Extra resources for students of State and Local Government 180, an upper-division GE class in the Government Department at Sacramento State University
Monday, October 31, 2011
San Bernardino Sun: Ballot measure proposed to eliminate public employee unions
Ballot measure would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employee unions
Will Bigham, The San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 10/30/2011 10:25:02 PM PDT
Petitions are being circulated for a ballot measure designed to end collective bargaining for California's public- employee unions.
The End Public Sector Bargaining Act would eliminate collective-bargaining rights for public employees such as teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters. It is similar to a Wisconsin law passed this year.
The measure would apply not only to state employees, but to employees at local government agencies such as counties, cities and school districts.
The measure's sponsor, a UC Santa Barbara economics lecturer, must gather more than 800,000 signatures by Feb. 3 for the measure to qualify for the the Nov. 6, 2012, presidential ballot.
Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, called the measure "dead on arrival" because of the state's left-leaning politics and strong union presence.
"I'd be surprised if he can even get it qualified," Pitney said. "I doubt he can get enough signatures."
The measure's sponsor, Lanny Ebenstein of Santa Barbara, could not be reached for comment.
Ebenstein is a former board member at Santa Barbara Unified School District and an author who has written biographies of free-market economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.
In a recent commentary article on the Cal Watchdog website, Ebenstein called public-sector employees overpaid and blamed collective bargaining for their "inflated" compensation packages.
"Ending public-sector collective bargaining would enable each local government agency in the state, and the state itself, to establish the pay cut-backs and benefit reductions that will make sense for it," Ebenstein wrote.
"The status quo is unsustainable. In a democracy, it will not be the case that programs for seniors, children, the environment, the ill, the unemployed, the infirm and the homeless will be eviscerated to enable the remaining public servants and public-sector retirees to live in luxury."
Pitney said he isn't aware of any financial support for Ebenstein's measure. He said funds from establishment Republicans will likely be diverted to candidates and measures that have a greater chance of success.
"It would be really hard in California because unions have a great deal of power here," he said.
Saying the measure was likely inspired by Wisconsin's union ban, Pitney said, "What happens in Wisconsin stays in Wisconsin."
Dieter Dammeier, an Upland attorney who negotiates contracts on behalf of numerous Southern California police unions, said the elimination of collective bargaining would diminish the quality of law enforcement in the state.
Dammeier said that good pay and benefits received by police officers in California attracts quality applicants and reduces the likelihood of police corruption.
He said he doesn't believe Ebenstein's measure has a chance of passing. "The people of California are too enlightened to pass something like that," he said.
Frank Wells, a Southern California spokesman for the California Teachers Association, agreed with Dammeier's assessment.
"California is not Wisconsin, and obviously with the current governor and Legislature the ballot measure would be the only way to get that through, and I don't think the people would support that," he said.
Wells, whose area of responsibility includes the Pomona and San Bernardino valleys, said collective bargaining regulates not only teacher compensation, but issues such as class sizes.
"Obviously we and other labor groups, and certainly large numbers of the community, would fight it vigorously," Wells said.