Taxpayer Group Pushing to Gut California’s Prop. 13 is Union Front Group

One lingering success of the Right in California is the public’s continued association of taxpayers’ organizations with fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and limited government. Statewide groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and regional groups such as the San Diego County Taxpayers Association maintain credibility as leaders in resisting foolhardy tax increases and wasteful spending.

This reputation translates into political power. In 2000, various interest groups wanted California voters to approve what became Proposition 39, a ballot measure that reduced the threshold from 2/3 to 55% for voter approval of K-12 school districts and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. To create the impression of responsible oversight for spending, Prop 39 required the establishment of a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, with the requirement that “One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.”

Not surprisingly, labor unions are cleverly trying to hide behind alleged taxpayers’ organizations as a way to advance their own political agenda, which typically entails higher taxes and more government spending. One example is the San Diego-based “Middle Class Taxpayers Association,” which succeeded in 2011 in getting the Southwest Community College District board to boot a representative of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee and replace her with their own representative.

The new “bona fide taxpayers’ organization” representative was the political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 36 and Local 831. As you have probably guessed by now, construction unions wanted to neutralize any internal resistance to their lobbying campaign for the college board of trustees to require their contractors to sign a union Project Labor Agreement. (That requirement is now in effect.)

Then there’s the Richmond-based “Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group.” It issued a letter in 2012 critical of a study produced by the head of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the legitimate Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Little information is available on the web about this group, but considering that it seems to pop up only when construction unions are lobbying for Project Labor Agreements, it’s obvious that this group serves union interests.

Another example is revealed in the January 29, 2014 column “Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop 13” by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times. It asks “Are California voters ready yet to change Proposition 13 so that all corporations pay their fair share of property taxes?”

Corporations are not paying their “fair share” in taxes, according to the perspective of this column. A reader might wonder what “fair share” means, and think there’s a balanced, objective, data-based argument when reading this:

Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Assn., has been pushing for years to modify Prop. 13 and close the corporate loopholes.

“We’re trying to organize, educate and expose what’s really happening,” he says. “We’re developing data and looking at some of the largest landowners in the state. If it turns out people don’t care, they don’t care.”

“My modest goal is to get it out front and center so people can have a discussion and not avert their eyes.”

According to the columnist, this taxpayers’ organization has a “modest” goal for a public “discussion” about an injustice it has identified in the tax code. Sounds reasonable. Perhaps the group wants corporations to pay their “fair share,” so that ordinary taxpayers can get a tax cut.

Or perhaps not.

Mr. Skelton has written for the Los Angeles Times since 1974, and new challenges face newspaper columnists in 2014 that were not around 40 years ago. One of them is busybody readers and their access to a newfangled “series of tubes” called the Internet that can be filled with information, such as the real identity of taxpayer groups. Any gadfly who wonders why a taxpayer organization wants to increase taxes can research it and expose it through social media.

Done! The California Tax Reform Association – of course – is yet another union front group. In 2012, 60 percent of its revenue came from these unions:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Contributions

Still not sure? Here is the 2012 board of directors for the California Tax Reform Association:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Board of Directors

The group hasn’t posted on its web site since May 23, 2012. That’s one highly-credible source! But it’s a convenient one, and deceiving too.

A lesson for citizens: just because an organization calls itself a taxpayers’ group does not necessarily mean it doesn’t want to raise your taxes or control government spending. Plenty of union money and personnel are being used to undermine one of the last defenses of fiscal responsibility in California. Check every group carefully and expose the union control to the public when you find it.


Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop. 13 – column by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times – January 29, 2014

Proposition 39 (2000)

Real Taxpayers’ Associations

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

San Diego County Taxpayers Association

Contra Costa Taxpayers Association

Union-Backed Taxpayers’ Associations

Middle Class Taxpayers Association

Builder Decries Loss of Oversight Members: SWC Board Replaced Two on Prop. R Committee over the Summer – Southwestern College Sun newspaper – October 7, 2011

Breaking: Labor Corruption…SD Labor Council Seeks to Oust Taxpayer Advocate from Oversight Committee – posted on San Diego Rostra by Ryan Purdy – July 12, 2011

California Tax Reform Association

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.


University of California Releases SEIU-Funded Report Justifying SeaTac Wage Measure

Someday a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California will have the courage to suggest that hosting the Miguel Contreras Labor Program at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses compromises the academic credibility of the institution and taints the overall image of its research programs.

In the meantime, the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and individual union entities continue to enjoy the public relations benefits of having the prestigious University of California name and logo on its propaganda operation. It probably isn’t a coincidence that the UC Labor Program often releases its reports and studies just before legislative votes on related bills and elections on related ballot measures.

On November 3, a media relations specialist in the University of California at Berkeley Office of Public Affairs posted a bulletin on the university’s News Center web site: “UC Berkeley Report Raises Alarm about Falling Wages, Outsourcing at U.S. Airports.”

It announced that “a new UC Berkeley study to be released” on Monday, November 4 reveals that “outsourcing of airport jobs that once sustained middle-class careers has left many airport workers in jobs characterized by insecurity and low wages…According to the authors, airports can take steps to address these wage declines.”

And what are those steps? The report “comes as voters in SeaTac, Wash., a city adjacent to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, consider a local ordinance that would set a $15-per-hour minimum wage for many airport and airport-related workers…”

That election was held on November 5. As of 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time, the Proposition 1 ballot measure was leading 54% to 46% in the vote count.

It’s unclear if the report – Course Correction: Reversing Wage Erosion to Restore Good Jobs at American Airports – made a difference for any voters, as it appears that none of the major news sources in the Seattle media market reported it. However, the Los Angeles Times published an article on November 4 about the ballot measure (Seattle Suburb to Vote on $15 Minimum Wage for Airport, Hotel Workers). It cited the report and quoted the report’s lead author, Ken Jacobs, the chairman of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education (an affiliate of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program).

Like the report itself, the Los Angeles Times article noted that the report was funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a major backer of the SeaTac Proposition 1. The Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) is trying to organize contractors at Los Angeles International Airport and has even filed a lawsuit (SEIU-United Service Workers West v. City of Los Angeles, et al.) contending that the environmental review of the airport’s future construction plan violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.


Public Sector Unions Threaten Owners of LA Times Not to Sell to Koch Bros.

Union excess, echoed with approval by their media allies, especially in liberal San Francisco, has hit an almost absurd level.  Non-union hotels like Hyatt are inexplicably vilified in the liberal press.  The nurses at the University of California’s hospitals, including U.C. San Francisco, have gone on strike, over, among other things, their objections to “unprecedented executive excess.”  U.C officials reportedly say the real reason for the strike is that the union that represents the nurses, the Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, doesn’t want to change employees’ generous pensions.  “The union has refused to agree to UC’s pension reform started in 2010 to address underfunding of the plan,” said a U.C. spokesperson.  Even the Symphony in liberal San Francisco finds a reason to go on strike, causing cancellation of what was termed a “prominent East Coast tour.”  Something seemingly as docile as the annual meeting of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank is forced out of their own headquarters city, where the meeting has been held each year for 15 years, and placed instead in Salt Lake City, for fear of “Occupy” protesters, cheered on with financial support from the California Teacher’s Association, disrupting the meeting.

But now ten public employee unions including the SEIU, the California Labor Federation and the California Professional Firefighters Association are so worked-up that the conservative Koch Brothers might become owners of the newspaper publishing Tribune Company, the parent company the Los Angeles Times, that they have rallied liberal Democratic legislative leaders to join them in threatening the current largest shareholder of Tribune, Oaktree Capital Management, with retaliatory withdrawal of pension fund investments should Oaktree make the sale.

Such thuggery seems not too far afield from criminal racketeering, and stands out as an example of how far California’s major unions will go to silence a different view.  So much for promoting competition of ideas in California!

James V. Lacy is co-founder and managing partner of Wewer & Lacy, LLP.  Wewer and Lacy, LLP focuses on Election Law and Nonprofit Organization Law matters.