Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Tips: Demand your elected officials to release federal transit money

U.S. Department of Labor officials seem to be unwilling to release federal transit funds that Inland Empire taxpayers paid into in the name of bargaining rights, when in reality, the dispute between labor unions and the transit agencies is over trivial issues in relationship to California's pension reform. Special interests are demanding exemptions of the reformed law and are relying on the labor department and legal loopholes to freeze transit funding from RTA and Omnitrans without due process. U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez appears to be bowing to the special interest's requests. To be fair, Perez cannot go above the law, but there is little evidence that he is even willing to work with the White House or Congress to close up the loopholes for the general public's good.

Granting transit labor groups exemptions of California's pension reform law is not a practicable option as any fair-minded individual well knows. Bloated salaries and unfunded benefits contributes to government waste and a substandard transit system--just look at the 91 Freeway. If the state gives one group an exemption, other special interests are going to pressure the state for the same. California will then be on the road to bankruptcy. This whole situation is also clearly not a labor rights issue; otherwise why would the special interests place numerous transit jobs and private sector employees who take transit into limbo? That's not defending worker's rights. That's abuse. We simply cannot afford the status quo.

It's time for Gov. Brown, Congress, and President Obama to take control of the situation. This week's tip: Ask your elected representative, the Governor and the White House to work together to do whatever they can in their power to get the funds released without permitting exceptions to California's pension reforms, close up the loopholes so that the states can freely decide on pension policy, and amend federal labor law where labor groups can continue to have the freedom to assemble, organize and bargain, but not have the freedom to garnish transit agencies' funds without constitutional due process.

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