Is Anything Off-Limits for California’s Police Unions?

Police tapeA few weeks ago the Costa Mesa Police Association (read: Police Union) and their former law firm agreed to pay $607,000 to settle a lawsuit after their scheme against two Costa Mesa city councilmen came to light.

As I wrote in my book, this settlement represents a small but important victory in the broader philosophical war between California’s public employee unions’ unquenchable demand for more and the handful of public officials willing to stand and say there is simply no more to give. This result should also give hope to public officials across the state who have been at the pointy-end of the public employee unions’ so-called “advocacy” during labor negotiations or an election cycle.

The plot that eventually led to the settlement sounds like the set-up for a Don Winslow novel, but everything you are about to read is true.

On August 22, 2012 a private investigator, Chris Lanzillo, who was employed by the police union’s law firm was tailing the two councilmen in hopes of digging up dirt for use against them in the upcoming November city council elections.

The two Costa Mesa city councilmen were in the police union’s cross-hairs because they were trying to cut-back public employee pensions and benefits. The city had a $5.1 million budget deficit that year, and the offending proposal reduced retirees’ pensions from 90 percent of their salary at age 50 to a mere 81 percent of their pay at 55. That same year, Costa Mesa had 99 employees who earned more than $200,000.  …

Click here to read the full article from Townhall

CA Supreme Court Could Make Local Ballot Initiatives More Difficult

CA Supreme Courtrecent unanimous ruling by the California Supreme Court (pictured) that may force the city of San Diego to retroactively create pensions for non-police employees hired since the start of 2013 isn’t just bad news for pension reformers. It also serves notice to elected officials who participate in signature-gathering campaigns for local ballot measures that they need to be wary of doing so in a way that interferes with state laws requiring that changes in work conditions be collectively bargained with employee unions.

At issue was Proposition B, approved by San Diego voters in 2012 by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. The measure required that all city employees who began their jobs on or after Jan. 1, 2013 – except for police officers – get 401(k)-style retirement benefits instead of the defined benefit pensions that left San Diego finances in near ruins more than a decade ago because of City Council decisions to underfund them.

But San Diego employee unions and the California Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) argued even before the measure reached the ballot that it violated state collective bargaining laws because the campaign for the pension changes was led in 2011 and 2012 by then-San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. He claimed that his role in the Prop. B campaign was as a private citizen – not as mayor – and thus he faced no obligation to collectively bargain with public employee unions before touting the direct-democracy initiative.

Before reaching the state high court, a trial judge first disagreed with Sanders and San Diego, then an appellate court sided with the city. But all seven state justices joined in a ruling that found that city leaders had not met their requirement to first seek changes at the bargaining table before seeking to impose them through direct democracy.

“Allowing public officials to purposefully evade the meet-and-confer requirements of [state collective bargaining rules] by officially sponsoring a citizens’ initiative would seriously undermine the policies served by the statute: fostering full communication between public employers and employees, as well as improving personnel management and employer-employee relations,” the court held. It ordered the case be sent back to the appellate court to determine how San Diego should untangle its mess.

Elected leaders may be less likely to lead ballot fights

The decision seems likely to change the nature of direct democracy going forward – at least at the local level of California government.

Direct democracy, brought forward in California by Gov. Hiram Johnson in 1911, has greatly benefited from the active participation of elected officials. They are often more able to win public approval of sweeping reforms through the ballot box than they can through the Legislature or city or county governing boards, which are often allied with deep-pockets special interests.

For example, Earl Warren – the former U.S. Supreme Court chief justice and California governor – repeatedly led ballot campaigns as Alameda County district attorney that directly affected many areas of California life.

But similar efforts by a politician in 2018 would face a different kind of vetting than Warren faced. Going forward, any ballot proposal that affects public employees in any way is subject to a potential court veto if it can be established that it were led by elected officials who didn’t live up to their collective bargaining obligations.

The California PERB Blog’s analysis noted that justices “did leave open the possibility that government officials can separate their official actions from their private activities. However, the court did not provide any guidance on what a government official would have to do to make such a distinction clear.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Why Teachers Unions are the Worst of the Worst

Teachers unionWhen considering the influence of unions on American society, there are vast differences depending on what type of union one considers.

Private sector unions, for all the criticisms they may deserve, have nonetheless played a vital role in securing rights for the American worker. Subject to appropriate regulations, private sector unions have the opportunity to continue to play a vital role in American society. If they would bother to embrace the aspirations of their members, instead of the multinational corporations their leaders now apparently collude with, they might even support immigration reform. That would elevate the wages and benefits of all American workers, especially those doing low paying jobs.

Public sector unions, on the other hand, should be illegal. They negotiate with elected officials who they help elect. They negotiate for a share of coerced tax revenue, rather than for a share of profits, meaning there are no competitive checks on how much they can demand. The agenda of public sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. But given the reality of public sector unions, it is important to recognize that some public sector unions are worse than others.

Public safety unions, for example, have successfully lobbied for pension benefits that are not sustainable. This calls for a difficult but necessary economic discussion that can only end two ways – either these pension benefits are going to be reduced, or cities and counties across California and elsewhere will go bankrupt in the next major recession. But public safety unions have not undermined their profession the way the teachers unions have.

The teachers unions are guilty of all the problems common to all public sector unions. They, too, have negotiated unsustainable rates of pay and benefits. They, too, elect their own bosses, negotiate inefficient work rules, have an insatiable need for more public funds, and protect incompetent members. But the teachers union is worse than all other public sector unions for one reason that eclipses all others: Their agenda is negatively affecting how we socialize and educate our children, the next generation of Americans.

Work Rules Harm Public Schools

One of the most compelling examples of just how much harm the teachers union has done to California’s schools was the 2014 case Vergara vs. the State of California. In this case, attorneys representing public school students argued that union negotiated work rules harmed their ability to receive a quality education. In particular, they questioned rules governing tenure (too soon), dismissals (too hard), and layoffs (based on seniority instead of merit). In the closing arguments, the plaintiff’s lead attorney referenced testimony from the defendant’s expert witnesses to show that these and other rules had a negative disproportionate impact on students in disadvantaged communities.

Despite winning in the lower courts, the Vergara case was eventually dismissed by the California Supreme Court. Teachers still get tenure after less than two years of classroom observation. Incompetent teachers are still nearly impossible to fire. And whenever it is necessary to reduce teacher headcount in a district, the senior teachers stay and the new teachers go, regardless of how well or poorly these teachers were doing their jobs. The consequences of these self-serving work rules are more than academic.

The evidence that California’s public schools are failing is everywhere. Los Angeles, a city whose residents are – perhaps more than anywhere else – representative of America’s future, is home to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), with 640,000 K-12 students. And as reported earlier this year in the LA School Report, according to the new “California School Dashboard,” a ratings system that replaced the Academic Performance Index, LAUSD is failing to educate hundreds of thousands of students. In the most recent year of results, 52 percent of LAUSD’s schools earned a D or F in English language arts, and 50 percent earned a D or F in math. Fifty percent of LAUSD’s schools are failing or nearly failing to teach their students English or math.

Attack Innovative Charter Schools

In the face of failure, you would think LAUSD and other failing school districts would embrace bipartisan, obvious reforms such as those highlighted in the Vergara case. But instead, these unions are relentlessly trying to unionize charter schools, which would force those schools to adhere to the same union work rules. In Los Angeles, the Alliance Network of charter schools has delivered demonstrably better educational outcomes for less money, while serving nearly identical student populations.

How does it help to impose union work rules on charter schools that are succeeding academically? How does that help the children who are America’s future?

A Left-Wing Political Agenda

The other way the teachers union is unique among public sector unions is their hyper-partisanship. Despite and often in defiance of their memberships, nearly all unions are left-wing partisan organizations. Nearly all of them support left-wing causes and Democratic political candidates. But the teachers unions do so with a zeal that dwarfs their counterparts. Larry Sand, a former LAUSD teacher and prolific observer of teachers union antics, has spent years documenting their left wing agenda.

For example, reporting on the annual conventions of the two largest national teachers unions, Sand writes: “The National Education Association convention at the beginning of the month gave us a clue which theory would become reality when the union passed quite a few über liberal New Business Items, maintained its lopsided leftward political spending, and gave rogue quarterback Colin Kaepernick a human rights award. And here in the Golden State, the California Teachers Association continues its one-way spending on progressive initiatives and endorsed 35 state legislators in the June primary – all Democrats.

A week after the NEA convention, the other national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers held its yearly wingding and left absolutely no doubt as to its future political direction. The resolutions passed by the union at the convention would make any socialist proud. Universal health care – whether single-payer or MediCare for All, full public funding for, and free tuition at all public colleges and universities, and universal, full-day, and cost-free child care are what AFT wants for the country. Additionally, the union resolved to double per-pupil expenditures for low-income K-12 districts and to ‘tax the rich’ to fully fund ‘IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Title I and state allocations to public colleges and universities.’”

Left-Wing Student Indoctrination

This left-wing political agenda finds its way into the classroom, of course. At the same time as California’s K-12 public school students are not being effectively taught English or math skills, they are being exposed to agenda-driven political and cultural indoctrination.

Again, as documented by Larry Sand: “Nor are textbooks safe. Communist and notorious America-hater Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” is assigned in many high school history classes. Zinn felt that the teaching of history “should serve society in some way” and that “objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable.” As a Marxist, he’d prefer a society that resembles Stalin’s Russia. Additionally, Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi notes that pages and pages of the latest California History, Social Science Framework ‘are devoted to identity politics, and the environmentalist, sexual, and anti-Vietnam War movements, with detailed and extensive bibliographical references. In contrast, the contemporaneous conservative movement, which succeeded in electing Californian Ronald Reagan as president, with its complex mixture of social, economic and national security sub-movements, is given cursory and passing mention, with no references provided.’”

Public sector unions are going to be with us for a long time. But in the wake of the Janus ruling, members who don’t agree with the political agenda of these unions can quit, depriving them of the dues that – to the tune of nearly a billion per year just in California – make them so powerful.

Teachers, in particular, should carefully consider this option. America’s future depends on it.

Ed Ring is the co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president.

L.A. teachers union schedules strike authorization vote

UTLAThe Los Angeles teachers union announced Friday that it has scheduled a strike-authorization vote for later this month.

A strike would not be automatic, even if a majority of members vote yes. But such a result would give union leaders the authority to call a strike without returning to members for another vote. Having members authorize a strike is a well-established pressure tactic, and once in a while, a strike does occur.

United Teachers Los Angeles scheduled the vote after the state’s Public Employment Relations Board agreed with the union that talks were deadlocked.

Other district employee unions have reached deals that provide for about a 6% raise over three years. L.A. Unified has yet to offer that much to teachers, but that’s clearly where officials want to end up. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

The Unions Keep Rigging the Rules as Workers Sue Them

Unions2The public employee unions have not been at all contrite since their 41 year run of legalized theft came to an abrupt halt. On June 27th, the Supreme Court overturned 1977’s abysmal Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision and ruled for Mark Janus, thus freeing government workers from all forced union payments. But, ahead of the SCOTUS decision – pretty much a forgone conclusion – the union wheels were already grinding away, notably in California where a bevy of bills that attempt to re-rig the rules in favor of organized labor are currently going through the legislative process.

California’s creepy AB 119, already law, gives government unions access to all workers’ personal contact information and requires new hires to attend a mandatory union “orientation” meeting, during which a captive audience is harangued about the joys of union membership. A companion bill, AB 2970, would prohibit government agencies from publicly disclosing information about the new employee orientations. Some organizations like the Freedom Foundation and the Mackinac Center, you see, are trying to counter the union spin by contacting public employees. Like all good totalitarians, however, the unionistas are doing their utmost to stifle free speech.

In another anti-free speech, Big Brotherly move, the unions are behind an attempt to expand existing law that prohibits an employer from “deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.” AB 2017 would broaden the definition of “public employer” and also prohibit public employers from deterring or discouraging prospective public employees “from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.”

In a direct slap at taxpayers, SB 1085 would grant leaves of absence, without loss of compensation or other benefits, to allow unionized employees to do union business on work time. Moreover, as provided in this bill, the worker would have a right of reinstatement to the same position and work location held before the leave, “or if this is not feasible, a substantially similar position without loss of seniority, rank, or classification.” While the union would have to compensate the state for any work done for the union, this law clearly could be extremely disruptive to the workplace and quite costly to taxpayers.

SB 550 stipulates that if there is a dispute alleging an employer’s failure to provide wages, benefits, or working conditions and it winds up in court, the employer, if he loses, must pay the union’s attorney’s fees and any other expenses incurred. But the “loser pays” provision only applies to the employer, not the union.

There is much more that the California legislature has been doing to give government unions perks that none of the rest of us could ever dream of. The California Policy Center’s Ed Ring has posted a detailed list of the new and proposed legislation, as has the law firm of Lozano Smith. They can be accessed here and here.

On the other side of the coin, there is worker-initiated litigation, most of which was set in motion before the Janus decision was handed down. In fact, as of this writing there are class action law suits against teachers unions in seven states, including three in California. All the litigation revolves around educators who never wanted any part of a union, but were forced to pay “agency fees” – about two-thirds of a full dues payment – because the union-friendly law in 22 states said they had to. One of the California cases is typical, where six current and former teachers allege that despite refusing to join the union because they disapproved of its political advocacy and collective-bargaining activities, they were still forced to pay a fee to the California Teachers Association as a condition of employment.

And it’s not just the teachers unions that are under fire. Hamidi et al v. SEIU Local 1000, filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (which litigated the Janus case) could force the union to refund money taken from 40,000 California state workers dating back to 2012. The money had been seized from employees who wanted to have no union involvement but were forced to pay some money to them nevertheless. The lawsuit, which includes suing for return of the forced dues payments as well as for compensatory damages, could cost the union $100 million.

While the Janus ruling ended Abood, the door has opened to a new world in which unions are desperately trying to recapture their former status as a very special interest. But at the same time, workers are fed up with union privilege and are determined to fight to get monies forcibly taken from them by an organization they never wanted any part of.

The wheel is in spin and will remain in motion for some time to come.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Public-Employee Unions Maintain a Privileged Status

School union protestAs a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, teachers and other public employees in 22 states can no longer be compelled to pay “agency fees”—the money that the union claims it costs to represent them—as a condition of employment. A teacher in newly liberated California can now save $1,100 or $1,200 per year in fees that the union claimed were necessary to cover the cost of representing him in collective bargaining.

Unions are preparing to take a hit. In advance of the decision, which was widely expected, the California Teachers Association projected a loss of 23,000 members. The union also figures to lose revenue from 28,000 non-members who had quit the union but were forced to cough up the agency fees. In order to soften the financial blow, CTA has announced a per-teacher dues hike of $23 a year for the 2018-2019 school year, bringing teachers’ state dues to $700 annually. CTA’s parent, the National Education Association, bracing for a 10 percent loss in membership, is slashing its budget by $50 million and raising its per-teacher share of dues from $189 to $192.

But while teachers and other public employees are off the unions’ hook, the rest of us Californians are still paying. Taxpayers foot the bill for the collection of union dues, which local school districts deduct from a teacher’s monthly paycheck, just like federal and state withholding taxes. The school districts turn the money over to local teachers’ unions, which don’t pay a penny for the transactions. Simply put, the taxpayer is the bagman for the union. Some states are pushing back, however. A proposed bill in Louisiana would allow school boards to charge unions an administrative fee of up to 3 percent of the union dues.

That’s a start, but public unions remain financially formidable. All unions enjoy tax-exempt status with the IRS. The NEA took in $365.8 million in 2015, according to its most recent available tax return—just about all of it coming from taxpayer-supported teachers’ salaries. The CTA’s income was $183.1 million, per its latest return. In total, the NEA and its state affiliates take in about $1.6 billiona year in tax-free money, and that doesn’t include money paid to NEA locals, the American Federation of Teachers and its affiliates, or AFSCME, SEIU, and all the other public-employee unions. The numbers are staggering, and will remain so. The irony is that these unions persistently use their taxpayer-paid, tax-free money to lobby legislators to raise taxes.

To add insult to injury, a new bill in California would make union dues tax-deductible. “Californians, in effect, will collectively subsidize union dues,” reports the Pacific Research Institute. “The bill would cost taxpayers $250 million the first year, $170 million in 2019-20, and $180 million in 2020-21.” The bill has passed muster in the state assembly and is on its way to becoming law. On an ongoing mission to kill off charter schools and voucher programs, the teachers’ unions rail against “privatizers” who seek to profit from public education. But when it comes to a private entity making a killing from public education, the teachers’ unions have the market cornered.

Before, during, and after the Janus proceedings, public unions pumped out a steady stream of clichés, claiming that the court case represented an attempt to “rig the system,” “rig the economy,” and “rig the rules.” But what the Janusdecision really did was to bring a semblance of fairness to a system that the unions have been gaming for years. Now that Janus has freed public employees from union domination, taxpayers in California and elsewhere need emancipation from the same abusive special interest.

California Farm Workers Fight Their Union — and the State — in Court

Gerawan FarmingIn 2012, Dan Gerawan received a message from the United Farm Workers (UFW). The essence of the message, Gerawan tells National Review, was simple: We’re back. Gerawan, whose family owns and operates Gerawan Farming — a farm based in northern California that grows peaches and nectarines and employs more than 5,000 people — was confused. In 1992, Gerawan Farming employees indeed had decided to certify UFW as their bargaining representative. But since that election, UFW had been effectively absent: It never negotiated a contract between the company and its workers, and the only bargaining session, which was held in 1995, went nowhere. In the intervening 17 years, there had been zero contact between the union and management.

After receiving the UFW’s message, Gerawan entered his company into negotiations with the union. These hit a snag after just three months, however, when the union invoked California’s Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) law — a provision of the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act that creates a third-party arbitrator for union disputes: the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB).

Not long after the union invoked MMC, a group of Gerawan employees petitioned for an election to decertify it as their representative. Shorn of context, this might seem an unusual step for a group of farm hands to take. It’s no secret that agricultural workers in California tend to be Latino, occupy a dubious legal status, and earn compensation that pales in comparison with that of their employers. Life in 21st-century California recently has been compared to life in the sci-fi movie Elysium, in which earthbound laborers toil away as their plutocratic overlords luxuriate in low-Earth orbit; one might expect Gerawan workers to fight for representation to avoid such a fate.

The results of this election are set to become public in the coming weeks — but only after five years of bitterly contested legal battles, a bizarre turn of the ALRB from neutral mediator to active defender of the UFW, and several large-scale protests held by Gerawan employees to demand that their votes be counted. This is the rare labor dispute in which labor and management are fighting a common foe: the state of California’s byzantine legal regime.

UFW challenged the decertification push almost as soon as it began. It does not boggle the mind that a majority of workers would want to cast off the union — especially given that its numbers had been dwindling for years before it reached out to Gerawan, and that it opened negotiations by demanding that workers contribute 3 percent of their paychecks in dues. UFW accused Gerawan management of illegally instigating the push for decertification and forging signatures on the initial petition. At the time, an attorney for Gerawan employee Sylvia Lopez suggested that UFW supporters had deliberately forged the signatures to tank the decertification push — a charge Gerawan told National Review was more plausible than it seemed.

The ALRB, however, consistently came down on the side of the union. It disallowed the initial petition filed by employees to hold a decertification election. When a second petition was filed, it challenged that as well. When the election was finally held, it suppressed the results. …

Click here to read the full article from the National Review

A Catalog of California’s Anti-Janus Legislation    

School union protestNo state in America is as firmly in the grip of public sector unions as California. For nearly 20 years, they have exercised nearly absolute power in the state Legislature. Over the past few years, as they have slipped in and out of having a two-thirds majority, and often with the help of a few Republican legislators, they have been able to pass legislation at will, sometimes within days.

Government union power in California derives from their ability to automatically collect over $1 billion per year in dues from payroll departments of state and local agencies, combined with their ability to compel well over 1 million state and local government employees working within any of their over 6,000 bargaining units to pay these union dues.

While it is legally possible for these government employees to opt out of formal union membership and only pay so-called “agency fees,” the process to opt-out is deliberately rendered tedious and intimidating, and in any case agency fees usually are around 80% of the total dues.

The Janus vs. AFSCME case threatens public sector union power in California and dozens of other states, because, depending on the ruling, it may permit public employees to opt-out of paying any dues at all, including agency fees. But if unions made it difficult and intimidating for government employees to opt-out of paying the full union dues, i.e., if they made it difficult for these employees to get a 20% discount, imagine how difficult they’re going to make it for employees to get a 100% discount.

What the unions can do in Sacramento changes every day. But insofar as a Janus ruling could come down from the U.S. Supreme Court any day, it is appropriate to delve into a bit of wonkiness, and list every recently enacted and pending law, backed by unions, that California’s legislature is compliantly handing down in order to thwart the intent of the Janus plaintiffs.

CALIFORNIA’S ENACTED ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION

AB-83 Collective bargaining: Judicial Council – enacted

This bill permits unionization of Judicial Council staff, something previously off-limits. Here’s what they do, quoted from their website: “The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts, the largest court system in the nation. Under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution, the council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice. Judicial Council staff implements the council’s policies (italics added).” Unionized judicial council staff – what could possibly go wrong?

SB-201 Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act: employees – enacted

This bill permits students who have jobs at the schools they attend to unionize. This will, of course, allow the unions to collect their cut from yet another category of public payroll, but it will also offer them another avenue to indoctrinate students, since they aren’t already getting enough indoctrination from our public schools and universities.

SB-285 Public employers: union organizing – enacted

This goes straight at the heart of Janus. Layering on top of existing federal law but making it even more explicit and restrictive, this bill would prohibit a public employer from deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization. Employers are already forced to be extremely careful how they communicate the pros and cons of unionization, but now they’ll be even more hamstrung, while the unions have full access to employees to argue and advocate their position. Worse, this bill would grant the Public Employment Relations Board jurisdiction over alleged violations of its provisions instead of the courts. This board, PERB for short (see footnotes; “PERB Board”), is stacked with labor activists and is very unlikely to ever rule in favor of a public employer vs. a union.

SB-550 Public school employment: meeting and negotiating: legal actions: settlement offer: attorney’s fees – enacted

In this law, from now on, if a union makes an offer to settle a dispute alleging an employer’s failure to provide wages, benefits, or working conditions, and if the employer does not accept the offer and fails to obtain a more favorable judgment, the employer must pay the union’s attorney’s fees and expenses incurred after the offer was made. Note this “loser pays” provision only applies to the employer, not the union. This legislation puts tremendous pressure on agencies to agree to union demands in order to avoid court, especially those smaller agencies, cities and counties that don’t have deep pockets like the unions.

CALIFORNIA’S PENDING ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION

AB-1937 Public employment: payroll deductions – passed Assembly

This bill appears to be designed to prevent local jurisdictions from enacting measures that might expedite an individual employee’s decision to stop paying union dues. Reading through the introductory text of the bill, here is a key excerpt: “…the bill would authorize employee organizations and bona fide associations to request payroll deductions and would require public employers to honor these requests. The bill would authorize public employers to make rules and regulations for the administration of specified payroll deductions, subject to meeting and conferring with the applicable employee organizations.” Notice that it is the union, not the employee, who will notify the employer to start dues deductions, and notice that any rules the employer may wish to apply to the administration of union dues deductions has to be cleared (meet and confer) with the union.

AB-2017 Public employers: employee organizations – passed Assembly

Similar to SB 285, This bill broadens the definition of employer to “those employers of excluded supervisory employees and judicial council employees.” It then “prohibits a public employer from deterring or discouraging prospective public employees, as defined, from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.” The operative words are discourage and deter, which can be quite broadly interpreted. For example, even an employer stating that an employee does not have to join a union might “deter” them from doing so. The intent of this bill is to deter employers from saying anything to employees about unionization, with no such restrictions on the unions.

AB-2049 Classified school and community college employees: payroll deductions for employee organization dues – passed Assembly

Similar to AB 1937, but even more explicit, “this bill would authorize school districts and community colleges to rely on labor unions when determining whether a request to discontinue payroll deductions for union dues is in conformity with the requirements established in the initial payroll deduction authorization.” The intent is to make it harder to get out of paying union dues by adding layers of union bureaucracy to the process.

Concurrent with ensuring the union, and not the agency, has the final say in suspending dues withholding, the unions are revising these “initial payroll deduction authorizations.”

Take a look at this photo of a union contract (below). Note how it states “this authorization shall renew annually, irrespective of my membership status,” and “a revocation must be mailed… postmarked between 75 days and 45 days before such annual renewal date.” There are at least two gotchas here. First, automatic renewal of payroll deductions “irrespective of membership status” means that someone wanting to stop paying union dues has to opt out every year. Second, if they neglect to opt-out, via mail within the exact window of time and in advance of the automatic renewal, they will have to pay dues for another year.

No wonder the unions want themselves, and not the agency, to have the ability to say whether dues will stop being withheld. In any city or county with local elected officials willing to stand up to their unions (admittedly a rare occasion), ordinances could be passed allowing an employee to simply inform their payroll department that they don’t want to pay union dues. That will be impossible under these laws.

The Hotel California Contract – You Can Check In, But Checking Out…

AB-2886 Public Employee Relations Board: Orange County Transportation Authority: San Joaquin Regional Transit District – passed Assembly

Because the above named agencies were not previously required to resolve labor disputes using the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), this bill changes that so they will have to use PERB. By moving the dispute resolution process out of the courts and instead putting them under the jurisdiction of PERB, the unions improve the probability of winning these disputes.

AB-3034 Public transit employer-employee relations: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District – passed Assembly

This bill, similar in concept to AB 83 and SB 201, allows the unions to collect their cut from yet another category of public payroll, in this case BART supervisors, by allowing them to unionize.

SUMMARY OF ANTI-JANUS LEGISLATION

So in response to Janus, California’s unions representing public servants are doing the following:

1 – Expanding the pool of public employees eligible to join unions – AB 83, SB 201, and AB 3034

2 – Making it difficult, if not impossible, for employers to discuss the pros and cons of unionization with employees – SB 285 and AB-2017

3 – Precluding local governments from unilaterally honoring employee requests to stop paying union dues – AB 1937 and AB-2049

4 – Making employers pay union legal fees if they lose in litigation but not making unions pay employer costs if the unions lose – SB 550

5 – Moving the venue for dispute resolution from the courts to PERB, which is stacked with pro-union board members – SB 284 and AB 2886

This catalog of countermeasures to Janus is undoubtedly incomplete. A few enacted in 2017 have probably slipped under our radar, and there will be many more crafted in the coming months and years, especially if there is a strong ruling in favor of the plaintiff. But California’s unions have been doing this for years. Whether it’s charter schools, “release time,” transparency in government, charter cities, public education reform, budget and tax issues, project labor agreements, or pension reform, the agenda of the union always comes first in Sacramento.

When it comes to protecting the government union agenda in California, pro-union legislation is fast and furious, belying the more common political reality of gridlock.

*   *   *

FOOTNOTES

California’s Public Employment Relations Board – 2018, at least 3-2 stacked for unions 

The three:

  • Arthur A. Krantz “represented unions, employees and nonprofits in litigation, arbitration and administrative cases, and he worked on law reform, organizing, negotiation, and strategic campaigns to effect social change. Krantz did this work as an associate and partner at Leonard Carder, LLP.” San Francisco based Leonard Carder, LLP‘s home page states: “As one of the oldest and most renowned law firms representing labor unions and employees, Leonard Carder’s focus is to provide top-flight legal representation to the labor movement.”
  • Priscilla Winslow‘s “career in public sector labor law spans over 30 years, during which time she served for 15 years as Assistant Chief Counsel for the California Teachers Association where she litigated and advised on a variety of labor, education, and constitutional law issues.”
  • Eric Banks “served in multiple positions at the Service Employees International Union, Local 221 from 2001 to 2013, including Advisor to the President, President, and Director of Government and Community Relations.”

The other two:

  • Erich Shiners: “Prior to his service on the Board, Erich Shiners represented and advised public agency employers in labor and employment matters, including many cases before PERB. Most recently he was Senior Counsel at Liebert Cassidy Whitmore.” Liebert Cassidy Whitmore represents itself as California’s preeminent public management employment law firm with over 80 attorneys in five offices.
  • Mark C. Gregersen‘s “career in public sector labor relations spans over 35 years. Prior to his appointment to the California Public Employment Relations Board, he has served as director of labor and work force strategy for the City of Sacramento and director of human resources for a number of California cities and counties.”

REFERENCES

Funding the Post-Janus Fight Against Government Unions, May 2018

Janus vs AFSCME Ruling Imminent – What will Change?, May 2018

A Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions, February 2018

After Janus, Will Union Grassroots Members Assert their Political Voice?, December 2017

How Can Local Officials Prepare for the Upcoming Janus vs AFSCME Ruling?, October 2017

In Sacramento, Democrats are run by the unions

Unions2June 6 marks the 40th anniversary of voters’ overwhelming approval of Proposition 13, which has been protecting all California taxpayers ever since.

Some people mistakenly think Prop. 13 protects only homeowners, because it cut the property tax rate statewide to 1 percent and put a stop to uncontrolled increases in assessed value. But it did something else, too. It required voter approval of local tax increases and set the threshold for approval of special taxes at a two-thirds vote.

For 40 years, big-spending politicians have been looking for loopholes.

Take parcel taxes, for example. A parcel tax sounds like a tax on UPS deliveries, but it isn’t. It’s a tax on real estate parcels. Under Prop. 13, politicians can’t raise property taxes that are based on the value of property, but they figured out that they could add a flat tax to property tax bills if it wasn’t based on value.

Under Prop. 13, two-thirds of voters have to be convinced to approve parcel taxes.

Politicians figured out that the two-thirds threshold would be easier to reach if they exempted a lot of people from having to pay the tax. Certainly people who won’t have to pay a tax are more likely to vote for it. And politicians who vote for the exemptions can say they voted for a tax break, even though they were raising taxes at the time.

An example of this was the Legislature’s action in 2008 to exempt people on Social Security Disability from paying education parcel taxes. HJTA opposed this bill because it undermined the two-thirds vote requirement for parcel taxes established under Prop. 13. The more classes of people who are exempted, the more the two-thirds vote will be watered down, and the easier it is to raise taxes.

Taxpayers are hit twice by the exemption trick. Taxes are raised more often, but the exemptions mean the government receives less revenue. So the likelihood of other taxes being raised to make up the difference in the future is that much greater.

But when something is working for the politicians, it tends to stick around.

Politicians love picking winners and losers.  It means power over the lives of others and provides a great source of campaign contributions.

The “progressive” legislators who control California’s government favor government employee union organizations — the most powerful force in Sacramento. Every favor granted to public sector unions is a transfer of wealth from taxpayers and the private sector to government employees and the public sector.

Right now, the Legislature is considering a bill that would exempt teachers and education support staff from paying education parcel taxes. Senate Bill 958, which has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly, was initially a statewide proposal but has been narrowed to target only the Davis Joint Unified School District in Yolo County.

For now. …

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Janus vs AFSCME Ruling Imminent – What Will Change?

Supreme CourtIn February 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus vs. AFSCME, a case that challenges the ability of public sector unions to compel public employees to pay agency fees. While public sector employees currently have the ability to opt-out of paying that portion of union dues that are used for political activities, they still have to pay agency fees. This is based on the presumption that all members of a bargaining unit benefit from union negotiations with management, therefore all of them should pay those costs.

The Janus case argues that in the public sector, even these negotiations are inherently political and therefore it would be a violation of the right to free speech to compel any employee to help pay for them. The Supreme Court appears likely to agree. In an unrelated case also affecting unions, this week the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled in favor of employers, affirming that “employers have the right to insist that labor disputes get resolved individually, rather than allowing workers to join together in class-action lawsuits.” The majority opinion was written by newly appointed Justice Gorsuch, reinforcing hopes that he will rule for the plaintiffs in the Janus case.

But will making agency fees optional result in dramatic change?

The potential is there for dramatic change, because as of 2017, 7.2 million government workers belong to a union. Their total membership nearly equals the total membership of private sector unions, 7.6 million, despite federal, state and local government workers only comprising about 17% of the U.S. workforce. In California, state and local government unions are estimated to collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year.

Clearly, a ruling for the plaintiffs in the Janus case will cause a reduction in public sector union dues revenue. If public employees are no longer compelled to pay agency fees, some of them will stop paying them. But how many will stop paying?

study released this month by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (IEPI) – which based on the composition of its board of directors appears to be sympathetic to unions – estimates that 726,000 public sector union members will no longer pay dues, a drop of around 10%. IEPI’s study also estimates that in California, public sector union membership will decline by 189,000, dropping from an estimated 1,235,000 members in 2017 down to 1,046,000 members. But will California’s public sector union membership really drop by 18%, taking nearly $200 million out of their annual collections?

Other data does support the 18% figure, even indicating it could be higher. A 2018 national survey released by the center-left organization Educators for Excellence posed several questions to teachers on the topic of union membership. For example, when asked “If you were not automatically enrolled into your union membership, how likely would you be in the coming year to actively opt in?” there were only 60% who were “very likely” to opt-in, and only another 22% who were “somewhat likely.”

The survey also asked non-union members – those members who have opted out of paying the political portion of their dues, but still pay agency fees – “If you could, how likely would you be to opt-out of paying agency fees to a union” there were 36% who were “very likely” to opt-out, and another 25% who were “somewhat likely.” How do these responses translate into lost revenue?

According to UnionStats.com, only about 6% of California’s public sector employees who are part of collective bargaining units have opted to become non-members, i.e., only paying the agency fees. Crunching these variables is problematic. Are the e4e national survey results representative of California? Are the responses by teachers in the e4e survey representative of public employees in other sectors? Nonetheless, the e4e survey results do suggest the revenue loss to public sector unions could be greater than the amount predicted by the IEPI study.

For example, if you assume that all of California’s public sector members who were “very likely” to opt out of union membership did so, and half of those who were “somewhat likely” to opt out did so, and if you made a similar set of assumptions based on the survey responses of the non-union members who were employed within collective bargaining units, you would see a public sector union membership in California decline by 320,000, a decline of 26%, from an estimated 1,235,000 members to 915,000 members.

The biggest unknown is the details of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. While all indications so far are that the ruling will be in favor of Janus, what remedies will result? A huge variable will be which party will have to take the initiative. That is, will employees have to approach the unions and request to opt-out of membership, or will the unions have to approach the employees and request them to opt-in to membership? Another huge variable will be how often the opportunity to change membership status be offered. No matter whether union membership is based on employees getting to opt-in or having to opt-out, when will they do that? Once per year, within narrowly specified dates, or perpetually at any time? It is likely the ruling will leave many of these details up to the individual states to decide.

Which brings us back to California, with a state legislature that is a wholly owned subsidiary of public sector unions. As noted in detail (with links to the relevant legislation) in the CLEO policy brief “How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling,” California’s state legislature has been working overtime to circumvent the anticipated Janus decision. In summary:

“So how are the unions preparing for the Janus ruling? By (1) making sure the union operatives get to new employees as soon as they begin working, (2) by preventing agency employers from saying anything to deter new employees from joining the unions, and (3) by preventing anyone else from getting the official agency emails for new employees in order to inform them of their rights to not join a union.”

Public sector employees face a difficult choice. They can accept union representation, knowing that in most cases this results in their receiving over-market pay and benefits, or they can reject union representation, knowing that the agenda of public sector unions is almost always in opposition to the public interest. That’s not easy.

What must be easy, however, is for public employees to have access to whatever information is needed to withdraw from public sector union membership. This way, those who wish to stay true to the ideals of public service can put the interests of the public in front of their personal interests, by knowing how to jump through through whatever bureaucratic hoops the unions and the state legislature may put in their way.

This case constitutes a new challenge for those who oppose public sector unions. Making sure that to whatever extent the Janus ruling liberates public sector employees from the grip of public sector unions, those public employees will know how to realize their freedom, quitting those unions, putting the citizens they serve in front of themselves.

The Janus decision is expected by June 30th, if not sooner.

Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016. 

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REFERENCES

UnionStats.com – Ref. “Union Membership, Coverage, Density, and Employment by State and Sector, 1983-2017”

California’s Government Unions Collect $1.0 Billion Per Year – CPC Analysis, May 2015

Understanding the Financial Disclosure Requirements of Public Sector Unions– CPC Study, June 2012

How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling – CLEO Policy Brief, October 2018