Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Concession Speech



At the end of an election night, there is always one politician who must stand before a dejected (and usually intoxicated) group of supporters to concede defeat. (The other politician usually stands in front of an exuberant and equally intoxicated group to accept victory.) The speech that the loser gives is one where he congratulates his opponent on victory, pats his supporters on their collective fannies in spite of the outcome, and concedes that their effort (while noble) was not successful. While there is no election this week, there certainly seems to be a number of concession speeches being given. 


In fact it seems that we have heard little else in recent days than speeches about concessions by Toledo Unions. AFCSME locals gave a speech on their concessions of six members, 3 percent of their pension pick up (for 7 months), and spread of retirement payouts for those leaving employment this year. Toledo firefighters had already conceded at least a temporary 3 percent pension pick up and some delayed overtime payments. Toledo fire chiefs also conceded the 3 percent pick up, along with some vacation to be carried over to 2011 and some sick time conversion reduction. The police union (TPPA), has to date conceded nothing to the city and has instead taken it to court. All of this was done in response to Mayor Bell and City Council approving the move to exigent circumstances for Toledo, and the city demand of an across the board pension pick up all 10 percent of the employee contribution by all unions to their respective pensions (for those of you who didn't already know it, the city currently picks up the 10% employee contribution)


Now since this is Toledo, we must defer to the definition of concession in the SOS Dictionary as the final arbiter of meaning, and this tome speaks as follows:  


Concession: 
1. Yielding a right or privilege in an argument or negotiation 
2. Yielding something barely worth noticing on a temporary basis in a contract negotiation, only to have it returned to you a few months later with interest. 
3. The appearance of giving something back when in fact nothing actually has been, so as to make those asking for it appear in some way assertive and those giving it in some way magnanimous . 


The problem in this case however, is that I at least am confused about who is actually losing, and who should be giving the concession speech as a consequence. While the unions appear to be giving something back to the city, they don't appear to be giving much ... or for long. The city, having finally taken the principled stand of exigent circumstances to resolve this situation now seems to have conceded that the problem may not have been as great as they made it out to be. They also seem to have conceded that what they originally demanded of the unions to balance the budget is not in fact what they need. Meanwhile, it seems as if the city has merely put a piece of duct tape on the band aid, which is in turn holds on the patch, which covers the money leaking out of the hole in the city's budget through union contracts. 


The solution proposed appears to do little to resolve the issue of spending more money than the city is taking in; and instead seems only to push the hard choices out beyond the next election cycle (perhaps what was intended all along). It should also be noted that should TPPA win any part of its case in court, all bets on these "concessions" will probably be off. 


I fear that the only concession speech that should be made is the one that will never be given. It is the one where the Mayor and Council concede that they took the best chance they had to permanently fix the budget problems of the city and threw it away in the name of political expediency. It should also concede that far too many City Council members are running for new offices in the approaching election cycle to maintain the principled stand that they briefly assumed, and have once again conceded the city's future to union rule.



8 comments:

Jeff said...

Mr. Higgins, perhaps you could explain to me just how the city is under "union rule"? I know that you and your kindred spirits at WSPD radio like to throw out unsubstantiated claims like "the pols in Toledo are controlled by the unions", or that "Toledo's economic troubles are caused by the union contracts," but please allow me to introduce some FACTS to the discussion. The politicians in this city illegally broke union contracts, yet you, Brian Wilson, etc continue to bemoan the "control" of the unions. As someone with knowledge of the Toledo Fire contracts, here are the pay raises for the last 4 agreements (covering 12 years): 2,2,2%; 0,1,1%; 1.5, 2, 3%, and 0,0, 3.5% (current contract approved August 2009). Now, I know for a fact that the COLA for Social Security in 2008 alone was 5.9%. Going back 12 years, can you please show me the exorbitant raises that obviously came from the "union power"? Where the current agreement is concerned, I can assure you it, like the last 4 contracts, has been concessionary in nature. The City demanded a certain $$ figure in givebacks for the THREE YEAR DEAL, and the City got them. The concessions were done in the form of no pay increases, taking on more work to generate revenue for the general fund, shortening training time for new recruits, having all new employees pay the full 10% share of the "pension pickup", and many other measures. Those are permanent measures passed to help the City. The City had the same numbers back then as they do now, and in August the contract was approved by City Council, and yet now City Council and the Mayor forced this sham "exigent circumstances" measure through and illegally broke the contracts. By the way, those circumstances are looking less and less "exigent" every day. Show me where it says that a public employee should make a wage equal to the average Toledoan. My job is extremely dangerous. I already suffered a permanent partial disability after 10 years on the job, and more injuries are sure to follow, including hearing loss (sirens), back troubles, shoulder injuries, and a life expectancy 10 years shorter than the average person. My risk of cancer, ALL FORMS of cancer, is higher just because I am a firefighter and is a result of repeated toxic exposures and stress. I am not complaining, I am simply pointing out that these are the factors that go into deciding how much and what types of compensation I receive. Lastly, when the City negotiated the "pension pickup", it was in lieu of pay raises and started under Jack Ford. Our economic package for that 3 year deal totalled 4.5% in a year the statewide average for public employees was 11%. Again, concessions made by the unions to help the City in diffficult times. Hope this was informative, and that maybe you will let the facts get in the way of your uninformed musings.

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Tim,

From what I know and what I've read all these "concessions" amount to is delayed payments of some overtime and
spreading out of some retirement money over 3-years plus a minuscule, temporary pickup of the employee's portion of their own pension contribution for a very short time.

Which begs the questions:

1. What does the mayor's crystal ball reveal to him that will magically make the City's revenues dramatically increase when the bills come due in 2011?

2. What do these "concessions" do to permanently fix the benefits (or some fraction thereof) the employees enjoy that would somehow restore some fairness to the compensation package that they (and I, although mine now comes from PERS, and not the City) to make it more like those receiving private pension benefits?

Now I could write a lengthy article or seven on what/where the City has gone wrong in setting certain compensation levels besides the obvious picking up of the employee's portion of their own pension contribution (which I was, in part, also a beneficiary of) but the brutal truth might make some of your and my readers suffer from a massive brain cramp, and expose the incestuous relationship between the unions and the City for all to see. . .

Tim Higgins said...

Jeff,

Your arguments are long, but not particularly compelling. If the city broke the contract illegally, then why have neither the labor relations board or the courts provided the city's unions relief? As a member of a union that claims that they traded raises for benefits, how can you then point to those raises as a measure of your sacrifice? How also can you claim fiscal responsibility by comparing your contracts to the increases in payments being made in the bankrupt ponzi scheme better known as Social Security?

I likewise find it disingenuous to hide poorly made decisions in City Council for the compensation that you receive. The symbiotic relationship between unions and one-party politics in this city is well known, and the current situation only highlights the cowardice of many of those in city government to take on tough decisions in an election year.

As for your claim that the hazards of your job justify such higher compensation, let me point out that many other professions similarly expose workers to such danger. I myself have spent 30 years in a profession that exposed me to many of the same conditions and the hazard of travel to unsafe parts of the world as well. This was my choice, and the freely taken risks are not justification for special treatment. If the conditions are too onerous, do not whine about them ... change professions.

But don't let my uninformed analysis of the city's impending crisis get in the way of what you consider facts ...

Tim Higgins said...

Dave,

I too am confused about these temporary concessions to fix a permanent problem. The public sector employee complained for years that the private sector one was doing far better, and now seems unwilling to listen to the reverse.

City revenues seem unlikely to improve soon, and these fixes barely carry beyond the November elections. The law of diminishing returns in Toledo is not one that can much longer be ignored.

Jeff said...

Tim,
Just as I suspected, a response from you along the lines of a Wilsonian (Brian). Allow me to repeat, since you didn't get it the first time, the unions have no control of the politicians. Since it should be obvious to a 4th grader, but isn't to you, can you answer why SERB can't schedule a hearing about legality of the City's "exigent circumstances" sham for 2-3 months but has a hearing about the allegations of a TPPA "blue flu" the day after it happened? Because the unions hold all the cards, right?
My comment went back 12 years. Your response is limited to a vague mention of poorly made decisions of City Council and misstating our "trading of raises for benefits". I said we took on more work for no raises to raise revenue for the City, and made changes to our working conditions to save the City money, which involved giving up benefits. Let me walk you through it, no raises + giving up benefits + doing more work = concessions.
I can only give you the truth, I can't make you understand it. Your response contained absolutely no information. When did I complain about the conditions of employment? I simply pointed out the factors regarding compensation for it. Like your friends at WSPD, you choose to skirt around the topic and instead try to make it something it's not, some sort of "union thug" complaining. But again, I guess it's difficult for you to grasp a concept that's outside the bounds of your "Unions = Democrats = Spending my money/ Republicans = Conservatives = Guardians of my tax dollars" thought processes. But please continue with your talk of "well-known symbiotic relationships between union and one-party politics" since you choose to ignore truths in the face. Because it has to be true our union has NEVER endorsed a Democrat or Independent ( Oh wait, maybe you should ask Carty (I), Judge Michael Goulding(R), George Sarantou(R), D. Michael Collins(I), Judge Linda Jennings(R), and Rob Ludeman(R), to name a few).

Jeff said...

Just a thought for all to consider. Why don't you urge people to unionize and fight for better wages and benefits instead of slamming the unions and calling for breaking their contracts? And if those people in the private sector don't like the concessions they had to take, why didn't they form a union? After all, freedom of association is a Constitutionally guaranteed right.

Tim Higgins said...

Jeff,

Thank you for the compliment of comparing my opinions to those of a nationally recognized libertarian thinker. High praise indeed!

I reject however being called a "Wilsonian" and I am surprised that you would use it, since it is a term used to describe a follower of progressive thinker and former president Woodrow Wilson.

I appreciate the listing of supported candidates however, and with the exception of the judges can point to their support of the very contracts that have contributed to the declared exigent circumstances as a guide to their true allegiance.

I would love to spend endless hours debating this subject and picking apart each and every sentence of each of your comments, but the time and space constraints of a blog preclude me from doing so.

I would recommend however, that you begin looking at some of the material out there on the sustainability of city, state, and the federal government budgets and the burden that onerous union employee contracts have placed on them. They may give you some insight into the future .

As to the organizing you recommend let me point out the obvious. When a private sector company's labor costs exceed its ability to support them, it goes bankrupt and the employer and the jobs disappear. In the public sector, that employer cannot fail, and the government simply raises taxes when it runs out of money.

Jeff said...

Apparently you really ARE that obtuse. I knew exactly what I meant by Wilsonian as I referenced Brian, and by the way, calling him a Libertarian is akin to calling George W. Bush a Conservative Republican. So bottom line, there are no private sector comparisons to Police and Fire protection, both required by the City Charter. Therefore, you can't compare a "business" to what we do. And again, you still haven't stated what is so "onerous" about Toledo's union contracts. That would require concrete examples, something you seem to, avoid like common sense. Here's what I thought was onerous: $300 million to Chrysler to "Keep Jeep". $24 million in City dollars to clean up the Jeep site for expansion. But you probably look the other way at corporate welfare while decrying human welfare, like a good conservative "thinker".