How California’s Legislation Targeting Public Charter Schools Shows That Blue States Can Oppress Black People Too

Arrogantly Fleecing Taxpayers

Chartercide in California

Membership in California’s government unions plummeted in 2018, federal report shows

L.A. teachers in open rebellion – this time against their own union leaders

Disunion: Union membership in key school district fell dramatically after Janus

Rally for Worker Freedom in San Diego

For Immediate Release

January 7, 2018

Contact
Koppany Jordan, California Policy Center
koppany@calpolicycenter.org

Campaign to Kickoff in San Diego to Help Government Employees Get Rebates on Their Union Dues
Typical Employee Who Terminates Union Dues Will Save $800 Per Year

What:

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Janus v AFSCME) has given government employees the right to terminate their membership in government unions and prohibit unions from taking money out of their paychecks. Unfortunately, many government employees are unaware of their rights. Even worse, many union bosses are illegally denying requests from workers who want to discontinue their union dues and keep their money.

The typical government employee could save about $800 a year – with some saving as much as $1400 a year.

A bold pilot campaign is being launched in San Diego county by Reform California in partnership with California Policy Center Reform. The campaign has three components:

  1. Outreach and Canvassing at Government Agencies: Using emails, advertisements, and tabling in front of government agencies, the campaign will advise state and local government employees that they have a right to terminate paying union dues.
  2. A Simple Rebate Form: The campaign has worked with attorneys to devise a simple “Rebate Form” that any state or local government employee can sign to exercise their rights to leave the union. That form is online at www.UnionDuesRebate.org
  3. Pro-bono Legal Representation: The campaign is supported by pro-bono attorneys who are prepared to help individuals and classes of workers protect and assert their rights to terminate paying union dues.

The campaign is being piloted in San Diego County over the next two months – and if successful will be expanded statewide.

Who:

Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California

Will Swaim, President of California Policy Center

Several government workers who want out of their unions

When:

Tuesday, January 8 at 11 a.m.

Where:

Reform California Campaign Headquarters
1560 South Escondido Blvd
Escondido, CA 92025

Why:

“Government employees could use extra take-home pay, but government unions have forced them to pay dues every month and have given them little value in return.” —Will Swaim, California Policy Center

“We have heard from hundreds of government employees in San Diego county that want out of their union and want to keep their money, but the union bosses have illegally denied them their rights. That is completely unacceptable and illegal – and this campaign will give government employees the information, the vehicle and the legal support to fight back and keep their money.” —Carl DeMaio, Chairman, Reform California

Early Christmas for LAUSD teacher: a refund of his UTLA union dues – and an end to future deductions

Few: “Teachers shouldn’t have to make a federal case out of this.”

This article first appeared on FlashReport.org.

Just in time for Christmas, the Los Angeles teachers union gave Thomas Few some good news: a refund of $433.31 dues he paid and the union’s promise to stop taking $80 per month from his paycheck.

Few said he is “elated by the victory,” but also determined to press forward with his lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers of Los Angeles.

“On June 27, the Supreme Court said government employees – including my fellow teachers in Los Angeles Unified – have the right to fund or to not fund union activities,” Few said. “Teachers shouldn’t have to make a federal case out of this.”

Beginning in June, Few told United Teachers of Los Angeles three times to stop taking cash from his paycheck. The third time, he says he placed a copy of his demand directly into the hands of a teachers union official visiting the San Fernando Valley school where Few teaches special-ed children.

But UTLA refused to stop taking his money. Then, on Nov. 13, the nonprofit California Policy Center and the Liberty Justice Center filed a federal lawsuit on Few’s behalf against UTLA and LAUSD. Two weeks later, UTLA did an about-face and sent Few the refund check.

The check came with a letter from UTLA executive director Jeff Good explaining that even though Good believes UTLA still has the right to take Few’s money, they are going to stop “rather than expend dues money on litigation.”

Gold claimed Few’s federal lawsuit suggested the teacher had a “misimpression that the union had not accepted your resignation.” In fact, Good told Few, the union had accepted his resignation.

But payments to the union were another matter, Good wrote: Few had “signed a separate agreement with the union, apart from your agreement to become a member, committing [Few] to pay an amount equivalent to dues to the union ‘irrespective of your membership status.’”

California Policy Center CEO Mark Bucher, one of the attorneys representing Few, called that a “desperate attempt by UTLA to skirt the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME.”

In that June 27 decision, the Supreme Court held that forcing government employees to join political organizations like UTLA violates their First Amendment rights.

“Arguing that Mr. Few can leave the UTLA as long as he continues to pay UTLA at the same rate is like a Vegas magician sawing a woman in half,” Bucher said. “It’s sleight-of-hand. In this case, it’s also deceptive and illegal.”

Bucher said the union’s capitulation does not end the federal suit, now scheduled for a February hearing in the U.S. Court in downtown Los Angeles.

“Even though UTLA has stopped taking money out of Mr. Few’s check, he does not intend on dropping the suit,” Bucher said. “Few is asking the court to declare that UTLA does not have the right to take his money, or the money of countless other teachers who are in the same position.”

Until his February hearing, Few said he’s focused on the spirit of the season. That means “spreading the good news to all of California’s government employees: you too qualify today for an end to dues deductions from your union.”

Then striking a lighter note, Few added, “With Christmas around the corner and the usual family expenses,” he says, “my wife and I are stoked to have our money back.”

Will Swaim is president of the California Policy Center. Contact him at Will@CaliforniaPolicyCenter.org.

EMBARGOED: Janus attorneys and Cal Policy Center represent Los Angeles teacher in lawsuit against LAUSD, UTLA

MEDIA ADVISORY from the

LIBERTY JUSTICE CENTER and
CALIFORNIA POLICY CENTER

MEDIA CONTACTS
Kristen Williamson
kwilliamson@libertyjusticecenter.org or 847-651-8611

Will Swaim
will@californiapolicycenter.org or 949-274-1911

EMBARGOED until Nov. 13 at 10 a.m. PST

Janus attorneys and California Policy Center represent Los Angeles teacher in lawsuit against LAUSD, UTLA

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 13, 2018) – Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center and the California Policy Centerhave filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Los Angeles teacher against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). The lawsuit alleges that the LAUSD and UTLA violated the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association.

“After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, government employees have a choice and a voice when it comes to union membership,” said Brian Kelsey, senior attorney, Liberty Justice Center. “Public employers in California that continue to withhold union dues and fees from employees without clear, voluntary, and informed consent from those employees, are actively defying the Court’s ruling and are violating employees’ First Amendment rights.”

WHAT: Press conference and media availability announcing litigation filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

WHO: Plaintiff, teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
Brian Kelsey, senior attorney, Liberty Justice Center
Mark Bucher, CEO, California Policy Center
Mark Janus, plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME and senior fellow, Liberty Justice Center

WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 10 a.m. PST

WHERE: New Los Angeles US Courthouse – outside Broadway Street entrance
350 W. 1stStreet
Los Angeles, CA 90012

INTERVIEWS: Speakers will be available to answer media questions following a brief statement.

The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation center that fights to protect economic liberty, private property rights, free speech, and other fundamental rights. First and foremost, the Liberty Justice Center seeks to ensure that the rights to earn a living and to start a business, which are essential to a free and prosperous society, are available not just to a politically privileged few, but to all. The Liberty Justice Center pursues its goals through strategic, precedent-setting litigation to revitalize constitutional restraints on government power and protections for individual rights. Learn more at LibertyJusticeCenter.org.

The California Policy Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest organization that promotes prosperity for all Californians through limited government and individual liberty. Learn more at CaliforniaPolicyCenter.org.

# # #

The perilous state of Santa Ana schools

Class conflict: Santa Ana schools are spending more and more on fewer students. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

School officials in California’s sixth-largest school district are working overtime to promote a massive $1.2 billion bond tentatively scheduled for a districtwide vote in November. Yet behind their chatter about improving Santa Ana Unified facilities is a stark fact: Student enrollment there has been falling steadily for over 15 years. And declining enrollment means declining revenue from federal, state and local sources – about $10,000 per student. But at the same time, district spending, particularly on teacher salaries and benefits, has been rising. Where those two trends intersect – falling revenue, rising costs– is crisis.

Just last summer, the crisis claimed its first victims when the district declared it would have to lay off 287 teachers. The same teacher’s union that had pushed for the pay increases that precipitated the crisis helpfully provided district officials with the hit list – all of it based on one metric only: the last hired were the first fired.

But the crisis didn’t begin in 2017. An SAUSD demographer’s 2016 report illustrates a steady decline in SAUSD enrollment starting in 2003. That year, total student enrollment was 60,973. By 2012, enrollment had fallen to 53,493. This equates to an approximately 12% drop in enrollment and a $75 million loss in revenue. Long-range projections through this school year predict that the decline will continue.

As recently as June 26th — school trustees backed by the powerful teaches union approved regular annual salary increases. In addition to this most recent salary increase, teacher salaries were also raised from 2013-2015.

Losing cash, union-backed trustees ordered district staff to find a solution. Facilities maintenance was delayed. Major renovations were impossible. And so they settled on the November bond.

A bond is basically an IOU — the district’s promise that it will repay Wall Street lenders interest on a multi-million-dollar loan. District officials first pegged the amount of the loan at $479 million – enough, they said, to repair damage created by time and mismanagement. But in the past few weeks the amount of the bond has fluctuated from $518 million back down to $232 million. Neither figure includes interest payments on the loan, which will more than double its cost.

Santa Ana Unified hasn’t even finished paying off two existing loans, from 1999 and 2008. They should be paid off by 2040. By that time, last month’s graduates will be about 40 years old, some with children of their own attending Santa Ana schools that will boast well-paid adults, falling test scores, failing infrastructure – and perhaps still laboring beneath hundreds of millions of dollars in repayments on the Great Bond of 2018.

Kelly McGee is a Rhodes College graduate and a journalism intern at California Policy Center.

 

 

California’s Government Unions Collect An Estimated $800 Million Per Year

Editor’s note: This post was updated on 7/13/2018 to include the following RETRACTION: The CSEA (California Schools Employees Association) has provided clarification of actual member dues revenue. The author’s previous assumptions, now known to be erroneous, were that (1) CSEA is a decentralized union meaning that significant dues revenue is retained by local affiliates, and (2) that annual dues revenue was based on 2% of pay instead of the lower 1.5%, and (3) that the maximum allowable dues per year was higher than what is actually the case.

To rectify this, this article now states that total government union revenue in California is at least $800 million per year. That is based on the inaccurate estimate originally made for CSEA’s annual revenue, $159 million, now being reduced to the revenue disclosed by the CSEA on their 990, $67M. This lower annual figure for CSEA, $67M, has been incorporated accordingly into the revised analysis to follow. While the CSEA does have independent affiliates, their revenue is far less than what we assumed, for the reasons stated, and for this overall estimate of all union revenue we are simply leaving that amount out of our calculations.

As explained in the article, it is difficult to accurately compile estimates of total government union dues and memberships, and to do so with the information and resources available requires making reasonable assumptions. If we learn of further erroneous assumptions used to compile any of these estimates, they will be diligently corrected. We regret the error.

 *   *   *

In the wake of the Janus ruling, it is useful to estimate just how much money California’s government unions collect and spend each year. Because government unions publicly disclose less than what the law requires of public corporations or private sector unions, only estimates are possible.

The primary source of information comes from Form 990s that government unions must provide to the IRS each year. Copies of these 990s can usually be found on Guidestar.org; sometimes they are also available on the union websites. While these 990s are useful, to put together reasonably accurate estimates of total government union revenue they require careful analysis and supplemental information from elsewhere. With these limitations noted, here are summary estimates of how much money California’s taxpayers are providing to government unions, who withhold their dues directly from the payroll departments of public agencies.

PUBLIC EDUCATION UNIONS

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 there were 422,248 “full time equivalent” teachers employed in California’s K-12 system of public education. In California’s UC and CSU systems of higher education, there were 30,005 faculty instructors. Support staff in the K-12 system numbered 239,726 employees, and in higher education they numbered 40,770 employees.

The largest union focused on K-12 teachers is the California Teachers Association (CTA), easily the largest and most powerful union in California. Their most recent financials, for the year 2015, show declared revenue of $190 million, with $178 million of that declared as dues from members. This, however, greatly understates the power of the CTA.

Not only is the CTA a branch of the nationally focused National Education Association, but the CTA in turn is comprised of local chapters. These local chapters retain a significant share of dues revenue, which they report on their own 990 forms. The CTA chapter United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), for example, declared membership dues of $38.9 million in 2015.

Collecting exact financial data including dues revenue for all CTA chapters would be possible, but not easy. Including the behemoth UTLA, the CTA has 1,100 chapters, plus the California Faculty Association and 42 chapters in the Community College Association. But making a reasonable estimate is possible based on the CTA “Fact Sheet” where they declare a membership of 325,000, combined with the UTLA’s disclosure of their “new dues structure,” wherein full time members pay $1,014 per year.

Based on this information, one may estimate the total annual dues revenue of the CTA and its affiliates at around $330 million per year. While some members may not pay the full dues, which might lower this estimate, the CTA and affiliates have other sources of income including investment income. For example, at the end of 2015 the CTA declared net assets of over $190 million, and the UTLA declared net assets of $28.6 million.

While the CTA is huge, it is not the only union player in California’s system of public education. A much smaller but still very large and powerful teachers union active in California is the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), a branch of the American Federation of Teachers. On their “Who We Are” page, the CFT claims a membership of 120,000, spread over 145 local chapters.

Just as with the CTA, precisely calculating the total dues revenue of the CFT is nearly impossible. Moreover, some of the AFT’s claimed chapters, the UTLA in particular, are actually quasi-independent unions that are affiliated with the CTA and the CFT. But based on their membership claims, and taking into account these complicating factors, a reasonable estimate of the total dues revenue for the CFT and their direct local affiliates is probably around $100 million.

The power of the unions in California’s system of public education doesn’t stop with the CTA and CFT, however. There is also the California School Employees Association (CSEA), claiming membership of 240,000 mostly “classified” (non-instructional) support staff. The CSEA is divided into “Areas” and “Regions”  which is their equivalent of local chapters. Their 990 reports a 2015 revenue of $67.2 million.

In summary, subject to the limitations in the available data and what appear to be reasonable assumptions, California’s public education employee unions, the CTA, the CFT, and the CSEA, altogether are probably collecting around $497 million per year.

PUBLIC SAFETY UNIONS

The difficulties inherent in estimating revenue for public education unions are equally present when trying to estimate revenue for public safety unions. The firefighter unions and police unions are for the most part decentralized. The Los Angeles Police Protective League illustrates this point. With revenue in 2016 of $11.6 million. When their membership dues, $10.4 million, is divided by their 9,900 membership, their average dues can be estimated to be $1,152 per year.

Extrapolating this estimate of average dues to the total number of full-time police officers in California, 63,230, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as “Police Protection – Persons with Power of Arrest,” it is reasonable to estimate the California’s total police union dues revenue is around $72.8 million per year. This number could be larger, based on the Public Policy Institute’s recent analysis which states “In 2015 there were more than 118,000 full-time law enforcement employees in California; roughly 77,000 were sworn law enforcement officers (with full arrest powers) and 41,000 were civilian staff.”

Firefighter unions, also decentralized into locals, defy easy compilations of total revenue. A conservative estimate of their average dues would be to assume they are comparable to police union dues, $1,100 per year. According to the CPF website they “claim over 175 IAFF locals as CPF affiliates, serving more than 30,000 paid professional firefighters. ” This is consistent with the U.S. Census data, which estimates “Fire Protection – Firefighters” at 28,907 employees” and “Fire Protection – Other” at 4,182 employees.

Based on these variables, total annual revenue for all affiliates of the California Professional Firefighters union is estimated to be around $33 million per year.

The other public safety union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, appears to be a centralized organization, claiming 39,750 members. Their 990 for 2016 declares total revenue of $29.3 million, This implies an annual dues of $1,088 per year, which is consistent with other unions.

In summary, California’s public safety unions, the CPOA, the CPF, and the CCPOA, along with their local affiliates, altogether are probably collecting around $135 million per year.

OTHER PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS

No survey of California’s government unions is complete without taking a look at three very large and influential unions – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the California State Employee Association (CSEA, not to be confused with the California School Employees Association), and the California Nurses Association.

With these unions as well it is difficult to gather accurate compiled data, because in each case dozens if not hundreds of local affiliates are filing separate 990 forms. AFSCME California, for example, includes the following:

Council 36 – extending across Los Angeles to Orange County to San Diego representing more than 55 autonomous Local Unions whose members work in local government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Council 57 – representing workers in schools and community colleges, transit agencies, public works and services, clinics and hospitals, and water and wastewater facilities throughout Northern California and the Central Valley, as well as the health and social service professionals in corrections facilities across California.

Employees Association of the Metropolitan Water District, Local 1902 – representing the workers of Southern California water districts including accountants, designers, electricians, engineers, environmental specialists, inspectors, IT, mechanics, meter technicians, pipelayers, and PR specialists.

Management and Professional Employees Association of the Metropolitan Water District, Local 1001 – representing the management and professional employees of the the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Healthcare Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) – representing over 29,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals, including optometrists; pharmacists; physical, occupational and speech therapists; case managers; nurse midwives; social workers; clinical lab scientists; physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

United Domestic Workers of America, Local 3930 (UDW) – representing nearly 98,000 in-home support services (IHSS) workers in 21 California counties who take care of Californians with disabilities, the sick, and the elderly.

United EMS Workers, Local 4911 – representing approximately 4,000 private sector emergency medical services (EMS) workers in California whose mission is to raise standards in EMS and protect services for the public.

Union of American Physicians and Dentists, Local 206 (UAPD) – representing doctors working for the State of California, California counties, non-profit healthcare clinics, and in private practice.

University of California Employees, Local 3299 – the University of California’s largest employee union, representing more than 24,000 employees at UC’s 10 campuses, five medical centers, numerous clinics, research laboratories and UC Hastings College of the Law.

Public Employees Union, Local 1 – representing public employees in Contra Costa, West Contra Costa, Merced, Sutter/Yuba, and El Dorado counties.

Calculating the total dues revenue of AFSCME California’s ten major networks of union locals is difficult; precisely estimating their total number of members is impossible to acquire via publicly available information. Based on the information provided on the websites of these locals, total membership can be guessed at. Four of the AFSCME California networks disclose their membership (in italics, above), totaling 155,000. Examining the descriptions of the other six networks suggests a conservative estimate of an additional 45,000 members. Assuming annual dues revenue of $400 per year per member, AFSCME is collecting $80 million per year. That’s probably on the low side.

The California State Employee Association is an agglomeration of three principle unions, the California State University Employees Union with revenue in 2016 of $7.1 million, the Association of California State Supervisors, with 2016 revenue of $3.4 million, and the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000, with 96,000 members and 2016 revenue of $63.2 million. Altogether the unions that comprise the California State Employees Association in 2016 collected revenue of $73.7 million.

Including the California Nurses Association among a survey of public sector unions requires some explanation. It clearly would be inaccurate to claim that all their members work in the public sector. For the purposes of this compilation, we will assume that 25% of them work for public healthcare facilities, based, for example, on their penetration of the UC system healthcare networks and many of California’s county medical centers. The CNA claims membership of 80,000 and for 2016 their 990 declared revenue of $107.8 million.

In summary, California’s other major public sector unions, AFSCME, the CSEA including SEIU Local 1000, and the CNA (est. public sector portion at 25%), along with their local affiliates, altogether are probably collecting around $135 million per year.

CONCLUSION

Based primarily on publicly disclosed 2016 form 990s along with information obtained from their individual websites, in aggregate, California’s major public sector unions are estimated to be collecting $800 million per year.

Because there are undoubtedly smaller and less visible public sector unions operating in California, this number may be conservative. The number is also possibly understated because when making assumptions, conservative estimates were always applied. This was the done when estimating average membership dues in nearly all cases, and also with respect to total membership.

Editor’s Note – 7/15: Notwithstanding the above, because we have learned new information that required us to revise downwards our assumptions regarding the CSEA’s total revenue (including all local affiliates), we must (1) caution any reader that these numbers are difficult to compile precisely because in California there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of individual local public sector union affiliates all filing separate 990 forms, often including financial transfers between entities that have to be offset in any thorough analysis – a nearly impossible task, and (2) upon learning of them, we will diligently correct any further wrong assumptions remaining in this analysis. 

 

California’s Public Sector Unions (including local affiliates)
Estimated Total Membership and Revenues

 

It would go beyond the scope of this analysis to speculate as to what impact the recent Janus ruling will have on government union membership and revenues, or to ponder the degree and kind of political influence of the three major blocks of unions; teachers, public safety, and public service.

It is relevant, however, to emphasize that the reach of these unions, because many of them are highly decentralized, extends to the finest details of public administration, into the smallest local jurisdictions. When recognizing the profound statewide impact of public sector union political agenda, it is easy to forget that fact, and the implications it carries for virtually every city, county, special district, or school district in California.

Ed Ring co-founded the California Policy Center and served as its first president.

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Post Janus: An Opportunity, and a Challenge

A first step, but only the first step, in the fight against public employee unions. It’s arguably the greatest blow for liberty since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down forced-union fees for government workers yesterday in its Janus v. AFSCME decision, labor leaders shivered while liberty lovers loudly cheered.

A Time for Choosing: The End of Forced Union Representation

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of Mark Janus, making it unconstitutional for union leaders to compel public employees to pay “fair share fees”.

In anticipation of this decision, union-backed lawmakers in Sacramento have been pushing bills to limit the freedom of government employees to choose whether they can be represented by unions.

Think of these rules as the legislative weapons of the self-declared California Resistance – the reaction of the state’s Democratic super-majority to the November 2016 election victory of Donald Trump. Among the first bills aimed at protecting government union leaders was Senate Bill (SB) 285, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017. This “union organizing bill” prevents public employers from “deterring or discouraging” their employees to “become or remain a member of an employee organization.” This law authored by state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is a clear restriction of free speech as it outlaws public employers from saying anything to its employees that would suggest they have options outside of joining a union.

Enacted that same month, state Sen. Richard Pan’s SB 550 would reimburse unions for their attorney fees whether they win or lose in legal disputes with a public employer. If union leaders sue a public employer over Janus and lose, they’ll walk away without having spent a dime.

Assembly Bill AB 1937, which was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee in June, requires public employers to grant without question the demand of union leaders to collect payroll deductions or fees from non-union members. Introduced by Los Angeles Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, AB 1937 strips employers and employees of the right to determine whether the union can skim paychecks for dues. As Matt Patterson of the California Policy Center says, “public unions have been operating like racketeering syndicates for decades.”

AB 2154, which is still in the Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee, would allow union representatives to take “reasonable time” off for union activities – but still get paid. These “ghost workers” would be subsidized by taxpayers. Then, too, there’s the vagueness: What does reasonable time-off mean? At this point, union-backed Democrats are just molding the law for the convenience of their donors.

The unions may lose at the Supreme Court, but union leaders are doing everything they can to make sure they keep winning in California. How ironic that the same people who claim to fight for worker rights are actively suppressing worker freedom.

Kelly McGee is a summer research assistant at the California Policy Center and can be reached at kelly@calpolicycenter.org

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Teachers Unions Face a Deserved Reckoning from the Supreme Court

UNITED STATES – JUNE 27: Illinois state employee Mark Janus stands outside of the U.S. Supreme Court after the decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case was handed down in his favor on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Janus argued the fees public-sector unions collect from nonmembers to cover the cost of actions that help all employees are coerced speech that violated his First Amendment rights. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

By Matt Patterson

What are we getting for our education dollars? Not much, as it turns out.

In fact, while the U.S. outspends most developed nations on education, it consistently lags in student achievement, ranking 24th in science, 38th in math and 24th in reading, according to the Pew Research Center.

How do we explain this distressing phenomenon? Why do our children struggle in school in spite of the vast amounts of money we pour into these institutions?

The answer may be found by looking at the schools which are excelling. Success Academy in New York City, for example, where95 percent of (mostly low-income) students pass math.  On the other coast, High Tech Los Angeles graduates 92 percent of its (mostly low-income minority) students, and is ranked among America’s best high schools by U.S. News.

What do schools like these have in common? They are largely free of the poison that is unionization.

Teachers at unionized schools are almost impossible to fire thanks to collective bargaining agreements that forbid performance-based pay and tenure.  The result: millions of children languish in classrooms run by teachers with no incentive to perform or to ensure that students perform.

So the children suffer while the union leadership gets rich. (The President of the American Federation of Teachers makes over $400,000 a year in total compensation).

But not in charter schools, which are mostly non-union and are therefore given much more leeway in hiring and firing, merit-pay, tenure, etc. That is the reason they consistently outperform their unionized counterparts in graduation rates, test scores, and nearly every other metric.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has just delivered a decision that may help break the back of the teachers’ unions. In Janus v. AFSCME, the Court ruled that no public employee, including teachers, can be compelled to financially support a union.  According to Justice Alito, writing for the majority:

“The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from non-consenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

What does this mean for teachers? It means they can keep their money, money that unions have been spending on left-wing politics for decades.

What does this mean for school districts? It means that the union will have a lot less power to bully themselves budget-busting bargaining agreements.

Most importantly, what does this mean for students? It may, just may, mean that the public schools which have failed them for so long may, at last, be allowed to try and improve.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the winners and losers in the Janus case and what it means for the political makeup of the country. But somewhere there’s a child stuck in a terrible school who doesn’t even know about this decision but who nonetheless may be the biggest winner of all.

Renee Olivett contributed research to this report.

Matt Patterson is field director for the California Policy Center and president of 1st Amendment First. He can be reached at Matt@calpolicycenter.org. Originally posted on Forbes.

Unions rigged the rules, but can do little more than brace for end of mandatory union dues

After Janus

Without Government Unions, there Would be No Gas Tax Increase

Nobody argues that California’s roads need huge upgrades. But the solution didn’t require the $0.12 per gallon tax hike that goes into effect today. The root cause of these neglected roads – and the reason even more taxes will never be enough to fix them – is the power of public sector unions, whose agenda is consistently at odds with the public interest. Let us count the ways.

1 – CalTrans mismanagement:

CalTrans could have done a much better job of maintaining California’s roads. One of the most diligent critics (and auditors) of CalTrans is state Senator John Moorlach (R, Costa Mesa), the only CPA in California’s state legislature. Last year, Moorlach released a report on CalTrans which he summarized in “7-Step Fix for ‘Mismanaged’ Caltrans,” an article on his official website. Just a few highlights include the following:

  • In May 2014 the Legislative Analyst Office determined that CalTrans was overstaffed by 3,500 architects and engineers, costing over $500 million per year.
  • While to an average state transportation agency outsources over 50% of its work, CalTrans outsources only 10% of its work. Arizona and Florida outsource more than 80%.
  • 54% of CalTrans staff is at or near retirement age, so a hiring freeze would reduce staff merely through attrition, without requiring layoffs.

But Moorlach didn’t make explicit the reason CalTrans is mismanaged. It’s because the unions that run Sacramento don’t want to outsource CalTrans work. The unions don’t want to reduce CalTrans headcount, or hold CalTrans management accountable. Those actions might help Californians, but they would undermine union power.

2 – Bullet train boondoggle:

Money that could have been allocated to maintain and improve California’s roads is being squandered on a train that will do nothing to ameliorate California’s transportation challenges. A LOT of money. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, California’s freeways can be resurfaced and have a lane added in each direction at a cost of roughly $5.0 million per mile in rural areas, about twice that in urban areas.

Meanwhile, the latest estimate for California’s “bullet train,” is $98 billion (that’s $245 million per mile), thanks to construction delays, and design challenges including nearly 50 miles of tunnels through seismically active mountains to the north and south. And hardly anyone is going to ride it. Ridership won’t even pay operating costs. But Sacramento pushes ahead with this monstrous waste when that same money could (at the urban price of $10 million per mile) resurface and add a lane in each direction to 10,000 miles of California’s freeways. Imagine smooth, unclogged roads. It’s not impossible. It’s just policy priorities.

But while bad roads destroy the chassis of millions of cars and trucks, and commuters endure stop-and-go traffic year after year, the California High Speed Rail Authority dutifully pushes on. Why?

Because that’s what the government employee unions want. They don’t want roads, with all the flexibility and autonomy that roads offer. They want to create a gigantic high-speed rail empire, with tens of thousands of new public employees to drive the trains, maintain the trains, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But all of them will be members of public sector unions.

3 – All rapid transit boondoggles:

In a handful of very dense urban areas around the U.S., fast intercity trains make economic sense. But most light rail schemes, along with laughably absurd “streetcar” schemes that actually block urban lanes sorely needed by vehicles, do not achieve levels of ridership that even begin to justify their construction when the alternative is using that money for better, wider connector roads and freeways. The impact of ride sharing apps, the advent of non-polluting cars, and the option of using buses to accomplish mass transit goals all speak to the superior versatility of roads over rail for urban transportation.

So why do California’s cities continue to poor billions into light rail and streetcars, when that money could be used to unclog the roads?

To reiterate: The public sector unions that run California want tens of thousands of new public employees to operate the trains and streetcars, maintain them, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But doing this means that public sector union membership – hence public sector union power – will increase.

4 – CEQA reform so people can live closer to the jobs:

The median home value in the United States today is $202,700. The median home value in California today is $509,600, 2.5 times as much! There is no shortage of land in California, and the alleged shortages of energy and water are self-inflicted as the result of policies enacted by California’s state legislature. But instead of reforming California’s Environmental Quality Act, SB 375, AB 32, and countless other laws that have made building homes in California nearly impossible, California’s legislature is doubling down on more government solutions – primarily to subsidize either extremely high density housing, or subsidized housing for the economically disadvantaged, or both.

None of this is necessary. Outside of California’s major urban centers, there is no reason homes cannot be profitably built and sold at a median price of $202,700, and there is no reason the people living in those homes cannot drive or ride share to work on fast, unclogged freeways.

But California’s public sector unions want more regulations on home building, and they want more subsidized public housing. Because those solutions, even though inadequate and coercive, enable them to hire vast new bureaucracies to enforce the many regulations and administer the public assets. Unleashing the private sector to build affordable homes in a competitive market would rob these unions of their opportunity to acquire more power. It’s that simple.

5 – Insatiable appetite for pension fund contributions:

According to a California Policy Center study, taking barely adequate annual employer pension contributions into account, the average unionized state/local government worker in California makes over $120,000 per year in pay and benefits. But to adequately fund their promised pension benefits, employers will need to pay at least another $20,000 per employee to the pension funds. This funding gap, which equates to over $20 billion per year, is the additional amount that is required to cover the difference between how much California’s public employee pension funds currently collect from taxpayers, and how much they need to collect to keep the promises that union controlled politicians have made to the government unions they “negotiate” with. That is a best-case scenario.

It could be much worse. A 2016 California Policy Center analysis (ref. table 2-C) estimated that under a worst-case scenario, the annual costs to fund California’s public employee pension funds could cost taxpayers nearly $70 billion more per year than they are currently paying.

And by the way, California’s pension funds are themselves almost entirely under the control of public sector unions – research the background of CalPERS and CalSTRS board directors to verify the degree of influence they have. Absent significant reform, funding California’s public employee pensions is going to continue to consume every dollar in new taxes for the next several decades. The cumulative financial impact of funding these pensions is easily triple that of the bullet train’s $100 billion fiasco, probably much more.

Let’s be perfectly clear. Government unions control California. They collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year, and spend most of that money on either explicit political campaigning and lobbying, or soft advocacy via expensive public relations campaigns and sponsored academic studies. Their presence is felt everywhere, from local transit districts to the governor’s office. They make or break politicians at will, by outspending or outlasting their opponents. At best, California’s most powerful corporate players do not cross these unions, often they collude with them.

California’s public sector unions operate as senior partners in a coalition that includes left-wing oligarchs especially in the Silicon Valley, extreme environmentalists and their powerful trial lawyer cohorts, and the Latino Legislative Caucus – usurped by leftist radicals – and their many allies in the social justice/identity politics industry. The power of this government union led coalition is nearly absolute, and the consequences to California’s private sector working class have been nothing short of devastating.

Government unions force California’s agencies to over-hire, overpay, and mismanage, because that benefits their members even as it harms the public. These unions enforce absurd policy priorities that further harm the public in order to increase their power. They are the reason California has increased its gas tax.

REFERENCES

Pump bump: California drivers to pay 12 cents more per gallon starting Wednesday – San Jose Mercury, Oct. 31, 2017
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/31/pump-bump-california-drivers-to-pay-12-cents-more-per-gallon-starting-wednesday/

California’s gas tax increases Wednesday – Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-gas-tax-increase-political-battle-20171031-story.html

How much you’ll REALLY pay in gasoline tax in California – San Diego Union Tribune, Apr. 23, 2017
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-california-gastax-20170413-story.html

What Californians Could Build Using the $64 Billion Bullet Train Budget – California Policy Center, Mar. 21, 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-californians-could-build-using-the-64-billion-bullet-train-budget/

American Road and Transportation Builders Association – FAQs, ref. “How much does it cost to build a mile of road?
https://www.artba.org/about/faq/

High-Speed Rail Delay More than Triples Planned Cost to San Jose – San Jose Inside, Oct. 2, 2017
http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2017/10/02/high-speed-rail-delay-more-than-triples-planned-cost-to-san-jose/

A 13.5-mile tunnel will make or break California’s bullet train – Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-tunnel-20171021-story.html

California Environmental Quality Act – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Environmental_Quality_Act

State Senate bills aim to make homes more affordable, but they won’t spur nearly enough construction – Los Angeles Times, Aug. 11, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-state-housing-deal-effects-20170811-htmlstory.html

California’s Public Sector Compensation Trends – California Policy Center, Jan. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/californias-public-sector-compensation-trends/

What is the Average Pension for a Retired Government Worker in California? – California Policy Center, Mar. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-is-the-average-pension-for-a-retired-government-worker-in-california/

The Coming Public Pension Apocalypse, and What to Do About It – California Policy Center, May 2016
http://californiapolicycenter.org/the-coming-public-pension-apocalypse/