To declare that union reform, public sector union reform in particular, is a nonpartisan cause, is certain to attract vociferous challenges from defenders of unions, but events continue to trump ideology.
As documented in an earlier post “The Democratic Party War,” even in California, a state where public sector unions wield nearly absolute control, there are increasing numbers of prominent democrats who are standing up to the unions. They include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former State Senator Gloria Romero, President of the California NAACP Alice Huffman, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, and Matt Gonzalez, former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. From education reform to pension rollbacks, Democrats are lining up to make hard choices in California, staring down union power in the process.
A series of similar reality checks are happening all over the United States, as Democrats realize the agenda of public sector unions is often in direct conflict with their ability to fund government programs and infrastructure projects. As reported in the New York Times earlier this week in an article entitled “Cuomo Secures Big Givebacks in Union Deal,” a democratic governor in a union stronghold is making tough decisions in an attempt to restore budget solvency. As reported on June 21st on the website “Intercepts,” in a post entitled “Rage Against the Machine,” Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey have joined with Republican Governor Christie to require public employees to contribute more to their own pensions and health care premiums, and Rahm Emanuel, the newly elected Democratic Mayor of Chicago, has canceled cost of living increases for the public school teachers in that city. None of this sits well with public sector unions. And none of this would be happening without Democratic lawmakers.
Another nonpartisan phenomenon gathering momentum is the willingness of major news organizations to editorialize in favor of public sector union reform. In California, the Los Angeles Times, of all newspapers, just published an editorial entitled “‘Card check’ empowers unions, not union workers,” in reference to a bill recently passed by the California legislature. And in California’s capitol city, the liberal Sacramento Bee recently editorialized that “Union concessions are city’s only hope,” referring to the fact that the city of Sacramento cannot hope to balance its budget without reducing the over-market pay and benefits afforded their public workforce.
As documented in our post “Is Union Reform Partisan,” fully 95% of political contributions by unions over the past 10 years in America have gone to democratic lawmakers. But increasingly, democratic lawmakers are realizing they must stand up to the union agenda. This is testimony to the fact that public sector unions have clearly overreached, and that politicians of both parties now realize this. That even democrats, who stand to lose their primary source of funding, are beginning to enact public sector union reform, is a most hopeful sign.