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Hardly the last word from California



The Republican governors have been making mischief.  Besides the antics of
Mitch Daniels in Indiana who erased collective bargaining and all existing
agreements with public employees, and similar shenanigans in Missouri,
California's Arnold Schwarzenegger has been on a mission to destroy defined
benefit's pensions for public employees.  He foresees
this movement sweeping across the country like a fiscal tsunami.  

Briefly the plans:
Defined Benefits plans, called DB's, are those plans where participants and
their employers contribute percentages of their pay over their careers with
the knowledge that at retirement they will have a monthly payment dependant
upon their age,  years of service and a calculation including their salary
in the years preceding their retirement.  The plans also contain provisions
which allow for monthly payments in the event that a police officer or
deputy becomes disabled or dead as a result of an on-duty event.  The plans
vary some depending on which system the employee is in, but that is the gist
of the DB. 
Health care upon retirement is also a defined benefit in many locales.


Defined Contribution plans (DC) also depend on contributions from the
employee and employer also.  These accounts are then placed into 401k
accounts.  The differences are dramatic.  The benefits upon retirement,
death or disability are determined solely by what is in that account at the
time the employee leaves. 

Should an employee die or become disabled as a result of their employment,
they or their survivor receives whatever is in the 401k, leaving them at the
mercy of Wall Street.  It doesn't take much imagination to picture a 5-year
veteran killed in the line of duty leaving less than 60 thousand dollars to
care for his spouse and children. 

The Proposal
Governor Schwarzenegger is pushing an initiative that would no longer allow
DBs for public employees in the state of California.  The Governor claims
that his plan would save California money.  Financial experts have
disagreed, citing the ONLY savings realized would come from the erasure of
public safety death and disability benefits. The Governor even denied that
his "plan" would remove these benefits despite a summary by his own State
Attorney General to the contrary. 


The Response
The IUPA and other Police associations, joined by thousands of teachers,
transportation workers and other public employees rallied.
The IUPA's own  Los Angeles Police Protective League, led by their President
Bob Baker, rolled up their sleeves.  They issued press releases several
times a week, alerting the public to the details of this ill conceived
"reform."  They wrote and sponsored radio spots featuring police survivors
who told their stories of loss and hope, the hope that would be annihilated
by Governor Schwarzenegger's reform.
Billboards were bought, further illuminating the corrosive nature of his
reform plan.  Baker challenged the governor to a debate which the governor
wisely ignored. 

And then . .
On April 8, 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger backed down, albeit momentarily.
He held a press conference, finally admitting that his plan was "flawed."
He said that he would abandon pursuit of the plan "until at least June
2006."  That is hardly reassuring for public employees.  No one knows if the
governor saw the light or felt the heat, but agreeing to back off for a year
should not provide much comfort.

This should sound the claxon of alarm across the country.  It also
illustrates the value of unions fighting together.  Rather than look for
exemptions for public safety, the experienced police union leaders in
California saw the benefits of sticking together with all other public
employee groups, the essence and wellspring of union strength.  They have
prevailed - for now.  They won't back off or be comforted by the April
"cease fire."  They know the political philosophy that drives and guides
this governor.  His system of beliefs, convictions and political debt won't
change between now and June 2006.  He'll be back all right; probably in 2006
with another proposed "reform"
containing different words, perhaps with a death benefit or other
modification intended to mollify fears and obscure his own apathy for the
brave men and women who protect his state and for their survivors,
who we know will follow.  

Back also will come the unions and associations to shine a klieg light into
the shadows of any veiled attempt to harm the pensions and benefits of their
members.  They will continue to inform the voters, identify lies, and do
well the job their members pay them to do.  Police everywhere should thank
them.  Police everywhere should continue to support them.  Police everywhere
must remember, if they can do it to one, they can do it to anyone.