- again, a bad idea in a recession.

Posted by tim on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

A "wage cut for public employees" is a good, fair, and necessary thing in ANY economy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

"But this thing just stirs up the anti-government, anti-public-employee furor that's going to become a big problem in the next year or two. And it's not in any way reflective of the sort of big-picture thinking that the left ought to be involved in."

Who are you kidding? The reason many of us have become increasingly disillusioned with the government, AND with unions, over the past several years is BECAUSE of these obscenely generous pensions, and all the other obscenely generous wages and benefits that are granted to public employees because public employee unions now OWN the politicians who determine their compensation.

A "big-picture" position should believe in more government, more benefits and services for ALL workers in the economy - at the same time as the benefits for government workers are reined in, down-scaled to what is economically feasible for ALL workers. That must happen. Until the unions are exposed for NOT standing for what unions, ideally, stand for, which is rights and benefits for ALL workers, not just their specific brotherhood, and until unions are reformed accordingly, they are not unions in any positive context.

Bravo to Matt Gonzalez for being a big-picture, conscientious politician.

Posted by CIV FI on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

Quoting ..."The reason many of us have become increasingly disillusioned with the government, AND with unions, over the past several years is BECAUSE of these obscenely generous pensions, and all the other obscenely generous wages and benefits that are granted to public employees because public employee unions now OWN the politicians who determine their compensation."

Well said !

Public Sector Unions are a CANCER on society. Their elimination would benefit EVERYONE except those riding the gravy train.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 6:09 am

Yes, pay cuts are always bad. But sometimes they cannot be avoided.

Do you really think the stock market will rise 15% annually over the next ten years (that's what it will take to keep up with the growth in pension obligations)? I doubt it.

And in MUNI's case, the workers are getting a 14% raise over two years even as the rest of us cram into ever more crowded buses on the way to our jobs, which haven't seen pay raises over the last two years during the recession.

Enjoy the fun while it lasts (until November), fellas! The reaper comes to MUNI after the election.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

Re: the pension costs:

"$175 million five years ago to $525 million this year. Within two years, the city will be paying $675 million, cause whenever the city's pension system loses money, taxpayers make up the difference."

-- This is not and WILL NOT be the norm. Who's to say where the economy will be two years from now? If Adachi and co. know, then, wow, they must know something everyone else doesn't. Besides, rising health care costs and declining pension funds are symptoms of much larger problems, problems that in the SHORT TERM will not be fixed. And we can't expect people at the bottom to be on the hook. Nor should we wholeheartedly buy into the dire economic predictions that are being used as a pretext to attack workers.

"And that $150 million will mean cuts in all public services across the board"

-- Again this assumes that nothing else will give way, such as corporations ponying up a bit more cash or that the economy actually improves. Now there's a thought...

This Adachi proposal is divisive and heavy handed. It taps into the frustrations of those who've drank a little too much Kool Aid.

Posted by Guest LD on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

"And we can't expect people at the bottom to be on the hook."

Public-sector union members are at the bottom, are they?

They make $90,000 a year (mean salary), have full healthcare benefits, and can retire at over 66% of their pay at age 55.

This is "the bottom"?

Save your pity for people who actually deserve it.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

There is lot of misinformation that is being presented on this board by proponents of the pension status quo. Read the SF Civil Grand Jury Report. It's available on the Superior Court's website. The pension fund is down $3 billion (with a "b"). Pension and health benefit costs are projected to increase to $1 billion in five years time. 900 retirees draw down pensions of over $100,000 per year. Those numbers are not sustainable.

As for the argument that the market will turn around and save the fund, it's false. The projections are based on the City's and the City's actuaries' own data--and still assume an investment return. Moreover, this is the same argument that Calpers made in 1999 when the state retroactively granted pension benefits to employees and said the fund would cover it. Calpers projected the Dow Jones would rise to 25,000 by 2009. I'd say that projection was wrong. The City's unfunded liability is enormous.

The grand jury report points out that the City is not even complying with Prop H. Prop H granted increased benefits to Police and Fire. It was sold to voters in 2002 based on the argument that the fund would cover the increase and it would be cost neutral. And it promised that any shortfall would be covered by a cost sharing arrangement where the Police/Fire would pay more. Guess what? It's not cost neutral, there is a huge shortfall, and there no cost sharing.

As for Arlene Eisen's comment above, she is wrong on the facts. She needs to read the ballot language.

And Tim's fallback argument that we just need to tax more--pointing to a link showing super rich people living in that gold coast area who don't pay much property tax--is not persuasive. While I agree that it's somewhat revolting that those people living in mansions are paying less than first time homebuyers, Propositon 13 is not going to change any time soon, and certainly not in time to save us from this pension mess.

Public employees should have a more open mind about the measure. Their prospect for getting benefits are going to get a lot worse if changes aren't made or the city declares Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Posted by Patrick on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 6:01 pm