Union Grip on California's Government Still Stronger than Ever

Before anyone gets out the balloons and starts celebrating the Harris vs. Quinn decision too much, step back, sober up, and reflect on the scope of what happened, and where it puts us in this war. To use a WWII analogy, we just won the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe no longer dominates the skies over London. That’s significant. This is, perhaps, as Churchill once said, “the end of the beginning.” But from Al Alamein to Stalingrad to the Beaches of Normandy, our ultimate destiny still hangs in the balance.

To carry this metaphor further, California today might be compared to Nazi occupied Europe in 1941, where the possibility of liberation was years in the future, if ever. While across America the forces of freedom celebrate what is indeed a strategic victory, in California, an occupying army continues to build their own 21st century version of Fortress Europa.

To appreciate the undiminished political supremacy public employee unions still have in Sacramento, the State Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee hearing on June 23 provides a good example. From an anonymous source, we have learned that in this hearing, opponents of seven labor-sponsored bills never had a chance of stopping even one of them. The recent addition of two new pro-union Committee members (President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and incoming pro Tem Kevin De Leon) all but guaranteed the outcome in advance. These bills advance public employee union goals at the significant expense of local governments, their budgets and taxpayers statewide. Examples:

· AB 1611 (Bonta) would make schools file written notice with a union about changes it needs to make to an employee’s schedule, even for something as unpredictable as a flu outbreak. The costs of the state-mandated notification and negotiation requirements will come out of state education funds – money that could have gone to the classroom instead.

· AB 1824 (Rendon) would allow a retired employee to increase a designated beneficiary’s benefits – in violation of the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013. Now starts the gradual undoing of the Act.

· AB 1834 (Williams) would allow 14,000 graduate students working part-time as research assistants at the University of California and California State University to unionize. Students. Working part-time. Unionized. We’re trying to lower the tuition costs for higher education, not raise them even more.

· AB 1550 (Rendon) would add up to 60 more days to an already thorough and lengthy collective bargaining process in schools by effectively ending the right of school districts to implement their “last, best and final offer.” This will add significant costs and further undermine school districts’ abilities to efficiently operate their schools.

· AB 2126 (Bonta) would eliminate the law requiring unions and government agencies to request mediation or arbitration jointly, letting one side or the other file unilaterally, and then require the Public Relations Employee Board to appoint a mediator within five days. There aren’t enough mediators in the state to handle the anticipated increase in requests within that timeframe, which will lead to a backlog and delays and the hiring of private mediators at much higher rates in order to meet the arbitrary timeframe.

Comparing any political movement we don’t like to the bad guys in WWII is a cheap trick. Sorry. But the reality of unions infiltrating government and enabling its drift towards authoritarianism is not a frivolous comparison. Public sector unions run California. They control the outcome of all significant legislation. Their agenda is inherently oriented towards bigger, more expensive, more expansive government, with the interests of government workers inevitably prioritized over the interests of private citizens.

Moreover, government unions are the enablers of cronyism and corporatism. Nearly all of California’s major corporate interests cooperate as junior partners with these unions. And through their pension funds and through their insatiable need to spend beyond their means, California’s government unions partner with powerful and very opportunistic financial interests.

Most tragically, government unions create a privileged class of government workers, granting them levels of compensation and job security that are far beyond our capacity to provide all citizens, and far beyond the ability of taxpayers to subsidize. Within our ranks of public servants, these unions corrupt and embitter the impressionable with poisonous adversarial rhetoric, while protecting the inept and alienating the finest.

Government unions cannot be “bargained” with. Unlike private sector unions, there is no legitimate argument whatsoever for the existence of government unions. At the state and local level, especially in California, they are the primary force behind the erosion of our freedoms and the ebb of our prosperity. They must be eliminated.

Harris vs. Quinn has slowed the advance of government unions. Nothing more. Put away the balloons. Hunker down. There’s going to be a lot more blood, toil, tears and sweat before this is over.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center

41 replies
  1. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    TL, you are a cancer who lives in NJ and spends your time inflicting yourself on the public sector workers of CA! Fortunately that is all you will ever be able to do. There are more public sector workers who are not in unions than otherwise. You are a hater deluxe–you should have lived during the era of slavery where you would have lynched the public workers.

  2. Avatar
    Metaphysical says:

    TL is a “cancer”?

    I think not. Public unions are a “cancer” on the rest of us. As even FDR stated, unions & government do not mix. There is no competition, no moderating market forces and they enjoy a monopoly. As a taxpayer I’ve had ENOUGH of being bled by high taxes to support vastly overpaid& over pensioned cops, firefighters and teachers.

    Public unions are a cancer. Bankruptcy is the cure.

  3. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    SeeSaw, I believe it fair game to call a UNION a CANCER, but not a person as you did me.

    Considering your EXTREMELY modest pay (by your own admission, and for a CA Public Sector worker no less) after 35-40 YEARS of service, I’m sure I could have made some insulting comments about your ability and intelligence …. but I didn’t, and still won’t.

    Choose your words carefully.

  4. Avatar
    SkippingDog says:

    Godwin’s Law violated in the very first paragraph. Nothing to bother with after that.

  5. Avatar
    Metaphysical says:

    I see of our more prolific & virulent public union supporters, “Skipping” is still around.

    I’m more interested in facts than some silly internet “law”.

    Please explain to me why any taxpayer, citizen or parent should support allowing unions in government. Other than enjoying higher taxes for lesser services & watching public employees retire 1-2 DECADES earlier than the rest of us what does the public get?

  6. Avatar
    Shelby says:

    Those supporting public unions resort to personal attacks because even they know deep down somewhere inside themselves they have lost the debate. Shure sign of desperation. They have nothing to put forward to support their position impartial readers might read to be convinced. They should stop writing they do damage to their sides argument.

  7. Avatar
    SkippingDog says:

    It’s much easier for organizations that have a very large staff, like most government organizations do, to have uniform salary and benefit arrangements for their workforce. Do you really think it makes either good economic sense or reflects good management choices to negotiate salaries and benefits with each individual teacher, police officer, firefighter, prosecutor, traffic engineer, etc., etc., etc.? Of course not, particularly when the entire rationale of government organizations is to provide uninterrupted service while maintaining a stable and well trained workforce.

  8. Avatar
    SkippingDog says:

    Self interest drives all of us, TL. That’s why you post on these sites as part of your job each day.

  9. Avatar
    SkippingDog says:

    I’ve always found that people who posted civil comments received the same in return, Shelby. If you’ve been receiving some other form, perhaps it’s time for some self-reflection about your own attitude.

  10. Avatar
    SkippingDog says:

    Settle down, TL. If SeeSaw referred to you as “a cancer,” I’m sure it was nothing more than a simple typographical error. She more likely misspelled “chancre,” since she was referring to you. Since that’s far more accurate, you should give her a break.

  11. Avatar
    S @ P 500 says:

    I saw that movie “Citizen Koch”. The movie only spent 5 minutes on the Koch Brothers and the rest of the movie was about the election of Scott Walker, which was financed partly by the Kochs. It also briefly discussed Citizens United vs. FEC. The election of Walker was a brilliantly planned and executed campaign. The successful defeat of his recall election was also a slick piece of work. I’m definitely going to buy Brawny paper towels from now on.

  12. Avatar
    S @ P 500 says:

    That movie “Citizen Koch” tried to make some case about these industrialists taking away rights and privileges of union workers but instead ended up making them look like the good guys. Some of the union workers in the film really made fools of themselves, like when one middle-aged lady who is a public worker says “we’re flexible–we are willing to pay more for our health care and pay 2% more toward our pensions to help the state”.

  13. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    No, I comment only as a well trained and informed Taxpayer, disgusted with the decades-long financial “mugging” perpetrated upon us by the insatiably greedy Public Sector workers (yourself included) and enabled by their bought-off elected officials.

  14. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Of course individual negotiation wouldn’t work, but uniformity in salary and benefit arrangements DOES NOT justify the current structure (everywhere) of granting Public Sector pensions & benefits FAR FAR greater than necessary, fair to the Taxpayers, or financially sustainable.

  15. Avatar
    Metaphysical says:

    I cannot disagree with the logic of having a uniform salary structure, etc in large organizations to a point. Many of the bigger companies have some level of such. I cannot see why art teachers are paid the same as physics teachers in most districts I’m familiar with. Teachers are paid solely by years of service, which raises AND steps too often completely disconnected from performance and available monies

    This said, I do not see how or why a union is needed for such, especially since unions are by definition (and as you admit above) driven by “self interest”.

    How, then, does “self interest” mesh with your statement that the “entire rationale of government organizations is to provide uninterrupted service while maintaining a stable and well trained workforce”? In short, it does not–something FDR well recognized.

    Given the lack of a moderating market force unionizing of government is inappropriate. Do you seriously think that many FF’s Police, Teachers and civil servants are not dramatically over paid, especially when egregiously expensive pensions & benefits are factored in?

  16. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    Your opinion, to which you are entitled. You don’t own your own facts. Ahaa, Ahaa, swat those little green monsters away!

  17. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    Oh, you have, in the past, TL. You referred to me as the epitome of avarice and greed. Unions are comprised of human beings, afterall. Maybe its time for all of us to come down on the side of the human race; also time to give thanks that we live in the greatest country in the world. Happy 4th!

  18. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    Shelby, I was born in Montana, raised in Wyoming–moved to Southern CA when I was 20,and have lived there ever since–58 years. I have never been to Chicago, but hope I will get there to see it someday. Happy 4th.

  19. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    I stand by that … sounds no less true today than yesterday …….. but that’s FAR from calling YOU a CANCER.

  20. Avatar
    Douglas47 says:

    Hey!! I think I saw this exact same article in “The Onion”!!

    Same edition as the article: ” Message From God Found Hidden Inside DNA Sequence”

    “Hello my children. This is Yahweh. Unions are the scourge of the Earth. I meant to wipe them out, but I smote unicorns instead. Dam autocorrect.” (It sounds better in Aramaic.)

    I love all my children, even Ed Ring. He is often wrong, but NEVER in doubt.

    ” government unions are the enablers of cronyism and corporatism.”

    Of course! Who do think is the REAL power pulling the strings of the Koch brothers.
    We are everywhere. Resistance is futile!!!!

    Tough Love works for SEIU. Reverse psychology.

    Think about it.

  21. Avatar
    Douglas47 says:

    Total “compensation” is not FAR FAR greater. In many cases, it is far less.

    Citing pensions outside the context of total compensation is…..disingenuous.

    Disingenuous is, of course, a euphemism.

    The word “(everywhere)” as used in your post is also…..disingenuous.

  22. Avatar
    Douglas47 says:

    I haven’t always found that to be the case. I always try to be civil. Sometimes sarcastic, but never sardonic.

    Some of the names I’ve been called….well, it kinda makes me feel bad.

  23. Avatar
    Douglas47 says:

    Have you stopped beating your wife?

    ” watching public employees retire 1-2 DECADES earlier than the rest of us”

    Most public sector workers CAN retire at 50. If you start work at 20 and retire at 50, you can get about 30% of final salary.
    CHP has mandatory retirement at 60

    But, according to an ING study, most public sector workers retire in their early to mid sixties. Almost like regular folks.

  24. Avatar
    Douglas47 says:


    ” undiminished political supremacy public employee unions still have”???

    ” Public sector unions run California.”???

    ” government unions are the enablers of cronyism and corporatism. “???

    ” government unions create a privileged class of government workers, “???

    ” unions corrupt and embitter the impressionable with poisonous adversarial rhetoric, while protecting the inept and alienating the finest.”???

    ” they are the primary force behind the erosion of our freedoms and the ebb of our prosperity.”???

    That’s not satire?

    ” Public Sector Unions are a CANCER inflicted upon Society.”???


  25. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    TL does not recognize that unions are composed of human beings. Its ok, he says, to refer to them collectively as a cancer, but not ok to refer to him in the same fashion because he is the only human in that equation. Now, that’s freaky!

  26. Avatar
    Douglas47 says:

    I think he’s been pulling our leg for years. He can’t be serious.

    “No, I comment only as a well trained and informed Taxpayer”

    He’s a union plant, just waiting for the best time to “come out”.

    Deep cover.

  27. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    No–most retire in their mid fifties to early 60’s. The average length of service is 25 years–a full retirement is 30 years.

  28. Avatar
    Metaphysical says:

    You are thinking too small, Douglas. This is bigger than just CA. Police in many states can retire with bloated pensions in as little as 20 years with full lifetime healthcare. Often the minimum is 50% of an equally bloated salary, which is before pension padding & spiking are factored in.

    Almost nobody paying for such plunder has such grossly excessive benefits for themselves. Enough. You are being cut off.

  29. Avatar
    Metaphysical says:

    Most of the ridiculously excessive compensation is with teachers, cops & firefighters. I’ll give you that. To a fair extent we aren’t talking about the DMV clerk.

    Still, few private companies have pensions as they simply aren’t affordable, especially the egregiously outlandish ones in the public sector.

  30. Avatar
    SDouglas47 says:

    I’ve read a lot of novels where east coast cops have “20 and out”. Although some might not agree about the ” bloated” part or “grossly excessive benefits”. I expect there is a wide variety of pay and pension formulas, some more generous than others.

    The only twenty year retirees I’ve seen in California are military. My brother in law is retired Coast Guard, working a private sector job now. With military medical care. I hope your not cutting him off, too.

  31. Avatar
    SDouglas47 says:

    You’ve been grossly exaggerating your data for years. You can’t seriously expect people to believe it.

  32. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Unlike you, I’m not riding this Public Sector pension & benefit “pig-fest”. Clearly, YOU have more “skin in the game” …. to lose (WHEN, not IF your pension & benefits are reduced).

    Nothing you say can be taken at face value.

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