Stopping Taxpayer Funded Unions

When fiscal conservatives run for office, or fiscally conservative initiatives are put onto the ballot, the candidates and proponents have to go out and ask for money to finance their campaigns. But in the case of public sector unions, who overwhelmingly support fiscally liberal, big government programs, and consistently oppose attempts to shrink the size of government, this is not the case. In California, for example, every year these unions automatically collect literally hundreds of millions in dues from unionized state and city workers, which they can use to engage in partisan political activity. In California, ever since 1977, when legislation was enacted to permit collective bargaining by public sector employees, unions have become increasingly involved in influencing public issues and policy. It has now reached the point where public sector unions exercise nearly absolute control over California’s state government, and most of California’s local government entities.

One would think workers in the public sector would object to unions who purport to represent them using their money to pursue a big government agenda that has now put public entities into such a financial crisis that they face furloughs and layoffs. One would think government workers would question why their taxes and fees are automatically and involuntarily siphoned into the coffers of union leaders who use the money to control elections and set the agenda for government. And this is particularly true when these unions financially support – using their money – a liberal agenda that not all public employees necessarily support as individual voters.

Despite the fact that California’s electorate splits almost exactly three ways, with about 35% usually voting Democrat, 33% claiming they are independents, and 29% identifying themselves as Republican, public sector unions overwhelmingly pursue a big government agenda. In practice, this means public sector unions have backed Democratic candidates to the point where California’s legislature is on the verge of having a new tax-enabling 2/3rds Democratic majority – and the political survival of these big-government Democrats depends on receiving union money – taxpayer’s money – for their campaigns. Do you think you are taxed enough already? If so, you are of an opinion contrary to the public sector unions, who are using your taxes to advance a political agenda that requires even higher taxes, and who relentlessly and successfully back policies to further expand government.

The result of public sector unions taking control of California’s government are predictable – removed from the necessity to please customers and sell products and make profits, necessities that compel unions in the private sector to exercise restraint in their demands on management – public sector unions have pursued an agenda of government expansion that has now left every public entity in California teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Ordinary taxpaying workers in the private sector have been left behind in this extravagant joy ride, as the costs to pay for needlessly expanded government programs and the costs to business to comply with over-reaching regulations have increased the cost of living at the same time as they have reduced the ability of private sector business to provide workers good jobs and regular raises.

Private sector workers in California have been slow to awaken to the financial disaster wrought by out of control unions, as has the press, because they were bamboozled and betrayed by politicians whose political survival depends on campaign funds supplied by public sector unions. The financial clout of public sector unions is unparalleled, with millions of members who are each required to pay several hundred dollars per year in union dues, these unions can make or break any politician they want in the state of California. During Schwarzenegger’s unsuccessful “year of reform,” in the fall of 2005, public sector unions spent over $50 million to defeat just one of Schwarzenegger’s reform initiatives, the one that would have required public sector unions to obtain employee consent before using their dues to conduct political activity.

In spite of the fact that public sector unions can usually outspend their opponents by margins of ten to one or more, however, recent polls indicate the level of understanding of the arrogance and overreach of public sector unions is much higher among voters today compared to 2005. Public employees as well realize the unfairness of seeing their dues diverted to agendas that clearly serve the agenda of the union leadership, instead of the broader interests of society, or their own values. A perfect example is the antics of California’s teachers union, who have imposed crippling constraints on the ability of administrators to reward excellent teachers and dismiss incompetent ones, and have consistently opposed efforts to establish charter schools despite the fact they deliver outstanding educational results. And what has happened to California’s public schools has happened throughout California’s government bureaucracies, thanks to public sector unions.

In November 2010 there will be several reform initiatives on California’s ballot, and one of them aims to begin to rein in the influence of public employee unions. The Citizen Power Initiative will limit the ability of public sector unions to collect a portion of worker’s tax payments, through mandatory union dues assessed on public employees, to pursue their big government political agenda. If this initiative qualifies for the November ballot, expect unions to spend whatever it takes to defeat its passage. But this time around, with workers barely able to pay the many taxes and fees they already suffer, it will be a harder for the unions to use their money to confuse the issues, and derail genuine reform at last.

The initiative has already been cleared for circulation by the California Secretary of State.

Here is the title and summary, which provides a pretty good description of what this initiative will accomplish, if passed:

1403. (09-0054)

Makes Illegal the Use of Public Employee Wage Deductions for Political Activities. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Summary Date: 12/04/09 | Circulation Deadline: 05/03/10 | Signatures Required: 694,354

Proponents: Mark W. Bucher, Dawn M. Wildman, Allan R. Mansoor, Lawrence D. Sand, and Mark J. Meckler (714) 573-2201

Amends the California Constitution to make it illegal to deduct from wages or earnings of a public employee any amount that will be used for political activities as defined. Prohibits any membership organization that receives public employee wage deductions from using those funds for any political activities, but does not apply to deductions for charitable organizations, health, life or disability insurance, or other purposes directly benefitting the public employee. Authorizes the Legislature and Fair Political Practices Commission to adopt related laws and regulations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Probably minor state and local government implementation costs, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines and/or fees. (09-0054.)

You can also read the title and summary (scroll down to #1403) here:

The full text can be found here:

The signature petition is here:

A one-page fact sheet on this initiative is here:

The website for the campaign promoting this initiative is here:

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3 comments to Stopping Taxpayer Funded Unions

  • Bull

    Unions (especially Public Sector ones) are the scum of the earth.

  • Editor

    When you become well familiar with the antics of unions, especially public sector unions, it is easy to become extremely frustrated. But please remember a lot of the people in these unions are themselves not pleased with the agenda their unions pursue, yet they are required by law to belong to them. Also, many union leaders are realizing they have gone too far an created and inequitable system, with unsustainable finances and counterproductive work-rules. Change and reform may come from within unions as well as from outside pressure. For this reason, it is probably worthwhile to stop short of using the S word. Your anger is justified, however.

  • Jody

    I think the ONLY way to ‘balance’ the union’s running of California (into the ground!) is to revise the “fair share” or “agency fee” factor, to permit VOLUNTARY DUES and voluntary union membership.

    For example, I would be interested to know the numbers, say at the UC system, of union members vs agency fee or fair share payers – who pay reduced union dues (but still about 98%) and forgo ‘membership’ – however, the union still gets the money – which is their primary concern anyway.

    Meanwhile, ‘agency fee’ payers are not (really) represented – no place at the bargaining table. I know because I am one. Management cannot ‘talk’ to me – because I’m in a represented group; however, when I broach my ideas with the union, I am lambasted because I’m not in line with their ‘agenda’. So, I go along paying – not only paying for nothing – but I’m MIS-REPRESENTED!! And muted; I have no voice!!

    And PERB is not on my side either!! A recent example are the UC furloughs. UC offered the most flexible, and as a result complex to administer, furlough program one could imagine. It is tiered by salary (higher salaries are furloughed ‘progressively’ higher percents, furlough ‘leave’ can be used flexibly, and furloughs don’t reduce benefits accruals, etc). BUT – the unions ALL objected and did not permit represented employees to participate. We were (almost) left with the University’s next best option – consecutive-day temp layoffs, which would have meant 12 to 15+ lay off periods without pay, benefits, etc. The unions FINALLY conceded, not to the University’s plan, but to a 99% the same plan (they could not bear to be seen as agreeing with the University program). This just days before the ‘last minute’.

    Meanwhile, I contacted PERB to vent this detrimental and unfair treatment. However, PERB, whose mission is to address unfair practices — said that my detriment did not fall within PERB guidelines. (I suggest PERB change the mission statement to reflect the truth – it is to address legal technicalities!!)

    There are other states who have not concurred with “agency fee” or “fair share” unionization tactics. And, I hope we look into those options SOON!!

    CA Unions should run for governor (if they were brave enough to put their name on anything), because ‘unions’ do (in)effectively govern California!!