The Sacramento Bee recently reported that a group, looking to abolish collective bargaining rights for all of California’s public sector employees, filed three ballot initiatives this week. The group is called the California Center for Public Policy and arrears to be led by a UC Santa Barbara economic lecturer named Lanny Ebenstein. Mr. Ebenstein’s group has started fundraising to begin a signature campaign to get the initiatives before the voters.
The three initiatives are focused on both public sector employees and retirees. The first measure would ban recognition of all public sector labor unions to prevent government from collectively bargaining with them. The second measure would impose a higher tax burden on pensions paid through CalPERS or CalSTERS for retirees who earn an annual pension of over $100,000.00 per year. The Third measure would raise the retirement age of state employees to 65 and, and public safety workers to age 58.
The most troubling aspect of the news was the initial reaction from representatives of public employee groups. Steve Maviglio, of a group called Californian’s for Retirement Security, responded by saying “these will end up in the same trash bin as the proposal to require Christmas music in public schools. These proposals are wildly out of synch with California; fortunately there is a $15 million dollar gap between dumb ideas and the ballot box.”
Let’s hope Mr. Maviglio’s comments are not shared by a majority of public sector employee organizations throughout the State. Californians and members of public sector employee organizations should take these measures very seriously. Many voters, especially those who work in the private sector would view positively some, if not all of the element s of the measures. Union recalcitrants, inflexibility and lack of creativity is exactly the posture that lead to the abolition of collective bargaining in other states, including Wisconsin. The public sector employee union can no longer used tried and true methods like strikes, picketing, or PR smear campaigns to meet their objectives. The world out there is much more complicated now and requires an entirely different and smarter approach. The public sector employee unions need to position themselves as partners with a solution and regain the trust and respect of the citizens of California. Mr. Ebenstein is quoted in the Sac BEE article by saying, “[g]overnment does not exist to provide compensation and pensions for government workers. Government exists to provide good public services at a reasonable cost.” A vast, vast majority of California voters would agree with this statement. Unions need to incorporate this message in their strategy and convince the public that the good public service Ebenstein references depends upon hiring and keeping skilled and motivated government workers. Remember, the California private sector employees out number public employees over 25 to 1 at the ballot box. California’s public sector employee organizations would be wise to take seriously the three initiatives filed by Mr. Ebenstien and similar ones that have already been filed or will be filed in the coming months.
If you would like more information from us, regarding how you can craft a message of cooperation and partnership, please contact Jennifer at the Firm.
Sacramento County has given us yet another piece of evidence that certain elected officials and managers of California government entities have devolved into nothing more than their own personal existence justification system. Over the last three years we have repeatedly seen government managers go to extraordinary lengths to protect themselves and their friends.
On Wednesday, May 26, 2010, the Sacramento Bee reported that during 2009, the number of Sacramento County’s highest paid employees significantly increased. Yes, that’s right, increased. During the worst fiscal crisis in Sacramento County’s history the number of Sacramento County employees making over $100,000.00 a year in base salary increased. Remember, for the last three years Sacramento County has had budget deficets over $100 million.
Sacramento County officials were quick to defend themselves by saying that the salary increase were the result of collective bargaining agreements they have no control over. However, what is clear is Sacramento County leaders and most government officials do not want that control. They do not want to make hard decisions that are necessary in today’s economic climate. Government officials are quick to slap a band-aid on the severed artery by furloughing employees, laying off some of the lowest paid employees and attempting to freeze wage or benefit increases. Government leaders hold on from one pay period to the next, use smoke and mirrors to pay their bills, all while fending off difficult questions as to why they are making the decisions they make. Here is what drives them: Sacramento County officials and most government leaders first and foremost want to protect themselves and their closest allies and friends. In Sacramento County’s case that starts with supervisors and goes to the County Administrator’s office. They refuse to recognize the obvious solution which is significant parts of their governmental empires have to permanently go away. A massive restructuring of California government must occur so that these government entities can provide the basic, fundamental, and indispensable services they are required to provide.
I for one want more government workers on the streets doing the actual work and less bureaucrats thinking of ways to justify their existence. Some form of real leadership needs to arise arises in California state and local governments for it’s fiscal problems to be fixed.