Saturday, March 27, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Local Union Leadership

Today is nostalgia day since it is the first anniversary of Caveat Lectores. I found this in the archives, and it still has a message to deliver.

It has long been my belief that a union local should run more like a business and less like a neighborhood club much like we used to form when I was a kid. We would get together; decide to form the club; compete to see who would be in charge; then fail to get anything done largely because of lack of organization until everything fell apart. A few months later, we would begin the process all over again, learning nothing from our prior experience. I do not know about modern kids operate, but that was the way it was in my neighborhood.

My first experience with a local union copied that formula and traces of it seem to still exit today in too many labor organizations. Frequently, union leaders are fueled by an emotional need to do something they cannot accomplish within the traditional corporate framework. This motivation is fine, but it does not provide a formula for success.

Four decades ago, when I suggested an approached to union leadership from a business oriented decision making model, I was viewed as a management shill embedded into the union movement to make it fail. It has taken many years to make myself enough of an expert that some will actually listen to me.

Most of my experience is with fire unions (IAFF), but the same problems exist in most union atmospheres. In fact, the firefighters are frequently more sophisticated in their approach than police and general employees. Teachers are their own world that is unfathomable in many instances. My deceased wife was a teacher’s union leader. Because of that, I have never made any attempt to enter that realm. It would be like herding cats.

The international parent organizations provide generic union leadership training to the members based on their specific model. Each model is frequently similar to the rest, but public and private unions are quite different in their approaches. Public sector bargaining is all about politics, but many union leaders on all levels do not really understand how to make political action work. The rank and file tends to hate political involvement and will avoid it if possible. The traditional private sector approach is about strength in numbers and perceived power to overcome management. That approach has been ineffective for decades.

Actual training sometimes seems to be an afterthought that is easily pushed aside for the more pressing issues of the moment. I have seen many programs begun but not finished or continued. Remember, there are no qualifications necessary to become a local union leader except for 51% of the vote or internal political appointment. There is a reason there are so few real labor education programs in this country.

Getting votes takes tough talk and bravado. Being perennially successful requires staying in office and applying skills required of a manager. Management skill and competence is an anathema to most union members.

As long as a union leader can get re-elected, he can successfully fail as long as he or she can convince enough members into believing the failure is attributable to management abuse of power. Having the actual skills necessary for the right kind of leadership is not considered essential. In fact, it can be counter productive.

Many local union leaders are part-timers or retirees being paid little or nothing. They have full time jobs, families, hobbies and many interests competing for their time, skills and energy. They would rather pick up the phone and call the attorney, make a complaint about something and hope the attorney can fix the problem. If things work right, they get a bill they can afford to pay. A union leader has a problem explaining to the members why he spent money just talking to the attorney. The members like to see the action that caused the expense.

We lawyers and other experts are out there willing to do the battles for a price. Unfortunately, winning a battle does little to win the war that will never end. Seldom does a local union leader really understand that the war never ends. Many go from crisis to crisis hoping that winning an isolated battle will cause an end to hostility.

The union leaders who endure over time are the ones who understand the process of conflict and understand how to mitigate the hostility into a controllable but chronic divergence of economic and management philosophy. The others burn out, lose interest or are defeated by their members or management.

Few are the times when litigation, arbitration, ULPs, impasse procedures or anything related to enforcement of labor law produces a truly positive result greater than to get what was already lost but at great expense. That is the nature of litigating anything. It is necessary to keep an impure system seeking purity.

You cannot litigate a contract. You must negotiate it. Too many labor leaders and their attorneys seem to think they can litigate management into submission and agreement. The rank and file members support that philosophy until the money runs out.

And Oh yes, have a nice day?


Caveat Lectores on Insanity

Recently, a firefighter in South Carolina lost his job over a computer animated cartoon he made about a situation that occurs in hospitals and nursing homes every day. He got his ass fired over it.

Naturally, there is no labor contract to give him any job protection or the requirement the employer needs “just cause” to fire him. In a “right to work” state like South Carolina that embraces “employment at will” much like it wraps itself in the confederate flag, he is toast.

Here is a similar digitized cartoon made to point out the injustice and insanity behind the firing.

Maybe there is a lesson here for all public employees. First Amendment freedom of speech protections, all public employees would like think apply to them, are very limited. The First Amendment does not prevent employees from being disciplined for expressions they make about their professional duties.

There may be protection under collective bargaining rights, but….

What is the solution?
• Collective bargaining rights for all public employees would be a start.
• Three brain cells that can operate together would be a help to some public sector managers and fire chiefs.
• A change in the make-up of the conservative, right wing Supreme Court, largely appointed by repuplicans Reagan and Bush, would help.
• More care about what a public employee says in public, until hell freezes over, would be helpful as well.
• Be careful what you say.

And Oh yes, have a nice day?


Caveat Lectores on Caveat Lectores’ First Year

OK. Here is what happened. I awakened this morning, a Saturday, and had to go to the office at 0715 because E/S had a meeting to attend and I had left my car at work Friday night. (No, I was not drunk, we were saving fossil fuel.) Last night we went to see E/S’ youngest grandchild, other than O/P, perform in her senior class play. Wow!! M/C is talented. She was the second lead in Sweet Charity, playing a taxi dancer... but that is another story.

Once I got to the office, depression covered me like a wet blanket because there is a Grand Prix race across the bay, and I am not there. To move on with life, I took the ‘88 M3 out for a “get it up to temperature” trip which included 7900 RPM shifts. Nobody is on the Cross-town Expressway at 0800 on Saturday morning. Life is good.

When I got back from the short trip in the M car, I decided to draft a Rant for Caveat Lectores, but nothing was inside that needed to escape. I was an empty shell, nothing more than a walking shadow, a poor player who had strutted and fretted my hours upon the stage of blogdom only to be heard no more. Was Caveat Lectores nothing more than a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? No racing and no blogging all in the same day. WTF!

I decided to do some analysis of the history of Caveat Lectores to determine if it had all been a waste. Not being a capable statistical analyst required me to call on Dr. Hobby Boo to peek at the stats. Here is what the good doctor found.

Caveat Lectores made its official debut on March 28, 2009, with a blog entitled “If You Ain’t Got Good Politics, You Ain’t Got Nothin’!” Caveat Lectores did not begin tracking the numbers until January 10, 2010.

In about two and one-half months, Caveat Lectores has attracted 384 loyal readers from 257 cities in 38 states and 10 countries. Naturally, we get many more hits because of the return readers looking at all the different Rants. There has been something less than 10 million total visits.

Without even considering the total number of public employees who make up the potential readership of Caveat Lectores, Dr. Hoobie Boo estimates there are 384,000 active professional fire service employees in the U.S. That means Caveat Lectores may have attracted about .1% of all the possible firefighters who could enjoy the value of reading Caveat Lectores.

We are on a roll and must increase the momentum. At the rate Caveat Lectores is growing; counting the exponential increases and tangential variables; multiplied by the incidental components; reduced to present value divided by .1%; coupled with the GNP and factoring in leap year and blue moons, Dr. Hooby Boo suggests that Caveat Lectores will celebrate its 77th birthday before there are enough readers to make me rich. JFTDC that sucks!

Here is what you can do to make Caveat Lectores a worldwide success.
• Contact your friends and colleagues and get them to subscribe to Caveat Lectores.
• Suggest your Face book friends become fans of the Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes Group.
• If all else fails, please just click on the Caveat Lectores blog site 10 times a day to make it appear that a lot of people are viewing the Blog. I am OK with delusional success.

And Oh yes, Have a nice Day?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Health Care Reform II

To all the Repups, Birthers, Tea-baggers, Blue dog democraps and others who woke up this morning only to find the sky did not fall last night after the Dems passed a Health Care Bill: I know you are disappointed, but you will get over it. Here is what will happen in words not to your liking, but much more factual than anything from Fox News.

FACTBOX - US healthcare bill would provide immediate benefits
Reuters, March 19

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives is heading for a Sunday vote on a sweeping overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.
Here is what to expect if the bill becomes law:


*Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted.
*Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
*Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college.
*Uninsured adults with a pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain health coverage through a new program that will expire once new insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.
*A temporary reinsurance program is created to help companies maintain health coverage for early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. This also expires in 2014.
*Medicare drug beneficiaries who fall into the "doughnut hole" coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. The bill eventually closes that gap which currently begins after $2,700 is spent on drugs. Coverage starts again after $6,154 is spent.
*A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.
*A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect on July 1.


*Medicare provides 10 percent bonus payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons.
*Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get a free annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plan service. New health plans will be required to cover preventive services with little or no cost to patients.
*A new program under the Medicaid plan for the poor goes into effect in October that allows states to offer home and community based care for the disabled that might otherwise require institutional care.
*Payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage services are frozen at 2010 levels. These payments are to be gradually reduced to bring them more in line with traditional Medicare.
*Employers are required to disclose the value of health benefits on employees' W-2 tax forms.
*An annual fee is imposed on pharmaceutical companies according to market share. The fee does not apply to companies with sales of $5 million or less.


*Physician payment reforms are implemented in Medicare to enhance primary care services and encourage doctors to form "accountable care organizations" to improve quality and efficiency of care.
*An incentive program is established in Medicare for acute care hospitals to improve quality outcomes.
*The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the government programs, begin tracking hospital readmission rates and puts in place financial incentives to reduce preventable readmissions.


*A national pilot program is established for Medicare on payment bundling to encourage doctors, hospitals and other care providers to better coordinate patient care.
*The threshold for claiming medical expenses on itemized tax returns is raised to 10 percent from 7.5 percent of income. The threshold remains at 7.5 percent for the elderly through 2016.
*The Medicare payroll tax is raised to 2.35 percent from 1.45 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples with incomes over $250,000. The tax is imposed on some investment income for that income group.
*A 2.9 percent excise tax in imposed on the sale of medical devices. Anything generally purchased at the retail level by the public is excluded from the tax.


*State health insurance exchanges for small businesses and individuals open.
*Most people will be required to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine if they don't. Healthcare tax credits become available to help people with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty purchase coverage on the exchange.
*Health plans no longer can exclude people from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
*Employers with 50 or more workers who do not offer coverage face a fine of $2,000 for each employee if any worker receives subsidized insurance on the exchange. The first 30 employees aren't counted for the fine.
*Health insurance companies begin paying a fee based on their market share.


*Medicare creates a physician payment program aimed at rewarding quality of care rather than volume of services.


*An excise tax on high cost employer-provided plans is imposed. The first $27,500 of a family plan and $10,200 for individual coverage is exempt from the tax. Higher levels are set for plans covering retirees and people in high risk professions.

So that is it. Glenn Beck et al will still predict the end of the free world. Otherwise, a lot of right wing stand up bull shit artists would have to go out and get a job. The Lectores does not love the bill because I was looking for Medicare at 55, but it is better than nothing. And you will not lose your coverage.

And Oh yes, have a nice day.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Updated: Caveat Lectores on the Devil’s Neck Labor/Management Kumbaya Retreat

Things have really taken off this year with the Devil’s Neck Labor/Management Kumbaya Retreat. We are completely sold out in only a couple of weeks.

PLEASE!! No more reservation requests. This has been a pleasant nightmare dealing with all the calls and emails, but there just is no more room at the Devil’s Neck Conference Center until we can schedule another session in a few months.

BTW: I just finished reviewing architectural renderings with Dr. Hooby Boo, the world renowned convention center designer, who is drawing the plans to add a second and third story.
• First story will be entry and kitchen/bar, office suites and entertainment center.
• Second story will be housing for attendees. (The Gator Bait Lodge has been less than satisfactory for the management participants. Something about the fact that there were real alligators on the premises. They really are pussies and whiners.)
• Third story will be the actual classrooms. We are having problems getting elevator approved as they now call it a low-rise building. Maybe we will just skip the classrooms. Nobody will use them anyway.

We will still offer the Deluxe Seminar that allows those who can afford to go first class to attend and get the full certification without the inconvenience of attending. This is long distance learning at its finest. Call for details.

Anyway, back to the real issue here. We are a little short on financing. While I considered making a stock offering available, the BoD suggested we just re-form the LectoresIT, LLC as a 501(c) 3 not for profit and take donations. LIT never makes a profit anyway so why not make it easier for the investors to take the tax write off. Why didn’t I think of that?

Any donations over $5000.00 should be made out to the WJCarnes fund or Mr. Cash. Anything less should be in bills, $20.00 or smaller, and delivered to me. No phone calls please. My CPA Hooby Bah says tax and wire fraud are a bitch to defend. Why call a lawyer when you can get legal advice from your accountant?

And Oh yes, have a nice day?


Monday, March 15, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Public vs. Private Sector Wages

Recent media coverage of the “plight” of the tax payer and how the public employees of the country are ravaging the economy with living wages as opposed to private sector employees, whose wages have been reduced lower than dirt, has caused Caveat Lectores to spend some time researching to find out what might be factual.

You see I do not trust Fox News or the other media for that matter when it comes to reporting the facts. I have over 36 years of reading and listening to distorted news that harm employees. Right wing nut republicans, conservative talk show hosts, the news media and tea baggers are stepping into the fray to see what they can do to destroy the future for all employees. Ruining the lives of many employees in private enterprise was not enough for them. Now “let’s lower the standard of living for everyone” seems to be the unspoken mantra. I wonder if there is an agenda for these people to redistribute the wealth of this country further from the middle class. Hmmmmm. Maybe I am just paranoid.

My research made me dizzy with all the treatises available on so many slightly different but intertwined topics having to do with wages. Maybe it was more like nausea. I wanted a study that compared State and Local wages to the Private Sector.

Then… there it was right before me on the computer screen: State and Local Parity: A National Analysis of Public/Private Wage Differentials at the State and Local Levels by Race and Gender. Holy crap!! For once in my research career, I found what I was looking for right on point and in less than two days. Since all employees have race and gender, I felt sure I hit a gold mine, and I did.

Here is some of what I found, quoted not paraphrased:
• Economists generally find that public employees are paid more than comparable private sector employees.
• Research on public/private sector pay differentials at the state level is scarce.
• …Most SLGs pay less than private firms in the same state for similar workers.
• This is especially true for white men and Asians.
• Blacks and Latinos earn more in the public than private sector.
• Public pay premiums for white females are small or non-existent.
• Pay comparability is a long standing principle of public sector compensation. (That Is not what my employer told me in the 70’s and 80’s when we were looking for wage increases)
• … Pay comparability has proved exceedingly elusive to achieve.
• Median salaries for public employees are higher than median salaries in the private sector.
• …Public employees tend to be better educated and have more work experience than private employees.
• Part of the public pay paradox is attributable to the significantly higher pay, relative to white males, received by women and minorities in the public sector.

This paper goes on and on explaining its findings. What I did get from the research is that federal workers do tend to make slightly higher wages than SLG workers and some private sector workers. Women and minorities fare better in similar public sector jobs than in the private sector. This of course adds fuel to the argument that the private sector discriminates more than the public sector. We can address that another day.

What all this means to me is that public sector workers are not causing the downfall of government and the economy with their high wages. However, that has not kept the right wing nuts and tea baggers from demonizing government workers. Yes, times are bad. Yes, tax reform has strangled government as it attempts to provide the services demand by a public that does not wish to pay the bill. Yes, much of the higher paying private sector work has been nearly destroyed by the demise of some unions and sending work overseas that could be done here.

Our insatiable thirst for cheap goods at cheap prices made it impossible for many industries to exist unless they paid third world wages and benefits. When U.S workers balked at third world wages, American businesses showed their loyalty and patriotism by leaving for cheaper pastures. We now use scarce petroleum to ship goods around the world that could be made here or there. Remember, if a worker does not make a living wage, the worker cannot buy even cheap foreign made goods.

Think of all the golden parachutes that were paid to executives after they ran their companies in the ground. Think of all the bonuses that were paid to the investment banking and mortgage banking industry while they ran the economy into the ground. Yeah, I know that is a simplistic approach but so is the mind of a wing nut or tea bagger.

We now have a significant cadre of ignorant and term limited legislators who have no idea of why things were done the way they were in the past nor any care to provide real leadership. These people actually run for government office on the promise they will dismantle government. They just pander to whoever wants to provide a new way to starve the beast into extinction.

I can abide real republicans who just do not give a damn about working people because they are who they are and will never change. I can even abide the way out fringe elements on either side because they fill an important function to give us all some comedic relief.

What I cannot abide is the dumbass public sector worker who will support a politician who is devoted to his/her demise. The real R’s have been brilliant, far more brilliant than the D’s, in dividing and subdividing the population to fits their needs. The same people devoted to wealth at the expense of others have co-opted the lower middle class into voting with them because of all kinds of issues that do not matter to real R’s.

What is left of the middle class has not totally fallen under the spell of the masters of deception to rally around threats to their guns, god, girls, private healthcare plans and whatever else they can make the middle class fearful of losing, but the tea baggers are working on it. The real R’s are worried this radicalization will eventually take hold and they might lose control. The evangelical preachers could be reasoned with but others maybe not.

Enough is enough. I must stop this Rant before my ranting causes me to have a stroke. You get the idea. The question is: what are you going to do about it?

And Oh yes, have a nice Day?


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Firefighter Values and Ethics

Caveat Lectores is going way out on a limb by taking on this subject but will do so anyway. For several years, we have received scores of daily Google alerts for everything fire/rescue related. We cross referenced the search terms so many ways; there is not much that escapes Caveat Lectores. Recently, I have noticed more news traffic and commentary about firefighter values, morals and ethical issues.

Coincidentally, I teach business ethics in the School of Management at a large local university that shall remain unidentified lest some of the rhetoric on Caveat Lectores gets me fired. I like teaching.

What I read about the fire/rescue service, both on and off duty, sometimes disturbs me. It takes only a little bad news coverage to undo what takes years to build up in the way of good news. The fire/rescue service, in general, and its predominant union, the IAFF, have together and separately done a great job of placing firefighters on a pedestal in terms of public relations.

Firefighters are largely considered heroes who ride to the rescue on big trucks to save the day when some unfortunate citizen finds him/herself in peril. Most other public employees do not have that level of public appeal. All public employees provide a valuable public service, but other public service professions have baggage that drags them down in the public’s view. Firefighters are “special.”

I joined the fire service in 1973 and immediately felt the aura that surrounds a firefighter. The job did not pay well, but there were many fabulous “bennies” not the least of which was doing a job that asked me to do my best work to help someone in trouble. Cost was no object for a rookie “tail boarder.” Believe me when I tell you that it did not work that way in private business. I had worked for small and large businesses, and we made money or we did not provide the service. Too bad, so sad.

In the earlier years of my career, it was like a neighborhood club. Yes, it was a job, but most firefighters were there because they liked what they were doing. It certainly was not the money. We constantly fought among ourselves and with the political powers; but when the alarm sounded, we ran to the fire apparatus to do what we did best. Some reasonable physical fitness and a high school diploma along with good references from someone on the inside could get you a ticket to the world of being a “fireman.” I was an oddball because of a college education in business and several years experience when I got my ticket punched. I loved it. The City of Temple Terrace and later Tampa actually paid me to do something that other people would do for free if given the chance.

The demographic makeup of the fire service in the 70’s was largely middle and lower middle class white males. Because Tampa had a large “ethnic” community, we probably had a larger than expected non-Anglo workforce. Afro-Americans were under represented, and there were no females. The nearly all white boys club, who had grown up together in the same neighborhoods, tended to self police and weed out those who did not belong, if they were hired at all. We had our share of dirt bags and miscreants, but they were usually marginalized. The job was really very simple. It did not pay worth a damn, but the incredible amount of out of the ordinary fringe benefits made the job attractive to certain people.

In the mid 70’s, things began to change. Some would say for the better. Others would disagree. Either way, the law required the all white boys clubs to become more diverse. Make no mistake; I firmly believe that society is better off today because the laws forced the fire/rescue service to accept diversity. It might not have happened otherwise.

Because of the demands of the market place, the fire/rescue service is now frequently dominated by EMS/ALS calls. It is not enough to have a strong back and a willingness to do things dangerous and dirty. The modern fire/rescue employee must be better educated and trained to do a much more complex job. We now call firefighters without paramedic training “slick sleeves” and worse. They are considered relics of another time. The needs of the market place demanded that change. In order to fill this need, it is necessary to open the door to more than the “guys from the ‘hood.”

Be forewarned, this is not going where you might think. I will not condemn the inclusion of all races, ethnicities and genders into the fire/rescue service. All deserve the opportunity to make the fire/rescue service their profession.

I will opine that the inclusion of more than the self policing neighborhood boys clubs and a couple of other factors may have caused internal ethical standards to falter. I do not contend that the ethical nature of the fire service 30 plus years ago was superior to today. However, it was more predictable and insular; therefore, the dirty laundry was better hidden. There are more stupid things to do today than 36 years ago. Everyone knows that firefighters are very resourceful and can find ways to get in trouble that others would never recognize.

The Internet makes sure no secret is secret for long. A firefighter cannot fart in the wrong place without somebody taking a picture and posting it on the Internet for all to see. When something really bad actually happens, and it does and always has, it now becomes national news because of the tarnished halo that all public safety workers wear since the public has tired of the 9/11 exaltation of those who died while trying to save innocent people. Public safety prospered in many ways because of what happened that dreadful day.

The simple fact is that the demographics of the fire/rescue service are now more than ever a snap shot of the population at large. We hold our public safety workers to a higher standard of conduct than others. Most can meet that standard and do.

One problem is that hiring procedures cannot predict who will be a bad apple one day and who will not. Another problem is management and supervision procedures fail to identify who needs to be removed from the service before they falter and embarrass us all. Yet another issue is that when an employee’s job is undervalued by the employer and the public, as all public employees’ jobs are today, the employee himself may cease to respect the job as well.

That being said, I must admit some of the stories I have read lately about the incredibly stupid, negligent and yes, even illegal actions and inactions of my brother and sister firefighters embarrasses even me. In my law practice, I frequently meet with public safety employees in trouble for some of the damnedest things. When I ask something like, “What were you thinking when you did that?” The answer almost always starts with, “I didn’t think….” Frequently, that is the problem. They just did not consider the implications of what they were about to do or not do. According to most Management Ethics texts, “moral awareness” must precede any analysis of whether something is ethical or not. Otherwise, you can screw up and not even know it until too late.

I suspect management types will call for an enhanced awareness of ethical standards and maybe some codification of ethics to apply to fire/rescue. The over reaction will cause more problems than solutions. Ethical standards are already in place in most jurisdictions, but they frequently are not stressed until a lapse causes embarrassment to the department. In Florida, a firefighter must be of “good moral character” (whatever that means) to be certified, and most departments have further nebulous requirements listed in their SOPs. Occasionally, the union bylaws will have some requisite lack of moral turpitude for membership in the union. That certainly clears the air on ethics and morals, doesn’t it?

Maybe it is time for management to address ethics before hiring and during the career of a fire/rescue employee rather than allow the condemnation of the profession due to the intemperate acts of a few.

Maybe the unions should govern and educate their members better as well as defend them when they are accused of a breach of ethics.

Maybe the employees themselves should understand they are not above the ethical standards of a community just because they run into burning buildings while other run out.

Maybe all of us should understand that these heroes are human just like everyone else, and they will make mistakes.

And oh yes, Have a Nice day?


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Caveat Lectores on the Five Stages

In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of grief of someone who is dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.

This same analysis applies to all types of grieving and reaction to catastrophe and disaster. What is happening in public employment to wages and benefits meets the definition of catastrophe and disaster; therefore, the five stages may apply but with a Caveat Lectores twist.

• Denial is where too many employees and their union leaders have been for too long. Public employment is supposed to be secure and bad things cannot happen. “I earned my pension; they cannot take it away like they did to the private sector.” Yeah right. I see some but not all either have emerged or are emerging to the next step.
• Anger is where I see many public employees moving soon when they find out just how fucked they are going to be when their plans for a future have been stolen from them by the same politicians they thought they had correctly supported or did not bother to support. There will be much finger pointing and trying to find somebody to blame for this mess. The mirror is a good place to start if you are looking for someone to blame.
• Bargaining from the Caveat Lectores point of view is where some will be going soon. Some will be bargaining in the Kubler-Ross mode which is to try to make a desperate deal to save their collective future from crumbling before their very eyes. Others will do a better job in the proper public sector collective bargaining approach but not without a lot of pain and compromise.
• Depression both clinical and economic is where some will land when they finally recognize just how badly they got fucked. Some are already there because they missed the start of the action and are just waiting around for the finish to their careers. They are and have always been clueless.
• Acceptance will provide some peace to a few, but hopefully some will not give up and will continue to fight the fight. It took only 24 years to undo what the Florida legislature did to the FRS special-risk pensions the last time they had their way.

A lot of people who read Caveat Lectores are from states, counties or cities not in Florida, but this threat of catastrophe is happening in nearly every jurisdiction that has not already dismantled the pension system that once provided the possibility of a good future once a public employee retired. I am told Alaska has DC plans for their public employees. Check out how well that is going for them. If you are trying to remember what a DC plan is, you are hopeless.

In order to weather this Tsunami that is about to wash away your future, the people who can help public employees survive are going to need to make some good decisions on how to proceed and then do it right the first time. For many of you, there will not be enough time to do it again later.

No one has the one size fits all right answer. I have been predicting this catastrophe for many, many years. Not all ignored me, but many were not interested because they were comfortably in denial. It is too late to get into the fight in the early rounds, but it is not too late to fight with everything in you to save your future.

While it is possible to “get lucky” and completely defeat the current batch of bad legislation and proposals, that is unlikely. Nevertheless, it must be attempted. A winner take all attitude is courageous but dangerous.

Strategy for success is not something that should be posted in a public Blog like Caveat Lectores. Clear headed thinking is required and cannot be shared publicly because there are those who will just do whatever it takes totally deprive you of your job, standard of living, and future. Welcome to the world of the right wingnuts and teabaggers, the world of “conservative” politicians who want to reduce government but demand to control the lives of others. Those would be the politicians some public employees voted into office because they believed the lies.

Now they pay the price for ignorance.

And oh yes, Have a nice Day.


Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
295 Readers in 195 Cities, 36 States and 6 Countries
Read at your own risk.
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about political and labor relations complications that affect ALL
Public Employees: Firefighters, Paramedics, Law Enforcement,
General Employees and Teachers.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Pension Destruction

Below I have reprinted with permission something we received today. On short notice, I cannot vouch for all the numbers but will absolutely vouch for the intent.

The only way to defeat this Public Sector Pension Destruction insanity is to fight back with intelligent dissertation. Hysterically crying the sky is falling and accusing the opposition of dirty deeds is not enough. Accept what is factually correct and fight with all you have in you to debunk the lies. You political enemies do not hesitate to distort the truth.

Each state and local government has a slightly different level of a problem even though most do have funding problems. Accurate information is needed to defeat the right wing political rhetoric designed to put public employees in the back of the line.

And oh yes… Have a nice day?


March 9, 2010
Police and fire pensions have become the villains of the 21st century - welfare for fat cats. Let me ask you a question. Can you listen to a defense of public safety pensions without going into a cult like melt down? I did not ask you to agree, only to listen without going into a trance and speaking in tongues.

Okay, let's begin with that wicked 90% pension. What does a 90% pension mean to us? To me it means a pension equal to 90% of the last year of employment. Is that your definition? Did you know that most public safety pensions are based an average of the last three years of employment, not just the last year. If we assume a 5% growth rate in wages, a 90% pension using the last three years is only equal to 86% of the last year's pay. Did you know that the typical public safety employer is only paying 2/3 of the cost of the pension? The employee is paying 1/3. The only benefit to the employee is the amount that the employer is paying. The rest is the employee's money. Now, the 90% pension is only a 57% pension.

Okay, maybe it is not as obscene as you originally thought, but it is too expensive. Do you know what annual contribution is required to fund a "90% pension"? How about 25% of wages? That's right - 25%. That is the total contribution, employer and employee - 16.67% by the employer and 8.33%. I know, you have read about some city in California that is having to pay 40%. Trust me, 25% is the right number. I know what you are thinking - "You better have a really good explanation Mr. Wisenheimer." Hear me out.

In California, they have a modified "knee jerk" funding mechanism to determine the annual contribution rate. Did you know that many California cities paid nothing into their pension plans during the 1990's? Didn't know that did you? Wonder how they got away with it? Using the short sighted valuation methodology in California, many pension plan were showing to be over-funded - no contribution required. Then when the stock market took a plunge, the same pension plans were suddenly under-funded. The "calculations" showed that large contributions were needed. Cities began screaming like smashed cats. Another thing added to this confrontation with reality. Previously, most public safety employees were earning a 75% pension. Many cities increased the 30 year pension from 75% to 90% and grandfathered in all people currently employed. It does not require a PHD in mathematics to determine that a pension 100% funded is suddenly 83% funded. There is no free lunch.

That is not all. Currently, there is a political move to change the assumptions used by actuaries. It appears that the California Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS) is going to surrender to this insanity.

So, what is the solution? Easy, make all contribution rates based on long-term assumptions, not year-to-year assumptions. 25% needs to be contributed every year, good or bad. If a city decides to grand-father in new benefits, it should be amortized over 15 years and shown as a separate payment. The sales for Rolaids should decline sharply.

Can't believe it all that simple? It is. Jump on here and blast me into orbit with your comments. I like 'em. I look forward to hearing from you, my friends.
Ron York
Police Contract Negotiations Consultant
Norman, Oklahoma
Cell phone (405) 535-1516

Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Tax Watch: Florida Report

This is not a typical Caveat Lectores Rant. This is a breaking news report.

The Government Cost Savings Task Force, organized by Florida Tax Watch, released a 125-page report during a news conference on Thursday, March 4, 2010. This report identifies productivity and efficiency improvements and other cost savings measures to change the way Florida government works, much of it in operational and administrative spending. Without trying to add editorial comment, I have included a verbatim copy of portions of the Tax Watch Proposals that affect Florida FRS pensions.

What follows is tedious and grim for Florida public employees. You can expect to see some of this in your future.

Reduce Florida Retirement System (FRS) employer contribution for new hires.

In FY 2007-08, contributions to the FRS pension fund by state and local governments totaled nearly $3.2 billion with $672 million from the state and $2.52 billion from local governments, which ranges from 9.99% - 22.54% of the annual salaries of FRS participants depending on employee class. These contributions represent the estimated cost to fund projected benefits of employees hired during the current year. Currently, the FRS does not require any matching contributions by employees.

Modifying the FRS pension fund to require that newly hired employees contribute to their defined benefit or defined contribution plans would dramatically reduce state and local government contribution requirements.

Most other state sponsored defined benefit programs require an employee match, with the average amount being 5% of the employee’s average salary. If all new employees were required to make a match on the state’s contribution to their retirement fund equivalent of 5% of their annual salary, significant savings could be realized by the state.

Based on annual salaries of FRS defined benefit employees, as of June 30, 2008, total contributions for FY 2007-08 were $3,289,467,438 with an overall contribution rate of 13.74%. A 5% new employee contribution would result in a reduction to employer contributions of nearly $1.2 billion, of which $245 million would be realized by the state and the remaining $952 million by local governments.

New employees selecting the defined contribution plan should also be required to remit 5% of their salary as a condition of membership. Assuming the employee composition in the defined contribution plan mirrors that of the defined benefit plan, additional savings of $50 million would be realized of which $10 million would be attributable to the state and the remaining $40 million to local governments. For both plans, employee contributions should be reimbursed upon termination if the employee does not meet the associated vesting requirements.

Combining the $245 million in FRS contribution savings from the defined benefit plan with the $10 million from the defined contribution plan, the total annual savings to the state beginning in FY 2010-11 are estimated to be $255 million. Total annual savings to local governments are estimated to be $992 million.

Using 2009 figures, the Florida Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability estimated a $316 million savings for every percent of participants’ salaries shifted towards contribution into the FRS pension fund ($1.58 billion for 5 percent). This number, however, was not broken down to show the share of savings incurred between state and local government.

Recommendation: Amend Chapter 121, Florida Statutes to require employees hired after July 1, 2010, to contribute 5% of their salary as a condition of participation in the FRS.

Tie automatic COLA increase for public pension recipients to inflation with a 3 percent Ceiling.

In 1980, the automatic increase in the annual Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) provided to all beneficiaries in the FRS was limited to 3% of current benefits, but not more than annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 1987, the COLA was established at 3% regardless of the CPI.

Unlike Florida, most public pension plans tie post-retirement increases in pension benefits to CPI. Likewise, Federal Social Security is based on CPI-W - Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. For the period August 2008 - August 2009, the national CPI was -1.9% and the CPI-W for Miami-Ft. Lauderdale was -2.5%. Capping the automatic annual COLA increase to the lesser of CPI or 3% would produce significant long-term savings while bringing Florida into line with other state pension plans and public benefits. The purpose of COLAs is to keep pace with inflation, not exceed it.

As of June 30, 2008, there were 276,252 annuitants receiving benefits payments. The average pension benefit in FY 2007-08 was $16,248.31

Modifying the pension benefit COLA formula to the methodology used prior to 1987 would reduce the amount of benefits paid to retirees by state and local governments by $150 million in FY 2010-11 and would improve the pension plans’ actuarial valuation by reducing the calculated present value of future benefits, which would save the state significantly because a reduction in the present value of future benefits calculations would allow state and local governments to reduce future contributions to the pension plan.

However, it may not be possible to modify the COLA formula for current annuitants because of contract laws, which would reduce the immediate savings estimation. Similarly, it might not be possible to modify the formula for state employees whose retirement benefits have already vested, which would have less effect on immediate savings. On the other hand, it is like possible to modify the formula for employees whose benefits have not yet vested, and certainly possible to modify it for new employees not yet hired, which will have some effect on the actuarial valuation of the immediate contribution and will be ensure that future generations of Floridians are facing the same difficult times with impossible choices.

Recommendation: The Legislature should seek an expert legal opinion on the possibility of modifying Chapter 121, Florida Statutes, to limit automatic annual COLA formula to the lower of 3% or CPI, and should modify the law according to the opinion.

Increase vesting period for FRS Pension Plan from six to 10 years

Since July 1, 2001, employees participating in the FRS Pension Plan (a.k.a. Defined Benefit plan) retirement plan may become vested owners of the contribution made by their employers into their FRS retirement fund after six years of credited service. As of June 30, 2008 there were 476,031 vested FRS members (nearly 70% of total employees with FRS membership) entitled to benefits upon termination.32 If the vesting period was increased from six to 10 years, significant savings could be realized by the state of Florida.

Many other states, such as Georgia33 and Alabama,34 have 10-year vesting periods, thus increasing this period to 10 years would not be out of line with already existing policies in neighboring states.

In FY 2008-09, approximately 5,322 vested employees were terminated from state employment alone. Of these terminated employees, approximately 1,315 employees would not have been eligible to keep their FRS retirement benefits had the vesting period been at least 10 years.

Assuming these figures are applicable for FY 2010-11 and beyond, the state would save an estimated $16 million annually.

Recommendation: The Legislature should amend current statutes to increase the length of the vesting period for current members of the FRS Pension Plan from six to 10 years.

Reevaluate who is considered "special risk" for pension benefits.

Florida law recognizes a special category of employees, known as “special risk” employees, who are entitled to accelerated benefits within the FRS due to the extraordinary demands of the services they perform on behalf of the state. Specifically, s. 121.0515, Florida Statutes, states that “the legislative intent of establishment of a special risk class is to limit membership to employees where one of the essential functions of their positions to perform work is physically demanding or arduous, or work that requires extraordinary agility and mental acuity, and that such persons, because of diminishing physical and mental faculties, may find that they are not able, without risk to the health and safety of themselves, the public, or their coworkers, to continue performing such duties and thus enjoy the full career and retirement benefits enjoyed by persons employed in other positions and that, if they find it necessary, due to the physical and mental limitations of their age, to retire at an earlier age and usually with less service, they will suffer an economic deprivation there from.”

The statute makes clear that the accelerated benefits afforded to special risk employees are associated with the corresponding increased and exceptional strain of the particular service provided; however, the number of employees that qualify for special risk class has increased 12 percent from 2004 to 2008 (from 66,861 in 2004 to 74,939 in 2008) while the regular class employees has grown by 6 percent during the same period. Employer contributions for special risk employees represent approximately 20 represent of their salary, which is about twice the percentage as for regular class employees, thus the increase in qualified employees represents a significant cost increase for state and local governments.

In 2009, contributions for special risk class employees were approximately $780 million dollars or $10,400 for each employee. A review of special risk eligibility based on criteria meeting legislative intent could result in a significant reduction in the number of special risk class employees and reduce pension contribution costs. For example, a reclassification of 10% of employees from the special risk to the regular class (7,500 employees) would result in an estimated savings of over $40 million per year to state and local governments in FY 2010-2011.

Based on total contributions by state and local governments to the FRS defined benefits pension plan, savings to the state are estimated to be $8 million with the remaining $32 million in savings to local governments.

Recommendation: The legislature should direct DMS to review the position requirements for each employee designated as special risk to determine if they meet the legislative intent for designation of this retirement classification.

Reduce the retirement credit for Senior Management System employees from 2% to
1.6% and for Special Risk from 3% to 2%.

In FY 2007-08, the FRS paid nearly 276,252 annuitants over $5.2 billion in pension benefits, which represented a 6% increase from the previous year. Contributions to the pension fund by state and local governments totaled nearly $3.2 billion with $672 million (21%) from the state and $2,520 million from local governments.

The retirement credit for Senior Management System (SMS) employees is 2%, which is 0.4% higher than the 1.6% retirement credit for CS employees. In 2008, the average compensation for SMS employees was $87,018. The average pension benefit for SMS annuitants in 2008 was $40,267. The number of SMS employees increased by 21% from 6,312 on July 1, 2004, to 7,666 on June 30, 2008.

Special risk retirement credit was increased from 2% to 3%, phased in over a 5-year period (1989-1993) in 1989. Required contributions could be significantly reduced by reducing the SMS match from 2% to 1.6% and special risk from 3% to 2%. Special risk retirement credit was increased from 2% to 3%, phased in over a 5-year period (1989-1993).

A reduction in the retirement credit for SMS employees from 2% to 1.6% would result in an $18.9 million reduction in annual contribution to the FRS defined benefit program.

Approximately $4 million of the $18.9 million would be attributable to the required contribution for state employees, with the remaining $15 million associated with contributions made by local governments.

A reduction in the retirement credit for Special Risk employees from 3% to 2% would result in an annual reduction of $290 million in required contributions by state and local governments to the FRS defined benefit plan.
Approximately $60 million would be attributable to the contributions for state employees, with the remaining $230 million associated with contribution made by local governments.

Thus, reducing the retirement credit for both SMS and special risk employees would save $64 million for the state in FY 10-11 (and recurring in out years) and $245 million for local governments. If the change is made immediately, the state will have saved approximately $200 million by FY 2012-13 and the local governments around Florida would have saved approximately $1.3 billion.

Recommendation: The Legislature should amend Chapter 121, Florida Statutes to reduce retirement credits for the SMS retirement credit from 2% to 1.6% and the special risk retirement credit from 3% to 2%.

The future is now.

And oh yes, have a Nice Day?


Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes

Readers in 171 cities in 35 states and 12 countries
Read at your own risk. You may learn something you did not want to know.
Commentary pieces concerning the political and labor relations complications
that affect ALL public employees: Firefighters, Paramedics, Law Enforcement,
General Employees and Teachers.
Lectores Labor Consulting 813-240-8165
Caveat Lectores

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Labor Arbitration II

In November, 2009, Caveat Lectores published a Rant on Labor Arbitration. This is the second installment of what may be many in a series.

Last week I participated in a mediation to try to settle two grievances and finalize stalled CBA negotiation wherein the parties were operating under a status quo without a contract for over a year. As we all know, this is dangerous; particularly when either party can declare an end to the impasse by declaring an unwillingness to continue the status quo. Since this was a private sector employer, we had imposed contract terms and strike/lockout as potential outcomes. Not good in today’s labor market.

As frequently happens in such cases, the grievant was very sincere but woefully uneducated as to the process. The union leadership was well versed and capable but working with a local leader who was totally unwilling to compromise. His frequent refrain in response to suggested compromises was to say “let’s just let the arbitrator decide.”

He did not have a clue what that would mean. The union’s case was weak and there was no effective remedy available. The grievant would not have agreed, but what we were trying to do was to get something out of arbitration that we could not get in negotiation. As we experienced labor advocates know, arbitrators do not appreciate it when a union tries to pull this maneuver.

Eventually, we settled the grievances and the terms of the Contract by negotiation instead of ADR type litigation or a strike, but the members of the bargaining unit will be disappointed in the result because it did not encompass total defeat of the employer. This is not an uncommon feature of grievance arbitration/mediation when you have real people involved. Ignorance of the labor negotiation process is not necessarily due to stupidity, but we cannot categorically rule that out.

When I left the mediation for the day to travel to my Labor and Employment Law class at USF, I knew the subject of this week’s Caveat Lectores Rant. My preparation included the usual Internet research on Google and more proprietary sources to seek knowledge about the subject of: “How often do unions win in arbitration?” I already knew the answer but needed to update my data. The answer is: not often enough to cast the future of a grievant and the Local to the winds of chance just because the opportunity is available and somebody is pissed off.

The Caveat Lectores research produced an article entitled: HOW UNIONS CAN IMPROVE THEIR SUCCESS RATE IN LABOR ARBITRATION: By Charles A. Borell This 2006 mini-treatise is a few years old, but nothing has significantly changed in four years to suggest it is out of date. The conclusions may not be perfect because so little real scientific data is available about labor arbitration, but since I agree with most of the results from the work, I am going to go with it.

Mr. Borell’s research, based on a 10 year tracking period of arbitrations with IBEW Local 97 indicated the Local had a clear win only 26.6% of the time. A survey of a similar time period using which would have included a larger segment showed the average win rate for unions during the same 10-year period was 36.3%. Using either set of percentages, it is clear that unions win less frequently than they lose. Anyone who thinks it is a good idea to bet the future of a bargaining unit on those odds would not be a good poker player.

Arbitration may be the preferred method of settling labor disputes in lieu of labor strikes or litigation, but it is a tool not a result. Some neophyte union leaders and nearly all rank and file union members think that because they have this very important arrow in their quiver, they should use it first and often. Nothing could be further from the truth. The odds against us are monumental. (See above)

In the private sector, management will nearly always agree to binding arbitration in exchange for a no strike clause. In the public sector, it is usually a legislated trade off to defend the unavailability of strikes and lockouts to either side. I suggest that the gravity of taking a grievance to arbitration should be looked upon with the same seriousness as going on strike. A negative result can be devastating to either side. But others do not agree and look at it as an opportunity to vanquish the other side with little regard for the opportunity to be vanquished.

Those “others” are usually uneducated and inexperienced labor advocates who have not been totally screwed at the altar of an all powerful arbitrator who disagreed with a poorly conceived and presented arbitration case. (Been there, done that. It sucks to be me when I get assigned such a loser, but it is my job to do the best I can with what is handed to me.)

Without trying to duplicate Mr. Burell’s work here, Caveat Lectores will summarize some of the conclusions and responses to a survey he received from 73 experienced, highly regarded labor arbitrators.
· (79.5%) indicated that poor preparation significantly contributed to the union's win rate.
· (90.4%) indicated that filing grievances with insufficient merit is an issue for unions.
· (71%) indicated that competency of the union's advocate is an issue in union performance in labor arbitration.
· (74%) indicated that witness credibility is an issue. Arbitrators frequently include in the findings of facts that the employer's witnesses were more credible than the union's. The supposition is the employer witnesses had no reason not to tell the truth, while the same could not be said of the union witnesses.
· Thirty-four arbitrators listed other reasons unions may not be successful in labor arbitration. The most significant reasons included: (1) unions trying to obtain a result in arbitration that they could not obtain through negotiation at the bargaining table; (2) unions arguing fairness instead of the terms of the CBA; (3) the union's unfamiliarity with the bargaining history of the CBA; and (4) having an overwhelming number of grievances scheduled for arbitration.
· Although the arbitrators surveyed split on the issue of whether an attorney was necessary for successful arbitration advocacy, Borell suggested a Local should have labor counsel for arbitrations. Since I am a labor attorney, I agree. However, because many of my clients cannot afford to arbitrate with an attorney, I say it is better to go it alone than not at all. A union local can do an adequate job but only if the Local does all the things an attorney would do. This takes skills training, experience and devoting the time necessary to properly prepare. Most Local unions do not have the time to do it right.


This is easy to find on the Net but a little tricky to download and print. Caveat Lectores will gladly send you a copy. Just email us at or phone Daniel Eger at 813-254-9524.

And oh yes, have a nice Day?


Caveat Lectores on Progressives

OK, Caveat Lectores is written by an idiot. Democratic and liberal had become shop worn; so I adopted “progressive” as my political moniker. I thought it was perfectly all right to think progressively. I was proud to adopt progressive ideas. Wow is all I can say. That Glenn Beck guy really has it all together. I thought progressivism was a political attitude favoring or advocating change and reform, as needed. How could I have been so wrong?

The above web address takes you to a news piece about Mr. Beck that includes some compiled video clips that are disturbing; however, I think I will still sleep peacefully tonight. He did seem to be calling me a fascist because of my progressive thoughts. Hmmmm. I took that personally.

According to the Internet quick reference guide of the Ages, Wikipedia:

The term "progressive" is today often used in place of "liberal". Although the two are related in some ways, they are separate and distinct political ideologies. According to John Halpin, senior advisor on the staff of the Center for American Progress, "Progressivism is an orientation towards politics; it's not a long-standing ideology like liberalism, but an historically-grounded concept... that accepts the world as dynamic." Progressives see progressivism as an attitude towards the world of politics that is broader than conservatism vs. liberalism, and as an attempt to break free from what they consider to be a false and divisive dichotomy.
Cultural Liberalism is ultimately founded on a concept of
natural rights and civil liberties, and the belief that the major purpose of the government is to protect those rights. Liberals are often called "left-wing", as opposed to "right-wing" conservatives. The progressive school, as a unique branch of contemporary political thought, tends to advocate certain center-left or left-wing views that may conflict with mainstream liberal views, despite the fact that modern liberalism and progressivism may still both support many of the same policies (such as the concept of war as a general last resort).
American progressives tend to support interventionist economics: they advocate
progressive taxation and oppose the growing influence of corporations.

It looks like Glenn Beck and the Tea Baggers have decided to make what I thought was a reasonably respectable word vile to those who never bother to listen to anything more than the bullshit they serve up to an uninformed public.

After listening to the video clip, I am in a quandary. Should I join up with Beck, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and the Tea Baggers, or should I stand my ground and admit that I feel much more like other progressive politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson? In this case, I think I will feel a little more intellectually safe with those guys by saying screw you to the Tea Baggers and Glenn Beck.

And Oh yes, Have a nice day?


Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
Readers in 171 cities in 35 states and 12 countriesRead at your own risk. You may learn something you did not want to know.Commentary pieces concerning the political and labor relationscomplications that affect ALL public employees: Firefighters, Paramedics, Law Enforcement, General Employees and Teachers.
Lectores Labor Consulting 813-240-8165
Caveat Lectores