Peter Q. Nguyen, general manager of Public Employees Union Local One, wrote a commentary published in the paper of Dec. 27.
He takes the paper to task claiming the paper is being unfair to public-sector employee unions. To quote him, "the editorial board of this paper has written two separate editorials designed to further paint public-sector unions as unreasonable and self-interested, even stating unions have cause to be alarmed."
His commentary is full of holes, inaccuracies and mudslinging. Public-sector unions probably should not alone be blamed for the tragic financial conditions of many states, counties and cities.
They could not have taken us to the brink of bankruptcy (or actual bankruptcy) without the help of the "bought and paid for" politicians.
Nguyen apparently reads the editorial page of the paper, but doesn't use the Internet for news or even watch TV news sound bites. If he had, he would know that "police officers and other public-safety workers keep turning up at the center of the municipal bankruptcies and budget dramas plaguing many American cities -- largely because their pensions tend to be significantly more costly" (Wall Street Journal).
While police and public-safety employees are the major contributors to the financial mess, other public employees are involved. Both salaries and benefits for government workers are considerably higher than in the private sector.
It's time to take back our government from union control. This is starting in a number of states, especially in the Midwest, states where unions have long been strong.
A shining example is Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker took the public-employee unions head-on. He eliminated collective bargaining for government workers and the requirement to negotiate every change in compensation or work rules with the unions.
By so doing he was able to eliminate a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes. This also enabled school districts and cities to do the same and save millions of dollars.
Cities across the country have declared or are close to declaring bankruptcy. Detroit is the poster child for that. Chicago and the state of Illinois are on the verge. The reason: employee compensation, i.e., wages and benefits.
Closer to home, many California cities are going bankrupt for the same reasons. Already Stockton, Vallejo, San Bernardino, Desert Hot Springs, and Mammoth Lakes are or have been in bankruptcy. More than a dozen more cities are poised to follow. San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris blamed the council for "lavishly endowing employee salaries, benefits and pensions ... and draining the general fund of money needed for vital services."
Even closer to home is the Contra Costa County Fire District. It's going broke because of exorbitant salaries and benefits. Its governing board, the county Board of Supervisors, refuses to deal with it. All the district and the board can think of is a new parcel tax while not dealing with the real problem.
Everywhere, unions are intransigent on salaries and benefits and unwilling to admit that these high payments are the root of the financial problems. They are totally unwilling to negotiate reasonable changes in collective bargaining. The latest BART fiasco is a prime example of this.
As with most writers who don't have a legitimate argument, Ngyuen starts throwing mud. He criticizes the poll taker, Field Research, saying it is nonunion, thus insinuating it is a biased poll. Field is a well-respected pollster.
He then knocks the paper by saying, —... let's look at a poll on public perception of news media." What does a poll about the media have to do with the fact public employee salaries and benefits are bankrupting states and cities all over the country?
Nyguen should wake up and recognize the problem. He and the unions could be part of the solution rather than continuing to be the problem.
In any event, we need to break the public-employee union stranglehold on our political process and our government.
Ken Hambrick is a resident of Walnut Creek.