Long Beach Could Be Next In $15 Minimum Wage Movement

Minimum wage1In the past year the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour has seen success in a few major cities – and now several more are looking to be next.

Seattle led the way in implementing a $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years. Though it has yet to pass on the state or federal level, the movement has seen support across the country.

Still early on in the process, officials in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., and Long Beach, Calif., are considering whether they should adopt a $15 minimum wage as well. Earlier in the month, Long Beach announced it may initiate a study of the potential impact such an increase would have. The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that the Kansas City Council may seek voter input on the November ballot. D.C. announced last month it will test the waters with a ballot measure as well. New York City is also considering whether to implement a $15 minimum wage, but just for fast-food workers.

In addition to the cities that have already passed a $15 minimum wage, the University of California announced last month that the school will become the first public university to raise the on-campus minimum wage to $15 an hour. Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders has even introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Supporters of the $15 minimum wage often claim it will help the poor and stimulate economic activity. They argue that it’s more representative of “the living wage,” which is the supposed basic standard by which someone can live comfortably.

Opponents, however, say the idea will actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities. How little or how much of either outcome usually depends on the study. Nevertheless, even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office agrees at least some job loss is expected.

By organizing rallies and utilizing media marketing campaigns, Fight for $15 has led much of the effort to raise the minimum wage in the last couple of years. Though claiming to be a grassroots workers movement, the group is highly influenced and funded by the Service Employees International Union.

The SEIU has been criticized by some, like Worker Center Watch, for using the Fight for $15 protests as a way of bypassing labor laws to more easily unionize fast food workersAccording to a report from the Center for Union Facts, a minimum wage increase would benefit the SEIU directly while hurting non-unionized SEIU competitors.

Additionally, unions often seek exemptions from the very minimum wage laws they support. According to the report, “Labor’s Minimum Wage Exemption,” which was released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December, this is to encourage unionization by making membership a low cost alternative for employers. Los Angeles union leader Rusty Hicks was accused of just that when asked for an exemption for unionized businesses from the very wage increase he advocates for. Now he is pushing for Long Beach to go forward with its own increase.

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​Union-backed organizations trying to dupe voters and taxpayers

Because of Proposition 13, the unions representing California’s government employees — employees that are the highest paid in all 50 states according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — have a huge stake in who is elected to the state Legislature.

While most Californians are aware that Proposition 13 limits increases in property taxes — they can be increased by 2 percent annually — they are less familiar with the requirement that new or increased state taxes receive a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature.  Proposition 13 authors Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann included this provision because they feared that if they were successful in saving taxpayers money, lawmakers, no doubt with union support, would turn around and attempt to increase the tax burden in other areas.

So the government employee unions are constantly working hard to increase their support in the legislature, with the goal of achieving a super-majority of compliant lawmakers to increase taxes and make even more money available for payroll.  This explains why the government unions have been making all-out efforts in special elections that are often overlooked by the general public.

For example, government union leaders have ramped up their efforts to influence the outcome in the upcoming May 17th special election for a vacant senate seat in the Bay Area.  Although the race is between two Democrats, they fear the election of Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a self-described fiscal conservative and social progressive. His experience in city government has taught him the importance of responsible budgeting, and this, to the unions, is intolerable. To assure his defeat and the election of union compliant Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of union dues to finance a mailing from a group calling itself “Working families Opposing Glazer for Senate.”

The problem is that the unions apparently do not want those who receive the mailing to know who is paying for it. State law requires that the top two contributors of more than $50,000 be listed on the mailer, but the names of the State Council of Service Employees, which gave $185,000, and the California School Employees Association, which gave $75,000 are nowhere to be found. Glazer has filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, but more voters will see the misleading mailers than are likely to hear of a FPPC decision, and the damage is done.

Government employee unions being shy about public exposure is not unusual.  Unions back a number of organizations that at first glance appear to be looking after taxpayers’ interests.  In San Diego, they have set up the Middle Class Taxpayers Association that has opposed pension reform.

And, of course, there is the California Tax Reform Association, whose president, a former ’60s Berkeley radical, is dedicated to the overturning of Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections.  The group’s funding and board of directors come primarily from the government employee unions.

So when a group whose name makes it sound like a pro-taxpayer organization, or that it is representing average working folks, pushes policies that would raise taxes and the cost of government, it would be wise to look carefully for the union label.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’s rights.

Originally published by the HJTA.org

U.S. Supreme Court Close to Curbing CA Union Power

Last year marked a legal turning point for California’s teachers’ unions and public employee unions across the nation. First, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled in June that some of the teachers’ work rules—including tenure, seniority, and dismissal laws—violated the state and federal constitutions. That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v. Quinn, holding that home healthcare workers could not be forced to pay agency shop fees to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Treu’s ruling in Vergara v. California inflicted a flesh wound on the teachers’ unions, but Harris sent them reeling. The only way that the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision could have been worse for the unions is if the justices had decided to broaden it to cover all public employees, not just a subset of them. Instead, Justice Samuel Alito drew a distinction between the home workers and “full-fledged” public employees, who currently must pay dues as delineated in the court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. Nevertheless, Alito’s opinion left the door open for a more expansive court ruling later. He noted that Abood (which holds that the state may force public-sector workers to pay union dues while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity) is questionable on several grounds, and went so far as to suggest that collective bargaining issues are inherently political in the public sector. Alito explained, “In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.” Taking Alito’s reasoning to its logical next step, paying fees to a public-employee union would become voluntary in the 26 states, including California, where it’s now compulsory.

As it happens, a case working its way through the federal appeals process right now from California could be the catalyst for that decision. Friedrichs et al v. CTA pits 10 teachers and a union alternative called the Christian Educators Association International against the powerful California Teachers Association. The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by attorneys working with the Center for Individual Rights, takes aim at California’s “agency shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities, though (per Abood) paying for the unions’ political agenda is not mandatory. The plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the statute echo Alito’s point out that collective bargaining is inherently political, and therefore all union dues should be voluntary. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November issued an order that clears the way for the plaintiffs to petition the Supreme Court. If the justices grant certiorari, a decision could come in 2016.

If the Supreme Court overturns Abood, it would change the political landscape drastically. When Wisconsin’s Act 10 made teacher union membership voluntary, the unions in that state lost about one-third of their membership and a substantial amount of clout. If the same percentage of teachers quit the California Teachers Association, the union would lose approximately $62 million a year in dues. Considering the teachers’ union spent more than $290 million on candidates, ballot measures, and lobbying between 2000 and 2013 — by far the most of any political player in the Golden State — such a loss would be crushing. And it’s no secret that CTA spending moves almost exclusively in a leftward direction. Between 2003 and 2012, the union gave $15.7 million to Democratic candidates and just $92,700 to Republicans — a ratio of roughly 99 to one. CTA has also spent millions promoting controversial causes such as same-sex marriage and single-payer healthcare, while opposing voter ID laws and limitations of the government’s power of eminent domain.

And the “fourth co-equal branch of government” wouldn’t be the only teachers’ union to learn what it’s like to live on voluntary contributions. The National Education Association, which hauled in nearly $363 million in forced dues in 2013–2014 and spent about $132 million of it on issue advocacy, would have to curtail its political largess considerably. Like the CTA, the NEA spends almost exclusively on progressive groups and causes. Over the years, the union has lavished gifts on People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH, and the Center for American Progress. Not surprisingly, the union’s political spending by party is lopsided, too. Between 1989 and 2014, the union directed just 4 percent of its campaign contributions to Republicans, usually backing the least conservative candidate in a primary election fight.

Like most union leaders, recently termed-out NEA president Dennis Van Roekel insists that all teachers should be required to pay the union. “Fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members,” he said in June. Sounds reasonable. But what Van Roekel doesn’t mention is that the unions demand exclusive bargaining rights for all teachers. Teachers in monopoly bargaining states have no choice but to toe the union line. There is nothing “fair” about forcing a worker to pay dues to a union they wouldn’t otherwise join. If Friedrichs is successful and Abood is overturned, it would be a great victory for true freedom of association.

This article was originally published at City-Journal.org