The Transit Coalition’s A Better Inland Empire transit blog finds that it is nearly a stone-cold fact that the US Department of Labor is currently in full support of the will of special interest labor groups. According to the blog and several newspaper sources, the agency is spinning old federal law in a way that penalizes our local transit agencies without due process because California wants to–at least–begin to contain the out-of-control pension madness fire. Ironically, informed individuals well know that if the pension issue continues unchecked, California will be on the road to bankruptcy which will hurt working laborers in all sectors. Worse yet, if the transit agencies do not receive the funds that we local taxpayers paid into, serious transit cuts and employee layoffs are sure to occur which will hurt the public. Is that what President Obama’s Labor Department and union leaders want?
The federal government clearly has the power both from Congress and the White House to stop this political football game right now which is occurring in the Labor Department. Here’s what’s at stake: The 1964 Urban Mass Transportation Act gave Labor Secretary Tomas Perez authority to hold federal transit grants as a means to hold public transit agencies responsible for respecting their worker’s rights to bargain collectively. Section 13(c) of the law was necessary during the transition of local mass transit from the private sector’s hands to the public back then. The clause has nothing to do with controlling California employee pensions. Fair-minded individuals can see that a more sensible approach today is to hold those in power directly accountable for respecting the basic bargaining rights of transit employees. If a boss unlawfully abuses an employee in particular, the appropriate regulators should fine or incarcerate the boss. Let an impartial jury be the judge of the facts. Don’t obstruct transit operations like a NIMBY. Have the special interests proposed fair legislation like that?
In an editorial denouncing the federal government actions and calling upon the state to take this matter to court if the feds don’t man up and concede, the Sacramento Bee brings up yet another fact of this case that has to be considered. While the state is beginning to address the out-of-control pension costs, the fact remains that the federal government does not pay into the system. Yet, the Labor Department is forcing California to maintain the unaffordable status quo for future transit workers. Things have grown worse as the Labor Department delayed issuing a decision on whether the pension reform violated federal collective bargaining laws. This has nothing to do with collective bargaining rights for existing employees. Today, there is absolutely no logical reason to hold federal transit funding–let alone transit riders–hostage by taking Section 13(c) out of context. It’s time for Congress and President Obama to lead us out of this federal fiscal fiasco.