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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
California’s Public Employment Relations Board – 2018, currently stacked 3-1 in favor of public sector unions
- 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:
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
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
In Search of Government Union Transparency, July 2018
A Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions, February 2018
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.
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
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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.
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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.
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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The reactions from representatives of California’s public sector unions to the Janus ruling are revealing. For any member thinking about quitting these unions, these reactions, and the political agenda they epitomize, bear close scrutiny.
Here are excerpts from a press release regarding Janus on the California Teachers Association website: “Today’s ruling is an attack on working people that attempts to further rig the economy … the decision is the result of a well-funded and nationally orchestrated effort to weaken the ability of working men and women to come together as unions and to speak with one, united voice.”
And here are excerpts from what the Peace Officers Research Association of California had to say about Janus on their website: “This is the dawn of the war against both labor unions and the law enforcement profession in this country, and no association should choose to stand alone. A united voice is more important now than ever before.”
These responses typify the reactions from California’s public sector unions, and there is one major fact they willfully ignore. Janus did not affect private sector unions at all. As always, these government unions pretend they have solidarity with unions that operate in the private sector. They don’t. Government unions don’t have to be reasonable when they negotiate. Instead of putting a company out of business, which is what an unreasonable demand could do to a private company, government unions just elect and control politicians who vote to raise taxes.
What irony. These government unions depend on taxes paid by private sector “working men and women,” yet falsely claim solidarity with them.
While we’re on the topic of solidarity, why on earth would PORAC want to declare solidarity with the teachers union? There are legitimate reasons to criticize police unions, and police officers could probably operate just fine with civil service protection combined with the clout wielded by voluntary associations that didn’t engage in collective bargaining. But police unions did not destroy the effectiveness of law enforcement. They’re actually doing a pretty good job. The teachers union, on the other hand, has nearly destroyed public education.
So why, PORAC, would you need to declare that “a united voice is more important now than ever before”?
Now that union members can stop paying dues, it’s unlikely members of public safety unions will do so. The level of cohesion among public safety professionals, law enforcement, fire fighters, and correctional officers, is far higher than what might unify teachers. The knowledge that public safety professionals may at any time have to face strategically applied cartel violence, or unexpected natural conflagrations of stupefying ferocity, gives them a sense of fellowship that teachers – for all the nobility of their calling – will never know.
Janus isn’t just about quitting the union, however. Even if members choose to continue to pay their dues to public safety unions, that doesn’t mean they can’t hold them more accountable. Public safety unions could channel more of their political activism into helping to counter the leftist political agenda of the teachers unions.
Public safety professionals realize the consequences of leftist policies. Every day they patrol and protect communities ravaged by welfare programs that have destroyed work ethics and dismantled nuclear families. Every day they cope with fallout from gang conflict and drug abuse. Every day they endure the frustration of contending with problems caused by a porous border, ruthlessly controlled on its southern side by the renegade private armies of a corrupt and failed state. Every day they have to mitigate these ongoing and escalating problems while looking over their shoulder to see if they’ve “profiled” someone or committed some similar phony transgression. Every day they have to endure undeserved hostility, funded and fomented by anti-American leftist oligarchs, because of the isolated actions of a vanishingly few bad apples.
For these reasons, public safety unions have, for the most part, stayed in touch with the political sentiments of their members. Their political advocacy at the state and national level has been neutral or conservative.
The teachers union is a completely different story. Many public school teachers, possibly even a majority, witness daily examples of the same consequences of leftist policy. They see the almost unbelievable absurdity of now being forced to allow racial quotas to govern how many students they may suspend or expel. They see the children entering school each day bearing the scars of homes broken by welfare, or devastated by drug abusing parents. They understand the futility of trying to teach effectively when permissiveness is the answer to misbehavior, and the worst teachers are protected at all costs by a fanatical union.
The agenda of the teachers union is preposterously misguided. They want open borders. They promote multiculturalism over assimilation. They’re training young immigrant students to believe that America – the most welcoming, tolerant culture in the history of the world – is a hostile and racist nation where they will inevitably be victims of discrimination. They’ve even gotten rid of English immersion. They’re teaching young boys to deny their masculinity, and training young girls to resent the “patriarchy.” On a scale of deplorable, with ten being the worst, the teachers union is an eleven. Disgruntled members should quit. Immediately. Permanently.
In a perfect world, private sector unions would thrive wherever they were needed – and they often are needed – in a right-to-work environment, and public sector unions would be illegal. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
Until that time, the pretense of solidarity between public safety unions and the teachers union should be openly recognized as fraudulent. And the members, in both these unions, should aggressively use their new rights to hold their leaders politically accountable.
Ed Ring co-founded the California Policy Center and served as its first president.
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Here is a rebuttal to this column by Steven Greenhut.
A Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions, February 2018
In Search of a Legitimate Labor Movement, January 2016
Pension Reform Requires Mutual Empathy, not Enmity, October 2015
Police Unions in America, December 2014
How Much Does Professionalism Cost?, March 2014
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued their decision in the landmark case Janus vs. AFSCME, ruling that public sector unions can no longer force public employees to pay union dues. Janus argued that even so-called “agency fees,” which unions claim are only for collective bargaining and are therefore non-political, are, in fact, inherently political. As a result, Janus argued that mandatory collection of agency fees violated his first amendment right to free speech.
The court agreed, writing “union speech covers critically important and public matters such as the State’s budget crisis, taxes, and collective bargaining issues related to education, child welfare, healthcare, and minority rights.” We might add that public sector collective bargaining also affects work rules, hirings, terminations and promotions, ‘non-political’ lobbying, get-out-the-vote efforts, funding for educational public relations and academic studies; the list goes on.
Public sector union spending is indeed inherently political, and it is also intensely partisan, overwhelmingly supporting the party of bigger government.
While it was generally expected that the court would rule in favor of the plaintiff, Mark Janus, it was uncertain whether the scope of the ruling would extend to mandating opt-in vs. opt-out. Currently, for that portion of government union dues that are declared by the union to be used for explicitly political purposes – roughly 20% to 30% – members have to go through a laborious and intimidating “opt-out” process. Even as Janus extends that opt-out right to cover all dues, including agency fees, it can still be very difficult for public employees to stop paying these unions.
As it turns out, the court’s decision takes the further step of requiring public employees to opt-in to paying union dues. The court writes “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.” That is, instead of employees having to ask the union to stop withholding dues, now the union has to ask the employee to start withholding dues.
This is a major enhancement to the scope of the Janus decision, but government unions are working to minimize its impact.
HOW THE UNIONS WILL USE CONTRACTS TO GET EMPLOYEES TO WAIVE THEIR “OPT-IN” RIGHTS
A critical variable, not clearly addressed in today’s Janus decision, is when, and how often, an employee must “affirmatively consent to pay.” Related to this, and also requiring expert legal interpretation, is how requiring an employee to “affirmatively consent to pay” may conflict with contract law. What if the employee waives that right when signing an employment agreement? What if that waiver is buried in a more general employment agreement? Is that enforceable?
Take a look at this actual example of an actual recent agreement between an employee and their government union:
As can be seen, this contract has been modified to read “if I rescind my membership and if existing law changes so that non-members are no longer required by law to contribute, I agree that the contributions authorized above shall continue and this authorization shall automatically renew annually, irrespective of my membership status, unless and until I submit a timely signed revocation of this authorization. To be timely, a revocation must be mailed to OCEA’s office, postmarked between 75 and 45 days before such annual renewal date.”
Has an employee who signs this form, likely along with countless other forms they’ll sign on the first days of their initial employment, from then on permanently waived their right to only opt-in to dues payments? If you opt-in one time, are you stuck having to opt-out from then on? Every year?
To ensure that contracts such as the one featured here are signed, California’s union compliant legislature offers SB 285 and AB-2017, bills that make it difficult, if not impossible, for employers – or anyone else – to discuss the pros and cons of unionization with employees. These bills also refer any alleged violations to the union-packed Public Employment Relations Board instead of the courts.
Then to make the contractually mandated, Janus altering, opt-out process even more difficult, AB 1937 and AB-2049 prohibit local government agencies from unilaterally honoring employee requests to stop paying union dues.
There is an even more fundamental way the unions will try to obliterate the impact of the Janus ruling.
UNIONS MAY ATTEMPT TO FORCE STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO DIRECTLY FUND UNIONS
Some government union advocates have already begun legal research into removing government union funding from any direct relationship to individual government employees. In an 6/27 article on Vox entitled “How Democratic lawmakers should help unions reeling from the Janus decision,” the author argues that since unions only extract around 2% of wages, and since studies show that unionization confers a 17% better wage and benefit package, the employer should simply turn over 2% of total wages to the unions, rather than deduct 2% from individual paychecks. They write: “But if public employers simply paid the 2 percent directly to the unions – giving the same 15 percent raise to employees but not channeling the extra 2 percent through employee paychecks – then there would be no possible claim that employees were being compelled to do anything, and thus no constitutional problem.”
An article published today in Slate makes a similar argument. The authors write: “States can replace their fair-share fee laws with provisions that require or allow public sector employers to subsidize unions directly.” They even claim that such a measure would reduce employee’s tax liabilities since their taxable income would be cut by 2% in order to fund the state’s direct union contribution in a “revenue neutral” manner. To support their argument for this “direct payment alternative” the authors cite a law review article published in 2015 by law professors Aaron Tang of UC Davis, and Benjamin Sachs of Harvard.
The political power of public sector unions in California and other blue states is almost impossible to overstate. Returning governance to elected officials by rolling back the power of these unions will be a long and difficult fight. The highly visible steps the unions are taking or testing – the direct payment alternative, contracts that temporarily or permanently waive an employee’s right to free speech, forced dues for up to one year after opting-out – can be challenged in court. They may also be politically unpopular – direct payments in particular would be a hard sell to voters.
The more subtle ways unions are buttressing their power in the post Janus environment may be harder to stop, and collectively create daunting barriers to reform. Examples including denying right-to-work and pro-free-speech groups access to public employees, forbidding employers to discuss pros and cons of unionization, mandatory new employee “orientations” with union membership commitments filled with fine print and buried in multiple documents requiring a signature, handing dispute resolutions over to the union-packed PERB instead of the courts, broadening the base of employees eligible to join the unions.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, for government union reformers the post-Janus era “is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
16-1466 Janus v. State, County, and Municipal Employees (06/27/2018) – US Supreme Court
A Time for Choosing: The End of Forced Union Representation – CPC Analysis
A Catalog of California’s Anti-Janus Legislation – CPC Analysis
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