The state’s largest public employee unions have perfected the art of controlling state government–in fact, when you look at how they do it, it’s really more of a science.
These unions have literally have purchased the governance of the state with the vast sum of money they spend to achieve their political goals. A quick online search revealed that from 2003 to 2012, the state’s most dominant public employee unions–the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) (representing state workers)–have together spent a stunning $214,022,424.00 either directly on candidate, independent expenditure or ballot measure campaigns. That staggering dollar amount more than doubles if you add in money they spent in lobbying the legislature.
I can’t think of a Democrat in statewide or legislative office who has not benefitted from their largesse. But there is a price to being on the receiving end of all of that financial generosity: absolute fealty to the unions.
The control exercised by these unions has resulted in the passage of hundreds upon hundreds of bills favoring labor over employers, creating and expanding public worker salary and benefits, protecting union members even under the most extreme situations, and of course the approvals of countless union contracts favorable to organized labor.
Recent extreme examples of exercising control include the CTA torpedoing a Democrat-authored bill in 2012 that would have made it easier to dismiss a teacher after they had engaged in sex, violence or drug offenses with children; and the passage on a party-line vote last week of an SEIU-supported resolution stipulating that the Assembly “opposes outsourcing of public services…”.
It’s worth mentioning that these unions aggressively pursue policy objectives well beyond what you would think of as labor issues–abortion, same-sex marriage, universal health care and more.
Of course all of this control comes with a terrible price tag for California taxpayers. In addition to more than a generation of pushing tax hikes and fee increases, legislators and officials under the thumb of these unions have allowed unfunded public employee pension debt to balloon to well north of a half-trillion dollars, when you include retiree healthcare costs.
There was never any doubt that these massive unions would thoroughly probe candidates before bestowing their endorsements and expenditures on their behalf from their always-refilling coffers. But did you know that these groups have been forcing candidates to place their signatures at the bottom of extensive questionnaires that seek to pre-commit ersatz state legislators on a barrage of issues–and that these signed promises are then locked away from public view?
The CTA’s list of questions weighs in at 7 pages and 43 mostly-pointed, specific queries, asking (among other questions):
- Whether a candidate supports existing law that says teachers must be laid off in seniority order;
- Whether a candidate supports status and due process for teachers after two years (tenure);
- Whether a candidate supports making it easier to raise taxes; and
- Whether a candidate opposes any pension reforms.
THE SEIU’s questionnaire is even longer at 13 pages long with 67 questions. Questions include:
- Whether a candidate will walk picket lines and speak at rallies;
- Whether a candidate will support reducing the vote for tax increases to a simple majority; and
- Whether a candidate supports government health care for Californians, regardless of immigration status.
On top of the entire SEIU questionnaire is “The Right of Workers To Choose A Union” pledge, which a candidate must sign, committing to six major pro-union positions.
Don’t take my word for it–you can see the CTA questionnaire here, and the SEIU one here. These forms are now easy to review thanks, ironically, to a Democrat candidate for Assembly in the East Bay Area–Steven Glazer, a local city council member, who is a close advisor to Governor Jerry Brown. Glazer has thrown down against the unions (and other groups), rejecting their questions and pledge forms, and “outing them” by posting them all online.
Of course taking on labor comes at a steep price. Before Glazer could hope to face an eventual Republican opponent in November (in a seat that is not “safely blue”) he needs to get past a Democrat in June who is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the unions–primarily the CTA and SEIU.
Unfortunately multiple efforts at the ballot box to try and rein in the vast political spending by these all-powerful public employee unions have been unsuccessful, most recently in 2012. That is largely because the very funds in question are used to maintain the status quo.
If Glazer prevails in his June face-off against his union-owned opponent, that will certainly send a ripple through the state’s political establishment. Otherwise we may just have to wait until everything collapses under the weight of more and more union-sponsored spending.
In the meantime, you can feel “comforted” knowing that on just about every substantive issue that may come before the legislature in the future, a super-majority of legislators have already pledged their vote.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.