Firefighters Sue the City over Pensions

In yet another strange but not surprising development the firefighters union is suing Pittsburgh, asking a judge to order the City to come up with $220 million by December 31 and put the money in the pension funds so it can avoid having the state pension agency take over the management of the pensions.

How the City could do that now with only 23 days left in the month is apparently of little concern to the union. It simply does not want the state managing the pensions. Ironic in that the firefighters were all in favor of the 2009 legislation (indeed they were instrumental in forcing the Legislature to back down from immediate takeover) that delayed state takeover until January 2011 if the City could find a way to get pension funding up to 50 percent. Apparently, they were fairly confident they could force the Mayor and Council to get the parking garage lease done. A big miscalculation.

Now the union wants a judge to order something to be done by December 31. Unless the courts have been taken over by judges who do not see the wisdom in careful deliberation and getting all the facts before rendering a decision, there is no reason to expect a judge to hand down the decision requested by the union..

Here’s a better idea for the firefighters union. Offer to make some concessions that will reduce the liabilities of the firefighter pension fund and ask other unions covered by the other funds to do likewise. What a concept. Help the City avoid the bankruptcy they say they are worried about. Truth be told, they are frightened stiff of a bankruptcy. A judge could overturn their entire pension and compensation package and amend them so they are more affordable for the City.

The day of reckoning is getting closer and those who have prospered so greatly at taxpayers’ expense are getting nervous-as they should.

Privatization Makes for Strange Bedfellows

Are we to believe our own eyes? The head of the City’s firefighters union and a Councilman who has championed living and prevailing wage mandates are now leading proponents of the Mayor’s parking lease plan.

These longtime anti-privatization zealots are now falling all overthemselves to help the Mayor get the lease done. Why? Becauseit is a way to raise the enormous amounts of money needed to savetheir jobs by sticking it to folks who park in the City. Call it abackdoor tax increase. It could not be for any other reason. When a municipal pension reform plan emerged in the state legislature this time last year, the union head was quick to oppose it saying "we’re opposing this, guys, we’re shutting it down". The legislation contained provisions, such as opening the door to 401k type plans for new hires, which were unpalatable to the unions.

Privatization is supposed to save money by providing more efficientdelivery of government services. If Pittsburgh was not under the gun to come up with a fix for its pensions and had the time to deliberate whether or not it should even be in the parking business, the current proponents would most assuredly be dead set against it.

But since this is about saving the jobs of unionized City employees the plan is being heralded as the only solution. And now it will be used to hammer the employees and customersof Pittsburgh’s businesses.