Public Defender Jeff Adachi is firing back against local labor leaders and legislators trying to draw a link between his pension-reform efforts in San Francisco and the battle over the future of organized labor that is playing out in Wisconsin.
Adachi, a Democrat, says that efforts to compare him to Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin -- including bizarre speculations that he is somehow connected to the Tea Party movement -- are "red-baiting" intended to obscure a serious conversation about the financial problems posed by current pension and health-care costs for city employees.
Exhibit A in his argument is a point he says his critics have ignored -- the fact that public employees in Wisconsin have already agreed to financial concessions similar to those Adachi is advocating.
"If we were in Wisconsin, the workers there would have agreed to the changes that Prop. B would have made," Adachi says. "The labor movement in Wisconsin is much more realistic and practical in dealing with its issues there."
Is he right? On pensions, it appears so.
Adachi -- who is crafting a new ballot measure that he calls "Son of B" -- is now calling for city workers to bear half the cost of their pension plans. Walker's budget plan calls for the same thing, and labor leaders in Wisconsin have said they're willing to agree.
The comparison gets tricky, however, when it comes to health care costs. The original Prop. B called for the city to contribute to the Health Service System at a rate pegged to the average amount paid by other populous counties, while slashing the amounts the city would pay for workers' family members. Walker has asked (and, again, workers have agreed) that state employees pay about 12 percent of their own health care premiums.
The big difference between his plan and Walker's, Adachi says, is that he has never called for any restriction of collective-bargaining rights. Such restrictions are the most controversial part of Walker's plan, and are the principal reason that labor leaders and Democratic legislators in Wisconsin are fiercely resisting his proposal.
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