The #WeSue movement

The Varieties and the Potential Impact of Post-Janus Litigation

The landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Janus vs AFSCME case has given government workers the right to not only refuse union membership, but to refuse to pay any dues or fees to that union. In the wake of this ruling, new lawsuits have been filed on behalf of plaintiffs who allege the unions are attempting to circumvent the Janus ruling.

Enforcing Provisions of the Janus Ruling

A notable example of such a case is Few vs UTLA, In this case, the plaintiff, Thomas Few, is a special education teacher in Los Angeles. Few was told that he could end his membership in the United Teachers of Los Angeles union. But even as a nonmember, the union told him that he would still have to pay an annual “service fee” equivalent to his union membership dues. Few’s position, which is likely to be upheld, is that he cannot be compelled to pay anything to a union he does not choose to join, regardless of what the payment is called.

This lawsuit and others are likely to ensure that the Janus ruling is enforced. The practical result will be that government unions lose some of their members, and some of their revenue. But how many? After all, there is a valid economic incentive for public employees to belong to their unions. In California, unionized state and local workers earn pay and benefits that average twice what private sector workers earn.

For this reason, most people refusing union membership will be doing so for ideological reasons. They will find their objections to the political agenda of these unions to be more compelling than the economic reasons to support them. But there are additional ways the unions compel public employees to remain members.

For example, in some cases, within the same bargaining unit, unions will negotiate pay and benefit packages for their members that are more favorable than the pay and benefit packages they negotiate for the non-members. In some cases in academia, only union members are permitted to sit on faculty committees that determine curricula and hiring decisions.

Challenging Exclusive Representation

This right to exclusive representation is the next major target of public sector union reformers. They argue that it is unconstitutional for public sector unions – whose activity the Janus ruling verified is inherently political – to advocate on behalf of non-members, or to represent non-members, or to exclude non-members from participating in votes or discussions on policy, or to deny non-members the same negotiated rates of pay and benefits as members, or, possibly, all of the above.

Just filed this week in the US Supreme Court is the case Uradnik vs IFO, which worked its way through the lower courts in under a year. It is possible it will be heard in the 2019 session. This case calls for an immediate end to laws that force public-sector employees to accept a union’s exclusive representation.

Kathleen Uradnik, a professor of political science at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, alleges that her union (“IFO” or Inter Faculty Organization) “created a system that discriminates against non-union faculty members by barring them from serving on any faculty search, service, or governance committee, and even bars them from joining the Faculty Senate. This second-class treatment of non-union faculty members impairs the ability of non-members to obtain tenure, to advance in their careers, and to participate in the academic life and governance of their institutions.”

There is a strong possibility that within a few years, if not much sooner, this case will be heard and ruled on by the US Supreme Court in favor of the plaintiff. If so, the future of public sector unions will be altered in ways even more significant than Janus. Unions will be prohibited from discriminating in any way against non-members who are part of their bargaining unit. They also will be powerless to stop public employees from withdrawing completely from their bargaining unit to – gasp – represent themselves in salary and benefit negotiations, something that professionals in the private sector have always done.

The Impact of Non-Exclusive Representation

An impact of a favorable Uradnik vs IFO ruling that would have even greater consequences would be if it enabled the emergence of competing unions. What if two or more unions represented a bargaining group? What if a super-union emerged whose membership welcomed government workers from an entire state, or entire profession, or the entire nation. What if these super-unions embraced a political agenda that ran counter to the left-wing agenda that has dominated public sector unions for decades?

The possibilities are tantalizing.

What if faculty members in America’s colleges and universities had the option to join a conservative union with a national membership that advocated a return to pro-Western college instruction, an end to reverse discrimination, a restoration of academic merit as the sole criteria for admission and graduation, and the abolition of divisive courses of study that offer no useful skills? What if conservative faculty members who have been silent all these years had the power of a national union to protect them from the Left?

What if K-12 teachers across America had a national union to protect them when they objected to curricula designed to turn immigrant children against the people and traditions of their host culture? What if police and firefighters across America had a national union that advocated unequivocally for a merit-based system of immigration? What if civil engineers across America had a national union that was implacably opposed to the environmentalist extremism that has doubled the cost of infrastructure projects and quadrupled the time it takes to complete them?

Enforcing Janus will begin to undermine public sector union power, which is deployed almost exclusively in the service of the Left. Enforcing Uradnik may actually create a balance of power between public sector unions that lean Left vs Right, and that, in turn, would represent a seismic shift in the political landscape of America. At the least, it would neutralize the tremendous boost that public sector unions have given the political Left in America. At most, it might create a hitherto unthinkable consensus in America that public sector unions are indeed inherently political, and have far too much political influence, and must be subject to draconian restrictions including losing the right to collectively bargain, if not complete abolition.

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Can Public Sector Union Power Ever Be Stopped?

Imagine you’re hoping to support a candidate for local office who will enact reforms that will improve your city, maybe even save it. Someone who will fight tirelessly to eliminate work rules that force agencies to hire more people than are actually necessary. Someone who will insist that incompetent public employees are fired. Someone who will finally do something about compensation and benefit packages that are threatening to bankrupt the city.

What do you say to them, when their response to your suggested reforms is this: “That’s all great, and I’d like to do it all, but who’s going to give me the million dollars for my campaign that I’m not going to get from the public employee unions if I actually try to do any of it?”

That is the sort of conversation that takes place, or would take place if anyone bothered to ask, multiplied by thousands, every election cycle in California.

Public employee unions run California. They exercise nearly absolute power in the state legislature, and in nearly every city, county, school district and special district. Can public sector union power ever be stopped?

Earlier this year, a California Public Policy Center analysis estimated that for 2016, total membership in California’s public sector unions was 1.15 million, and total revenue was $812 million. This equates to a stupefying $1.6 billion that these unions collect and spend every election cycle.

 

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

While the figure of $1.6 billion per election cycle is a credible estimate, attempts to come up with precise information on California’s public sector union dues is nearly impossible. In California there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of individual local public sector union affiliates. All of them file separate 990 forms, often including financial transfers between entities that have to be offset in any thorough analysis.

Determining how much of California’s public sector union revenue is spent on politics is also a nearly impossible task, despite several online “transparency” portals, including OpenSecrets, FollowTheMoney, VoteSmart, and the California Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance “Power Search.” These portals are primarily focused on national races, and in some cases, statewide races, but none of them descend to the thousands of California’s local races, where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every election.

Moreover, the portals can only display the information they’re given. California’s government unions, like most sophisticated political players, mask their total spending through multiple committees and transfers.

An excellent analysis of how much of teachers union dues end up being spent on political campaigns was written in 2015 by RiShawn Biddle, editor and publisher of Dropout Nation – a leading commentary website on education reform. He writes: “The pro bono consultants who went through the unions’ published national, state, and local tax returns estimated based on their research, interviews, and sampling that roughly one third of the unions’ efforts went toward political advocacy.”

One-third. In California, that is equal to approximately $540 million per election cycle. That is, California’s public sector unions likely spend over a half-billion per election cycle. And this spending does not include other “non-political” spending. For example, not reportable as political spending can include massive public education campaigns that are designed to influence voters but aren’t engaging in explicit advocacy.

Also not considered political spending, but having immense political impact, is litigation. There are countless examples of how government union power is exercised in California’s courts. Pension reforms in San Jose and San Diego, approved by voters, were eviscerated through relentless court challenges. Statewide pension reform pushed by Gov. Brown and partially realized in the PEPRA legislation of 2012 was undermined, and continues to be undermined, beneath an ongoing avalanche of lawsuits. Charter schools are the targets of continuous litigation designed to wear them out. You can do this, when you have hundreds of millions of dollars pouring in every quarter, year after year.

California’s political landscape over the past 20-30 years has been defined by public sector unions. While the recent Janus v AFSCME decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has taken away the ability of government unions to compel payment of fees, the unions are resorting to clever contractual gyrations to make it extremely difficult in practice for anyone to stop paying. That too, will have to sort itself out in court, where union money guarantees tenacious defense and endless appeals.

Even if public employees can easily withdraw from paying government unions, in many cases, why would they? These unions have made California’s public employees some of the highest paid public servants on earth. A California Policy Center study in 2017 concluded “The composite average total compensation (pay and benefits) for a full-time city, county or state worker in California during 2015 was $121,843; for the average full-time private sector worker in California, including benefits, it was 62,475, which is 51% of what the public sector worker earned.” As a result, it is no coincidence that California’s state and local governments confront over $1.0 trillion in debt and unfunded pension liabilities.

The political and financial power of public sector unions has transformed California politics. Their influence is felt everywhere; education, environmental policy, the business climate, important cultural issues. In every area, their primary agenda is to grow their membership and influence. The effect of this agenda is pernicious. If schools fail, spend more public money on schools. If crime increases, hire more police and build more prisons. Wherever society fails, grow unionized government.

Perhaps the next major U.S. Supreme Court case concerning government unions will abolish them due to this inherent conflict between their agenda and the public interest. Perhaps someday they will be outlawed entirely. That would be a happy, happy Thanksgiving indeed.

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Public education defunding drivel

From ‘end of the world’ to ‘no big deal’: Unions change their tune on Janus decision

The union as management

In Search of Public Employers Willing to Fight for Their Right to Free Speech

The recent Janus decision by the US Supreme Court gives public employees the right to quit union membership – or to never join a union in the first place. This sweeping ruling not only banned unions from requiring non-members to still pay so-called “agency fees,” but it required unions to obtain “affirmative consent” from public employees before enrolling them as members.

Needless to say, in states like California, where public sector unions exercise nearly absolute control over the state legislature, several laws were swiftly passed to thwart the impact of Janus. In terms of employer rights, two of these laws are particularly noteworthy:

SB 285 prohibits a public employer from “deterring or discouraging” public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization. Public employers are already required to be extremely careful how they communicate the pros and cons of unionization, but now they’ll be even more hamstrung, while the unions have full access to employees to argue and advocate their position. Worse, this bill grants the Public Employment Relations Board jurisdiction over alleged violations of its provisions instead of the courts. This board is stacked with labor veterans and is very unlikely to ever rule in favor of a public employer vs. a union.

SB 550 requires employers to pay union legal fees if they lose in litigation vs. the unions.

Imagine the chilling effect these two laws are having on public employers. Can they say anything about union membership? What if they say “unions membership is good,” but because they didn’t say “union membership is great,” they deterred someone from joining the union, or renewing their union membership? Not only is SB 285 denying free speech to public employers, but it is so vaguely written that it is impossible for public employers to have any idea what might constitute a violation of the new law.

Moreover, if a union decides to make an example of any public employer whose communications with public employees are deemed transgressive, they will not be sued in a courtroom, but in an action before the biased Public Employment Relations Board.

CALLING ALL FREEDOM LOVING CALIFORNIA AGENCIES

If your school district, transit district, water district, city or county wants to challenge, or at least compel more clarity, with respect to the wording of SB 285, there is something you can do. Contact CLEO’s Matt Patterson, at matt@calpolicycenter.org, and let him know your agency is interested in fighting for employer free speech.

With only a few agencies as committed plaintiffs, it will be possible to go to court and ask for a declaration of rights, explicitly stating what an employer can and cannot say to a public employee regarding union membership. As it is, even saying nothing can put public agencies at risk.

Participation in this lawsuit will cost the plaintiffs nothing. It is an opportunity to clarify your rights as public employers.

REFERENCES

California’s Public Employment Relations Board – 2018, currently stacked 3-1 in favor of public sector unions 

The three:

  • Arthur A. Krantz “represented unions, employees and nonprofits in litigation, arbitration and administrative cases, and he worked on law reform, organizing, negotiation, and strategic campaigns to effect social change. Krantz did this work as an associate and partner at Leonard Carder, LLP.” San Francisco based Leonard Carder, LLP‘s home page states: “As one of the oldest and most renowned law firms representing labor unions and employees, Leonard Carder’s focus is to provide top-flight legal representation to the labor movement.”
  • Priscilla Winslow‘s “career in public sector labor law spans over 30 years, during which time she served for 15 years as Assistant Chief Counsel for the California Teachers Association where she litigated and advised on a variety of labor, education, and constitutional law issues.”
  • Eric Banks “served in multiple positions at the Service Employees International Union, Local 221 from 2001 to 2013, including Advisor to the President, President, and Director of Government and Community Relations.”

The other two:

  • Erich Shiners: “Prior to his service on the Board, Erich Shiners represented and advised public agency employers in labor and employment matters, including many cases before PERB. Most recently he was Senior Counsel at Liebert Cassidy Whitmore.” Liebert Cassidy Whitmore represents itself as California’s preeminent public management employment law firm with over 80 attorneys in five offices.
  • The fifth position is currently open on PERB, meaning that right now there is a 3-1 advantage favoring board members with union affiliations. Just vacating the PERB board was a possibly neutral party, Mark C. Gregersen, who according to his biography on the PERB website had “a career in public sector labor relations [that] spans over 35 years. Prior to his appointment to the California Public Employment Relations Board, he has served as director of labor and work force strategy for the City of Sacramento and director of human resources for a number of California cities and counties.”

A SUMMARY OF CALIFORNIA’S ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION

In response to Janus, California’s unions representing public servants are doing the following:

1 – Expanding the pool of public employees eligible to join unions – AB 83SB 201, and AB 3034

2 – Making it difficult, if not impossible, for employers to discuss the pros and cons of unionization with employees – SB 285 and AB-2017

3 – Precluding local governments from unilaterally honoring employee requests to stop paying union dues – AB 1937 and AB-2049

4 – Making employers pay union legal fees if they lose in litigation but not making unions pay employer costs if the unions lose – SB 550

5 – Moving the venue for dispute resolution from the courts to PERB, which is stacked with pro-union board members – SB 285 and AB 2886

This catalog of countermeasures to Janus is undoubtedly incomplete. A few enacted in 2017 have probably slipped under our radar, and there will be many more crafted in the coming months and years

ADDITIONAL READING

In Search of Government Union Transparency, July 2018

California’s Government Unions Collect An Estimated $800 Million Per Year, July 2018

How Government Unions Will Attack the Janus Ruling, June 2018

California’s Government Unions Take Steps to Obliterate Janus Impact, June 2018

A Catalog of California’s Anti-Janus Legislation, June 2018

Funding the Post-Janus Fight Against Government Unions, May 2018

Janus vs AFSCME Ruling Imminent – What will Change?, May 2018

A Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions, February 2018

After Janus, Will Union Grassroots Members Assert their Political Voice?, December 2017

How Can Local Officials Prepare for the Upcoming Janus vs AFSCME Ruling?, October 2017

Kavan-awesome

Teacher pay fray



Why Teachers Unions are the Worst of the Worst

When considering the influence of unions on American society, there are vast differences depending on what type of union one considers.

Private sector unions, for all the criticisms they may deserve, have nonetheless played a vital role in securing rights for the American worker. Subject to appropriate regulations, private sector unions have the opportunity to continue to play a vital role in American society. If they would bother to embrace the aspirations of their members, instead of the multinational corporations their leaders now apparently collude with, they might even support immigration reform. That would elevate the wages and benefits of all American workers, especially those doing low paying jobs.

Public sector unions, on the other hand, should be illegal. They negotiate with elected officials who they help elect. They negotiate for a share of coerced tax revenue, rather than for a share of profits, meaning there are no competitive checks on how much they can demand. The agenda of public sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. But given the reality of public sector unions, it is important to recognize that some public sector unions are worse than others.

Public safety unions, for example, have successfully lobbied for pension benefits that are not sustainable. This calls for a difficult but necessary economic discussion that can only end two ways – either these pension benefits are going to be reduced, or cities and counties across California and elsewhere will go bankrupt in the next major recession. But public safety unions have not undermined their profession the way the teachers unions have.

The teachers unions are guilty of all the problems common to all public sector unions. They, too, have negotiated unsustainable rates of pay and benefits. They, too, elect their own bosses, negotiate inefficient work rules, have an insatiable need for more public funds, and protect incompetent members. But the teachers union is worse than all other public sector unions for one reason that eclipses all others: Their agenda is negatively affecting how we socialize and educate our children, the next generation of Americans.

Work Rules Harm Public Schools

One of the most compelling examples of just how much harm the teachers union has done to California’s schools was the 2014 case Vergara vs. the State of California. In this case, attorneys representing public school students argued that union negotiated work rules harmed their ability to receive a quality education. In particular, they questioned rules governing tenure (too soon), dismissals (too hard), and layoffs (based on seniority instead of merit). In the closing arguments, the plaintiff’s lead attorney referenced testimony from the defendant’s expert witnesses to show that these and other rules had a negative disproportionate impact on students in disadvantaged communities.

Despite winning in the lower courts, the Vergara case was eventually dismissed by the California Supreme Court. Teachers still get tenure after less than two years of classroom observation. Incompetent teachers are still nearly impossible to fire. And whenever it is necessary to reduce teacher headcount in a district, the senior teachers stay and the new teachers go, regardless of how well or poorly these teachers were doing their jobs. The consequences of these self-serving work rules are more than academic.

The evidence that California’s public schools are failing is everywhere. Los Angeles, a city whose residents are – perhaps more than anywhere else – representative of America’s future, is home to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), with 640,000 K-12 students. And as reported earlier this year in the LA School Report, according to the new “California School Dashboard,” a ratings system that replaced the Academic Performance Index, LAUSD is failing to educate hundreds of thousands of students. In the most recent year of results, 52 percent of LAUSD’s schools earned a D or F in English language arts, and 50 percent earned a D or F in math. Fifty percent of LAUSD’s schools are failing or nearly failing to teach their students English or math.

Attack Innovative Charter Schools

In the face of failure, you would think LAUSD and other failing school districts would embrace bipartisan, obvious reforms such as those highlighted in the Vergara case. But instead, these unions are relentlessly trying to unionize charter schools, which would force those schools to adhere to the same union work rules. In Los Angeles, the Alliance Network of charter schools has delivered demonstrably better educational outcomes for less money, while serving nearly identical student populations.

How does it help to impose union work rules on charter schools that are succeeding academically? How does that help the children who are America’s future?

A Left-Wing Political Agenda

The other way the teachers union is unique among public sector unions is their hyper-partisanship. Despite and often in defiance of their memberships, nearly all unions are left-wing partisan organizations. Nearly all of them support left-wing causes and Democratic political candidates. But the teachers unions do so with a zeal that dwarfs their counterparts. Larry Sand, a former LAUSD teacher and prolific observer of teachers union antics, has spent years documenting their left wing agenda.

For example, reporting on the annual conventions of the two largest national teachers unions, Sand writes: “The National Education Association convention at the beginning of the month gave us a clue which theory would become reality when the union passed quite a few über liberal New Business Items, maintained its lopsided leftward political spending, and gave rogue quarterback Colin Kaepernick a human rights award. And here in the Golden State, the California Teachers Association continues its one-way spending on progressive initiatives and endorsed 35 state legislators in the June primary – all Democrats.

A week after the NEA convention, the other national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers held its yearly wingding and left absolutely no doubt as to its future political direction. The resolutions passed by the union at the convention would make any socialist proud. Universal health care – whether single-payer or MediCare for All, full public funding for, and free tuition at all public colleges and universities, and universal, full-day, and cost-free child care are what AFT wants for the country. Additionally, the union resolved to double per-pupil expenditures for low-income K-12 districts and to ‘tax the rich’ to fully fund ‘IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Title I and state allocations to public colleges and universities.'”

Left-Wing Student Indoctrination

This left-wing political agenda finds its way into the classroom, of course. At the same time as California’s K-12 public school students are not being effectively taught English or math skills, they are being exposed to agenda-driven political and cultural indoctrination.

Again, as documented by Larry Sand: “Nor are textbooks safe. Communist and notorious America-hater Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” is assigned in many high school history classes. Zinn felt that the teaching of history “should serve society in some way” and that “objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable.” As a Marxist, he’d prefer a society that resembles Stalin’s Russia. Additionally, Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi notes that pages and pages of the latest California History, Social Science Framework ‘are devoted to identity politics, and the environmentalist, sexual, and anti-Vietnam War movements, with detailed and extensive bibliographical references. In contrast, the contemporaneous conservative movement, which succeeded in electing Californian Ronald Reagan as president, with its complex mixture of social, economic and national security sub-movements, is given cursory and passing mention, with no references provided.'”

Public sector unions are going to be with us for a long time. But in the wake of the Janus ruling, members who don’t agree with the political agenda of these unions can quit, depriving them of the dues that – to the tune of nearly a billion per year just in California – make them so powerful.

Teachers, in particular, should carefully consider this option. America’s future depends on it.

In Search of Government Union Transparency

Anyone who thinks it’s easy to calculate the total annual revenue of California’s government unions hasn’t tried to do it. And this statistic is vital to understanding one of the most powerful forces – if not the most powerful force – in California’s state and local politics.

The problem with getting accurate ground-up revenue numbers is that California is home to many hundreds, if not thousands, of local public-sector union affiliates all filing separate 990 forms. Those forms often include financial transfers between entities that have to be offset in any thorough analysis. The organization of the information on these 990 forms is missing useful variables, and the data-entry varies from filer to filer. Complicating matters, the 990 data is on PDF files that cannot be parsed, and even if you were to transcribe hundreds of them onto a spreadsheet, there would be no way to know if you’d found them all.

For these reasons, a top-down estimate relying on informed assumptions is the only practical way to proceed with limited time and resources.

Back in 2010, after finding nothing online, the California Policy Center published “Public Sector Unions & Political Spending.” In that study, we based our estimate of total political spending on three variables: (1) the number of public sector workers are members of unions, (2) the average annual union dues payment per worker, and (3) the percentage of union dues used by the unions for political activity. A subsequent analysis, “California’s Government Unions Collect $1.0 Billion Per Year,” published in 2015, arrived at that estimate by multiplying updated estimates of the first two variables – the number of unionized workers times the average dues per unionized worker. More on this later. First, here is information on some of the key variables necessary to perform a top-down analysis.

WHAT PERCENT OF CALIFORNIA’S STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ARE UNIONIZED?

Getting this data depends on limited sources that provide only estimates. For example, the 2003 UC Berkeley study “California Union Membership: A Turn-of-the-Century Portrait,” which estimated total government union membership at 53.8 percent of all public employees, even today remains the only in-depth analysis we can find of California’s union membership.

That study relied on two datasets. One came from the annual U.S. Census; an excellent and ongoing distillation of that data is provided by UnionStats.com. The other dataset was the California Union Census, conducted in 2002 by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. That report has not been updated.

In any case, the updated U.S. Census survey for 2017, as compiled on the website UnionStats.com, estimates that 55 percent of California’s public employee unions are members of unions, up slightly from 2003.

HOW MANY STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ARE THERE?

Acquiring this data reveals another pitfall in attempting to perform a top-down estimate of government union revenue, because there are full-time and part-time employees, with reported totals varying. For example, the UnionStats.com reports 2,489,477 state and local government employees in California in 2017. Transparent California reports 2,529,468 state and local government employees in California in 2016. And the U.S. Census reports 1,523,255 full-time, 686,750 part-time, and 1,814,756 “full-time equivalent” state and local government employees in 2016.

Turning to the state controller’s “Government Compensation in California” website to resolve these differing totals yields a reported 326,413 city employees in 2017, 354,968 county employees, 162,764 special district employees, 247,177 state employees, 19,125 superior court employees, 291,141 University of California employees, 119,475 California State University employees, 161,863 Community College District employees, and 658,135 K-12 education employees. That totals to 2,341,061 employees in 4,376 agencies, and does not include 1,456 agencies that did not respond to the State Controller’s request for this information.

WAYS TO ESTIMATE TOTAL DUES COLLECTIONS

The top-down method to do this requires estimating the total number of unionized employees in the state and local workforce, and multiplying that number by the average annual union dues. Getting a good value for both of these variables is problematic. Even assuming the 55 percent unionization percentage is accurate, despite having this number only via sampling surveys, there is still the need to estimate the total number of state/local employees. Four sources offer a total: 2.49 million from UnionStats.com, 2.52 from Transparent California, 2.21 from the U.S. Census, and 2.34 from the State Controller. Because Transparent California’s data comes directly from payroll departments of local agencies, that number is likely accurate despite being higher than the others. Applying 55 percent to 2.5 million workers yields a union membership estimate of 1,375,000.

Average union dues are very hard to pin down – and not only because many of their members are part-time workers who will not pay the full dues. Union dues vary because they’re based on the various rates of union dues and on the pay scale of each individual employee. Before discussing how much these amounts vary, here are the average dues per member based on various assumed total statewide union revenue:

Average Annual Union Dues Based on Various Total Union Dues Revenue
(assume total California state/local agencies have 1.375 million union members)

This chart (above) is only a first step, but it provides a good way to get an idea of what estimate may be reasonable. But how many of these union members are full-time? And how much do members of various unions pay? In a previous analysis, published last week and edited later that week after receiving feedback from some of the unions being analyzed, we made assumptions based on available information about the major government unions active in California. We learned, for example, that the dues for California School Employees Association (CSEA) members are capped at $472.50 per year, and that the total dues for their 240,000 members are roughly $70 million per year including dues retained by their local affiliates. We also assumed that on average California’s full-time teachers and public safety employees pay around $1,000 per year in dues, possibly more. Overall, the analysis came up with a total dues estimate for all of California’s government unions of around $800 million per year.

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

A WAY TO IMPROVE UNION TRANSPARENCY

When considering the tremendous influence government unions have in California – the public safety unions, for example, exercise immense power in California’s cities, and the teachers union wields equal power in Sacramento – it would be proper to have more complete information on their operations. To this end, it would be helpful and in the public interest if every government employee union that files a 990 form with the IRS each year would also be required to file with the State of California – and post online – the following completed form:

Having these documents would still not be enough, however. The forms could not be accepted in PDF format, but instead provided in a standardized, downloadable and parsable format, so consolidations could be easily performed by online viewers. Moreover, it would be necessary to require a Federal Identification Number (FIN), in a separate field, for each filer, as well as the FIN of any affiliate to which they either send or receive funds. This will make it possible for an analyst to easily develop consolidated total revenue figures for each of the major unions and their affiliates.

If and when this happens, we will finally know how much money California’s public sector unions are collecting and spending each year. But don’t count on the state legislature to do this. Perhaps it can be accomplished with Freedom of Information Act Requests, or California Public Record Act Requests, but these unions – despite the fact they organize public workers – may successfully argue they are not public entities and are therefore exempt from such requests. That leaves reform to either court challenges or a citizens initiative.

Not knowing how much public sector unions are spending each year, or what they’re spending it on, is unhealthy for our democracy.

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RELATED POSTS AND REFERENCE LINKS

California’s Government Unions Collect An Estimated $800 Million Per Year, CPC Analysis, July 2018

California’s Government Unions Collect $1.0 Billion Per Year, CPC Analysis, May 2015

Understanding the Financial Disclosure Requirements of Public Sector Unions, CPC Study, June 2012

Public Sector Unions & Political Spending, CPC Analysis, Sept. 2010

Government Compensation in California, State Controllers Office

2016 Government Employment and Payroll Tables, U.S. Census Bureau

California Union Membership: A Turn-of-the-Century Portrait, Milkman & Rooks, 2003, UC Berkeley

Transparent California

UnionStats.com

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