Unions say 'no thanks' to Menlo endorsements

Focus on defeating Measure L

They invited, they interviewed, and they conferred, but in the end, three unions decided to endorse -- no one running for Menlo Park City Council.

It seems the unions have bigger fish to fry on Nov. 2. "Our focus in Menlo Park is on the defeat of Measure L," said Julie Lind, political director for the San Mateo County Central Labor Council (SMCLC).

None of the six candidates got the stamp of approval from the Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU), the SMCLC, or the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 827 (AFSCME).

Measure L seeks to raise the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decrease their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percent to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years, multiplied by the number of years employed by Menlo Park. This formula was used in 2007, but revised in 2009.

Under this measure, a new hire who retired at age 60 after working for the city for 30 years would receive 60 percent of that average. Current employees could retire at age 55, and get 81 percent.

Incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson stand alone in the pack of six by not endorsing Measure L, but apparently that wasn't enough to earn an endorsement this year. In 2006 both had the support of the SEIU and SMCLC.

Their four challengers -- Chuck Bernstein, Kirsten Keith, Peter Ohtaki, and Russell Peterson -- support the ballot measure.

A city-wide telephone poll conducted on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28 attempted to discredit Measure L, according to Henry Riggs, one of the organizers of the grassroots coalition that gathered enough signatures to put the pension initiative on the ballot.

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Like this comment
Posted by Outside Looking In
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

VOTE FOR MEASURE L! If the unions don't want it, then it's good for Menlo Park.

As for the two incumbents who did not endorse Measure L, boot them out! I wonder if there will be an independent campaign by the unions to still try to get the incumbents elected. The unions know this is a bad year to endorse even their staunchest supporters, so perhaps, that's why they didn't publicly endorse Robinson and Cline. The unions didn't want to risk their losing their two seats-- they would rather keep Cline and Robinson, since Fergusson is still on the Council for another two years.

Caveat emptor!

Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Only HNWI should be against Unions.

Why are people so maddened by anything the workers may benefit from and not the Executive packages?

Like this comment
Posted by W. Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Seriously, if our City executive packages were excessive we'd be concerned about them too. (See Bell, California scandal.)

The City Union retirement plan is in addition to current salary. Almost no one in the private sector has a pension plan anymore. Only what we can invest and save ourselves out of current salary.

If it were a private union and business, I'd have no cause for concern, envy maybe, but not concern. But when it is city employees the money comes from my taxes and fees. And the more that goes into retirement, the less there is available for current programs.

Measure L just puts it back on the footing it was on previously. Not a drastic cut at all.

Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Go measure L!

Like this comment
Posted by Dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Here's a prediction: There's going to be an "October surprise" hit piece, phone call or radio ad funded by the unions. It will be emotional and hard to respond to in simple terms so a grass roots effort is at disadvantage. Maybe a dozen employees from another city will declare "I'd never work for Menlo, they're mean". Maybe there'll be a mysterious chlorine spill at the city pool. Not sure I want to see this.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

No doubt there will be a force of grand proportions by the unions to defeat Measure L. Measure L takes the power of pension decisions away from the union-elected council members. Because many candidates around the country at every level get the support of the unions to get elected, they have an inherent conflict of interest. These officials will raise our taxes to keep the status quo for out of balance pensions. It is time for the voters to take charge and pass laws like Measure L (not just at the city level) and and say bye bye to incumbents who have been elected with help of unions. Any candidate who breathes a word of raising taxes (like the UUT) should NOT get your vote. Menlo Park and our state can get back on the right track with personnel decisions that don't involve asking the residents for more money.

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

So that is why Heyward Robinson and Rich Cline have the Union Bugs on their campaign signs. They both know that the Union Endorsement is like the kiss of death this year. So the Unions are laying low and not making donations.

But when it comes time to pass out the campiagn literature they will show up in force for Rich and Heyward and make the door drops.

[Portion removed. Refrain from unsubstantiated personal attacks.]

Like this comment
Posted by freddy
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm

hey hank

why you hating on union print shops?

you prefer that the other guys get stuff printed outside of Menlo? Why you hating on Menlo?

or you rather they have signs shipped in from china and get rid of all American workers?

Like this comment
Posted by Henry Fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

The pension issue is one of current and future sustainability.

A few years ago the Government Accounting Standards Bureau (GASB) demanded that cities know and publish their healthcare liability. Menlo Park’s was $13,000,000.

Now GASB is looking at pension reporting. If we use real pension reporting instead of the sweetner that CalPERS provides, we will have a liability far in excess of healthcare. Ouch. And we will have to borrow money to fund it. Ouch again.

It will be aggrevated by our high salaries, the extended mortality rate, and the fact that 55%!!! Of our non-police work force is over 50years old—and imminently ready for retirement.

And if CalPERS can’t cover it, the taxpayers must.

Henry Fox

Like this comment
Posted by Callie
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Henry Fox,
If 55% of our work force is 50 and over, what with vacation and health care accuals, they are just about at retirement age. Right?

That means that when the 35% retroactive pension increase took place last year, 55% of our work force got an instant pension raise of about, what? 35%, $12,000 a year! for life! How can the Council have done that to us?

thanks for the info. callie

Like this comment
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2010 at 4:16 pm

right on, Callie

Now consider this. Measure L sets back the retirement amount to what it was on Dec. 31, 2008, and changes the age at which staff can recieve full retirement from 55 to 60.

So the change is not outrageous. And the benefits are still fax in excess of what social security or the private sector pays.

Like this comment
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Oh, and one more thing. sorry to be a space hog, but

the 55% of work force equals about 103 people. If the average pension increse awarded by the council retroactively, is $12,000, that's a yearly increase of $1.236million a year for an average of 27 years or, are you ready, $33,300,000 plus not counting cost of living increases.

Unfortunately, we can't reverse that increase, but we can control pensions going forward. HF

Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Council members accepting money and services from unions to get elected represents a conflict of interest that has existed for years. Employers should not receive payments from their employees in exchange for raises and benefits.

It is a relief to see none of the candidates being endorsed by the unions.

Let's hope measure L is the beginning of the end of a conflict that has so seriously damaged our city.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Why are Menlo employees still on defined benefit retirement plans? They should be on defined contribution plans like the rest of the world. At the very least new employees should be started on defined contribution plans.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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