When Will Government Unions Stand Up For All Workers?

Public sector unions have corrupted the ability of California’s governing institutions to serve the interests of the people. The consequences include a failing public education system, catastrophically flawed environmental policies, and an unrelenting attack on the ability of small businesses to survive. In each of these cases, there are plentiful examples of this corruption, and the damage it has caused. Here are just a few:

Failing Public Education

California’s teachers unions have supported work rules that render it nearly impossible to fire incompetent teachers, or, when layoffs are necessary, to retain the best teachers instead of those teachers with seniority.

They have supported curricula that promotes divisive political ideology instead of teaching basic skills.

In higher education, they have supported the imposition of a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” bureaucracy, at staggering expense, that one may argue serves no purpose other than to cater to mediocre students who prefer to allege discrimination instead of actually doing the hard work that scholarship requires.

They have supported, overall, a bloated expansion of the administrative bureaucracy at all levels of public education, which is one of the primary reasons there is never enough money in public sector budgets to go around.

The have opposed school choice, preventing the emergence of significant competition to failing public schools.

The teachers union has damaged public education in California, compromising the futures of millions of students.

Flawed Environmental Policies

While the firefighters union has lobbied successfully for pay and benefits that are arguably higher than might be […] Read More

How Unions Can Help ALL Workers

Last month on January 5, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez resigned from the legislature to join the California Labor Federation. Gonzalez is likely to succeed the current Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski when he retires this summer. What will this mean for the labor movement in California?

Gonzalez has earned a controversial reputation in the State Assembly, partly by virtue of the legislation she’s sponsored, and partly by her Trumpian penchant for lobbing polarizing Tweets at her political opponents. But when Gonzalez takes the helm of the most powerful labor organization in California, as is expected, will the weight of the job moderate her political priorities?

It’s common for right-of-center politicians to criticize unions, and it’s worth repeating some of these criticisms. Public sector unions have an agenda that is inherently in conflict with the public interest, since the interests of their membership – more jobs, better pay and benefits – may be served regardless of whether or not public services are operated efficiently and effectively. They divert public funds out of public employee paychecks to wage campaigns to elect the politicians with whom they supposedly then “negotiate” labor agreements. The agencies they represent don’t have to compete for customers or make a profit, they can just raise taxes. Civil service laws offer ample protection to public employees, and voluntary associations that don’t engage in collective bargaining would still provide plenty of political leverage for public employees. Public sector unions should probably be illegal.

As for private sector unions, on the […] Read More

Winning a War of Attrition Against Government Unions

Anyone involved in state or local politics in California soon realizes that government unions are the most powerful special interest in the state. From time to time, as the ride-share behemoths proved in spectacular fashion last November with Proposition 22, corporations will defy the unions on very specific issues. But by and large California’s corporations have entered into a profitable symbiosis with government unions.

Small wonder. California’s state and local government unions collect and spend nearly one billion dollars per year, mostly in the form of dues from workers in the state and local government bureaucracies. The teachers’ unions alone, when you include local chapters and bargaining units representing education service workers, have nearly a half-billion dollars to work with. Every year.

There is not one member of California’s state legislature who is not likely to acknowledge, off the record, that government unions in California exercise almost absolute political power. But they have one Achilles heel, California’s initiative process.

Every two years – it used to be every state election including primaries and special elections, but in 2011 the unions got rid of that privilege – California’s voters have the right to directly approve or reject new laws and new constitutional amendments that can supersede legislation passed by the union-controlled state legislature. Not only can laws and constitutional amendments approved via a state ballot initiative overturn existing law, but the state legislature cannot pass contrary legislation to nullify these initiatives. They can only […] Read More

Union Power is Behind Fullerton’s Push for Higher Taxes

Did you know your taxes are being used to advocate for more taxes? Well, not exactly. It’s against the law for public agencies to engage in “advocacy.” The people running these agencies who want to raise your taxes may only spend public funds in order to “communicate” with you about their proposals. And so they “communicate” good and hard. And then you vote.

To make perfectly clear what’s really happening here, the communications are only one side of the coin. When they decide to put tax increases on the ballot, city councils use public funds to hire expensive consulting firms to help them engage in “communications” with voters. At the same time, the public sector unions who arguably control these city councils – unions that need all that money to raise their pay and fund their pensions – hire political professionals to wage campaigns to voters that explicitly advocate these tax increases.

An example of this, and there are many, is the City of Fullerton. Like most California cities, it’s in financial trouble these days, if it wasn’t already. And like most California cities, public sector unions exercise inordinate if not absolute power over the city council.

Public Sector Union Power is Behind the Push for Higher Taxes

Fullerton is a city with a long history of public sector union influence on elected officials. In a 2012 article entitled “Fullerton Police Union Intimidates Reform Candidates,” author Steven Greenhut writes about two councilmen at the time, Bruce Whitaker and Travis […] Read More

The Financial Power of California’s Government Unions

There is no special interest in California that wields more influence over state and local politics than public sector unions. At every level of government, from the office of the governor to a school board managing a district with only a few hundred students, public sector unions are omnipresent. With rare exceptions, to defy their agenda is certain political suicide.

The reason for this power is money. Lots of money. Every two-year election cycle, not millions, but hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by California’s public sector unions to support or oppose candidates, campaign for ballot measures, lobby the legislature, and pay for public relations campaigns. While wealthy individuals or powerful corporations may at times challenge these unions, their concerns are narrow in focus. Nothing matches the perennial torrent of public sector union money; the opposition may stir up a flash flood, but these unions are the Amazon.

Twice in the past five years the California Policy Center has attempted to estimate just how much money public sector unions collect and spend each year. In 2015, a rough top-down estimate that used US Census Bureau data on union membership and general assumptions on the average union dues payment came up with $1.0 billion per year. In 2018, exercising an abundance of caution, referring to the 990 forms that unions file with the IRS, as well as researching membership information that is often provided by the unions on their websites, the total public sector union spending estimate was Read More

China, Climate Change, Unions

AUDIO – In-depth discussion on the topics of China, climate change as it relates to energy policies and how that’s connected to population growth, with a bit of time left over to explain the difference between public and private sector unions. An always challenging one hour on the Andrew Schatkin Show.

Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

Rates of Pay and Pension Debt in California’s Distressed Cities

Nobody needs reminding that California’s cities, like every other going concern in America, are heading for tough economic times. As recently as two months ago, robust collections of sales taxes, utility taxes, transient occupancy taxes, property taxes and other sources of taxes and fees were pouring money into municipal coffers. Now, with the economy abruptly ground to a near standstill, these revenues are all but dried up. But municipal expenses haven’t dropped proportionately, if at all.

What bears reminding is the fact that even before the sudden pandemic shutdown, California’s cities were in financial trouble. Just six months ago – and it seems like a century has passed – the California state auditor released a fiscal health analysis of California’s cities. Measuring factors including cash liquidity, debt burden, financial reserves, revenue trends, and retirement obligations, the report ranked the cities from the healthiest to the most afflicted.

During the economic downturns already endured by California cities in this century, public sector pay and benefits continued to increase even as the private sector workforce experienced layoffs and pay cuts. In the aftermath of the tech bubble bursting, pension benefit enhancements continued to gain approval by cities, one by one, justified by the reasoning that if a neighboring city had done so, then every city must follow suit. In the aftermath of the real estate bubble bursting, city workers took furloughs, where they worked one day less per week and received 20 percent lower pay – but their rate of pay […] Read More

Public Sector Unions Continue Their Attack on Property Rights in California

California’s legislature is controlled by Democratic super-majorities in both houses. These Democrat politicians, in turn, are controlled by public sector unions. They are now considering Assembly Bill 828, which will empower courts to summarily reduce rents by up to 25 percent and create additional barriers to the eviction process.

Passage of this law would be a disaster. It’s not just a blatant usurpation of property rights. It also adds a hefty shove to an economy already teetering on the brink of an epic deflationary spiral.

But supporters have the votes to pass this measure, and Gov. Newsom is likely to sign it into law. This is happening in a state where the pandemic emergency has already induced the legislature to ban evictions, and already had capped rental rate hikes. In California today, there is no longer any legal incentive for renters to pay rent, whether or not they are impacted by the current state of emergency. But landlords get no similar relief from property taxes or mortgage obligations.

A look at who funds these Democratic politicians yields unambiguous results. The money trail works like this: California’s citizens pay taxes, which fund state and local government payroll departments, from which, paycheck after paycheck, money automatically pours into the coffers of public sector unions. These unions use that money to buy the allegiance of politicians via campaign contributions.

The three primary sponsors of AB 828 are assemblymembers Phil Ting (D, San Francisco), Ash Kalra (D, […] Read More

Politicians Who Accept Government Union Money Betray the Public

Public sector unions should be illegal. They have very little in common with private sector unions, which, properly regulated, play a vital role in society. The differences between public sector and private sector unions are significant. For example:

1 – Private sector unions cannot be unreasonable in the demands they bring to negotiations with management, because if they ask for too much, they will bankrupt the company. Public sector unions, on the other hand, know that government agencies can simply raise taxes to fund their demands.

2 – Private sector unions negotiate with management that is either elected by shareholders or represents private owners of the company. Public sector unions negotiate with politicians who are often elected using campaign contributions that came from those unions. Politicians know that if they reject union demands, the unions will fight their reelection and replace them with a politician who will do what they want.

3 – Private sector unions are not generally pushing a political agenda that goes beyond their pay and benefits, their work conditions, and the practices specific to their industry. Public sector unions are unified in their drive for higher taxes, and more tax revenues allocated to pay and benefits for public employees. Increasingly, equally significant, and unlike private sector unions, public sector unions share an ideological agenda that favors bigger government.

The inherent political agenda of public sector unions is more pay and benefits for public employees, work rules that result in more government employees than might actually be […] Read More

Public Sector Unions – The Other Deep State

When government fails, public-sector unions win. When society fragments, public-sector unions consolidate their power. When citizenship itself becomes less meaningful, and the benefits of American citizenship wither, government unions offer an exclusive solidarity.

Government unions insulate their members from the challenges facing ordinary private citizens. On every major issue of our time; globalization, immigration, climate change, the integrity of our elections, crime and punishment, regulations, government spending, and fiscal reform, the interests and political bias of public-sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. Today, there may be no greater core threat to the freedom and prosperity of the American people.

In the age of talk radio, the Tea Party movement, internet connectivity, and Trump, Americans finally are mobilizing against the uniparty to take back their nation. Yet the threat of public-sector unions typically is a sideshow, when it ought to occupy center stage. They are the greatest menace to American civilization that nobody seems to be talking about. Ask the average American what the difference is between a government union, and a private sector union, and you’re likely to be met with an uncomprehending stare. That’s too bad, because the differences are profound.

While America’s labor movement has always included in its ranks varying percentages of crooks, Communists, and thugs, it derived its mass appeal based on legitimate and often compelling grievances. Most of the benefits American workers take for granted—certainly including overtime pay, sick leave, and safe working conditions—were negotiated by private sector unions.

Over time, […] Read More