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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
Within days the U.S. Supreme Court is going to issue its ruling on the case Janus vs AFSCME. This case, if the ruling goes as expected, is going to overturn current law that requires public employees to pay union dues.
Here in California, along with a handful of other large, urbanized, very blue states, public-sector unions exercise nearly absolute political control. If a local government or school district passes a reform measure the union doesn’t like, the union-controlled state legislature passes a law to reverse it. If a politician criticizes a union prerogative, that politician is targeted and destroyed in the next election. If a business interest challenges the union, they are targeted with retaliatory legislation and bureaucratic harassment. If the union is successfully challenged in court, the union appeals as many times as necessary to nullify the ruling. They have infinite patience, the deepest pockets, and implacable resolve.
Pundits have claimed Janus will have a seismic impact on public sector union power. That is based on the premise that significant numbers of public employees will withdraw from paying union dues if they have the right. Notwithstanding the possibility that many public servants may appreciate that unions allow them to work less and make more than they would have to in the private sector, what if the bureaucratic process to stop paying dues is rendered so tedious that hardly anyone ever stops?
To that end, union-controlled states have already passed laws to make it very difficult to deny public sector unions their dues revenue. As reported by the Heartland Institute:
“New York recently initiated legislation that would empower unions and undermine states workers’ rights. Under current New York law, government workers who voluntarily join a union have been allowed to withdraw from having to pay the union dues deduction ‘at any time’ by notifying their employer. A new bill would terminate the ‘opt out’ clause and only allow workers to withdraw their dues ‘in accordance with the terms of the signed authorization.’ The Empire Center, a nonpartisan think tank headquartered in Albany, New York warns the proposed bill could force state workers to commit financial support to a union for up to 11 months. Another state following New York’s example is Washington State, where a new law was signed in March that mandates state collection of dues for public sector unions. And another bill in Washington would prohibit public employers from informing employees of their ability to avoid having to pay a union.”
These new laws are consistent with what’s been happening in California. As recently detailed in “A Catalog of California’s Anti-Janus Legislation,” public sector unions have supported the following legislation, much of which has already been enacted:
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
An excerpt from an email obtained by the California Policy Center shows just how completely these public sector unions can dictate instructions to public employers. As depicted in the screen shot below, this email was sent to all of California’s public agencies that employ members of the California School Employees Association (Union). It was sent on June 19th by the CSEA chief counsel.
As can be read, this email requires a union member to receive union approval to revoke their dues, and prohibits the public agency’s payroll department from ending the dues withholding until the union has notified them. Then the email reminds employers that they cannot talk to “more than one employee about their right to drip union membership,” and recommends the employer “refer them over to CSEA to provide an explanation.” Finally, the bill makes all employee orientation information to remain confidential. This officially bypasses any reform group’s ability to find out about these meetings via a Public Records Act Request, and ensures that the union operatives will control the union membership content of the employee orientation.
This is arrogant language. It is offensive. Who runs our public agencies? Public servants elected by the people, or public sector unions? Nonetheless this communique is typical of how public sector unions have ran California’s state legislature and most of its cities, counties and school districts for decades. And in combination with the other measures – requiring notice of membership cancellation to only be permitted during one brief period each year, and automatically reinstating membership every year even for employees who have quit their union, and others – it is probably wishful thinking to expect a Janus ruling to have a serious impact on California’s public sector union power.
With Janus as a critical prerequisite, however, another landmark case is about to be in the spotlight. Lead plaintiff Ryan Yohn, a California public school teacher, has challenged the rules that require him to “opt out” of union membership. His case, which is still burrowing its way through the lower courts, could very well make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. As reported in The 74, “the California teachers argue that the current opt-out process for those who don’t want to pay dues is overly burdensome and also violates the Constitution. Instead, they maintain, educators who want to join should have to affirmatively opt into the union.”
Public sector unions run California, and make a travesty of democratic ideals. To say that government unions are one of the root causes of America’s deepest challenges is not an overstatement. They are one of the biggest funders of left-wing politicians and activists, enabling the Left to a degree far out of proportion to its actual grassroots support among Americans. They distort the political process to further their own interests. They intimidate and coopt business interests, especially in the financial sector. And they benefit whenever and wherever society fails, and government expands its power and reach in response.
Public sector unions should be illegal. Hopefully a strong ruling in the Janus case, followed by a strong ruling in the Yohn case, will both happen before it’s too late.
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Forty years ago this month, California voters began the modern tax revolt movement that spread across America like wildfire. The idea that citizens could take back control from an overreaching government helped to propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Reagan, who had a close friendship with Howard Jarvis, took his message of limited government to Washington and his message of freedom to the world.
Proposition 13 cut property taxes, put limits on their rise, and toughened the requirements for passing other tax increases. It passed overwhelmingly in June 1978, and ever since, liberals have failed to acknowledge how wrong they were about it — both in terms of politics and policy.
Two months before the vote, California’s then Gov. Jerry Brown (version 1.0), was quoted in the New York Times as saying “I don’t think there is one credible observer who thinks Proposition 13 will endure over the long period.” Forty years later, it’s Brown who is heading into the political sunset while Proposition 13 continues to protect grateful California taxpayers.
So-called “experts” were also wrong in their dire predictions about the harm that would be inflicted on California if Prop. 13 were to pass. One of the TV commercials run by the well-funded opposition campaign featured a doom-saying UCLA economist who predicted that California would be plunged into a deep recession if voters approved the measure. But in the years immediately following passage, California had an extraordinarily booming economy.
Progressives like to perpetuate another falsehood about Prop. 13 in their ceaseless efforts to divide and conquer the taxpayer coalition that supports the law. They seek to target the owners of business properties who, like homeowners, benefit from predictable taxes under Prop. 13. A false argument is advanced that during the 1978 campaign, voters weren’t told that Proposition 13 protections would be extended to business properties as well as homes.
This simply isn’t true. The opponents of Prop. 13 themselves repeated that fact throughout the campaign and, specifically, in the official ballot pamphlet.
Perhaps the granddaddy of all lies about Proposition 13 is how it “destroyed education” in California. This falsehood is repeated so often and with such vigor that it is accepted as established fact by liberal elites and mainstream media. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, Sacramento mayor and former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg blamed Prop. 13 for “years of cutbacks to arts funding in public schools.” This despite record revenues being pumped into education.
To be specific, it is true that just prior to Prop. 13’s passage in the late 1970’s, schools in California were top notch with good facilities, high test scores and competent teachers and administrators. It is also true that, around the same time, education in California began a steep decline. But the cause has not been a lack of revenue. Today California is spending 30 percent more on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis than it did in the mid-70’s. The cause of the decline is the subject of another column, if not a book, but there were two other big changes to the law in the late 1970s: court decisions that redistributed education funding, and legislation granting California teachers the right to unionize and go on strike.
Today’s higher spending on education is mirrored throughout the California government. Property tax revenues have far outstripped population and inflation increases, so it’s not Prop. 13 that has caused the ills that plague California. Waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars on top of heavy-handed tax burdens and overregulation are what’s draining the gold from the Golden State.
Despite a persistent and powerful coalition of tax-raising, big-spending special interests arrayed against us, California taxpayers are prepared to defend Prop. 13 for another 40 years. We have the truth and the facts on our side, and as John Adams observed, “facts are stubborn things.”
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
No state in America is as firmly in the grip of public sector unions as California. For nearly twenty years, union controlled Democrats have exercised nearly absolute power in the State Legislature. Over the past few years, as they have slipped in and out of having a two-thirds majority, and often with the help of a few Republican legislators, they have been able to pass legislation at will, sometimes within days.
Government union power in California derives from their ability to automatically collect over $1.0 billion per year in dues from payroll departments of state and local agencies, combined with their ability to compel well over 1.0 million state and local government employees working within any of their over 6,000 bargaining units to pay these union dues.
While it is legally possible for these government employees to opt out of formal union membership and only pay so-called “agency fees,” the process to opt-out is deliberately rendered tedious and intimidating, and in any case agency fees usually are around 80% of the total dues.
The Janus vs. AFSCME case threatens public sector union power in California and dozens of other states, because, depending on the ruling, it may permit public employees to opt-out of paying any dues at all, including agency fees. But if unions made it difficult and intimidating for government employees to opt-out of paying the full union dues, i.e., if they made it difficult for these employees to get a 20% discount, imagine how difficult they’re going to make it for employees to get a 100% discount.
What the unions can do in Sacramento changes every day. But insofar as a Janus ruling could come down from the US Supreme Court any day, it is appropriate to delve into a bit of wonkiness, and list every recently enacted and pending law, backed by unions, that California’s legislature is compliantly handing down in order to thwart the intent of the Janus plaintiffs.
CALIFORNIA’S ENACTED ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION
AB-83 Collective bargaining: Judicial Council – enacted
This bill permits unionization of Judicial Council staff, something previously off-limits. Here’s what they do, quoted from their website: “The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts, the largest court system in the nation. Under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution, the council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice. Judicial Council staff implements the council’s policies (italics added).” Unionized judicial council staff – what could possibly go wrong?
SB-201 Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act: employees – enacted
This bill permits students who have jobs at the schools they attend to unionize. This will, of course, allow the unions to collect their cut from yet another category of public payroll, but it will also offer them another avenue to indoctrinate students, since they aren’t already getting enough indoctrination from our public schools and universities.
SB-285 Public employers: union organizing – enacted
This goes straight at the heart of Janus. Layering on top of existing federal law but making it even more explicit and restrictive, this bill would prohibit a public employer from deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization. Employers are already forced 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 would grant the Public Employment Relations Board jurisdiction over alleged violations of its provisions instead of the courts. This board, PERB for short (see footnotes; “PERB Board”), is stacked with labor activists and is very unlikely to ever rule in favor of a public employer vs. a union.
SB-550 Public school employment: meeting and negotiating: legal actions: settlement offer: attorney’s fees – enacted
In this law, from now on, if a union makes an offer to settle a dispute alleging an employer’s failure to provide wages, benefits, or working conditions, and if the employer does not accept the offer and fails to obtain a more favorable judgment, the employer must pay the union’s attorney’s fees and expenses incurred after the offer was made. Note this “loser pays” provision only applies to the employer, not the union. This legislation puts tremendous pressure on agencies to agree to union demands in order to avoid court, especially those smaller agencies, cities and counties that don’t have deep pockets like the unions.
CALIFORNIA’S PENDING ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION
AB-1937 Public employment: payroll deductions – passed Assembly
This bill appears to be designed to prevent local jurisdictions from enacting measures that might expedite an individual employee’s decision to stop paying union dues. Reading through the introductory text of the bill, here is a key excerpt: “…the bill would authorize employee organizations and bona fide associations to request payroll deductions and would require public employers to honor these requests. The bill would authorize public employers to make rules and regulations for the administration of specified payroll deductions, subject to meeting and conferring with the applicable employee organizations.” Notice that it is the union, not the employee, who will notify the employer to start dues deductions, and notice that any rules the employer may wish to apply to the administration of union dues deductions has to be cleared (meet and confer) with the union.
AB-2017 Public employers: employee organizations – passed Assembly
Similar to SB 285, This bill broadens the definition of employer to “those employers of excluded supervisory employees and judicial council employees.” It then “prohibits a public employer from deterring or discouraging prospective public employees, as defined, from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.” The operative words are discourage and deter, which can be quite broadly interpreted. For example, even an employer stating that an employee does not have to join a union might “deter” them from doing so. The intent of this bill is to deter employers from saying anything to employees about unionization, with no such restrictions on the unions.
AB-2049 Classified school and community college employees: payroll deductions for employee organization dues – passed Assembly
Similar to AB 1937, but even more explicit, “this bill would authorize school districts and community colleges to rely on labor unions when determining whether a request to discontinue payroll deductions for union dues is in conformity with the requirements established in the initial payroll deduction authorization.” The intent is to make it harder to get out of paying union dues by adding layers of union bureaucracy to the process.
Concurrent with ensuring the union, and not the agency, has the final say in suspending dues withholding, the unions are revising these “initial payroll deduction authorizations.”
Take a look at this photo of a union contract (below). Note how it states “this authorization shall renew annually, irrespective of my membership status,” and “a revocation must be mailed… postmarked between 75 days and 45 days before such annual renewal date.” There are at least two gotchas here. First, automatic renewal of payroll deductions “irrespective of membership status” means that someone wanting to stop paying union dues has to opt out every year. Second, if they neglect to opt-out, via mail within the exact window of time and in advance of the automatic renewal, they will have to pay dues for another year.
No wonder the unions want themselves, and not the agency, to have the ability to say whether dues will stop being withheld. In any city or county with local elected officials willing to stand up to their unions (admittedly a rare occasion), ordinances could be passed allowing an employee to simply inform their payroll department that they don’t want to pay union dues. That will be impossible under these laws.
The Hotel California Contract – You Can Check In, But Checking Out…
AB-2886 Public Employee Relations Board: Orange County Transportation Authority: San Joaquin Regional Transit District – passed Assembly
Because the above named agencies were not previously required to resolve labor disputes using the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), this bill changes that so they will have to use PERB. By moving the dispute resolution process out of the courts and instead putting them under the jurisdiction of PERB, the unions improve the probability of winning these disputes.
AB-3034 Public transit employer-employee relations: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District – passed Assembly
This bill, similar in concept to AB 83 and SB 201, allows the unions to collect their cut from yet another category of public payroll, in this case BART supervisors, by allowing them to unionize.
SUMMARY OF ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION
So 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, especially if there is a strong ruling in favor of the plaintiff. But California’s unions have been doing this for years. Whether it’s charter schools, “release time,” transparency in government, charter cities, public education reform, budget and tax issues, project labor agreements, or pension reform, the agenda of the union always comes first in Sacramento.
When it comes to protecting the government union agenda in California, pro-union legislation is fast and furious, belying the more common political reality of gridlock.
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California’s Public Employment Relations Board – 2018, at least 3-2 stacked for 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.
- Mark C. Gregersen‘s “career in public sector labor relations 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 Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions, February 2018
June 6 marks the 40th anniversary of voters’ overwhelming approval of Proposition 13, which has been protecting all California taxpayers ever since.
Some people mistakenly think Prop. 13 protects only homeowners, because it cut the property tax rate statewide to 1 percent and put a stop to uncontrolled increases in assessed value. But it did something else, too. It required voter approval of local tax increases and set the threshold for approval of special taxes at a two-thirds vote.
For 40 years, big-spending politicians have been looking for loopholes.
Take parcel taxes, for example. A parcel tax sounds like a tax on UPS deliveries, but it isn’t. It’s a tax on real estate parcels. Under Prop. 13, politicians can’t raise property taxes that are based on the value of property, but they figured out that they could add a flat tax to property tax bills if it wasn’t based on value.
Under Prop. 13, two-thirds of voters have to be convinced to approve parcel taxes.
Politicians figured out that the two-thirds threshold would be easier to reach if they exempted a lot of people from having to pay the tax. Certainly people who won’t have to pay a tax are more likely to vote for it. And politicians who vote for the exemptions can say they voted for a tax break, even though they were raising taxes at the time.
An example of this was the Legislature’s action in 2008 to exempt people on Social Security Disability from paying education parcel taxes. HJTA opposed this bill because it undermined the two-thirds vote requirement for parcel taxes established under Prop. 13. The more classes of people who are exempted, the more the two-thirds vote will be watered down, and the easier it is to raise taxes.
Taxpayers are hit twice by the exemption trick. Taxes are raised more often, but the exemptions mean the government receives less revenue. So the likelihood of other taxes being raised to make up the difference in the future is that much greater.
But when something is working for the politicians, it tends to stick around.
Politicians love picking winners and losers. It means power over the lives of others and provides a great source of campaign contributions.
The “progressive” legislators who control California’s government favor government employee union organizations — the most powerful force in Sacramento. Every favor granted to public sector unions is a transfer of wealth from taxpayers and the private sector to government employees and the public sector.
Right now, the Legislature is considering a bill that would exempt teachers and education support staff from paying education parcel taxes. Senate Bill 958, which has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly, was initially a statewide proposal but has been narrowed to target only the Davis Joint Unified School District in Yolo County.
If the politicians are able to pull this off, they’ll be able to do special favors for targeted groups of supporters while raising everybody else’s taxes and setting the stage for even more tax increases in the future.
Not surprisingly, SB958’s supporters include the California Teachers Association. For them, this bill is a win-win. Not only do they get to give their union members a free gift, but they also make it easier to pass taxes with a two-thirds vote.
This is a dangerous path. It’s divisive to award tax breaks based on political affiliation, and there will be no end to it. If the teachers get a tax break, what about the nurses? What about the police and firefighters? Where do the exemptions stop? If public employee unions can effectively raise their own salaries by lobbying for new taxes that their own members won’t have to pay, then our government has been converted into a slot machine. There will be more losers than winners.
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Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
A recent “messaging memo,” issued by “OpportunityAgenda.org,” provides expert marketing advice for activists who hope to mitigate the impact of the much anticipated Janus ruling. In that case, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, the expected decision will empower government workers to opt-out of paying any union dues whatsoever. Depending on the details which will be announced any day now, government unions are going to have to – imagine this – ask public employees to join, and will not be able to deduct dues from their paychecks if they refuse.
The stakes are immense. Just in California, government unions collect and spend over $1.0 billion per year. Nearly all of this money either funds left-wing political candidates and lobbyists, or funds “education” efforts that promote leftist ideology and policy. But back to this memo.
The memo makes no distinction between government unions which should be illegal, and private sector unions which play a vital role in American society, but regardless of its flawed logic it deserves careful scrutiny. Not only because each of the tips it provides are the product of the finest professionals the left can buy, and are therefore instructive to those who might offer rebuttals, but because “the Opportunity Agenda is a project of the Tides Center,” an organization that offers financial and logistical support for activism that to-date has not been matched by anything on the right.
Which begs the question: With a Janus ruling imminent, who will fund the fight against government unions?
Moreover, the presence of an organization like the Tides Foundation is only one aspect of the strategic advantages accruing to the left. Here are the sources of funds available to left-wing candidates, advocacy groups, and educational organizations:
- Broad based foundation support, with the Tides Foundation among those at the apex.
- Massive contributions from the business community, especially very large multinational corporations.
- Massive contributions from leftist billionaires.
- Billions each year from labor unions, more than 50% of those funds from government unions.
By contrast, right-of-center candidates, advocacy groups, and educational organizations receive far less in foundation support, measurably less from the business community, less – despite perceptions successfully promulgated by leftist propagandists – from individual billionaires, and almost none of the billions that pour in annually to America’s labor unions. Why is this?
First of all because being on the left is not bad for business, unless you are an emerging small business that offers a disruptive innovation. Major corporations enjoy a symbiotic relationship with government bureaucracies and big labor, because they all aspire to become – or remain – monopolistic entities that benefit from more regulations and less freedom. The biggest and most successful lie the left has ever spread is the lie that they are fighting for the ordinary worker, because in reality, now more than ever, the opposite is true.
As they hide behind leftist, “for the people” rhetoric, the agenda of big business and big labor are actually aligned. They are fighting together to lock up production and stifle competition, and the only workers who benefit at all are the ones who are fortunate enough to belong to a union that is embedded in a monopolistic entity. Government unions are the perfect example. And even here, it is only those individuals who are themselves either unwilling or unable to do excellent work in exchange for job security and promotions who are truly the benefactors.
Foundations, for the most part, are funded by major corporations and individual billionaires. Their donations reflect the agenda of their donors. And not only are the inherent interests of big business and big labor aligned, but even those more selfless major corporate and individual donors are usually intimidated by the activists on the left.
Another disadvantage for the right is that even though many corporate donors may have principled objections to socialist regulation of their businesses, their opposition is balkanized. A telecommunications company may fund a multi-faceted fight for appropriate deregulation, as might an energy company, but rarely are these organizations supporting activist groups or educational think tanks that do ongoing, principled work on all the relevant issues.
Instead, most of the right-of-center 501c3 organizations, 501c4 organizations, and political campaigns are either single issue entities that ignore the big picture, or they are single campaign groups that rise up then die on cycles that last no more than 18 months, or they are scratching, clawing perpetual startups that expend more resources on fundraising than on their work. Very few right-of-center policy shops rise above this Hobbesian morass.
Contrast this reality with the work of the Tides Foundation. As reported by the Capital Research Center, “Its vast mountain of money has made the Tides Foundation a powerhouse in left-wing politics, but its role in incubating new organizations is arguably Tides’ greatest achievement for the Left and the Democratic Party. Almost since its inception, Tides has worked to develop new infrastructure for the activist Left through “fiscal sponsorship” of new groups. Over time, those activities—funding and incubating—were split between the Tides Foundation and its 501(c)(3) subsidiary, the Tides Center.”
And how big is this “mountain of money”?
According to InfluenceWatch.org, in 2015 the Tides Foundation spent $166 million, an amount that has likely grown in more recent years. Its funding beneficiaries – exclusively leftist in outlook – included the Alliance for Global Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Climate Reality Project, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, League of Women Voters, National Organization for Women, Natural Resources Defense Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Progress Michigan, SourceWatch, National Council of La Raza, and many others, including Opportunity Agenda.
What percentage of total staff resources might one surmise are spent by these well-established organizations on fundraising? In comparison to right-of-center nonprofits? Which brings us back to Opportunity Agenda. Because if the Tides Foundation routinely pours way over $100 million per year into the coffers of these big organizations, Opportunity Agenda’s approach is to “use a unique combination of communication expertise and creative engagement to help social justice leaders tell a better story, move hearts and minds, and drive lasting policy and culture change.” As a direct project of the Tides Center, Opportunity Agenda does not likely spend a lot of time on fundraising. They are free to hire top talent, and focus on their work.
That work will include mitigating the impact of the Janus ruling. It is potentially the greatest threat that government unions have ever faced, and it’s about time. The damage government unions have done to American democracy is incalculable. Not sure about that? Come to California, where a beleaguered populace works feverishly to pay their bills in the highest taxed, highest cost-of-living state in America. Come to California, where all-powerful, single-party, bloated, unionized state and local governments rack up debt that now totals over a trillion dollars.
Perhaps the activism and educational outreach of the unorganized right is how it should be. Instead of paid armies of union professionals joined with paid armies of professionals working for left-of-center research institutes and think tanks, the right relies primarily on volunteers. Right-of-center organizations with paid employees rely on donations that come and go, and they spend most of their time with their hat in their hands, begging for a few dollars more to keep the lights on for another quarter. That’s noble. Maybe that’s even appropriate. But can they go toe to toe with the leftist juggernaut?
Rest assured, Opportunity Agenda will offer government union locals across the nation lavish access to the “better stories,” as they do everything in their considerable power to prevent government employees from using their new rights under Janus to opt-out of union membership. Against them sails a rag tag fleet of underfunded freedom fighters.
With America’s future hanging in the balance, it is astonishing that these structural deficiencies are not fixed by patriotic Americans with the means to do so.
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In February 2018 the US Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus vs. AFSCME, a case that challenges the ability of public sector unions to compel public employees to pay agency fees. While public sector employees currently have the ability to opt-out of paying that portion of union dues that are used for political activities, they still have to pay agency fees. This is based on the presumption that all members of a bargaining unit benefit from union negotiations with management, therefore all of them should pay those costs.
The Janus case argues that in the public sector, even these negotiations are inherently political and therefore it would be a violation of the right to free speech to compel any employee to help pay for them. The Supreme Court appears likely to agree. In an unrelated case also affecting unions, this week the US Supreme Court just ruled in favor of employers, affirming that “employers have the right to insist that labor disputes get resolved individually, rather than allowing workers to join together in class-action lawsuits.” The majority opinion was written by newly appointed Justice Gorsuch, reinforcing hopes that he will rule for the plaintiffs in the Janus case.
But will making agency fees optional result in dramatic change?
The potential is there for dramatic change, because as of 2017, 7.2 million government workers belong to a union. Their total membership nearly equals the total membership of private sector unions, 7.6 million, despite federal, state and local government workers only comprising about 17% of the U.S. workforce. In California, state and local government unions are estimated to collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year.
Clearly, a ruling for the plaintiffs in the Janus case will cause a reduction in public sector union dues revenue. If public employees are no longer compelled to pay agency fees, some of them will stop paying them. But how many will stop paying?
A study released this month by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (IEPI) – which based on the composition of its board of directors appears to be sympathetic to unions – estimates that 726,000 public sector union members will no longer pay dues, a drop of around 10%. IEPI’s study also estimates that in California, public sector union membership will decline by 189,000, dropping from an estimated 1,235,000 members in 2017 down to 1,046,000 members. But will California’s public sector union membership really drop by 18%, taking nearly $200 million out of their annual collections?
Other data does support the 18% figure, even indicating it could be higher. A 2018 national survey released by the center-left organization Educators for Excellence posed several questions to teachers on the topic of union membership. For example, when asked “If you were not automatically enrolled into your union membership, how likely would you be in the coming year to actively opt in?” there were only 60% who were “very likely” to opt-in, and only another 22% who were “somewhat likely.”
The survey also asked non-union members – those members who have opted out of paying the political portion of their dues, but still pay agency fees – “If you could, how likely would you be to opt-out of paying agency fees to a union” there were 36% who were “very likely” to opt-out, and another 25% who were “somewhat likely.” How do these responses translate into lost revenue?
According to UnionStats.com, only about 6% of California’s public sector employees who are part of collective bargaining units have opted to become non-members, i.e., only paying the agency fees. Crunching these variables is problematic. Are the e4e national survey results representative of California? Are the responses by teachers in the e4e survey representative of public employees in other sectors? Nonetheless, the e4e survey results do suggest the revenue loss to public sector unions could be greater than the amount predicted by the IEPI study.
For example, if you assume that all of California’s public sector members who were “very likely” to opt out of union membership did so, and half of those who were “somewhat likely” to opt out did so, and if you made a similar set of assumptions based on the survey responses of the non-union members who were employed within collective bargaining units, you would see a public sector union membership in California decline by 320,000, a decline of 26%, from an estimated 1,235,000 members to 915,000 members.
The biggest unknown is the details of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. While all indications so far are that the ruling will be in favor of Janus, what remedies will result? A huge variable will be which party will have to take the initiative. That is, will employees have to approach the unions and request to opt-out of membership, or will the unions have to approach the employees and request them to opt-in to membership? Another huge variable will be how often the opportunity to change membership status be offered. No matter whether union membership is based on employees getting to opt-in or having to opt-out, when will they do that? Once per year, within narrowly specified dates, or perpetually at any time? It is likely the ruling will leave many of these details up to the individual states to decide.
Which brings us back to California, with a state legislature that is a wholly owned subsidiary of public sector unions. As noted in detail (with links to the relevant legislation) in the CLEO policy brief “How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling,” California’s state legislature has been working overtime to circumvent the anticipated Janus decision. In summary:
“So how are the unions preparing for the Janus ruling? By (1) making sure the union operatives get to new employees as soon as they begin working, (2) by preventing agency employers from saying anything to deter new employees from joining the unions, and (3) by preventing anyone else from getting the official agency emails for new employees in order to inform them of their rights to not join a union.”
Public sector employees face a difficult choice. They can accept union representation, knowing that in most cases this results in their receiving over-market pay and benefits, or they can reject union representation, knowing that the agenda of public sector unions is almost always in opposition to the public interest. That’s not easy.
What must be easy, however, is for public employees to have access to whatever information is needed to withdraw from public sector union membership. This way, those who wish to stay true to the ideals of public service can put the interests of the public in front of their personal interests, by knowing how to jump through through whatever bureaucratic hoops the unions and the state legislature may put in their way.
This case constitutes a new challenge for those who oppose public sector unions. Making sure that to whatever extent the Janus ruling liberates public sector employees from the grip of public sector unions, those public employees will know how to realize their freedom, quitting those unions, putting the citizens they serve in front of themselves.
The Janus decision is expected by June 30th, if not sooner.
Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016.
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UnionStats.com – Ref. “Union Membership, Coverage, Density, and Employment by State and Sector, 1983-2017”
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
How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling – CLEO Policy Brief, October 2018
Teachers should stop listening to union leaders and look at the data before striking. When one looks at the actual dollars-and-cents reality, the emotional photo of the kindly old 1st grade teacher picketing for more money “for the classroom” falls flat. Very, very flat. There are several relevant facts that teachers and all Americans – especially the taxpaying variety – need to know.
It is impossible to achieve diversity without discriminating. The only way that would be possible would be if every imaginable human subgroup were equally qualified to perform every imaginable task. In reality, while individual talents vary dramatically in a manner completely irrespective of group identity, on average, groups exhibit huge and verifiable differences in aptitude.
The objective of diversity, however, is indifferent to this fact. To achieve their objective, discrimination against the more qualified is inevitable. To enforce this across all walks of life, a growing army of unionized government bureaucrats have been hired.
When it comes to discrimination in the name of diversity, California is the trendsetter. It is the most diverse state in America, it has the worst performing K-12 system of public education of any large state, and it has the most left-leaning electorate in America. And to enforce discrimination to ensure diversity, California has its all-powerful public sector unions, that will support any new bureaucracy that increases its numbers.
The University of California provides a perfect example of how discrimination to ensure diversity is working. Starting at the top, each campus has a “Chief Diversity Officer.” Take a look at the pay and benefits packages for these individuals, bearing in mind how many high-paid administrators must work for each of them:
(1) Berkeley, Oscar Dubón, Jr., Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, (2) Davis, Adela de la Torre, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, (3) Irvine, Doug Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (4) Los Angeles, Jerry Kang, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (5) Merced, Luanna Putney, Associate Chancellor & Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, Ethics and Compliance, (6) Riverside, Mariam Lam, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Excellence and Equity, (7) San Diego, Becky Petitt, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (8) San Francisco, Renee Navarro, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach, (9) Santa Barbara, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Academic Policy, (10) Santa Cruz, Ashish Sahni, Associate Chancellor, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The average pay and benefits for each of these ten University of California Chief Diversity Officers was $311,474 in 2016. To get just a partial idea of what members of their staff, or members of the California’s overall diversity bureaucracy make, go to Transparent California and search job titles under the key words “diversity” or “inclusion.”
The toxic impact of California’s unionized diversity bureaucracy is hard to overstate. California’s K-12 public schools have been destroyed by unionization, which, among other bad things, caused the worst teachers to end up in the poorest, most disadvantaged neighborhoods because they could not be fired. But why fix the K-12 public schools, when you have a diversity army that forces college admissions to reflect proportional representation regardless of academic performance?
The University of California’s “Freshman Admissions Count” for 2017 showed the following results by ethnicity: 34.2% Asian, 33.2% Latino, 23.8% White, 5.0% Black, and 3.9% “Other.”
Here’s where the tactics of the diversity army become truly suspect, because they aren’t just discriminating in order to achieve proportional representation. If they were, based on the numbers of college-aged Californians by ethnicity, 2017 admissions would have been 13% Asian, 50% Latino, 31% White, and 6% Black.
To put this in perspective, a recent California Policy Center analysis that took into account the number of college age students along with SAT performance, came up with what should have been UC’s 2017 freshmen class if admissions were based on merit: 21% Asian, 35% Latino, 41% White, and 3% Black. The CPC analysis, moreover, yielded understated results because the SAT criteria used was “met college ready benchmark,” whereas in reality the UC system purports to admit students who greatly outperform the “college ready” SAT benchmark. This is an important distinction – it means that in reality, a far greater percentage of Asians and significantly greater percentage of Whites would be admitted in a hypothetical merit based analysis, if more complete SAT data were accessible.
One can only assume the UC diversity bureaucracy, controlled by the UC Regents, who are themselves controlled by the State Legislature, did not reduce Asian admissions to their proportional representation because Asians still vote – by a margin of two-to-one, in favor of Democrats. So Asians were admitted to the UC system more-or-less based on their merit. Blacks were admitted based on proportional representation. Latinos, comprising 50% of college age students, but at most 35% of merit-based successful applicants, broke nearly even on that basis with 33% of the admissions. But where did that leave the Whites? Instead of being at least 41% of the successful applicants based on merit, only 24% of the UC system’s 2017 freshman class are White. Apart from keeping Asians firmly in the Democratic voting bloc, does any of the University of California’s systemic racial discrimination to enforce “diversity” actually help anyone?
It certainly doesn’t help White and Asian students who are left behind. It also doesn’t help Latino or Black students who are admitted to an elite university without having the academic skills to succeed. Rather than fix the ruined K-12 system that, thanks to union work rules, demonstrably provides inferior public education to the Black and Latino communities, the rules are changed and manipulated to get them into a UC program anyway. And then in an attempt to accommodate them, the campus syllabus becomes rife with academically weak majors in various types of ethnic studies.
Could it be that much of the campus polarization we are witnessing is because unqualified, struggling students are being indoctrinated to believe their academic failures are caused by racism instead of taking personal responsibility?
Discrimination to enforce diversity is not confined to academia. It is institutionalized across most of corporate America. It is enshrined in countless laws and incentives which are designed to “level the playing field,” but in reality discriminate against more qualified actors. It breeds bitterness and corruption. It creates tribalism where none had previously existed.
Ultimately, as America becomes more “diverse” at the same time as huge gaps in aptitude and achievement remain between groups, discrimination to enforce diversity in all areas of life will become increasingly tyrannical. And as it occurs, the role of government unions will remain pervasive and negative. They will continue to ruin inner city schools, then hire lavishly compensated bureaucrats to enforce equal outcomes.
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Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development.
(1) The University of California’s “InfoCenter” has interesting data on graduation rates by ethnicity. The data is through 2016, meaning that graduation rates within six years of entry are available for freshmen entering the UC system in 2010. Here is a summary of results by ethnicity:
White – 64.5% graduated within four years, 86.1% graduated within six years.
Asian – 63.9% graduated within four years, 88.1% graduated within six years.
Latino – 47.1% graduated within four years, 77.6% graduated within six years.
Black – 46.8% graduated within four years, 75.4% graduated within six years.
(3) Some examples of pertinent information – at least to any diversity advocate (or critic) – that do not appear to be available on the UC “diversity” website pages are the following: What number and percentage of non-foreign undergraduates pursue STEM majors, by ethnicity, and what are their graduation rates? And, what number and percentage of non-foreign undergraduates pursue non-STEM majors, by ethnicity, and what are their graduation rates? What were the SAT scores – numbers and percentages by ethnicity – of applicants who were accepted to the 2017 freshman class in the UC system? What were the SAT scores – numbers and percentages by ethnicity – of applicants who did not gain acceptance to the 2017 freshman class in the UC system? With respect to SAT scores – is there any report that has compiled a bell-curve distribution showing the range of SAT scores from highest to lowest, proportioned by quantity of test takers, per ethnic group, on one overlay?
(4) The high school class of 2017 – admitted to the UC system as incoming freshmen in the Fall of 2017 – earned SAT scores by ethnicity as shown on the following chart (below) from the SAT College Board. As can be seen, across the U.S., the percentage of test takers who met the college-ready benchmark varied significantly by ethnicity – 70% of Asians met the benchmark, 59% of Whites, 31% of Latinos, and 20% of Blacks. Moreover, as documented by Ed Source, the disparity between the SAT performance of California’s students and all U.S. students is not significant. In fact, the average Math/Reading combined score for California’s White students was 1,153 vs. 1,118 nationally; for Latinos, 992 CA vs. 990 US; Asians 1,145 vs 1,181 US; Blacks 961 vs 941 US.
(5) In May 2016 the Public Policy Institute of California produced a study that includes data that tracks the correlation between SAT scores and graduation rates. As can be seen on Figure 4 in the study (shown below), the correlation is quite high. The upper chart depicts six year graduation rates, the lower chart depicts four year graduation rates. The orange dots represent results for Cal State campuses, which were the focus of the study. The more numerous grey dots represent similar universities nationwide. As can be seen, it is roughly accurate to state that for every 50 point improvement in a student’s Math SAT score, there is a 10% greater probability that they will graduate from college.
Correlation between SAT Math score and graduation
(6) As California’s population becomes more “diverse,” the proportion of “mixed race” individuals will proliferate. This is a welcome development to anyone who believes in assimilation, but may be of great concern to the diversity bureaucrats. For the UC System, for example, to handle this complexity, one recommendation is they require all applicants to submit to blood tests to determine their ancestry. Some of the new services, such as “Advanced Ancestry” can offer tremendous detail, showing the DNA based areas of origin for any human. The bureaucrats only need overlay that data with the geographic areas around the world that are known to be the places of origin for “marginalized peoples,” and they will have exactly what they need to continue to discriminate against individuals in order to enforce equality of group outcomes.
(7) Then again, since DNA affects individuals differently, it may not be possible to properly identify “people of color” for discriminatory favoritism based solely on geographically based DNA analysis. To compensate for this, the UC diversity bureaucrats can learn a great deal from the American Progressives of the early 20th century, and, for that matter, the German Nazis of the WWII era. Both of these groups created a robust set of best practices aimed at classifying humans based on their racial appearance. Going into the details of these best practices would go beyond the scope of this report, but clearly the UC diversity bureaucrats, and all diversity bureaucrats, can learn a lot of useful skills from their racist predecessors of the previous century.
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