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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mehlville Board Opts Not to Fill Seat Formerly Held by Frank

Franz should be appointed to Frank's seat, Bivins says.

Staff Reporter-Call Newspapers

November 24, 2010 - The Mehlville Board of Education will not appoint anyone to serve out the unexpired term of former board member Karl Frank Jr., whose resignation was approved last week.

The board, including Frank, voted 6-1 at its Nov. 18 meeting to accept Frank's resignation effective immediately. Board President Tom Diehl was opposed.

Frank's resignation was the board's first item of new business last week. Once it was approved, Frank thanked his fellow board members and left the meeting.

After he left, the board unanimously approved a motion by Secretary Larry Felton to suspend board policy and leave Frank's seat vacant until the April 5 municipal election. That seat, along with those held by Drew Frauenhoffer and Erin Weber, will be up for election then.

Board policy states if a vacancy occurs on the board, "the remaining members shall appoint a person to serve until the next school board election."

The board would seek letters from interested residents for two weeks and interview candidates at an open meeting. The vote on the appointment also would be done in open session.

Mehlville's policy somewhat mirrors Missouri law, which states any vacancy on a school board "shall be filled by the remaining members."

"I'm not sure it's worth going through that for someone to sit (on the board) for three meetings. If we had a position that was open for a year, year and a half, we would certainly solicit bids," Felton said, noting the board had more pressing issues to address, such as the district's long-term financial stability.

Felton later said attorneys with the Missouri School Boards' Association advised him that Frank's seat could stay vacant until the election because state law, unlike Mehlville's policy, does not mandate a time frame for the board to fill it.

The board's decision, though, came as a surprise to Rich Franz, Greg Frigerio and Ken Meyer, who are the founding members of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Organization.

The MCTA formed out of a belief that the school board is out of touch with the community. The group strongly opposed the district's Proposition C, a proposed 88-cent tax-rate increase that more than 62 percent of voters rejected in the Nov. 2 election.

In a brief interview after last week's board meeting, the MCTA members said while some on the school board contend they want to find common ground with critics in the wake of Prop C's defeat, the decision to leave Frank's seat vacant indicates otherwise.

"They're talking out of both sides of their mouth," Franz said. "This board had a golden opportunity tonight to say to the community: We heard you Nov. 2."

"And they slammed the door shut," Meyer said.

The board "could've appointed anyone," Frigerio added, noting that any of the five former Mehlville school board members who publicly opposed Prop C — state Rep. Walt Bivins, Matt Chellis, Rich Huddleston, Dick Roehl and Kurt Witzel — would've been good candidates.

Bivins earlier in the evening told the board during a period for public comments that it should appoint Franz to finish Frank's term. He pointed to the Concord resident's experience teaching and counseling students as a law enforcement officer and his involvement with the MCTA.

"I know some of you may blanch at that," Bivins said of Franz's work with the MCTA. "But from that perspective he brings a certain credibility he would have as a board member that you might be able to draw upon."

Bivins made his remarks before the board's vote not to fill Frank's seat.

He thanked the outgoing board member for his service, as did Karen Torretta, who serves as president of the Mehlville National Education Association.

Torretta praised Frank for his "deep conviction" that every decision he made as a board member had to be based on what was best for students.

"He had the courage to stand up for kids," she said, "even when his opinion went against the prevailing viewpoint."

Diehl told the Call his vote against accepting Frank's resignation was a "little dig" at his good friend, who the board president hoped would finish his term.

"But I can understand his frustration," Diehl said.

Frank, who was elected to the board in 2005, has said he decided to step down to devote more time to his family and his computer consulting business, but also because of a "disconnect" between the direction he and the community believe the district should go.

In an e-mail to board members and Superintendent Terry Noble on Nov. 15, Frank gave another reason: He doesn't want to serve on a school board that doesn't have Noble as its superintendent.

Noble is working for the district under a one-year contract that's set to expire on June 30. He has declined to disclose his plans beyond that point.

The board stumbled upon a "diamond in the rough leader" when it found Noble, Frank wrote, noting the job of a superintendent is "not for the weary, and it is especially not for the incompetent."

"We simply have (the) best superintendent in Missouri, and maybe one of the best in the country, directing our school district, creating an internal educational environment unlike most have ever seen within the walls of the Mehlville School District," Frank wrote. "Few people in my life have been able to throw me in to a pure state of humility like Terry Noble has. Not only is he not accepted, some of the things that have been said about Mr. Noble and his motivations are despicable beyond all reproach.

"They disgust me. They literally make me want to vomit when I think about it."

Frank wrote that he is "sick and ashamed of the majority of the Mehlville community."

"I do not want to serve it and I do not want to be elected by it," he wrote. "Quite frankly, the fact that I was ever elected at all by this community makes me wonder what in the world people are thinking."

He added, "After the failure of Proposition C, I was strongly encouraged as a board member to take responsibility for its loss. For years board members have been pointing fingers at each other and others for (failed) ballot initiatives. Screw that. I am not taking responsibility for something I have dedicated my life to for no pay and no glory. I certainly am not taking responsibility for the future failures of this district when I know without a doubt that the leader we need now more than ever is a man named Terry Noble."

Frank wrote he was naive in thinking five years ago that the community "would accept its responsibility to each other as fellow human beings" as long as the right people were in charge of the district.

"I could not have been proven more wrong," Frank wrote, "and I hate being wrong."

Unions Send Hefty Bucks to Nixon; are they Pro-Nuclear or Anti-Right to Work?

By Jo Mannies, Beacon Political Reporter   
Posted 1:12 pm, Tue., 11.23.10

Gov. Jay Nixon's new round of hefty campaign donations from labor unions -- $150,000 since last Friday -- is prompting lots of speculation among political watchdogs and the press on what might be driving the flurry of union checks.

Some news outlets cite the governor's flyaround tour last Friday in which he announced that he supports a new nuclear plant, which would create union jobs.

That same day, the region's Plumbers and Pipefitters union gave the governor $25,000. On Monday, the Hazelwood-based United Autoworkers, Region 5, gave him $100,000. The Ironworkers union also kicked in $25,000.

But labor sources cite another issue driving the largess to the governor: a possible showdown in the Republican-controlled state Legislature over right to work.

The new Republican leader in the state Senate -- Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter -- announced shortly after his selection that one of his top issues would be the passage of legislation to make Missouri a right-to-work state.

Under right to work, companies and unions are barred from requiring all workers in a union-represented unit to pay union dues as a requirement of employment. Such requirements are known as "closed shops."

Mayer and his allies contend that Missouri has lost jobs, particularly in the auto industry, because businesses have migrated to right-to-work states, such as neighboring Arkansas.

The Missouri AFL-CIO contends that Missouri is losing jobs to Mexico and China -- and that right to work wouldn't change that. (Click here to read the Beacon's story earlier this month on labor's mobilization effort against the GOP push.)

In any case, if the Legislature passed a right-to-work law it would be up to Nixon -- a Democrat seeking re-election in 2012 -- to sign or veto the measure. Since labor is among the Democratic Party's most powerful blocs, the assumption is that Nixon would veto the bill.

The Legislature might seek to skirt Nixon by putting a right-to-work proposal directly on the 2012 ballot. Labor won a similar ballot fight in 1978, but its numbers in the state's workplaces now are about half of what they were 32 years ago.

Retiring U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., said in an interview Monday that the 1978 battle over right to work turned out to be "a disaster" for the GOP.

"It wiped out every single Republican from top to bottom," said Bond.

When asked about this year's possible renewal of the fight, Bond replied that Republicans in the state Legislature should reconsider -- and think about what happened in 1978.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Right to Work on the Move in Missouri?

Right to Work on the Move in Missouri?
On November 17, 2010, By NRTW Committee Staff

Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell  eloquently lays out the case for enactment of a Right to Work law in the Show-Me state.  It would create jobs and protect workers:

“Look no further than our own state to see how financial incentives fail to sway businesses. In a special session, the General Assembly gave labor-supported tax credits to Ford to entice it to locate a new product line to replace the Claycomo plant jobs that are leaving. But months after being offered those tax credits, Ford is still unwilling to commit to Missouri.

Maybe, before making their assertions, unions should look at the evidence of job growth found in the most current data available by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job creation in Right to Work states is growing 2.5 times faster than non-Right to Work states. From 2003 to 2008, the number of private-sector employees in RTW states grew at 9.1 percent compared to forced-union state employee growth of 3.6 percent.

Unions also allege there is evidence that RTW laws “are actually associated with lower wages.” That statement failed to share the real data. The truth is, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, from 2003 to 2008, personal income levels increased by 15.8 percent in Right to Work states compared to 9.1 percent growth in forced-union states. In fact, a recent study by Barry Paulson, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado, found the weighted average adjusted household income in Right to Work state metro areas was $4,258 more than in non-Right to Work state metro areas.

They should further consider that during the recession of 2001, Oklahoma became the most recent state to adopt Right to Work laws. In doing so, during that time, its median household income increased by $779 while the national median fell by $1,014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And, contrary to Sen. Green’s presumption, its poverty rate dropped by 1.5 percent while poverty increased by 0.8 percent nationwide.

Still, those protecting unions argue there is little economic impact to Right to Work initiatives. But forced-union states are losing billions of dollars because families are following the jobs and fleeing to Right to Work states. Since 2000, the IRS’s Statistical Information Service showed a net total of 1.63 million taxpayers have moved to Right to Work states. This migration to Right to Workstates has cost forced-union states from 2006 to 2007 a total of $18.3 billion in income without including the lost spending to local businesses.

The data on the economic benefits of making Missouri a Right to Workstate cannot be ignored and is why I oppose the current law that forces workers to financially support a union as a condition of their employment. If union members such as Sen. [Tim] Green continue to put unions first instead of Missouri’s working families, they will follow this economic model all the way to unemployment. No worker who chooses to join a union should be denied that choice, but no worker in Missouri should be forced to join a union just to hold a job.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Senate GOP Vows to Push Anti-Labor Bill


Joe Yerardi State Capitol Bureau, Missouri Digital News

November 17, 2010 - JEFFERSON CITY - Both labor and business organizations are beginning to react to the possibility raised by Missouri Republican leaders that "right to work" legislation would be a high priority for 2011.

Sen. Rob Mayer, picked by the GOP Senate caucus to be the Senate's president pro tem, said he would like to see a so-called "right to work" law move through the chamber. 

A right-to-work law would abolish the union shop, where employees at a unionized business must either join the union or pay fees in place of union dues within two months of being hired.

Supporters of such a move say right to work improves the business climate and encourages investment.

"If you're a right to work state, you've got a factor that Missouri doesn't have. Is it a deciding factor? It could be in some instances," said Dan Mehan, President of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters like Mehan note that of the eight states that border Missouri, the only states without right to work laws -- Illinois and Kentucky -- have the highest unemployment rates. In comparison, all the open shop states except one, Tennessee, have unemployment rates lower than that of the Show-Me State.

"You've seen a lot of development go on in states, especially in the Southeast and the South, and one of the reasons is the right-to-work environment," Mehan said.

Opponents of right-to-work laws say companies are attracted to other states not because of labor laws, but because of looser business and environmental regulations, and generous tax incentives.

Herb Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said Missouri's going open shop will lead to lower wages and a less secure working environment for the state's employees.

"It doesn't have a damn thing to do with economic prosperity," said Johnson. "It's a race to the bottom and nothing more than that."

Johnson suggested a more sinister intention behind the Republicans' efforts to pass a right-to-work law: weakening the powers of organized labor, a group that tends to back Democrats.

"It really is an attack on organized labor to try to reduce our influence politically and legislatively," Johnson said.

Rafael Gely, a professor at the University of Missouri and an expert on labor relations, said that it's difficult to determine what exactly attracts employers to certain states over others.

"I'm not sure whether the labor relations component is as important or more important than, for example, the tax climate or the regulatory climate," said Gely. "I'm not sure there is clear evidence that indicates that one of them is more important than the other."

If the leadership of the larger GOP majority in the legislature next year chooses to push right to work legislation, opponents warn it would trigger a Senate filibuster that would require a rarely used motion to shut off debate.

In 1978, an initiative petition proposal to repeal the union-shop law was rejected by Missouri voters by 60 percent.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It’s Settled. I Am Resigning Because of Terry Noble…By Karl Frank, Jr.


Last week I wrote rather convincingly the various reasons for why I was resigning from the Mehlville Board of Education, but something just felt like it was missing.  The reasons I provided are all real and legitimate reasons for my resignation, but board service is complicated, and the reasons for various decisions contain multitudes – including this one.

While I made the decision to resign early in September, I could not even explain to myself the reason why. Since then, I have spent a great deal of time trying to settle on the one over-arching reason that has caused such a mental check-out in my desire for serving on the Board of Education.  When it hit me today, I knew it was it.

I simply do not want to serve on a Board of Education that does not have Terry Noble as its Superintendent.

The most important job of a school board member is to find a superintendent that can handle the administration of the school district for the purpose of student success.The complexity of school district management is not something easily understood by the average community member, nor is it something easily understood by a school board director, or even a classroom teacher.  Running a $100 million dollar a year operation with 1200 employees and more than 10,000 students, of which the stakes are incredibly high is not for the weary, and it is especially not for the incompetent.

Throw in a highly critical press and a plethora of red tape from state and federal government mandates, most of which is unfunded, and you have a job that very few Americans are physically, mentally, and logistically qualified to do.

As a board member, I joined my colleagues in stumbling upon a diamond-in-the-rough leader.  We simply have that best superintendent in Missouri, and maybe one of the best in the country, directing our school district, creating an internal educational environment unlike most have ever seen within the walls of the Mehlville School District.

Few people in my life have been able to throw me in to a pure state of humility like Terry Noble has.  He is the kind of person that almost everyone in the community wishes they knew personally, yet here it is slapping them in the face and they reject him.  Not only is he not accepted, some of the things that have been said about Mr. Noble and his motivations are despicable beyond all reproach.  They disgust me.  They literallymake me want to vomit when I think about it.

Being the superintendent of a school district is not a charitable endeavor.  A public school district is not a church.  Asking someone to drive two hours a day to put in hefty twelve hour days at what is ultimately a cost to them is ludicrous.  It’s not logical and most of all it’s anti-American.

Have you ever thought about how you can simultaneously be proud of something and sickened and ashamed of it at the same time?  Well that is me right now.  I am sick and ashamed of the majority of the Mehlville Community.  I do not want to serve it and I do not want to be elected by it.  Quite frankly, the fact that I was ever elected at all by this community makes me wonder what in the world people are thinking.

I love my kids.  I love my my wife.  I love my home, our school district, and my family’s roots in this community, but I do not love what this community has become and is on the road to becoming.

After the failure of Proposition C, I was strongly encouraged as a board member to take responsibility for its loss.  For years board members have been pointing fingers at each other and others for the failures ballot initiatives.  Screw that. I am not taking responsibility for something I have dedicated my life to for no pay and no glory. I certainly am not taking responsibility for the future failures of this district when I know without a doubt that the leader we need now more than ever is a man named Terry Noble.

This community knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.  Nothing…Nothing!

In the meantime, I did my job.  I found the best superintendent possible to run this school district, and now this community doesn’t want to do what it takes to keep him.

What a disappointment.  I can’t believe how naive I was in thinking to myself five years ago that all we needed was the right people at the helm and this community would accept its responsibility to each other as fellow human beings.

I could not have been proven more wrong…and I hate being wrong.

Terry may be too good of a person to step down in the middle of a commitment, but I am not.  I’m outta’ here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ranks of Millionaire College Presidents Grow

By ERIC GORSKI | AP Education Writer | Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 12:20 am

The club of private college and university presidents earning seven figures is getting less exclusive.

Thirty presidents received more than $1 million in pay and benefits in 2008, according to an analysis of federal tax forms by The Chronicle of Higher Education. More than 1 in 5 chief executives at the 448 institutions surveyed topped $600,000.

Most of the pay packages were negotiated before the full force of the recession. But even if the numbers dip slightly in next year's survey, executive pay is expected to keep climbing over the long term as colleges compete for top talent. And schools are rewarding executives while raising tuition, exposing themselves to criticism.

At large research universities, the median pay was $760,774; it was $387,923 at liberal arts colleges and $352,257 at undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities.

The highest paid executive in the Chronicle survey was Bernard Lander, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and sociologist who founded Touro College in New York in 1970. He died in February at 94.

Lander received a compensation package of nearly $4.8 million. In a statement, the college said $4.2 million of that was retroactive pay and benefits awarded after an outside consultant determined Lander had been "severely underpaid."

Several deals reported the Chronicle survey, which covers the most recent available data, included deferred compensation or other unusual circumstances. Comparisons to past years aren't possible because of changes in how data is reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Colleges were asked to report salaries by calendar year instead of fiscal year as in the past, so most dollar amounts overlap with what was reported the previous year.

Another change: Perks including first-class air travel, country club dues and housing are now included in reported pay.

In 2007-2008, 23 presidents received more than $1 million. As recently as 2004, no college president had broken the seven-figure threshold.

While some presidents on the latest list lead ultra-selective schools such as Columbia, Yale and Penn, executives from schools such as the University of Tulsa and Chapman University in Orange, Calif., are on it, too.

Not all the most elite schools are represented, either. The presidents of Harvard, Princeton and Johns Hopkins all were paid in the $800,000s.

"Value is in the eyes of the beholder," said Jeffrey Selingo, editor of the Chronicle. "Some boards think these presidents, even at small institutions, are worth it. On the flip side, the prestige of serving at other institutions is enough of a paycheck for some."

Still, numbers in the tax forms don't always tell the whole story.

Chapman University President James Doti's $1.25 million compensation includes two "golden handcuff" deferred compensation deals worth almost $665,000, spokeswoman Mary Platt said. She said the board did not want to lose Doti, who since taking the job in 1991 has raised the school's profile and overseen expansive building projects.

He and other college presidents have donated a portion of the earnings back to the college. Doti gave a $1 million gift for an endowed chair in economics.

David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said in a statement that salaries reflect supply and demand, and that presidents' jobs have become more demanding. Presidential salaries make up a very small percentage of campus budgets and have virtually no impact on tuition increases, Warren said.

Still, public confidence in higher education erodes when tuition and presidential pay are both rising, said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

"People see higher education as another institution that takes care of the people at the top first," he said. 

According to the College Board, average tuition and fees at private colleges and universities have risen almost 35 percent in the past decade, to $27,290. Many students, though, pay much less because of grants and tax benefits. The average net price at private schools was $11,320 this fall, less than what students paid on average a decade ago. 

Public college presidents generally earn less than their private counterparts. Only one public university president topped $1 million in 2008-09 - Ohio State University president Gordon Gee brought in $1.5 million.

Then there are for-profit colleges, which are under fire for their heavy reliance on federal student aid money and high student loan default rates. Strayer Education Inc. paid chairman and CEO Robert Silberman $41.9 million last year, according to a Bloomberg report last week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MSD Moves to Change Pension Plan

By Phil Sutin 
Posted: Saturday, November 13, 2010 12:10 am
The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is becoming the first public agency in the area to change its pension system to one that the private sector has been using for years.
District trustees on Wednesday tentatively approved a 401(k)-style pension for employees who start work Jan. 1 and thereafter. A final vote will be in December.
Although various entities, particularly the city of St. Louis, have long complained about the financial unsustainability of some of their pension programs, the only one to act so far is MSD. It says it expects to save $18 million over 10 years by making the switch.
Under the new system, employees will assume some of the cost and risk of the pensions. Heretofore, employees were guaranteed defined benefits on retirement. Hereafter, benefits may fluctuate with how the employee directs investment.
Public employee unions have generally resisted the change. In MSD's case, its five unions agreed in negotiations. They were unavailable for comment Friday.
Both Missouri and Illinois legislatures have tightened some rules on pension eligibility to reduce costs but have stuck with the defined-benefit model.
Other states are moving toward the defined-contribution model — which sets limits on how much governments have to contribute to pension funds. Two states — Alaska and Michigan — have already adopted such systems.
"The public sector is lagging but following the trend," said Mary Anne Dutemple, a senior pension consultant in the St. Louis area office of the Towers Watson consulting company.
St. Louis County has established an eight-member committee to consider revisions in its pension plan. Its cost has tripled since 2000.
The group may consider making the same change as MSD did, after first reviewing the county's defined-benefit plan, said Kirk McCarley, the county's personnel director.
Officials are aiming to carry out any pension changes on Jan. 1.
Current MSD workers will remain in the district's traditional pension plan, but those with fewer than 10 years of service can choose to switch to the district's new plan.
The change will affect relatively few people at first; the district has a hiring freeze.
MSD will put about $11 million this year into its pension fund, a 45 percent increase in pension costs since 2007. The pension plan was fully funded in 2008 but now is 83 percent funded.
The district wants to offer "a benefit package that is fair to its employees yet does not create an undue burden for the ratepayers," MSD spokesman Lance LeComb said.
The district would contribute 7 percent of workers' wages to the new plan. If workers decide to contribute, the district will match 50 percent of workers' contribution up to the workers' first 4 percent of contributions.
In general, current employees who have been with the district for 30 years receive a pension equal to about half their salaries. St. Louis County expects to spend $31 million next year on pensions, down $2 million from this year because of improved investment return, McCarley said. The county has about 4,200 employees and about 2,200 retirees.
In 2000 the county, with about the same number of employees, spent $10 million for pensions, McCarley said.
The county already has a 401(k)-style plan for workers who wish to participate in it as well as the regular pension plan. Only workers put money into that plan.
The city of St. Louis is keeping its pension options open, said Kara Bowlin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay. The city only controls the pension plan for its civilian workers; the Legislature sets the rules for police and firefighter pension plans, she said. But the city pays the costs of those plans, and officials have repeatedly said in the past that it cannot afford the cost increases.
Metro transit agency and its unions have agreed to not talk publicly about pension changes because labor negotiations are under way, said Dianne Williams, a spokeswoman.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Missouri AFL-CIO Gears up for Fight over Right-to-Work Proposal

By Jo Mannies, Beacon Political Reporter   
Posted 12:53 am, Fri., 11.12.10
Missouri's Legislature is yet to go back into session, and new members have yet to be sworn in. But groups keenly interested in influencing the body's direction are already active.
That's particularly true of the Missouri AFL-CIO, which has invited union leaders and supporters to attend a special meeting next Tuesday at the Truman Hotel in Jefferson City. The topic? To discuss a "strategic plan'' for battling the expected effort of some Republican legislators to change the state's labor laws and make it a "right to work" state.
Missouri currently is among a majority of states that allow "closed shops,'' in which unions can collect dues from all workers in a bargaining unit, whether or not the worker agrees to join the union. Workers in a bargaining unit who refuse to pay the dues within a specified period can lose their jobs.
Right-to-work states bar such agreements, so workers can decline to pay union dues and cannot lose their job for doing so, even if a majority of workers at a business have voted to form a union. As a result, right-to-work states have fewer unionized businesses.
State Senate President Pro Tem-elect Rob Mayer (right), R-Dexter, has said that making Missouri a right-to-work state is among his priorities. He believes the change would make Missouri more attractive and friendlier to business.
Missouri voters rejected such a right-to-work proposal in 1978, siding with labor's longstanding argument that right-to-work is really "right to work for less."
"This law they're proposing is not a roadmap to prosperity,'' said state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Herb Johnson. Right to work states, he said, have not seen economic growth on the basis of that law. He cited cases in Mississippi and Louisiana, where companies moved their operations because of huge new state subsidies or tax breaks.
Rather, Johnson said, companies are leaving states -- closed shop or right-to-work -- to move jobs overseas.
"The three plants that we lost in St. Louis (in recent years) didn't go to some right-to-work state, they went out of the country,'' Johnson said.
Johnson acknowledged that Missouri's unionized workforce is dramatically less than it was in 1978, when unions represented about 25 percent of the state's workers. That could make it tougher for labor to persuade voters to stick with the current law.
The Legislature has two routes for the right-to-work proposal. The state House and Senate can approve a measure, which then would be likely to be vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who has not discussed the matter -- but who will likely rely on union support for his re-election bid in 2012.
A two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Legislature would be needed to override any Nixon veto, which could be difficult despite the historic Republican edges in the state House (106 Republicans to 57 Democrats) and Senate (26 Republicans and eight Democrats).
To skirt Nixon, the Legislature could opt to put the matter before voters -- but such a statewide election would likely have to wait until 2012. It would be up to the governor to decide if the proposal would go on the August or November ballot.
Putting a right-to-work proposal on the November 2012 ballot would likely set the state up for a major showdown between business and labor that could overshadow the crowd of candidate contests.
Johnson contended that a new push by Mayer and his allies is not about the economy but "a political attack on organized labor and our existence, to reduce our influence'' in government and politics.
A few years ago, state labor leaders met privately with then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, who agreed not to press a right-to-work effort during his tenure from 2005-2009. Blunt and Republican legislative leaders did make changes in the state workers compensation laws that labor generally opposed, ended collective bargaining for some state workers and made changes in the state's law to impose limits on lawsuit awards.
Still, the state AFL-CIO generally has few complaints about its relationship with Blunt -- particluarly compared with the prospects of heightened battles now with some GOP and business leaders.
In the Nov. 2 election, labor suffered significant losses in Missouri. Although Johnson emphasized that the state AFL-CIO's political arm endorsed some Republicans, it's a fact that labor backed the losing statewide Democratic candidates: U.S. Senate nominee Robin Carnahan and state Auditor Susan Montee.
In the St. Louis region, however, Johnson said that labor efforts "probably made the difference'' for two prominent Democrats: St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St.Louis. Both barely won re-election.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Federal Workers' Pay Tops $150,000

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

The fast-growing pay of federal employees has captured the attention of fiscally conservative Republicans who won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last week's elections. Already, some lawmakers are planning to use the lame-duck session that starts Monday to challenge the president's plan to give a 1.4% across-the-board pay raise to 2.1 million federal workers.

FEDERAL WORKERS: Earning double their private counterparts

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who will head the panel overseeing federal pay, says he wants a pay freeze and prefers a 10% pay cut. "It's stunning when you see what's happened to federal compensation," he says. "Every metric shows we're heading in the wrong direction."

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley counters that the proposed raise "is a modest amount and should be implemented" to help make salaries more comparable with those in the private sector.

Federal salaries have grown robustly in recent years, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Office of Personnel Management data. Key findings:

•Government-wide raises. Top-paid staff have increased in every department and agency. The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June.

•Long-time workers thrive. The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate.

•Physicians rewarded. Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005.

Federal workers earning $150,000 or more make up 3.9% of the workforce, up from 0.4% in 2005.

Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Members of Congress earn $174,000, up from $141,300 in 2000, an increase below the rate of inflation.

Jessica Klement, government affairs director at the Federal Managers Association, says the government's official pay analysis shows that federal workers earn less than private workers for comparable jobs. Still, she says, managers are willing to give up next year's raise: "If it will help the country bounce back, they're willing to make the sacrifice."