Re: [OPE-L] debate on labor aristocracy

Date: Mon Mar 26 2007 - 12:23:37 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Re: Second point Re: FW: [OPE-L] debate on labor aristocracy
From:    "Steve Palmer" <>
Date:    Mon, March 26, 2007 11:06 am

--- Steve Palmer <> wrote:
> Feckner's predecessor, Harrigan, was apparently fired because he was
> to
> be using CalPERS to pressure Safeway in its battle with striking UFCW
> (who, incidentally, lost benefits) and cut Sutter Health out of CalPERS
> health
> insurance, to support SEIU - the low paid service workers.

Sorry Gerry, List, this is the link I meant to add:


Suspicions about CalPERS
Oakland Tribune,  May 22, 2004

THERE must be something in the groundwater beneath the sprawling Sacramento
headquarters of the California Public Employees Retirement System -- some
substance that generates uncanny coincidences.

There was, for example, a CalPERS-led effort by dissident shareholders of
Safeway to dump its chairman, Steve Burd. The pension fund's officers
that the anti-Burd drive was just part of a larger "corporate governance"
crusade, aimed at breaking up too-cozy relationships among company
directors and their auditors, and improving investors' returns.

It was just a coincidence, CalPERS insisted, that its own board chairman,
Harrigan, heads the union that represents Safeway employees -- a union that
took a beating in a Southern California labor dispute with Safeway and other
big grocers and is gearing up for bruising negotiations with Northern
California grocery chains.

Harrigan officially recused himself from voting on the Safeway matter, but
the CalPERS board firmly in the control of unions and union-friendly
politicians such as Treasurer Phil Angelides, his recusal meant little.

If CalPERS was trying to punish Burd for his role in the Southern California
strike or pressure him into taking a more cooperative attitude, it appears to
have fallen flat. On Thursday, during a raucous shareholder meeting, only a
sixth of shareholders withheld support for his re-election.

Coincidence No. 2 is CalPERS' vote this week to exclude the huge,
Sacramento-based Sutter chain of 11 hospitals and 27 others owned by other
organizations from providing care to hundreds of thousands of state and local
government workers and retirees.

The blacklisted hospitals, CalPERS officials said, are charging too much to
treat members of its health care system.

Although the 10-1 exclusion vote by the CalPERS board was aimed, it said, at
hospitals and physicians' groups whose bills far exceeded state norms, it
so happens that the action was taken as Sutter, the largest hospital chain in
Northern California, and other hospital groups were opening contract
negotiations with the Service Employees International Union.

SEIU is concentrating its political and rhetorical fire on Sutter because of
its size and a history of touchy labor relations. SEIU, in fact, has publicly
pressed CalPERS to audit Sutter's books, accusing it of price-gouging. And
sponsoring legislation -- pushed by the Senate's Democratic leadership --
would require Sutter and other non-profit hospital groups to make more
extensive financial filings with the state -- information that the union
believes would help it in negotiations.

SEIU, it should be noted, is also the umbrella union for most state employees
through the California State Employees Association, which wields great
influence on the CalPERS board. Although CSEA officially opposed the CalPERS'
move -- calling for a delay to allow public workers more opportunity to
-- it has endorsed the underlying rationale for the action.

"The real culprits here are Sutter and other hospital chains that have put
profits ahead of health care for state employees and all Californians," CSEA
President J.J. Jelinic said.

Is it just possible that the union-dominated CalPERS board acted to pressure
Sutter and the other hospital chains into being more cooperative with their

Two anomalies arise out of these events. One is that rapidly rising wages --
born of shortages of nurses and other skilled workers -- is a key factor
in the
escalation of medical costs. Sutter and other hospitals must, for example,
spend more -- nearly $1 billion a year, according to the state Department of
Health Services -- to meet a lower nurse-patient staffing ratio that the
representing nurses pushed through the Legislature. Were SEIU to get what it
wants in the contract negotiations now under way, it would most certainly
costs even more, and thus drive up bills to patients and their insurers.

The second is that while CalPERS accuses corporate directors of ignoring
fiduciary responsibilities, CalPERS directors may be doing exactly the
same --
putting unions' side agendas ahead of the interests of their retirees. Or
perhaps it's just an uncanny set of coincidences.

Dan Walters writes for the Sacramento Bee.

"I study a lot. That is one of the responsibilities of every
revolutionary." Hugo Chavez.

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