Public Sector Unions Now Control California Politics

Discussion in 'Politics' started by pspr, Oct 17, 2012.

  1. pspr


    A century ago, a railroad dominated the Golden State. Now government workers are in charge. A look at funding marshaled against a reform initiative tells the story.

    Public employees want us to think they're members in good standing of the struggling middle class, but they sure manage to pony up the cash when elections come around. Maybe it's strength in numbers. Maybe it's union strong-arming. Whatever the reason, California's teachers, firefighters, police, prison guards and other government workers are, as a group, the richest and most powerful in state politics.

    Just how rich can be seen from the latest figures on fundraising against Proposition 32, a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that would throw a wrench into the public-sector union money machine. The proposition would bar unions and corporations from making contributions to candidates for public office and from collecting cash for political activities through payroll deductions.

    That payroll provision is key, because it would end the unions' preferred method of gathering funds. (Businesses use payroll deductions much less.)

    Unions would no longer be able to collect the funds on autopilot from their members and, instead, would have to ask for donations. More than a few members might stop and think: "Maybe I can spend that money on dinner out or to pay the gas bill."

    So Proposition 32 spells trouble for one of the most successful enterprises in the state, the public-sector union. Private-sector unions and corporations are also affected by the measure, but they're less dominant in state politics and thus have less power to lose.

    To get an idea of the poundage of the government-union gorilla, consider the stats for just one union, the California Teachers Association. At the end of September, the CTA had contributed nearly $18.2 million to defeat Proposition 32 — double the $9 million raised by all the measure's backers. The CTA has donated an additional $6.3 million for Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to hike income taxes to a top rate of 13.3%.

    By the CTA's standards, this sort of spending is par for the course. From 2000 to 2009, it spent $211 million on political contributions and lobbying.

    No other union or business player, including AT&T and Chevron, can match its deep pockets or access to the governor and legislative leaders.

    The Service Employees International Union, which represents workers outside the teaching and public safety ranks, is nearly in the same league as the CTA. As of Sept. 30 it had given $8.9 million to the anti-32 effort.