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California State Capitol. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Government Unions Had a Surprisingly Bad Election Night in California

Labor unions poured millions into the ballot measures rejected by California voters

By Samuel Coleman, November 12, 2020 9:41 am

Election Day 2020 in California is finally over and, but for trailing ballots still being counted in several counties, many important races and issues have been decided.

This year’s election brought a mix of positive and negative news for most people, but the results of California’s statewide initiatives were a particularly pleasant surprise – with voters slapping-down the destructive political will of the state’s largest political actor: government unions.

In every election cycle, for decades, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have collectively dumped tens of millions of dollars of dues money – skimmed from the paychecks of public employees (taxpayer money!) – into state and local campaigns to maintain their stranglehold on our politicians, politics, and policies.

This inherently corrupt spending has helped pass and defeat initiatives resulting in a growing burden for taxpayers and job-creators, killing meaningful education reform, and directly contributing to California’s political dysfunction.

Until now.

For example, Proposition 22, which allows app-based drivers to be re-classified as independent contractors instead of employees. While the majority of app-based drivers apparently enjoyed their status as independent contractors, per the Yes on 22 campaign website, a large majority of California residents approved the ballot measure by a margin of 18.2 percent.

SEIU spent more than $4.2 million to defeat it. The CTA spent $200,000.

Other government unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the California Nurses Association (CNA), and a swathe of other labor groups donated more than $10.3 Million to defeat the proposition.

Of the $20.3 million raised to defeat Proposition 22, at least $14.7 million came directly from labor organizations and their PACs.

Why did unions care so much about Proposition 22? In short, independent contractors are extremely difficult to unionize. With hundreds of thousands of app-based workers in California, that’s a pretty tasty looking snack if you’re a union with plummeting membership rolls.

Assembly Bill 5, the brainchild of union lobbyists and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), attempted to outlaw independent contractor work in California in an attempt to create a new pool of employees for labor unions to unionize. Proposition 22 just exempted their largest base of potential members.

To the outsider, it appears the coalition of labor unions’ money could have been more effectively spent if they just put it in a massive pile and burnt it. To unions, it was a worthwhile investment to secure millions of dollars in potential dues money.

But as we saw with some unions, their current members are none too happy with that investment.

Proposition 22 wasn’t the only union priority on the ballot, either. Proposition 15, the most recent attempt to strip away sections of California’s beloved Proposition 13 which capped property tax increases for homeowners, also failed at the ballot box.

Schools and Communities First, a shady union-funded front group, was created for the sole purpose of repealing sections of Proposition 13. Government unions, especially the California Teachers Association, see this as an opportunity to increase tax revenue and grow their membership rolls by hiring more public employees under the guise of increasing funding for public education.

CTA gave more than $19 million in support of Prop 15, while SEIU gave more than $16.6 million. Other labor organizations such as AFSCME, CNA and the California Federation of Teachers (CFA) collectively gave another $4.3 million.

In total, labor organizations funded at least $39.9 million of the total $68.1 million raised in favor of the proposition.

These aren’t the only union-friendly initiatives on the ballot, either. On top of these two defeats, labor unions also poured money into the following ballot measures rejected by California voters last Tuesday:

  • Proposition 16 — Repealing California’s ban on affirmative action;
  • Proposition 18 — Allow Age 17 Primary Voters;
  • Proposition 21 — Local government rent control;
  • Proposition 23 — Dialysis Clinic Standards; and,
  • Proposition 25 — Approve Replacing Cash Bail

These failed ballot measures represent tens of millions of dollars wasted on political ideas which benefit public employees very little. Is this really what workers want their union dues spent on?

My organization, the Freedom Foundation, speaks directly to California state and local government workers every day to help them exercise their constitutional right to leave their union – and many of them do precisely because they are tired of seeing their dues wasted on political speech they disagree with.

While bad ideas went down to defeat last week, the more interesting story is the clear rebuke by California voters of government unions and their political agenda.

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3 thoughts on “Government Unions Had a Surprisingly Bad Election Night in California

  1. I certainly hope your public serpents unions and the Chinese Military CALPERS goes tango uniform. Yours is a rotten disloyal state that curdles my stomach.

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