Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unions and the California Republican Party

California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte
State Party Chairman Jim Brulte received $50,000 in donations from public employee unions in the state of California. Where can a conservative stand on this contentious issue? Should the Democrats be worried?

A local Republican candidate also accepted union donations from unions. I have negative opinion about it right now, but will this candidate, and future candidates who reach out and receive private sector union endorsements, stand their ground on principles and policies which support the public interest first and foremost?

Does this turn of events bode for the better or the worse for the Republican Party and the State of California? Republicans are getting union endorsements. Democrats are losing a little of their funding.

At this point, I guess the answer is "It depends."

Granted, up to 40% of union members are Republicans, and they do not have any voice in California politics when it comes to the heft of political donations and activism from unions. I have been a member of a union before (UTLA) and am a member now (United Food and Commercial Workers) I was forced to join. I do not like my forced dues paying only Democratic candidates. But I would prefer not be forced to join at all. A colleague of mine was a member of the SEIU education cohort, and she informed me that members can opt out of membership, and pay less in dues. But they still have to pay.

Union members believe that Republicans who become union leaders can change the system, get the unions to honor the needs of the workers, rather than the power structure of unions, and move the state towards the much-needed reform to end the pension abuses, waste, fraud, and cover-ups which drain the state coffers at the expense of stake-holders: all of us.

That strategy may have some merit. I write this hesitantly, since power corrupts, and rising up in any organization often makes it more difficult to change it.

Then the other question arises: are unions inherently immoral? Once again, it depends.

Private-sector unions enter into agreements with private employers. When they strike, they take in their wake the profits of the employer. The consumers may be inconvenienced, but they can go somewhere else. Private sector unions are looking for better representation than the Democratic Party.

With public sector unions, however, they strike against the government, yet the money comes from the third party, the taxpayer. Their entitlements, not rights, need to be curtailed. Any collective bargaining contract augmented between politician and union cannot be a fair agreement as long as the taxpayers have no one speaking on their behalf.

Unions which collect dues from employees, then use the money to fund candidates and causes which support union interests at the expense (in every sense) of the public interest set up not an adversarial relationship between labor and management, but an accommodating one.

Where's the bargaining when a third-party cannot come to the party, and pays for the party?

This is unfair. Will Republicans representing unions be able to convince their backers of the need for reforms? Possibly.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has initiated comprehensive reforms in New Jersey because the Democratic Party bosses in Trenton work with private sector unions. They are more than happy to renegotiate overgenerous public contracts, which take advantage of the private sector employees.

Wiscon Governor Scott Walker took a tougher stance. He required that all public sector unions recertify the membership of their employees, and discontinue the automatic donation stream through coerced contributions. Even the police and fire unions had to contribute more toward their retirement.

What can California do, as long as public sector unions continue to hold so much power? The initiative process has worked at the local level. Liberal San Jose and Conservative San Diego pushed pension reforms despite heavy campaign financing from the unions in those areas.

Migrant workers are resisting union efforts in the Central Valley, precisely because migrant workers will always move to a better job, and union membership prevents this movement of trade and commerce. Cesar Chavez may have a commemorative day on the California civil calendar, but his legacy is dead-in-the-ground sterile, since his efforts to organize migrant workers fell in the face of "It's the economy, stupid!" pragmatism.

So, California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte has taken contributions from unions. Will this be a good thing or a bad thing? The donations compare very little with current Democratic contributions, but the symbolic aspect of it deserves some attention. Are the unions hedging their bets for a 2014 shellacking of the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento? Can Chairman Brulte honor the needs of unions, as long as they do not impinge on the financial well-being and fiscal future of the state?

It really depends. The push for collective bargaining reforms, and the lobbying power of union interests in Sacramento, whether by Democrat or Republican, must happen now.

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