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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

They don't need to spend that much  
and I don't get any of it anyway (Updated)

One of my neighbors opined that there’s no reason to bring so much union money into Costa Mesa. His union charges “reasonable” dues (to him), and he sees no reason for massive bank accounts for “just political stuff. . .The union gets us good benefits and pretty good wages – not like the city employees, but good enough . . .without all the TV ads and mailers and everything.”

Let’s interrupt our looks into Costa Mesa Campaign Propaganda for a look into labor’s need for money in this situation. No, it’s not just for “training in the Bahamas” or “organizing classes in Las Vegas.” 

How it works, private vs. public

Private sector unions get wage increases and benefit improvements through collective bargaining with management. Sometimes they threaten work stoppage (aka strikes) or slowdown. In theory, public safety unions can’t use those tactics, although the “blue flu” and over-extended time for every police call were described by the CMPD’s union’s law firm (now fired) in their detailed tactics manual exposed earlier this year.

Build the benefits another way -- or two or three

However, public sector unions can increase benefits other ways. These techniques aren't easily available to private sector unions such as the Teamster’s unions that represent local truckers.

First of all, although the public sector unions use collective bargaining, they wield a lot of influence, perhaps even more, through electioneering and lobbying. These are very, very expensive – the cost of the scare brochures sent to Costa Mesa voters alone is staggering. And, Costa Mesa represents a very small part of the state’s population, union membership, and budget.

Private sector unions can do this, but usually confine their efforts to the national level because of the expense. They can, and do, drop in on local unions to influence voting for union officers, and might finance some local ads during a heated campaign.

In contrast, the Sacramento-headquartered unions for public employees spend a great deal of money trying to affect citizen elections, as opposed to union elections, and pay both directly and indirectly for lobbyists. But they spend more on lobbying in Sacramento to get laws favorable to unions enacted.

Can't afford the fight so we go around it to stay solvent

Costa Mesa couldn't afford to mount an effective campaign to oppose the “prevailing wage” law in Sacramento, for instance. Her entire operating budget wouldn't be a fraction of what Big Labor would bring into the battle. But, Costa Mesa can choose to be a Charter City and make some decisions about how Costa Mesa money—and only Costa Mesa money--is spent. This includes paying local wages on local jobs. (Prevailing wage works out to paying the wages specified by the State labor organizations regardless of what the local workers are normally paid for the job.)

Initiatives can cost money

Then there is an even more expensive way to increase benefits; the initiative process. Public employee unions sponsor initiatives, and oppose them, statewide. Articles in the Wall Street Journal, among many national publications, point out that Big Labor is spending “buckets of money” (that’s a columnist’s term) to defeat the initiative on the California ballot that stops both corporations and unions from assessing “donations” for political activities through payroll deduction.

Sue 'em till they quit

Finally, the unions use the courts to tie up city governments. Examples include suing to prevent a properly-processed initiative, with the approval of the required city residents, from appearing on the ballot in San Diego (union officers had not been consulted and the initiative affected union activities). That is, they're using the courts to overrule the citizens.

In Costa Mesa the unions are suing the City about a procedural error in processing the so-called “layoff notices.” (Actually these are the notifications required by the union-negotiated contract to be sent when jobs are going to be analyzed for possible outsourcing.)

Are you ever frustrated when you read about a criminal whose lawyer gets him released, not because he’s innocent, but because the prosecutor filed a motion on the wrong form? This lawsuit is like that, and these lawsuits cost money. Lawsuits are another way to affect wages and benefits that is very expensive, and not really available to private sector unions.

Paying for the monster under the bed

So that’s why Big Labor is spending so much money trying to scare Costa Mesa voters into voting against the charter and against their own best interests: it stops automatic payroll assessments and allows the city to pay local wages. If they can't just assess “donations” from the members (and non-members who must also pay union dues – by state law) they'll have to convince each member and nonmember to write a check for the political “donation.”

Big Labor needs that money to pay for scary mailers, TV time, and local citizens to be candidates for them. It’s much more expensive than collective bargaining. So, it’s not just about plush training and organizing junkets for union officers. It’s about power, and power is expensive for Big Labor.

Hang on, it'll get worse

There’s a great deal of opposition to the public employee’s egregious benefits and Big Labor’s power right now, and it’s growing daily. So, we think that power is going to become more and more expensive for Big Labor. Expect your union dues and “political donations” to increase significantly.


As I glanced through this entry I realized that while I was dealing with unions spending money to influence voters, it sounded like the unions were the initiative demons in the process. 

Not true. The unions use the initiative to influence voters, and laws, and budgets. So do other entities that can afford it, such as Tom Steyer, a fund-manager who reportedly is spending tens of millions of his dollars on Prop 39. This proposition raises taxes on out-of-state companies selling their goods in California.

Of course, if their cost of doing business in California increases, their prices will, too. Think car manufacturers, and Wal-Mart. Those that cannot raise prices enough to cover the tax will reduce costs by cutting jobs and closing stores. So this becomes a tax on middle and lower class citizens in California.

Tom Steyer authored the Proposition and is backing it with his fortune. He manages Hedge Funds that invest in "green" companies. It's expected that revenue from Prop 39 will fund about $5 billion over the next five years in "green" projects.

Used by both the rich and the unions

The unions are certainly not the only groups that use the initiative process to benefit themselves, but we look at them because they're the ones pouring money into the City to convince Costa Mesans to vote against a Charter that will hamper their fund raising.

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