Will California Voters Support Union Reform?

UnionWatch recently commissioned a survey of 800 voters in California to explore public support for measures to rein in the power of public employee unions. Here are the principal findings and conclusions. The interviews were conducted between September 29th and October 5th, 2010. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 3.5%. To summarize some of these:

Do California Voters View Public Employee Unions as Having Too Much Influence?

People tend to view public employee unions as very influential: The survey looked at this in some detail and found the same: 51% of the voters believe labor unions representing public employees have too much influence in state and local government.

Questions about specific public employee unions only yielded the result that the CTA is seen as too influential, followed by the Correctional Peace Officers. Even those two specific unions are less likely to be seen as influential than the generic phrase ‘labor unions representing public employees.

For the most part all subgroups of the electorate agreed with this question; we found some differences but they were relatively small. Significantly more likely to feel public employee unions have too much influence are:

√ Males over 45: this group is both more likely to pay attention to the news and more informed of current affairs, and is more conservative particularly on fiscal issues.

√ Conservative Republicans

√ Males who are political independents; in the last few years this has been a fairly conservative group on fiscal issues

Significantly less likely to feel this way are

√ Union members

√ Younger women (under 45)

√ African Americans

Other salient union issues raised with voters were inability to fire, followed by pension abuse, followed by salary disparity. Here are the survey results on these topics:

√ 62% feel it is accurate to say that unions make it impossible to for a government employee who is not doing his or her job

√ 64% feel it is accurate to say that unions use their political influence to get pay and benefits for public employees that we simply cannot afford.

Also:

√ 43% feel public employees make more than people in comparable positions in the private sector, 19% about the same amount and 16% feel they make less. Twenty-two percent did not know enough to say.

√ 62% feels public employees get more generous pensions than people in the private sector, 13% about the same and 9% feel public employee pensions are less generous. We asked a different version of this question which included a more complete description of benefits, mentioning health and dental, paid vacations and sick leave. The results were the same, however.

More information does make a difference. Respondents were asked relatively early in the questionnaire whether people felt something needed to be done to limit the influence of public employee unions, and asked a similar question at the end of the questionnaire; in between our respondents were exposed to a large number of the pro’s and con’s of doing so. The later question shows a substantially higher level of support for limiting the influence of public employees:

Question 15: is legislation needed to limit the influence of unions representing public employee?  Needed 45 Not needed 45

Question 60: Would you support or would you oppose passing laws to limit the influence of public employee unions? Support 60 Oppose 34

The most problematic question is what to do. Here are responses to three options:

A follow up question asking people to select which proposal they liked best provided a slightly different view of things, this one suggesting voluntary membership is a somewhat stronger candidate:

People don’t ‘get’ the connection between union dues and excessive pay and benefits.

When we asked questions connecting the dots between union influence and pay and benefits people agree the questions were accurate by 2 to 1 margins.

People don’t want to deal with part of the problem (union contributions) they want to deal with all campaign contributions (and include corporate contributions). The survey confirmed this finding. As we reported earlier, 59% of the voters support a measure to no longer allow government to withhold that portion of dues that is used for political purposes. We half sampled this question with a different version that banned both government withholding and corporations withholding political contributions from their paychecks. We found substantially stronger support for the version of the question that included the language on corporations (70%) then the language that did not (59%).

A different question on this issue looked at it from the opposite angle, by looking at the impact of the argument unions have used against previous reform efforts. A clear majority finds it convincing that it is unfair to restrict public employee unions without also doing something about the influence of corporations:

The survey also looked at the context in which this issue is likely to be debated. The findings of these questions generated few if any surprises. The dissatisfaction of the voters with the direction California is going in has been document in many other surveys; also well known is that this dissatisfaction goes well beyond a concern about the economy, but also includes governance. Our look at this confirmed this, finding in addition that there is a large difference between state government and local government. People are far more likely to think that state government in Sacramento needs to change than that their local government needs to change:

The same difference was found for the extent to which people feel decision making is driven by special interests, rather than made to the benefit of the citizenry. When it came to state government, 72% felt decisions are made to benefit special interests. In the case of their region’s local government 46% felt this was the case, while 45% felt decisions are made for the most part to benefit residents.

The pension crisis in particular is likely to be an on-going problem that will provide support for the argument that change is needed to limit the influence of public employee unions. As we have mentioned most people are aware that public employee pensions are too rich and agree that you can connect union influence to excessive pensions. In addition to these we found substantial support for pension reform, even when questions were asked the ‘pushed back’ with the opposing point of view:

√ 67% supports a proposal to shift new hires to a 401K plan, while keeping current employees on the retirement system that is in place today.

√ Support for this proposal was dramatically lower (48%) when a carve-out was included for police and fire fighters. People who want pension reform want to reform all pensions. The open ends suggest that there is some awareness of the contracts with the prison guards, although very few people mentioned it.

√ 48% agreed reform is needed in view of the $500 billion unfunded liability, while 39% agreed there was a problem, but that we should not reduce pensions, for police and fire fighters in particular.

Fundamental attitudes:

Our previous work on attitudes towards labor unions has found consistently that the voting public can be divided into 3 groups. First a group of hard core union supporters, typically on the left or members of union families. Second a group of hard core anti-union folks, typically conservative men. The 3rd is an in between group which does not have strong feelings one way or the other.

The problem with union reform measures is that the core anti-union group is well short of 50% of the vote, and unions have been successful in persuading the middle group to vote with union supporters.

It may be that as a result of the pension scandal the math is changing a bit, at least as far as California is concerned. When at the end of the questionnaire we attempted to do such a segmentation we found that the size of the anti union group was well over 50% of the vote. This is not to say that this is true in California today. We used questions at the end of the sample to conduct this segmentation, and found it after our sample had heard about and been asked about a variety of pension / budget etc., and that our questions were focused specifically on public employee unions. In other words, the data suggest that with some education a coalition greater than 50% of the vote can be built.

It continues to be true that majorities of the voters agree with both sides of the debate; for instance:

√ 60% agree that unions are doing to government what they did to the airline, auto and steel industries.

√ 65% agree police officers need strong union protections

However, the current fiscal crisis and news coverage of the pension abuses have created an opportunity in which a majority of the voters supports reforms. A question (Q39) that best summarizes the relative balance of opinion found the 54% agrees with the premise that reform is needed, while 37% feels it is unfair to limit public employee unions without also limiting the influence of corporations.

This question also allows us to look at demographic segmentation:

√ Political ideology appears to be the most significant driver: liberals oppose reform, while conservatives support it. Partisan differences match ideological differences as do regional differences.

√ Other demographics don’t have much of an effect; age and gender differences are minimal, for instance.

√ Among people who are currently union members 40% agrees reforms are needed, while 50% agree with the union point of view. Former union members and people who have never been union members agree with the case for reform 60% of the time.

Persuasion:

We tested a variety of arguments for their persuasive effect and found there were some with a reasonably good impact. We use a scale that asks people how convincing they find an argument; our rule of thumb is that to pack some punch at least 30% should find something very convincing. If 40% responds that way you’ve got something and scores of 50% or higher are very powerful. Most of the arguments we tested (Q40 to Q48) hit the 30% benchmark and a few hit the 40% level:

√ Public employee unions spend $250M / year on political activities

√ Double dipping on pensions, make more in retirement then when they were working

√ LA unfired spends millions on teachers it cannot fire

Conclusions:

1. Because of the budget crisis and publicity covering the pension abuses a measure to limit the influence of public employees has good odds of passing. Core attitudes are not violently anti-union, but there are enough people who see problems with public employee unions. It is important to remember that we only got a clear majority of support for reform at the end of the questionnaire. In the early portions of our interview our sample split down the middle on the question whether reform is needed.

2. There are good arguments to support reform, mostly highlighting the magnitude of the influence of unions and the abuses that have resulted. The pension issue is a big one, but the public is impressed by other problems as well.

3. While the impact of arguments is good, it is our belief that it is more important to get the correct measure. The differences in support levels between the various options we tested is very large; although this is an apples to oranges comparison the differences in support for policies is larger than the differences in impact of various arguments. To put this point differently, there is a majority support for reform, but the specifics of reform will be at least as important as the arguments in determining the ultimate outcome;

a. Easiest to sell is making union membership voluntary.

b. Hardest to sell (probably) is a measure to ban government collection of dues for political purposes.

c. It will be a lot easier to sell a measure that deals with both corporate and union contributions than with one that only deals with union contributions.

To view the entire survey results, click here.

Wisconsin Governor Confronts Unions

An recent report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel entitled “Walker looks at showdown with state employee unions” claims Wisconsin’s incoming Governor Scott Walker will attempt to reduce public sector union prerogatives in order to make it easier to eliminate the state’s budget deficit.

Based on the election results on November 2nd, Governor Walker may get some help from his legislature. According to Ballotpedia, Wisconsin’s State Assembly has transitioned from a 50-45 (2 independent, 2 vacancies) Democratic majority to a 60-38 (1 independent) Republican majority. Similarly, Wisconsin’s State Senate has transitioned from a 18-15 Democratic majority to a 19-14 Republican majority.

Voters and politicians in Wisconsin only have to look at what public sector union control of the state and local governments have done in California – where on November 2nd Democratic candidates swept the higher state offices and enhanced their already absolute control of both the senate and the assembly – to know the time for confrontation is now, not later when the game is so rigged that reforms are almost hopeless. California is a failed state, where the latest estimate of the state budget deficit is $29 billion, and the collective estimates of the local government budget deficits probably dwarf that figure. Opinions differ as to the cause of these deficits, but the agenda of public sector unions don’t leave much to the imagination of an unbiased observer: over-market pay and benefits to unionized government bureaucrats, excessive and self-perpetuating social welfare programs, and laws and regulations designed to punish businesses and maximize taxes and fees. The voters in Wisconsin, like voters in most of the states still relatively free of unionized government control of the political process, want no part of it.

In California, how government employees unionize and what aspects of their employment are subject to mandatory collective bargaining are covered by several key legislative actions, most notably the Meyers Milias Brown Act, but many others. Links to information on the laws enabling collective bargaining by state and local workers in California can be found on their Public Employers Relations Board website. If California had a Governor and legislature prepared to stand up to unions, instead of utterly beholden to them, they could modify or even repeal this labyrinth of legislation, and give their state back to the taxpayers – but then again, it is equally likely that sometime in 2012 the Golden Gate Bridge will suddenly turn into an alien stargate, and Governor Moonbeam will welcome emissaries from Remulak.

Back on planet earth, in Wisconsin, to be particular, Governor Walker had this to say about public employee unions in his state: “Anything from the decertify all the way through modifications of the current laws in place,” and “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers and the people who care about services.”

According to the Dec. 8th report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Governor Walker’s agenda includes the following:  “As a short-term measure, Walker wants to require workers to make a 5% contribution to their pensions. State union workers have traditionally not contributed to their plans. He also wants to increase employees’ share of health costs to 12% – up from 4% to 6%, depending on the bargaining unit.” Imagine that – asking employees to help pay for their pensions and health insurance.

Wisconsin’s law enabling and regulating collective bargaining by state and local government employees is their State Employment Labor Relations Act. Wisconsin’s Governor and legislators have the opportunity to dramatically revise this legislation. With the cautionary example of California to guide them, they may take dramatic steps to curb the political power of public sector unions before it’s too late.

Abuse of Executive Power, the Trifecta Approach

Labor unions and the Obama Administration are intent on implementing forced unionism and totalitarianism on the American people. Their plan is simple –overwhelm the system until it implodes. This classic technique is espoused in Saul Alinsky’s “Rule for Radicals” and is practiced regularly by union hierarchy during forced union corporate campaigns against businesses (See Get to Know Saul Alinsky and Overwhelming the System.). The Obama Administration has demonstrated this intent since taking office by bullying through the “Stimulus” bill, the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, the Health Care bill, and financial reform. Along the way the Administration has also attempted to. ram through the Employee Free Choice Act, the DREAM Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, “cap and trade” climate legislation, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act and a “net neutrality” bill (See Net Neutrality End Run).

Doesn’t common sense tell us that when someone is in such a big hurry to pass as many bills as this administration has or is attempting, that something stinks in Denmark? Why would a President attempt to pass so may bills in such a short period of time, especially during the so-called “Great Recession?” Especially when such legislation provides the government with unprecedented control and oversight, greatly increases an already overwhelming federal deficit, and is apparently intent upon keeping unemployment high and millions dependent on the government. The answer is simple – he is counting on overwhelming the system while the American people are asleep at the controls long enough for him to accomplish his objective. I have seen this approach first h. and with the SEIU’s “corporate campaign,” as described in the Devil at My Doorstep. The SEIU and other unions utilize the same tactic of overwhelming the system, in this case businesses, to the point where they capitulate and sign a neutrality agreement providing the union all the power. By the time the business wakes up it is too late, as is happening with this administration and the American people.

The Obama Administration understands it needs financial support and muscle to accomplish its goal. In order to obtain these necessary pieces, it has embarked on a “trifecta” approach to provide unions the coveted power they need to keep from becoming extinct. The three-pronged approach consists of forced unionism of public workers, card check, and government regulation.  The attempt to continue the forced unionism of more government workers is apparent with legislation such as the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act” (the Police and Firefighters bill) and current attempts to unionize the TSA. “Card Check” has been introduced in the Senate on a couple of occasions without success, but continually lurks in the shadows waiting for one of the administration’s pawns to introduce it in one form or another (See previous blogs EFCA Through the Backdoor and Beware the Lame Duck).

While the public and lawmakers are combating these two theaters of war, Obama is overwhelming the system in another arena, all in the euphemistic prose of social justice.

The theory is open-ended government by executive appointment and agency rule making, which is far more insidious, harder to track, and potentially more devastating to business and employees (See Government by Executive Order). In fact it could result in millions of lost jobs in an economy where employment is already hovering near 10%. Why would a president be intent on actions which would result in higher unemployment? The answer is that the design is to make more people dependent on government and subject to its rule.  They represent that they are no better than you, but in truth it is all about power and control. Obama has not only embarked on this battlefield over the first two years directly through his issuance of executive orders to impose union friendly rules, but is rebuilding his staff See Obama Reshapes Administration for Fresh Strategy) to accommodate promulgation of the executive order.  His appointment of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor and Craig Becker as a member of the National Labor Relations Board are but two examples showing how Obama is utilizing persons with extremist, progressive views and putting them in  positions of power to implement his agenda by the rule making authority given to their respective agencies. As Obama has been unable to press aspects of his agenda, he is showing that he is more than willing to bypass Congress through the use of agency rule making.

Why is this now the most important leg of the trifecta? Simply because with “card check” in jeopardy due to the November elections, and attempts to increase unionization of public employees struggling, massive changes in rules and regulations within the DOL and NLRB would give unions the unprecedented leverage they need to prosecute massive numbers of corporate campaigns against all types and sizes of businesses across the country (See EFCA Update). Hence Obama and cronies increase the muscle and the financial resources they need to change the government and move it to a dictatorship and total control. As starkly admitted in Government By Executive Order, the administration is intent through the DOL, OSHA and. the NLRB to attack business on multiple fronts, increase pressure on employers, maintain a greater use of injunctive relief against employers, increase, fines on employers and shame employers, all rolled up in a living or ever-changing document designed to support unionization and reduce union oversight.

These tactics are identical to the tactics unions use against businesses during Corporate Campaigns as vividly chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep. Tactics which are designed to support a massive roll-out of union Corporate campaigns against businesses of all sizes across the country. The end result, tremendous union membership growth and subsequent revenues through union dues, increased political contributions to its political allies, more rules and legislation to promulgate union growth and government control, and the vicious cycle continues until they have complete control.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Unions Chasing Jobs Out of California

In the wake of the election on November 2nd, 29 of the 50 states have Republican governors (ref. Real Clear Politics), and they are all looking to California to woo companies. Can California live on green jobs and agriculture? Because that’s about all that’s going to be left under the combined weight of the global warming act and the state and local government’s insatiable demand for more tax revenues to pay over-compensated government employees.

Here’s a good article about what’s about to hit California from economic development departments from Nevada to Texas and beyond: “New Republican governors eye California businesses,” by Jim Christie, Reuters, November 30, 2010.

And here’s what Jim Christie, reporting from San Francisco, quotes from California Labor Federation head Art Pulaski, in regards to the Democratic annihilation of Republicans in California: “It’s a testament to California’s voters that they had the foresight to beat back the tidal wave of corporate-controlled candidates that swept much of the rest of the country.”

Mr. Pulaski is right about waves and beatings, but he’s identifying the wrong culprit. It was the union controlled candidates in California who beat back a wave of financial sanity that is beginning to restore sustainable government to the rest of the U.S.

Someone who serves in a State Senate in a state which, out of courtesy, we won’t identify, spent this past week in Washington DC. His mission? To meet with the heads of the bond rating agencies and make a presentation to them on the relative health of state government and municipal bonds in California vs. other parts of the country. Their objective? To accelerate the inevitable downgrading of bonds issued by California’s union controlled cities and counties that finance their deficit spending.

Opponents of NAFTA, most of them union bosses, described what they said would be a “great sucking sound” as jobs would flee to Mexico and elsewhere if the NAFTA agreement were ever passed. If you stand on the crest of the Sierra these days, that sucking sound can be heard. But it’s coming from the east, not the south.

Union Engineered Voter Fraud?

During the 2004 Presidential election there were allegations of voter fraud; the 2000 Presidential election was alleged to have been “stolen” by the Republicans. If you go further back in history, you can point to evidence the Democratic machine in Chicago manipulated election results to throw the 1960 Presidential election victory to Kennedy. A close reading of American history would reveal election fraud as a challenge to our democracy from the very beginning, and in every decade since then. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that we’re seeing it now.

What is a surprise is the opportunities for voter fraud, in this age of biometric identification technology and total information awareness, are actually greater than ever. Using California as an example, here are some of the reasons why:

Voters are not required to present a verifiable photo identification when they vote, and if they wish, voters don’t even have to show up at the polling place, they can vote by mail. Voting by mail causes a variety of problems – first, it precludes anyone showing an identification, and second, it prolongs vote counts after the election as workers tabulate the ballots. And the greater the number of ballots requiring post-election, manual counting, the more opportunities there are for political operatives who have infiltrated our election workforce to manipulate results. And because voting by mail is done outside of the controlled environment of the voting booth at the polling place, there is no guarantee that these ballots are not filled out by someone other than the person supposedly voting.

There are horrendous reports coming in since November 2nd from all over the country documenting allegations of voter fraud. An article posted on RedState.com, entitled “How Unions or Their Allies Could be Stealing November’s Election Right Now,” alleges that massive, systemic, union-orchestrated fraud has been implemented across the U.S. this election and could have decided several close races in favor of Democrats. Whether or not this is true, or true at the scale being alleged, should not deter any concerned citizen from considering these charges, because they expose serious weaknesses that challenge the integrity of our voting process. Here are some of the allegations:

The SEIU and others funded the “Secretary of State Project” in 2005, pouring money into races to elect “reform minded” Secretaries of State in battleground states. In nine states since then they have successfully elected their candidates. Since the Secretary of State oversees elections, who sits in that position can potentially have a corrupting influence on election outcomes when there are recounts – or when there is a high percentage of mailed absentee ballots. In California, the employees who count and verify ballots are members of the SEIU. Is this appropriate? Are these people disinterested parties to election outcomes?

The report goes on to claim the SEIU has been attempting to manipulate the electoral system across the United States, engaging in actions ranging from submitting forged initiative signatures, to invalid voter registrations, to hacking into voter machines, to destroying evidence of hacked machines. The report discusses how fake IDs are being used to exploit lax voter registration procedures, that illegal immigrants are being signed up as “permanent absentee voters,” and that early voter “rallies” are being held where voters are instructed, as a group, how to mark their mail-in ballots.

Is all of this true? Are unions engaging in electoral manipulation that eclipses any potential manipulation by the other side? One thing is certain, they certainly have the financial power to do this. Unions, who compel employees to join their ranks and pay them mandatory dues, exercise financial clout that can overwhelm most other special interests, particularly when most other special interests are either terrified of unions or working with them. It is naive to dismiss the idea that big labor, big business, and big government would not have a common interest in colluding to squelch competition by emerging entrepreneurs and disruptive technologies.

If the primary practitioners of voter fraud in 2010 are indeed labor unions, it is an amazing feat to see their interests defeated nearly everywhere in the nation. Because if it is true, that they have gone into legal gray areas – if not engaged in blatant criminal activity – using their millions of well-paid, highly organized foot soldiers to penetrate every race, local, state and national, exploiting every weakness in the system, AND spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars in political campaigning to promote their agenda, why did they lose so badly?

The reason, of course, is because America doesn’t want unions to run their country – their President, their Congress, their State Legislatures, their school boards, their public utilities, their local city councils. American workers don’t want to be forced to pay dues to a union boss. They don’t want to see their upward mobility in the workforce governed by seniority and diversity quotas instead of merit and hard work. They don’t want to see competition erased from our economy. They don’t want to see unions and environmentalists provide cover for each other, as they dismantle our economy. They don’t want to see their taxes turned over to public sector pension funds and gambled on Wall Street, distorting the market and destroying small investors. They don’t want to be deceived anymore by well-heeled leftist politicians, funded through coercive dues instead of voluntary contributions, telling them capitalism is evil, that wealth is inevitably ill-gotten, and that equality of outcome is superior to equality of opportunity – legislating accordingly.

Whether or not unions fraudulently manipulate our election results, they certainly buy them. Any reforms to improve the integrity of our elections or impose yet another restriction on campaign finance must first address this fact – unions compel millions of American workers to become members, impose upon them mandatory dues, and use this illegitimately acquired wealth to exercise far too much influence on our democracy.

Lame Duck Shenanigans

There are those who may criticize outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist for issuing a posthumous pardon to rock legend Jim Morrison (ref. “Gov. Charlie Crist will pursue pardon of Jim Morrison,” St. Petersburg Times). We should all be so lucky.

In Iowa, incoming Governor Terry Branstad, in a press release today, exposed a lame-duck move by outgoing Governor Culver, where he signed a new agreement with state employee unions. The contract will put Iowa taxpayers on the hook for $103.5 million the first year alone, and hundreds of millions in subsequent fiscal years.

As Branstad’s chief of staff Jeff Boeyink, put it, “Governor Culver’s decision to rush through a collective bargaining deal with state employee unions before he leaves office is reckless and irresponsible. This will cost Iowa taxpayers $103.5 million the first year alone, and hundreds of millions in subsequent fiscal years. At a time 113,000 Iowans are out of work and thousands more are seeing significant pay reductions, it is the wrong time to ask taxpayers to pick up the enormous cost of these pay raises.”

Boeyink added the following somewhat encouraging statement, saying “We will review all of our options.”

With the exception of California, New York, and a handful of other states still controlled by urban democratic machines – primarily sustained through public employee unions that are involuntarily funded by taxpayers – this sad endgame is playing out across the country. The potential for damage that may be hard to undo, however, is significant.

At the federal level, for example, according to Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Committee, Harry Reid is working to cut-off all debate and ram the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill (S. 3194) into law. Senate Bill 3194, the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act,” is designed to force every firefighter and police officer in the country to join a labor union. Passage of the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill could be the final straw for cities and small communities that are already struggling to make ends meet.

Myriad Cuts & Subtle Encroachments

There’s so much more where these stories came from, reports on another labor-friendly legislation or regulation, and always the same theme, more burdens on emerging private companies. None so horrendous at first glance, none without far reaching consequences – and none without numberless counterparts, assaulting any entrepreneur – who just wants to do honest hard work and earn profits – with excessive, ceaselessly multiplying and mutating compliance obligations that drain life from the enterprise. Bring on the attorneys, the IT professionals, the CPAs, pay the highly-compensated mercenary army enabled by endless legal minutia. Perhaps none of this matters, because like the draught horse in Animal Farm, the strong and able will work harder. Here are a few more weights for the sledge:

How the Paycheck Fairness Act Would Increase Employment Litigation
HR Policy Association Policy Brief

“The “Paycheck Fairness Act,” passed in 2009 by the House of Representatives and currently being considered in the U.S. Senate, would direct the EEOC to collect sensitive pay and compensation data from all covered employers, which it can then disclose publicly, either on its website or through a Freedom of Information Act request. The EEOC would be given virtually unlimited discretion in determining what wage data employers must report, including the pay of named individuals at any level of the company. Thus, plaintiffs’ attorneys looking to bring pay discrimination suits could search the pay data of one or more companies, looking for a target. Meanwhile, the bill would make it easier for those attorneys to bring lucrative class actions suits by changing the current rule—which requires individuals to “opt in” to a class action suit—to one that includes them in the suit automatically unless they take affirmative action to opt out.

Obama’s Labor Department Again Pushes Forced Unionism
by Russ Brown, November 11th, 2010, OpenMarket.org

“The Labor Management Disclosure and Reporting, also known as Landrum-Griffin Act (1959) came as a result of wide spread corruption throughout union leadership ranks. The legislation forced unions to start reporting how they spend the money they receive from member dues. In addition, it also required companies, law firms, and consultants to report their activities and expenditures used to persuade employees to vote against a union in a campaign. The Solis Department of Labor is moving to make rule changes that will greatly increase the union’s ability to threaten litigation. Just as unions can use the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against employers when they would fire an employee, ANY employee with or without cause, unions would be able to use this rule change in such a fashion. Employers would soon fear any conversation with employees, no matter how innocuous.

Under section 203(e) of the LMDRA it clearly states that officers and supervisors of a company do not have to report their “persuader” activities (talks with employees regarding unionization) during a union campaign. This is the change that triggers the above scenario. The change will require companies to report all conversations that management has with employees about the unions. This rule change will enable unions to use it to entrap companies and force neutrality agreements.

Another aspect of this rule change affects the Sarbanes-Oxley Act 2002. Under Sarbanes-Oxley, publicly traded companies must report on their 10K filings to the SEC any potential criminal liabilities. Essentially, this forces non-union companies to report potential criminal claims based on unfounded allegations.”

Workers Victimized by Coercive Card Check Campaigns Ask NLRB To Protect Secret Ballot
November 1st, 2010, National Right to Work Foundation

“National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed briefs today with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), urging the federal labor board to uphold a landmark 2007 decision which gave new protections to workers swept into union ranks through the abusive card check organizing process.

In Dana Corporation, Foundation attorneys won new employee rights intended to counteract the employee intimidation and harassment waged by aggressive union operatives that frequently occurs during card check organizing campaigns.

The Dana decision granted employees the ability to file a decertification petition for a secret ballot election to toss out union officials from their workplace within 45 days after an employer gives notice that it recognized a union as monopoly bargaining agent by card check. At the request of union lawyers seeking to deny workers access to a secret ballot vote, the NLRB ruled in August to revisit Dana…

Interest Due on Back-Pay Compounded Daily
National Labor Relations Board, October 25, 2010

“In a pair of decisions made public today, the National Labor Relations Board adopted two new remedial policies: adding daily compound interest to backpay and other monetary awards and requiring many employers and unions to notify workers electronically of NLRB orders in unfair labor practice cases.  The Board’s stated goal was making Board remedies more effective and in line with current legal and workplace practices.

Going forward, interest on backpay and all other monetary awards will be compounded daily, following the evolving practice of other legal regimes including the Internal Revenue Code. The decision in Kentucky River Medical Center, 356 NLRB No. 8, was unanimous. ‘Our primary focus must be on making employees whole,’ the Board noted in its decision in Kentucky River. ‘After careful consideration, and based on the Board’s experience in the decades following the initial decision to order interest on backpay awards, we have concluded that compound interest better effectuates the remedial policies of the Act than does the Board’s traditional practice of ordering only simple interest and that, for the same reasons, interest should be compounded on a daily basis, rather than annually or quarterly.'”

EFCA-“Lite”? – NLRB Board Foreshadows EFCA-Like Election Period
Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, October 2010

“The new makeup of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) combined with recent comments by one of its members indicate a potential major shift in union election procedures – a shift that would undoubtedly favor unions. Under current NLRB procedures, an employee secret-ballot election is generally scheduled within 42 days after a representation petition has been filed by a union with the NLRB. The intervening days between the petition filing and the election offer the employer its opportunity to communicate to employees its corporate view and why it feels remaining union-free is in the best interest of the company. Importantly, unions usually inundate employees with pro-labor propaganda for many weeks and even months prior to the filing of the petition, often leaving employers a “step behind” once a petition is actually filed. Thus, having several weeks between the filing of a petition and a resulting union election is crucial to a company’s chance for success. On Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010, newly appointed NLRB member Mark Pearce made comments indicating that he supports shortening election periods for unions, thus calling into question whether the current system will remain in place.

Pearce’s comments echo those of the controversial Becker, who has advocated using the NLRB’s “rulemaking” authority to circumvent Congress and implement aspects of EFCA. This would be a significant change from the traditional practice of the NLRB of creating legal guidelines through case precedent, similar to the U.S. court system. If the labor-friendly NLRB adopts Becker’s philosophy, it could promulgate rules that achieve EFCA’s goals and more, including:

  • Shortened union elections;Electronic posting (in addition to physical posting) of unfair labor practice violations;
  • Earlier union access to employees’ personal contact information, exposing employees to more union propaganda;
  • Restrictions on an employer’s ability to communicate information regarding the negative aspects of unionization to employees;
  • The use of an appointed mediator to settle “first contracts”; and
  • Increased access for union organizers to an employer’s place of business and employer-maintained electronic technology.”

Gasping Dinosaurs – Unions in 2010

History has taught us the threat of extinction invokes a strange caged animal affect on fraudsters in governments, businesses and institutions that face obsolescence or have outlived their usefulness. The passing of fascism and decline of communism because of their oppression of human rights, and the demise of passenger railroads and land line telephones due to the invention of superior technology are examples of “modern dinosaurs” that have become all but extinct. Labor unions are fast approaching the status of the relics mentioned above, because of their inability to adapt to modern business and the oppressive tactics which ultimately restrict personal freedoms. Labor unions are even more desperate in light of the November elections, which eliminated almost any possibility of passage for the Employee Free Choice Act (a.k.a. Card Check) through Congress in the near future (See EFCA Update).

Unfortunately, Big Labor has a powerful friend in the executive branch of government. Despite the fact that over 70% of the American population is against “Card Check,” as supported by voters overwhelming approval of special ballots in four states protecting secret ballot elections in the Nov. 2nd elections (See Union Card Checkmate).

The Obama administration seems determined to support Big Labor’s agenda, by forcing their will upon the American people under the disingenuous disguise of social justice. In reality, this is nothing more than a power grab. Recent polls expose that even union rank and file membership is becoming dissatisfied with the union’s use of their membership money for political purposes and the attempt of forced unionism on non-union employees and companies (See Union Members Not Happy with their Leaders Political Spending and Union Members Overwhelmingly Oppose Union Boss Political Spending on 2010 Midterm Elections).

What is truly amazing is that unions and the Obama administration continue the attempt to force unionism on the country despite the fact that roughly 12% of the workforce is unionized. Doesn’t that in itself send a resounding message of what Americans think? Apparently not. Somehow they interpret and spin this into a situation where all Americans really want unions but companies are bad and intimidate, coerce and bribe employees in order to force them to reject what they really want — unionism. The corporate recognition campaign run by the SEIU against EMS as chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep illustrates the true interests and intentions of labor unions. They did not try to organize the people, but instead attempted to impose forced unionism on the business, because they knew they could not win elections. The SEIU restricted its campaign to buildings of 70,000 square feet or more and only in certain counties within the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Why would they do this when their “supposed” altruistic claims were for social justice to improve working conditions for all janitors? The answer is simple, smaller buildings did not meet their business model and would not bring in enough dues and income from benefit programs to be worth the time and expense. What is truly striking about this is that evidently none of the employees from smaller companies, smaller buildings or surrounding counties ever reached out to the SEIU and asked to be represented. Curious, isn’t it?

Additionally, since the SEIU forced unionized companies through public ridicule in Indianapolis three years ago, they have lost market share. None of the employees from non-unionized companies, smaller buildings, or metropolitan counties have come forward and requested to be represented, and several unionized buildings have since become non-union. Also, the SEIU has failed to unionize additional companies, despite the fact their contracts specifically state they will keep union membership at or above the 60% level for buildings over 70,000 square feet or the contract can be re-opened (this is currently in progress). If unionization was so great, you would think janitors from all over the Indianapolis metropolitan area would be beating the SEIU’s doors down, but they’re not. This scenario is being played out all over the country. Not just for the SEIU, but with labor unions in general. The dinosaurs are gasping for air (members) and the politicians who are supporting them are scared to death they are going to lose their money pump and cushy high paying jobs. November 2nd’s election magnified the dilemma faced by unions, and along with their buddies in the White House, they are determined to use everything at their disposal to force unionism down the collective throats of the American people, all for the sake of power. (See A Tough Night for Unions). Despite Card Check being in its death throws, unions and the Obama administration are not going to allow their power base to decline without a fight (See Labor Relations Insight). Don’t believe it? Please read the following litany of initiatives and prepare to defend yourself.

Paycheck Fairness Act

More Business Regulations

NLRB Set to Reverse Decision that Protects Employees from Forced Unionism

NLRB Burdens Employers with Compound Interest

SEIU Uses Member Dues for Politics?

NLRB Loads Up On Employers

EFCA “Lite”?

Unions Look Past Card Check

DOL Proposing Burdensome Reporting Requirements for Business

EFCA by Appointment?

Public Sector Pensions

Nurses Union Out of Touch

Union Bosses Tyrants?

NLRB will Challenge Every Business Win

Unions Given Proxy Gift?

Anti-Business Decisions

Back to the Future?

1910 LA Times Bombing

Will the SEIU Survive?

UAW Scorched Earth

End Right to Work

UAW Local Costs 650 Jobs in Indiana

Still the Same, SEIU Refocuses Under Harry SEIU To Refocus Under Henry

Labor Leader Hints at Possible Lame Duck Vote on Union Bill

DOL Supports Big Labor

Dems Deserting Unions?

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Fraudsters the Reason Blue States Remained Blue?

Last week’s Election 2010 Blog explored the possibility of potential election fraud. Coincidentally, states such as Nevada (See E-mail Shows Illegal Activity in Reid’s Campaign) were considered to be high risk for election fraud, and they remained blue states despite the red wave that swept over the rest of the nation. It is important to not push this aside as politics as usual, but rather to investigate and determine whether fraud was, in fact, committed, and if it was, to expose the root causes. If we are ever going to make progress to a true representative system then intimidation, bribery and coercion must be eliminated and the secret ballot respected.

Unfortunately within the government, major corporations and labor unions (See Union-Investigated Voter Shenanigans) there are individuals who believe these tactics are acceptable (See How Unions and Their Allies Could be Stealing November’s Election Right Now). In fact, these tactics have become part of the “playbook” for accomplishing their individual agendas. Whatever happened to honesty, character, integrity and playing by the rules? These people can’t or won’t compete on a level playing field and truly believe that the “Ends Justify the Means.”

The problem is twofold. First, the fraudsters involved understand how to identify and manipulate people who are susceptible to their tactics. These tactics were used by the SEIU against EMS during the almost 5-year corporate organizing campaign as chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep. Having experienced first-hand the ruthless SEIU organization process, it is easy to see all of the striking parallels between the SEIU’s corporate campaign tactics and election campaign tactics  (See Nevada Voting Machines Automatically Checking Harry Reid’s Name, Voting Machine Technicians are SEIU Members) used by government officials, corporations and unions during last week’s election. The SEIU and other radical unions were deeply involved in these races and their telltale fingerprints are evident in the process as outlined by Wayne Root (See Explaining The Harry Reid Victory and Tea Party Loss in Nevada and Harry Reid Should Not Be Above the Law).

Second, and just as concerning, is that a majority of Americans are either oblivious to what is transpiring, or don’t believe that the fraudsters actually use these type of tactics against other people. Unfortunately they are naïve, as was I before the vicious attack by the SEIU against my employees, customers and company. The Devil at My Doorstep was written to inform the American people, educate the naïve, wake up the oblivious and expose the undeniable parallels between “Big Labor” and the current administration’s tactics to achieve their socialist and dictatorial objectives of controlling the system at any cost. Evidently the parallels are coming to light with this election. It’s time for Americans to stand up and demand investigations to expose and eradicate this type of behavior.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

The Ugly Consequences of Forced Unionism

A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has become the biggest political spender in the 2010 election campaign – thus far having spent $87.5 million. Two other public employee unions have chipped in another $84 million (Service Employees International Union – $44 million and National Education Association – $40 million). Therefore, in what has become a predictable pattern, public employee unions are the biggest outside contributors in the 2010 election cycle.

Perhaps the most egregious part of this massive political spending is that the bulk of it comes from the 28 “forced union” or Non-Right to Work states, as well as Washington D.C., where belonging to the union is a condition of employment.

While corporate political spending goes to both major parties, the unions’ money goes pretty much in one direction – to Democrats – about 93% of the time. Yet, according to Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, about 40-45% of workers in those unions vote Republican. Thus if you are a Republican, your dues very well may be going to someone you will be voting against.)

And it gets worse. Who pays these public employees? The American taxpayer. So very quickly, throughout much of the country, the money goes from the taxpayers pocket to the public employees, whose pocket is then picked by the union and spent on mostly Democrats who will make sure that money keeps flowing in the unions’ direction.

As writer Warner Todd Huston says,” That’s right, unions give politicians money to make favorable laws for unions. Politicians then make favorable laws for unions so that unions will give them even more campaign cash and unions oblige so that politicians can then give them even more favorable laws and regulations. It’s a vicious circle from which the voters are wholly cut out. It is an incestuous relationship that enriches the unions and the politicians at the expense of the taxpayers who don’t have any influence at all on the sweetheart deals going on.”

Bottom line – not only doesn’t the public employee get to choose where his/her money goes, neither does the taxpayer. But the chickens have finally come home to roost. The lavish pension deals that the unions have made with their bought-and-paid-for legislators are now wreaking havoc with state and municipal budgets all over the country — to the point where states going into default and cities declaring bankruptcy are not out of the question.

Legislators all over the country must start to deal with the bleak reality that they and their submissive predecessors have been hoodwinked by a cunning and bullying adversary. As such, either states must make joining a public employee union voluntary – thus minimizing their money flow — or as Houston says, “This country needs to again make public employee unions illegal like they were previous to 1958.”

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan,non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

The Decline of American Exceptionalism

On September 18th, my 57th birthday, I drove to my mother’s grave as I have done every year since she passed away from a massive stroke on Thanksgiving Day, 1990, at the young age of 59. Some may think this sentimental, and others quirky, but for me it is an opportunity to revisit memory lane and to embrace my past and my family heritage. Though a melancholy trip, it is in some ways reinvigorating, reminding me of the roots from which I came and the values, work ethic, character, self-esteem, self reliance and drive she and my dad instilled in me and my sister. Chief among these was the insistence that we always accept personal responsibility for our actions and should not depend on the government or other outside parties to shape our future but instead rely on our own self-determination, abilities, ingenuity and perseverance.

As I drove away from the cemetery I decided to drive past the old house just south of downtown Indianapolis where my grandparents spent many years babysitting me while both my parents worked to build a good life for me and my sister. My grandfather, a union truck driver, was a kindly man who eventually succumbed to the wrath of nicotine, as did my mother. He was not a wealthy man and did not live in the best neighborhood, but he was a hard worker and a good man who took pride in his home. It was always in excellent condition and the yard was immaculate. I fretted for the future of my children and grandchildren as I drove by that house, which is now in a sad state of disrepair with junk strewn throughout the yard, in a neighborhood that has been decimated by the ravages of time and the consequences of our government’s policies and intervention.

Driving through this neighborhood, which I am sure is inhabited by many good people on some sort of government entitlement, I was saddened. Many were sitting on steps or in lawn chairs doing nothing while their homes and yards were deteriorating around them from lack of effort and pride. Should I blame them? There will always be a certain segment that is lazy and has low standards, but I place a large portion of the blame on government. Government policies and politics are ruining this great country and sending it on a downward spiral. At one time it was providing the highest standard of living from top to bottom, above any nation in history, but now it is steadily sliding towards abject socialism. The truly sad part is that we have too many willing participants. These are people who enjoy being cared for and having no personal responsibility. The government is changing the “national character,” as succinctly stated by Peggy Noonan (See Revolt of the Accountants), and slowly destroying the greatest hope the world has ever experienced.

Government entitlements, regulations, elitists, extremists and today’s big labor policies are attempting to destroy the free markets and, along with it, America’s competitiveness and ingenuity. People increasingly have little incentive to invent, to work hard, or to improve their lot in life and the lives of others because the government continues to build an entitlement-dependent society. Slowly and methodically, the failure of each and every person to take responsibility and accountability for their own destiny will spell death for this great nation. Self-esteem will continue to slip away as government becomes the “parent” from cradle to grave.

Unions, special interest groups and even some clergy continue to press for entitlements, income and class equality, sameness, irresponsibility and slothfulness, all in the name of social justice. Quite often during the SEIU’s corporate campaign against EMS, clergy supporting the SEIU would rant about the need for a living wage, reduced work load, time off, elimination of the need for a second job, and work restrictions so that everyone could be equal and enjoy the same fruits, whether they earned it or not. Unfortunately, our politicians have bought in to this system, as it has become a means of perpetuating their power and self-voted lucrative jobs. They are elitists who understand that the more people depend on government, the more they lose their character and soul. As a result of this dependency, politicians continue to vote for handouts, thus the decline of American exceptionalism.

Politicians over the past couple of decades have traveled this path and, most recently, they have even begun to berate America’s achievements and greatness as gluttonous and self-serving. Our current President believes we consume too much of the world’s resources and are arrogant and unexceptional. (See David Limbaugh: Obama Most Destructive President).

I am sure that people living in straw huts with dirt floors in Africa or Cardboard boxes in Mexico would love to have a Capitalistic/Free Market System like ours to pull them out of true poverty. All the groups mentioned above including the Administration believe America’s use of the worlds resources keep these people in poverty, because we consume too much of the pie. The truth is we need to help them make and expand their own pies and be self dependent. The truth is, the world craves America’s return to greatness and the continuation of American exceptionalism because, despite all of its warts, America is the world’s best hope for all mankind.

Then again, maybe there is still hope. The other day, when I stopped at the coffee shop, I was encouraged by the attitude of a young cashier. She had a note pinned to her shirt that proclaimed her a birthday girl. I wished her happy birthday and asked if she had special plans for that evening. With a smile she said, “No, I’m going to my second job.” I responded, “Good for you,” and she smiled again!

We cannot regulate ourselves to prosperity. Government programs claiming to “divide the pie” only stifle progress and prosperity. Yes there are bad people, but they are present in all walks of life; the government is not exempt. Protectionism by the government only makes people more vulnerable and less productive. This is exactly what the politicians and government want, as vividly exposed in the attached video (See Those Voices Don’t Speak for the Rest of Us)! President Obama believes we are ignorant children who must be told what to do by his elitist group (See My Questions for the President).

It’s time to take our country back, return American ingenuity and achievement to its proper place, create self dependent and responsible people, reduce the size of government, replace the elitists, reverse our growing dependency on their socialistic design, and restore the American Dream along with a “can-do” mentality for the benefit of all the world. (See Tyranny of the Unelected).

Government is not the solution; it is the problem. November 2nd, 2010 would be a good time to proclaim we are not going to stand for this anymore (See Never Gonna Stand For This).

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Public Sector Unions & Political Spending

Working from the bottom up, it is virtually impossible to extract accurate figures to quantify just how much money public sector unions spend on political activity. For example, money spent at the state level on politics, as tracked by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, or, in California, as tracked by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, only track one subset of political spending. These figures, staggering though they may be, don’t show data for local races (every city council, county board of supervisors, water board, school board, police commission, fire commission, etc.) – and, equally significant, these databases are unable to clearly identify the source of donations that have been run through foundations or independent expenditure campaigns, or political parties – often several times – before appearing on a candidate or issue campaign’s disclosure report.

For these reasons, in order to get a good idea of what public sector unions are really spending on political activity, you have to work from the top down. Using California as an example, you can estimate how much public sector unions spend on state and local politics each year if you can accurately identify three variables: (1) How many public sector workers are members of unions, (2) what the average annual union dues payment is per worker per year, and (3) what percentage of union dues are used by the unions for political activity.

Answering the first question is probably the easiest. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in California in 2008 there were approximately 400,000 state government workers (ref. 2008 Public Employment Data, State) and approximately 1,450,000 local government workers (ref. 2008 Public Employment Data, Local). This means there are about 1.85 million state and local government workers in California.

To determine how many of these workers are unionized, there are at least two sources available, one is an authoritative study from around 2002 entitled “California Union Membership, A Turn of the Century Portrait,” which references data from the California Dept. of Industrial Relations, as well as data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and corroborates this data with a series of surveys administered to union locals throughout California. This study determined that, at that time, 53.8% of California’s public sector workers were unionized.

Another more recent source of information comes from UnionStats.com, an online database, updated annually, that tracks union membership and coverage, constructed by Barry Hirsch (Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University) and David Macpherson (Department of Economics, Trinity University). Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they have compiled a variety of interesting data, including “Union Membership, Coverage, Density, and Employment by State and Sector, 1983-2009.” By clicking on the 2009 link provided under this section on the left column of their home page, a spreadsheet comes up with a number consistent with the earlier 2003 findings, that is, 55.8% of California’s state and local government workers are now unionized. This means there are just over 1.0 million unionized state and local government workers in California. How much do they pay each year in dues?

According to a July 7th, 2010 guest editorial published in the San Jose Mercury entitled “Teachers’ unions political funding inappropriate,” authored by reform activist Larry Sand, “Teachers’ dues in California average about $1,000 per teacher per year, with about 30 percent of it going for political spending.”

What about police, firefighters, corrections officers, and other public safety personnel – virtually all of whom are now unionized in California – who comprise about 13% of the state and local government workforces – about 240,000 employees? How much do they pay annually in union dues? According to information provided by Vallejo, California’s post-bankruptcy City Manager, Joseph Tanner, and as reported by George Will in a Sept. 11th, 2008 Washington Post column entitled “Pension Time Bomb,” “using fiscal 2007 figures, each of the 100 firefighters paid $230 a month in union dues and each of the 140 police officers paid $254 a month, giving their unions enormous sums to purchase a compliant city council.” If this is typical, it would equate to at least $2,750 per year in union dues for police and firefighters in California. Even if the Vallejo situation is far from typical, it’s probably accurate to estimate California’s public safety workers pay their unions at least $1,000 per year in union dues.

Between teachers and public safety employees you have accounted for about 55% of California’s unionized public employees. Getting information on each of the unions may yield more startling total union revenues, but if you simply assume that public employees who are bureaucrats, nurses, administrators, maintenance employees, etc., are paying on average $500 each year in dues to their unions, then you can calculate the average payment for the entire 1.0 million unionized California state and local public employees is $750 per year. This is probably a conservative estimate, but using this number yields a total dues revenue to California’s public sector unions of $750 million per year. How much of this is used for political activity?

Returning to Larry Sand’s commentary, 30% of CTA funds are allegedly used for political activity. Most inside observers I’ve talked with suggest the percentage is higher than this, for a variety of reasons. If you review the California Fair Political Practices Commission website, don’t just look for data on election financing. Review the public disclosures by lobbying firms, and click on the pages that list their clients. Despite the unceasing uproar over the pernicious influence of “corporate lobbyists,” estimates of how much of the overall revenue to lobbying firms come from the public sector nearly always exceed 50%, and the source of this money is not just public sector unions, and their many political action committees and other organizations, but also from public agencies themselves! If one considers the level of power exercised by union operatives over public agencies – where the political appointees who supposedly manage these agencies come and go, but union power is a continuous reality – you can begin to imagine how the political agenda of taxpayer-funded public agencies and the public sector unions who influence these agencies are usually one and the same.

Another argument supporting the estimate that at least a third of union dues go to support political activity – if not much more – is the ability of the unions to reallocate money to political activity from their general fund when they choose. A recent example, reported on July 7th, 2010 in the Education Intelligence Agency blog post entitled “California Teachers Association Shifts $2 Million of Dues Money to PAC,” states the following:  “CTA very much wants Jerry Brown elected governor and Tom Torlakson as state superintendent of public instruction. So, for a single year, they increased the PAC allocation to $26.30 [per month, up from $18.30 per month], without raising total dues any additional amount. This maneuver will generate an additional $2 million or more for the PAC.” How this loophole works in California is also explained, “This sleight-of-hand would not be permitted at the federal level. But because state law allows the union to collect dues and PAC money in the same lump sum, CTA can claim that the general fund money is not the exact same money being added to the PAC coffers.”

There’s more. When assessing public sector union influence on politics, there are in-kind contributions that, while reportable, cannot be objectively quantified. What would it cost a private sector interest to send busloads of activists to events to demonstrate for the TV cameras, or use other assets such as existing office resources, in order to wage a political campaign? Whenever a public entity does this, they are required to register this as an “in-kind” donation, and assign a monetary value to this. But these in-kind values can be understated in the mandatory disclosures, and more significantly, these are contributions that are in addition to the hard costs that are funded through collection of union dues.

Finally, what about the indirect influence of public sector unions, the way they trade on the credibility of public servants – firefighters and police officers in particular – to advance their agenda in political campaigning? What about the influence of activist teachers in our public schools and universities, who advocate ideologies consistent with their union leadership when teaching impressionable young students, even when these ideologies may be counter to mainstream political sentiment?

Taking all this into account, the calculations that come out of this exercise are probably conservative – California’s 1.0 million unionized public sector employees times dues of $750 per year times one-third equals $255 million per year, over $20 million per month. This is what public sector unions are probably spending on politics, and for the many reasons detailed here, this number is probably quite low compared to reality.

The implications of this are clear: In California, public sector unions enjoy an overwhelming financial advantage in virtually every political cause or candidate they support. They have used this advantage to take over California’s State Senate and State Assembly, as well as many of California’s City Councils, County Boards of Supervisors, and various local administrative districts, especially in the major urban areas. In turn, this has resulted in years of relentless and unwarranted increases to public sector employee pay and benefits, to the point where public sector employees in California now easily enjoy pay and benefits that are, on average, at least twice what people earn on average in the private sector. Union control of California’s state and local governments has also resulted in a big-government agenda being successfully advanced for decades, meaning the number of government jobs and programs is swollen well beyond what might be optimal for California’s economy and private taxpayers.

If none of this seems compelling given the alleged power of California’s corporate interests, one may consider the following: (1) Corporations are reluctant to fight the unions – whenever corporate interests begin to support public sector union reform, the unions threaten retaliatory legislation and initiatives. To-date, corporations have consistently backed down in the face of these threats. (2) Many corporations don’t care if the state government is inefficient via unionization. In some respects, they actually welcome the tax burden and the increased regulations, because large corporations are better able to withstand the higher overhead, and better able to employ lobbyists to garner a share of the spoils in the form of subsidies or special exemptions. Their smaller emerging competitors, however, cannot withstand these impacts, and hence are undermined as competitors. To think California’s public sector unions provide “balance” to corporate interests is naive.

Anyone who thinks it will be easy to rescue California from the grip of public sector unions is encouraged to go out and raise campaign donations from people and organizations who don’t have to give you a dime if they don’t want to. Then compare this to the $20 million per month that perpetually flows into the political coffers of California’s public sector unions through automatic withholding of union member dues. And never forget, as a taxpayer, this is your money they have used to take control and bankrupt our state.

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