How California Lawmakers Embraced Hot Labor Summer

The hot labor summer was scorching at California’s Capitol.

As the legislative session wrapped Thursday night, unions could point to an impressive string of wins this year, some of which only surfaced in the past few weeks: Bills to increase the number of guaranteed sick days, raise the minimum wage for health care and fast food workers, allow legislative staff to unionize and make striking employees eligible for unemployment insurance, a benefit long on labor’s wish list.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom could still veto some of the measures over the next month, organized labor’s overwhelming victories — notable even in a Legislature stacked with union-friendly Democrats — caught the attention of both allies and opponents. One Republican senator complained on the floor that “the fourth branch of government in this Capitol building has a little bit too much power this year.”

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, head of the California Labor Federation, said unions have worked over the past few years, as a large portion of the Legislature turned over, to elect new members with a strong track record of championing workers’ rights. That paid off this session, as major strikes across the country powered a surging public interest in the labor movement and helped unions push through a “really heavy agenda” in Sacramento.

“The legislators are representatives of the people, right, and they see what we see. And that’s that unions are exceptionally strong right now. They’re exceptionally popular among their constituents,” said Gonzalez Fletcher, a former Assemblymember. “I don’t think anyone wants to be on the opposite side of that right now.”

But it’s also a prelude to a looming electoral battle with the business community over taxation.

Several of the late-breaking measures pushed by organized labor, including a proposed constitutional amendment that would set new rules for changing tax law, were aimed at least in part at boosting their campaign to defeat a November 2024 ballot initiative that would make it more challenging to raise taxes.

“Everything that is taking place is to be able to shape the ballot,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, which sponsored the initiative. “We see it as a sign of desperation. They’re willing to say and do anything, including amend the constitution.”

Labor advocates stress that their success is not by chance, but the culmination of a decade of increased activism.

Wins elsewhere — such as the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign that began in New York City in 2012 — encouraged California workers to take on more ambitious fights, said Mike Roth, spokesperson for the California chapter of the Service Employees International Union, one of the state’s biggest and most powerful labor organizations. 

“When workers see and feel the power they create by coming together, they are inspired to push higher and broader,” Roth said.

Those ambitious fights are backed up by serious muscle at the Capitol. SEIU California, for example, was among the top lobbyist employers in the first half of year — it spent nearly $2.3 million on advocacy, ranking sixth for the period — though it was surpassed by some of its industry opponents, including McDonald’s, which spent more than $4.2 million on lobbying, and the California Business Roundtable, which spent $2.3 million.

Major labor measures that passed the Legislature this session, and which Newsom now has until Oct. 14 to sign or veto, include:

Unions also negotiated two last-minute deals with industry groups to avert ballot fights that could have cost tens of millions of dollars or more. AB 1228 by Assemblymember Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, would boost wages for fast food workers in exchange for backing off a proposal to hold corporations liable for their franchisees’ labor violations. The industry plans to withdraw a November 2024 referendum challenging a recent law that created a new regulatory council for fast food restaurants. SB 525 by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat, would hike the hourly wage for health workers to $25, but place a 10-year moratorium on local measures to increase compensation.

“I think we’re responding to the abnormal economic situations of Californians,” said Durazo, citing the pandemic turmoil, high inflation, expanding gig economy and growing wage inequality of recent years. “That’s all we’re trying to do, is help people catch up.”

Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat who leads the Assembly Labor Committee, credited the leadership of new Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and his team for making labor legislation a priority and helping position it to pass. Rivas, a Salinas Democrat, took over the speakership this summer.

“It matters that the infrastructure is in place to get these bills across the finish line,” Kalra said. “The tough work was done before they got to the floor.”

That was a source of frustration and disappointment for Lapsley of the California Business Roundtable, who is now counting on the governor to “do the right thing and create some checks and balances by vetoing some of these bills.” 

He said Rivas had signaled at the start of his tenure that he would seek more of an equilibrium between workers’ rights and job growth. But “he seemed to embrace giving the labor groups everything they want,” Lapsley said. “It raises questions about what the future looks like for the statewide business community.”

Rivas called the union victories “a sign of the times… some challenging times for our state, and they’re counting on us to get the work done and deliver results.”

Legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed that progressive gains in recent elections have lifted organized labor’s prospects at the Capitol, though some expect that momentum will eventually swing back to the middle.

“There’s an ebb and flow to all these issues, and all of our politics,” said Sen. Steve Glazer, a moderate Democrat from Orinda who voted against the unemployment insurance bill. “These things all shift through the decades, and I think that they’ll continue to shift.”  

Sen. Roger Niello, a Roseville Republican, described the volume of labor bills this session as a “natural existence” of the Legislature, given that the Democrats who make up a supermajority tend to align with unions.

“If you look at past years, it’ll fluctuate,” he said. “But you’ll always see a lot of pro-labor bills.”

Though the hot labor summer gave unions a boost in public support for their agenda, another animating force behind the spurt of dealmaking and victories at the end of session is their mounting campaign to defeat a tax measure that the California Business Roundtable qualified for the November 2024 ballot.

That initiative, dubbed the Taxpayer Protection Act, would introduce several changes that make it more challenging to raise taxes in California, including a requirement for the Legislature to put any new or higher tax before voters for approval and another increasing the margin to pass a voter-initiated special tax at the local level, to two-thirds from a simple majority. Organized labor worries this would undermine funding for public services and infrastructure projects that employ union members.

“It was certainly leverage to get people unified and working together,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat.

The deals on minimum wage increases for fast food workers and health care workers cleared the deck so that unions can focus their political resources next year. And the late push for ACA 13 by Assemblymember Chris Ward, a San Diego Democrat, which will now appear on the November ballot, was aimed directly at the California Business Roundtable measure. ACA 13 would require that any changes to the threshold for approving state and local taxes pass by the same margin; if it wins, the Taxpayer Protection Act would then need to secure two-thirds support from voters rather than a simple majority, a high hurdle for a statewide measure.

“There’s a reason why the unions are doing this — because they’re scared to death,” said Lapsley, who complained that the maneuvering stole focus from other issues that should have been the priority at the end of session, including a failed effort to fix California’s collapsing market for homeowners insurance.

But Gonzalez Fletcher of the California Labor Federation argues that going through the Legislature is a more responsive process that results in better policy for workers.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California’s Firefighter Union Is Poised to Get a Rare Perk: Guaranteed Raises, Forever

California wildfire firefighters could be in for a big pay raise soon through a rare legislative move that would require the state to boost their salaries automatically, effectively cutting the governor’s office out of negotiations over their wages

For years, the California Department of Forestry and Protection – or Cal Fire – has been unable to compete with local departments that offer better salaries and in turn has been losing its members at an escalating pace, union leaders say. 

“We now have a world where you can work at Target and In-N-Out and make $22 an hour and our starting firefighter makes $15.56 an hour,” said Cal Fire Local 2881 president Tim Edwards. “Who’s gonna want to put their life on the line in a time where the state really needs firefighters when they can go work somewhere else and make more money?” 

Now, after several years of devastating wildfires, state lawmakers are advancing a bill that would lock in automatic pay increases for them. It would compel the state human resources department to calculate wage increases for the 8,000 or so state firefighters every year based on what other 20 local fire departments pay.

The bill would boost the salary for Cal Fire employees to within a 15% range of the top 20 highest-paying fire departments in California.

If the bill becomes law, the firefighter union would become just the second group of California public employees to gain automatic pay raises instead of having to bargain over wage increases with the governor’s office. 

The other is the union that represents California Highway Patrol officers. The CHP contract sets officers’ pay on a formula that accounts for wages at other large California police departments. It’s a lucrative perk. Last year, CHP officers received a 6.2% wage increase — the biggest they have seen in 20 years and more than double what Newsom gave to other public employee unions that year.

Lawmakers, including Republicans, say it’s time for Cal Fire to gain the same kind of wage guarantee.

“Cal Fire is one of the greatest public safety organizations, in my opinion, in the world,” said Assemblymember Heath Flora, a Republican from Ripon who sponsored the bill. 

“I really want the men and women in this state to be paid properly and for some reason we always felt like they’re overlooked. And I don’t really understand it,” said Flora, a former firefighter.

The bill is moving forward as the Newsom administration bargains with unions representing more than half of the state workforce, some of whom are demanding 30% raises. 

The firefighter pay bill passed through the Assembly and is now headed to the Senate appropriations committee with no opposition even as the state faces a projected $32 billion deficit

Cal Fire itself has not weighed in on the bill. Edwards, the union leader, said the department lost 10% of its firefighters last year.

California wildfires strain overworked crews

Cal Fire is the state’s largest fire department. It’s responsible for fighting wildfires, as well as protecting urban areas in several parts of the state. 

The intensity of wildfires in California is projected to worsen. The state saw its worst wildfire season on record in 2020, taking a toll on firefighters who spent weeks in the field.

The California Professional Firefighters, an umbrella union that represents some 30,000 firefighters, is lobbying for the pay bill. The union in a written statement to lawmakers said the risks of short staffing compounds the dangers that come with the line of work and “also presents long-term health impacts from extended exposure to toxic smoke with no respiratory protection as well as the negative repercussions for behavioral health from lack of sleep, overwork, and months on end spent away from family.”

“If I learned anything in the past decade, it’s that our wildfire season is absolutely out of control. It really never ends.” – ASSEMBLYMEMBER HEATH FLORA

The Cal Fire union in its most recent contract attempted to address difficult working conditions by bargaining for a schedule that would give its members a better work-life balance. Cal Fire firefighters usually work four 72-hour shifts each month. Local fire departments tend to operate on 54-hour shifts.

“If I learned anything in the past decade, it’s that our wildfire season is absolutely out of control. It really never ends,” Flora said.

Cal Fire fighter salaries lag 

If the bill passes, Cal Fire Local 2881 would still have to bargain with the governor over issues like discipline and working conditions. 

Cal Fire firefighters are paid through a complicated formula that accounts for their scheduled overtime hours. Their hourly wages are as low as minimum wage, but their take-home pay adds up through overtime and other compensation. 

The average monthly total compensation for a Cal Fire battalion chief was $29,697, according to a 2020 salary survey. That was about 40.7% below what 20 local fire departments of various sizes paid firefighters at that rank, the survey said.

Lower-ranking firefighters earned $19,288 monthly in total monthly compensation, which was 15.8% below what local departments paid. 

Outside of the Legislature, critics of public employee unions characterize the bill as a reckless giveaway to a powerful labor organization. 

“Firefighters are already among the best-paid government workers in the state,” said Will Swaim, president of California Policy Center, an advocacy group that is critical of California public employee unions. 

“No one else in California gets that deal,” he said.

Michael Genest, the former finance director under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,  also called promises of future raised “irresponsible.”

“Governors and legislators always regret having made such promises when our budget goes out of balance,” he wrote in an email. “The wise move is to make decisions about the allocation of state revenues each year and even then to be careful not to spend more on anything than is prudent.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Teachers’ Union Criticizes LAUSD Contract Offer That includes 19% Raise

LOS ANGELES — Negotiators with the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles met Thursday in an attempt to reach agreement on a new contract for the district’s teachers, psychologists, psychiatric social workers and counselors.

The district presented what it called “a historic offer,” with a 19% wage increase — 7% retroactive to July 1, a 7% increase on July 1 and 5% on July 1, 2024; an additional $20,000 increase for nurses; an additional $3,000 ongoing increase for school psychologists, psychiatric social workers, counselors and other special services providers; an additional $2,500 ongoing increase for special education teachers; and an additional $1,500 ongoing increase for early education teachers.

Arlene Inouye, a bargaining co-chair for UTLA, the union representing the district’s teachers, told City News Service, “the district’s current proposal still falls short of meeting our needs and the needs of our communities, but it is apparent that they are feeling the heat of actions taken by LAUSD workers in the past month, including the boycott of all afterschool faculty meetings that began this week.”

“Educators remain united in our demand that the district agree to all of the elements outlined in the Beyond Recovery Platform,” Inouye said.

The platform includes calls for salary increases for all educators and accelerated advancement to their highest salary; salaries for school nurses that are competitive with private sector positions and will allow the district to meet its current contractual obligation to provide a nurse in every school five days per week; greater pay equity and better working conditions for adult education, early education, state preschool and substitute educators.

The platform also calls for expanded compensation for extra duty work; expanded and increased differentials for advanced degrees, special education educators, bilingual and dual language educators, coordinators, counselors, and coaches; expanded access to salary points to incentivize individualized professional development; premium-free high-quality healthcare for all employees; paid planning and preparation time for elementary and early education program educators; structural support for members responsible for dependent care; and “targeted investment in the recruitment and retention of BIPOC educators and service providers,” referring to Black, Indigenous and people of color.

The district’s offer also includes a reduction of two students in all academic classes from transitional kindergarten through 12th grade and an additional counselor to provide college counseling in all high schools with 900 or more students.

The offer also includes staffing incentives for high-needs schools — an additional $7,500 stipend for national board certified teachers working in identified priority schools who agree to serve as demonstration teachers, up to $6,000 per year in stipends for teachers working in identified priority schools who earn district microcredentials in race and equity, equitable grading, English learners, early literacy and “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics); $2,000 per year for mental health support providers working in identified priority schools.

Click here to read the full article in LA Daily News

LAUSD Teachers, Staff to Go on Strike Tuesday, March 21

LOS ANGELES – A possible three-day strike that would force the closure of Los Angeles Unified School District schools will begin Tuesday, March 21 the Service Employees International Union Local 99 announced Wednesday evening at a rally in Grand Park.

The union representing roughly 30,000 cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and other workers declared an impasse in talks with the district and announced plans earlier this month to cancel its existing contract.

A new round of negotiations to attempt to avert the three-day strike is set to begin Friday with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho saying the district is prepared to improve its offer.

District officials said last week that Carvalho had made the Service Employees International Union Local 99 “one of the strongest offers ever proposed by a Los Angeles Unified superintendent.”

United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the district’s teachers and others, totaling another roughly 30,000 workers, said its members would honor picket lines if SEIU called a strike.

SEIU-represented workers voted in February to authorize the union to call a strike if negotiations failed.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said schools will temporarily close and warned parents to start talking now with their employers and child care providers.

“We would simply have no way of ensuring a safe and secure environment where teaching can take place,” Carvalho said. “We will give you as much advance notice as possible, but we encourage you to begin discussions with your employer, child care providers and others now.”

On Wednesday, thousands of LAUSD union workers gathered at downtown’s Grand Park for a rally, during which the Tuesday strike date was announced.

In the wake of the news announced at Wednesday’s rally, Carvalho said in a statement that, “SEIU is simply refusing to negotiate. With a historic offer on the table that was created in direct response to SEIU’s demands, and with additional resources still to be negotiated, it is deeply surprising and disappointing that there is an unwillingness to do so.

SEIU officials are asking for a 30% wage increase across the board, while UTLA has been pushing for a 20% raise. The unions have pointed to the district’s projected $4.9 billion reserve fund for 2022-23, while also citing rising inflation and housing costs.

“Workers are fed-up with living on poverty wages — and having their jobs threatened for demanding equitable pay. Workers are fed-up with the short staffing at LAUSD — and being harassed for speaking up,” Max Arais, SEIU Local 99 executive director, said in a statement last week. “We demand that LAUSD stop the unlawful activity, or workers are ready to take stronger action to protest these unfair practices. Canceling our contract is not a decision we make lightly. But it’s clear that LAUSD does not respect or value the work of essential workers in our schools.”

Union officials have said the affected workers earn an average salary of $25,000 a year and have been working without a contract since June 2020.

The union declared an impasse in negotiations in December, leading to the appointment of a state mediator.

In addition to salary demands, union officials have also alleged staffing shortages caused by an “over-reliance on a low-wage, part-time workforce.” The union alleged shortages including:

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews11

California Lawmakers Reject Bill to Allow Their Staff to Unionize at the State Capitol

For the fourth time in five years, the California Legislature rejected a bill to allow its staff to unionize, parting with other West Coast states that have approved similar legislation to try to improve workplace conditions and offset power imbalances between politicians and their legislative staff.

The bill died after Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) initially refused to allow a vote in his committee on the final night before the lawmakers adjourned for the year. Cooper reversed his decision minutes later and allowed a vote on the bill, which failed to earn enough support for passage.

“The reason I held this is not to make these folks take a hard vote,” Cooper said when he spoke in opposition of the legislation. “So you can get on Twitter. I don’t care. You can get on Facebook. I don’t care. It’s doing what’s right.”

For decades, legislative employees have not received the same right to unionize as other private and public sector workers despite the Democratic Legislature’s close ties with unions at the state Capitol.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 grants most private-sector employees the right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining. California lawmakers granted state employees the right to collectively bargain over pay, hours and other employment conditions more than 40 years later under the Ralph C. Dills Act of 1977, but excluded legislative staff. An attempt to include legislative workers in the Dills Act failed in 2000.

Former state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) launched an effort in 2018 to allow legislative staff to unionize. But despite several attempts, the powerful former lawmaker failed to move the legislation out of the Assembly before she resigned from the Legislature in January to lead the California Labor Federation.

To circumvent the Assembly, where the legislation had repeatedly died, Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) amended a bill already in the state Senate in May with new language to allow staff to unionize. The labor federation added the bill to its priority legislation for the year and formed a large lobbying coalition of unions representing teachers, machinists, nurses, firefighters, building trades, truck drivers, engineers, autoworkers and other occupations to push for its passage.

The only registered opponent of Assembly Bill 1577, an organization called Govern for California, argued that unionizing legislative staff could create a conflict of interest if workers are represented by a union that opposes certain legislation.

But the biggest challenge for advocates was convincing lawmakers.

In most workplace settings, employees sign cards or vote in support of forming a union, often in defiance of the company. Those dynamics flipped in the Legislature, where essentially the employer had to vote to allow workers to unionize.

“It would be like being in a normal workplace and having to write up a proposal for your boss that said, ‘Hey, you know, you’re not doing a good enough job. We need better protections. And by the way, I want you to push for it,’ ” Gonzalez said days before the vote. “It’s a really awkward position given the power dynamic.”

The Senate passed the bill by a 31-2 vote Tuesday.

“If we believe in the right to organize, if we believe in our obligation to protect and defend workers, we owe that to our staff to give them a voice in their affairs, in their working conditions and their career paths,” Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) said during the floor debate in the upper house.

In the Assembly the next day, Cooper argued the bill did not go through the proper vetting process.

The demise of the legislation Wednesday marked the third time it had failed to get out of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee, which Cooper chairs.

In a statement, Stone said his office reached out to Cooper’s committee multiple times before and after the language was introduced earlier this year.

“I have made multiple attempts, since May, to talk to the chair and address his concerns, but the chair refused to engage in discussions around his issues,” Stone said. “The message is clear. This committee trusts staff with shaping the laws that govern California, but not to bargain for basic working conditions.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Chaos In One Of California’s Largest Government Unions As VPs Lock Out Local 1000 President

California’s largest state employee union reached a new level of disarray Monday as three top officers locked the union’s president out of the organization’s Sacramento headquarters. The lockout came after the three elected vice presidents of SEIU Local 1000 took action Sunday to suspend President Richard Louis Brown. Brown said Monday he would not recognize the suspension. The effort is the latest attempt from within the divided organization to remove Brown, who was elected in May on promises of dues reductions, pay raises and major changes to the traditional way of doing things at the influential public employee union. A group of board members has been trying to strip Brown’s leadership powers since October, and filed a lawsuit last month seeking to compel the change.

Two of the three vice presidents had been working with Brown on the union’s budget and other objectives, staying out of Brown’s fight with the board members. But they began discussing suspension last week.

In a letter Sunday addressed to Brown’s chief of staff, the vice presidents said Brown “posed an immediate threat to the welfare of Local 1000.” They cited language in the union’s governing documents that allow the vice presidents to suspend the president. “Troubling patterns emerged with Brown’s actions that dismantled both transparency and democracy that members expect,” the vice presidents said in the letter. “Due to his actions, the three Vice Presidents had no alternative but to promptly step in to restore fiscal prudence, board oversight, democratic procedures, and the proper delegation of officers’ duties all required for our members’ benefit.” Brown said Monday he is still the union’s president. “This is a travesty of justice to the voting membership of Local 1000 by the VPs!” he said in a text Monday morning.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Unions Attempting to Circumvent the Janus Ruling

unionThe landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Janus vs AFSCME case has given government workers the right to not only refuse union membership, but to refuse to pay any dues or fees to that union. In the wake of this ruling, new lawsuits have been filed on behalf of plaintiffs who allege the unions are attempting to circumvent the Janus ruling.

Enforcing Provisions of the Janus Ruling

A notable example of such a case is Few vs UTLA, In this case, the plaintiff, Thomas Few, is a special education teacher in Los Angeles. Few was told that he could end his membership in the United Teachers of Los Angeles union. But even as a nonmember, the union told him that he would still have to pay an annual “service fee” equivalent to his union membership dues. Few’s position, which is likely to be upheld, is that he cannot be compelled to pay anything to a union he does not choose to join, regardless of what the payment is called.

This lawsuit and others are likely to ensure that the Janus ruling is enforced. The practical result will be that government unions lose some of their members, and some of their revenue. But how many? After all, there is a valid economic incentive for public employees to belong to their unions. In California, unionized state and local workers earn pay and benefits that average twice what private sector workers earn.

For this reason, most people refusing union membership will be doing so for ideological reasons. They will find their objections to the political agenda of these unions to be more compelling than the economic reasons to support them. But there are additional ways the unions compel public employees to remain members.

For example, in some cases, within the same bargaining unit, unions will negotiate pay and benefit packages for their members that are more favorable than the pay and benefit packages they negotiate for the non-members. In some cases in academia, only union members are permitted to sit on faculty committees that determine curricula and hiring decisions.

Challenging Exclusive Representation

This right to exclusive representation is the next major target of public sector union reformers. They argue that it is unconstitutional for public sector unions – whose activity the Janus ruling verified is inherently political – to advocate on behalf of non-members, or to represent non-members, or to exclude non-members from participating in votes or discussions on policy, or to deny non-members the same negotiated rates of pay and benefits as members, or, possibly, all of the above.

Just filed this week in the US Supreme Court is the case Uradnik vs IFO, which worked its way through the lower courts in under a year. It is possible it will be heard in the 2019 session. This case calls for an immediate end to laws that force public-sector employees to accept a union’s exclusive representation.

Kathleen Uradnik, a professor of political science at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, alleges that her union (“IFO” or Inter Faculty Organization) “created a system that discriminates against non-union faculty members by barring them from serving on any faculty search, service, or governance committee, and even bars them from joining the Faculty Senate. This second-class treatment of non-union faculty members impairs the ability of non-members to obtain tenure, to advance in their careers, and to participate in the academic life and governance of their institutions.”

There is a strong possibility that within a few years, if not much sooner, this case will be heard and ruled on by the US Supreme Court in favor of the plaintiff. If so, the future of public sector unions will be altered in ways even more significant than Janus. Unions will be prohibited from discriminating in any way against non-members who are part of their bargaining unit. They also will be powerless to stop public employees from withdrawing completely from their bargaining unit to – gasp – represent themselves in salary and benefit negotiations, something that professionals in the private sector have always done.

The Impact of Non-Exclusive Representation

An impact of a favorable Uradnik vs IFO ruling that would have even greater consequences would be if it enabled the emergence of competing unions. What if two or more unions represented a bargaining group? What if a super-union emerged whose membership welcomed government workers from an entire state, or entire profession, or the entire nation. What if these super-unions embraced a political agenda that ran counter to the left-wing agenda that has dominated public sector unions for decades?

The possibilities are tantalizing.

What if faculty members in America’s colleges and universities had the option to join a conservative union with a national membership that advocated a return to pro-Western college instruction, an end to reverse discrimination, a restoration of academic merit as the sole criteria for admission and graduation, and the abolition of divisive courses of study that offer no useful skills? What if conservative faculty members who have been silent all these years had the power of a national union to protect them from the Left?

What if K-12 teachers across America had a national union to protect them when they objected to curricula designed to turn immigrant children against the people and traditions of their host culture? What if police and firefighters across America had a national union that advocated unequivocally for a merit-based system of immigration? What if civil engineers across America had a national union that was implacably opposed to the environmentalist extremism that has doubled the cost of infrastructure projects and quadrupled the time it takes to complete them?

Enforcing Janus will begin to undermine public sector union power, which is deployed almost exclusively in the service of the Left. Enforcing Uradnik may actually create a balance of power between public sector unions that lean Left vs Right, and that, in turn, would represent a seismic shift in the political landscape of America. At the least, it would neutralize the tremendous boost that public sector unions have given the political Left in America. At most, it might create a hitherto unthinkable consensus in America that public sector unions are indeed inherently political, and have far too much political influence, and must be subject to draconian restrictions including losing the right to collectively bargain, if not complete abolition.

California state worker union accepts contract with 10 percent pay hike

Unions2A small California state employee union decided on Thursday that a contract with two more consecutive years of 5 percent raises was too good to pass up in the waning months of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.

The California Association of Professional Scientists approved the contract by a vote of 802 to 339. It will give about 3,400 state scientists a 5 percent raise on July 1, 2019 and another 5 percent raise on July 1, 2020.

State scientists have received a 5 percent general wage increase each year since 2016. A state salary survey that year reported that the state’s total compensation for environmental scientists was 34 percent below what their peers could earn in the private sector and 26 percent below what they could make working for the federal government. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Supreme Court could free public employees from being forced to pay union dues

Union protestThe Friedrichs lawsuit should have done the trick. The case — full name: Friedrichsv. California Teacher’s Association — which would have made belonging to a public-employee union optional as a condition of employment nationwide, was set to pass muster with the Supreme Court last year. But when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, the almost certain fifth and deciding vote went with him, thus keeping half the country’s government workers forcibly yoked to unions.

But now a case similar to Friedrichs is upon us. On June 6, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME, a case involving plaintiff Mark Janus, a child-support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and is compelled to send part of his paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, even though he says that the union does not “represent his interests.” Right-to-work proponents are optimistic that the Court will hear the case and that Neil Gorsuch, Scalia’s replacement, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of employee freedom and overturn the 40-year-old precedent established in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court held that states may force public-sector workers to pay union dues, while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity. Not surprisingly, the squawking from the union crowd has already begun. At Education WeekMark Walsh refers to the litigants as “anti-union.”

The Janus case concerns only compulsory dues, or what the unions euphemistically refer to as “fair-share” payments. The Economic Policy Institute, an organization with strong ties to organized labor, claims that prohibiting fair-share payments could “profoundly affect the ability of millions of public-sector workers to improve their wages and working conditions and further the wage stagnation dragging down the economy.” But EPI is on thin ice here. First, the case will not affect unions’ ability to collectively bargain for their members. Second, between 1995 and 2015, the seven states with the highest private-sector job growth were all right-to-work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Additionally, Mackinac Center director of labor policy F. Vincent Vernuccio and reporter Jason Hart point out that “from 2012, the year Michigan passed right-to-work, until mid-2015, incomes in Michigan rose over nine percent, faster than the national average.” Former research fellow in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation James Sherk explains that “studies that control for differences in costs of living find workers in states with voluntary dues have no lower — and possibly slightly higher — real wages than workers in states with compulsory dues.”

Benjamin Sachs, a Harvard Law School professor specializing in labor law, calls Janus part of “an aggressive litigation campaign aimed at undermining unions’ ability to operate by forcing them to represent people for free.” In fact, the only laws that compel a union to represent all workers are on the books at the behest of the unions. As teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci writes, “The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves.”

Even if the Court decides to hear the case, a decision in Janus is most likely a year off. But the unions are planning for the worst-case scenario. California Teachers Association Executive Director Joe Nuñez wrote in January that the CTA should be prepared for a 30 percent to 40 percent membership drop, but then hedged, saying that he doesn’t believe that the decline would be that dramatic. (Actually, CTA has been anticipating a post-Abood world for several years. In 2014, the union cooked up a PowerPoint presentation called “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.”) New York City teachers’ union leader Michael Mulgrew says that a national right-to-work outcome is inevitable. “We are going to become a right-to-work country. We are preparing for what we will do when that happens on the state and city levels. It depends on the provision in the laws and what states can do within that law — some states sign up members every year, others sign once.”

But whatever the membership drop might be, it will be damaging to the unions and could have widespread ramifications. And perhaps no group will be more affected than the Democratic Party. Naomi Walker, an assistant to AFSCME president Lee Saunders and a former Obama administration appointee, said that Janus “could undermine political operations that assist the Democratic Party.” She added, “The progressive infrastructure in this country, from think tanks to advocacy organizations — which depends on the resources and engagement of workers and their unions — will crumble. We need the entire labor and progressive movements to stand with us and fight for us. We may not survive without it — and nor, we fear, will they.”

It’s worth noting that in Wisconsin and Michigan, two recent entries in the right-to-work column, teachers’ union participation is down considerably. Wisconsin’s NEA affiliate has lost almost 60 percent of its members and Michigan about 20 percent thus far. The loss of these unions’ political clout certainly was a factor in giving Donald Trump narrow victories in both states. Should the Court decide for Janus in Janus, neither the apocalypse nor utopia will be upon us, but much will change. Most notably, many government workers will have much freedom than they have now, and the Democratic Party won’t have the same bundles of cash flowing from union piggy banks.

High Court to Hear California Teachers’ Challenge to Union Dues

From KQED:

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider limiting the power of government employee unions to collect fees from non-members in a case that labor officials say could threaten membership and further weaken union clout.

The court announced Tuesday that justices will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, an appeal from a group of California teachers who say the fee requirement violates their First Amendment rights to have to pay any fees if they disagree with a union’s positions and don’t want to join it.

(Read Full Article)Court