The Battle of San Diego: Unions Go All Out for Status Quo — With Unlikely Ally

June 4, 2012 - By admin

June 4, 2012

By Chris Reed

SAN DIEGO — On Tuesday, ground zero in the unions’ war on California taxpayers will be here, fought on three fronts.

In the mayor’s race, there’s a fascinating four-way campaign pitting county District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, endorsed by incumbent mayor and fellow Republican Jerry Sanders; veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Filner; Republican-turned-independent Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher; and City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a libertarian Republican.

Dumanis lags, but polls are otherwise close, making a November runoff certain, and organized labor has gone all out to try to keep DeMaio from advancing. Driving the animus: The 37-year-old Georgetown graduate has been a powerful advocate for basic changes in how government works, pressing for outsourcing, an end to generous defined-benefit pensions and a renunciation of the pay practice under which workers get automatic “step” raises many years just for showing up on the job.

This assault on the San Diego City Hall status quo has produced a vicious response from individual union members and union organizations. DeMaio and his supporters were taunted and harassed while gathering signatures for a sweeping benefits reform measure that’s on Tuesday’s ballot as Proposition B. The first-term councilman, who is gay, has also been baited for his sexual orientation and subjected to an ugly whispering campaign. Last week, the city police union began airing a grossly misleading attack ad that implied DeMaio didn’t think the families of dead cops should get survivor benefits.

Union partner

But the perverse twist is which mayoral candidate has been the unions’ main partner in assaulting DeMaio in defense of the status quo. It’s not Filner, the abrasive, in-your-face traditional 1960s liberal. It’s Fletcher, a photogenic 35-year-old Marine war hero who until two months ago was a conservative Republican with some maverick trappings.

After DeMaio shocked many observers by capturing the local GOP’s formal endorsement over the more experienced Dumanis and more conventional Fletcher, Fletcher dropped his party affiliation and insisted it wasn’t driven by expedience but by his conscience. To the cheers of New York Times columnist David Brooks, Fletcher declared he could no longer in good faith be a member of a party that was part of a dysfunctional political dynamic dominated by “extremists.”

Ever since, Fletcher has offered up DeMaio as an example of the “extremists” who are polluting California’s body politic — even as Fletcher has supported Proposition B, the sweeping benefits reform measure largely authored by DeMaio that can fairly be described as radical. It would shift all new city hires but police to 401(k)-type retirement benefits and seek to impose a five-year cap on the “pensionable pay” of all employees. This dual, dueling Fletcher stand doesn’t add up. Call it Fletcher Logic.

Meanwhile, he’s kept his opinions to himself about the extremism on display in the union-led campaigns against Proposition A, which would ban the city’s use of project labor agreements unless doing so would lead to the loss of state or federal funds, and against Proposition B.

Union clout

To undercut Proposition A, unions got the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to enact a law that takes state construction funds away from charter cities with PLA bans. That’s extraordinary enough, but it doesn’t compare to Sacramento’s reaction to Proposition B.

The state Public Employment Relations Board, controlled by union allies, sought unsuccessfully to keep the measure off the ballot and has made clear its intention to scuttle the measure should it pass. Why? On the grounds that since some elected officials helped draft Proposition B, it amounted to a violation of collective-bargaining rights. By this bizarre standard, just about any attempt by the public to use the ballot process to directly control public employees’ pay and compensation can be deemed as a violation of employee rights.

For those on the outside looking in, this union bullying and intimidation may seem so grotesque and over the top that it verges on the comic. But for those who live anywhere else in California, don’t feel inclined to cackle. Today the target is unlucky San Diego, but soon it will be your community.

That’s because the battle to preserve public employees’ jobs, pay and benefits is the defining fight of early 21st-century state politics. As far as the unions are concerned, it should be against the law to even consider reductions. Because, after all, the state’s primary role is not as a provider of public services. It is as a provider of well-paying government jobs with great benefits. That’s the California way.

Or so the unions believe. On Tuesday, we’ll find out if San Diegans agree.

Reed is an editorial writer for the U-T San Diego newspaper,  formerly the Union-Tribune, and runs the Calwhine.com politics website.

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Comments(0)
  1. SkippingDog says:

    There’s nothing underhanded or evil about the Public Employment Relations Board’s attempt to enforce existing state law in California, Chris. Just because the local politicians in San Diego believe they can unilaterally ignore provisions of the state Government Code by hiding their actions behind the local initiative process doesn’t mean that decision trumps state law.

    The state law known as the Meyers-Milius-Brown Act was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1968, and it makes clear that the only legal method for changing the “wages, hours and working conditions” of local government employees is through the “meet and confer process” of collective bargaining. No matter what the voters of San Diego decide tomorrow, that is still the law in our state.

    This is another example of how the city of San Diego will spend money it doesn’t have to pursue the foolish and illegal anti-government policies so fervently supported by yourself and your current and former employers at the UT and the OC Register.

    Once Prop A is halted and reversed by PERB and the courts, I can’t wait for the wailing in your columns about how “the people have spoken, etc., etc.” but I’m sure you’ll never bother to remind your readers that Prop A is and has always been contrary to our existing laws.

  2. Rex ehe Wonder dog! says:

    DeMaio is going to destroy the welfare queen public unions, and I will be trhowing aparty tomorrow.

  3. Rex the Wonder Dog! says:

    Prop A is going to put the GED welfare queens in their place, that is a fact.

  4. Beelzebub says:

    I compare modern day public unions to the old Chicago mafia – that used strongarmed gestapo tactics to smear or ruin anyone who dared to get in their way or dismantle their empire. Public unions have evolved into evil entities that have no interest in the public good. Their entire purpose is to get into your wallet and force YOU to turn over YOUR discretionary income to promote the elite lifestyles of their sordid kings and queens.

    And if they lose at the ballot box they use the courts and the bought off legal system to overturn the will of the people.

    Public unions are an evil and self-serving entity.

    I will pray tonight and tomorrow that the following prevail on June 5, 2012 in San Diego:

    (1) Carlos DeMaio

    (2) Proposition A

    (3) Proposition B

    Time to tell all of them that you’ve had enough of their mafia style strongarmed tactics, San Diego. Return the government to the people. Bury the public union(s) with your votes!!!! :D

  5. John Seiler says:

    SkippingDog: That will be fun if what you say happens. Then these cities will just go bankrupt, and federal bankruptcy courts will cancel the contracts.

  6. Beelzebub says:

    This is not only a California phenomenon. It is spreading like an epidemic throughout the nation. Illinois is in BIG BIG trouble with their pensions. The northeastern states are in a mess due to HUGE payout to public trough feeders. Hawaii is in big trouble too. Georgia is barely keeping it’s head above water – Atlanta is damn near destitute with real estate values plummeting. Look at Detroit. It’s like a powderkeg waiting to explode. All it will take is ONE STATE to say “WE’VE HAD ENOUGH” – and the anti public union movement will roll over these United States of America like a massive tidal wave.

    I am happy to know that I will be around to see it happen. I will get my old Beach Boy’s ‘Pet Sounds’ album out and play “Good Vibrations” over and over and over and over and over and over again with a BIG-A** CHESHIRE CAT GRIN ON MY FACE!!!! HAH! :D

  7. Wayne Lusvardi says:

    THE FOLLOWING EMAIL WAS SENT TO ME AND THE WRITER WANTED TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS:

    GREAT review of a super-nervy Erie (et al) book to make your own case about the truth of what is at the bottom of our troubles in California.

    I think Erie et al’s book should have been called “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue, Everything You Say Bounces Off Me and Sticks to You” because for one thing its title “Plunder, etc.” makes it look like a nyah-nyah-neener-neener answer back to Greenhut’s best-selling book “Plunder.” Bonus points if the authors and/or publisher are able to confuse the public by aping the title of Greenhut’s book (“Plunder!: How Public Employees are Raiding Public Treasuries”).

    Plus it’s got to be the height of chutzpah for Erie and his gang to use public funds to write a book on how public funds are underfunded by a skin-flint taxpayer. The authors are the very definition of our problem!

    Okay, although I thoroughly understand your argument that at the heart of our economic woes is a demographic imbalance, that doesn’t change the fact that public money is being wasted in California to the point that the absurd expenditure is the rule rather than the exception. Well, as you know.

    I have a question: Because of the UC grant the authors received, are the profits from the sale of this book being funneled back to the UC system? And/or is their book offered as a free textbook at the many universities throughout the country where students are undoubtedly required to read it in the classes of liberal/leftist professors? I’d really like to know.

  8. Ted Steele, Prosecutor says:

    Wayner— Seems like that anon letter writer only had a few minutes to pen that gem between Rushbo’s ™ commercials.

  9. […] of the government status quo, rival mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. I provide the grisly details here at Cal […]

  10. Beelzebub says:

    “Wayner”???

    You are Wayne’s fishing buddy or something???

    Please, lay off the familiar tense on the boards. It’s nauseating.

  11. Ted says:

    beezyboob? Are you ok????

  12. Reality Check says:

    “Last week, the city police union began airing a grossly misleading attack ad that implied DeMaio didn’t think the families of dead cops should get survivor benefits.”

    It is time to ban collective bargaining entirely for public safety workers – all police, firefighters and prison guards. It is far too hard to regulate police power in a democracy as it is, without them forming unions that centralize their power into a shadow government. And the “us vs. them” mentality of unions can have far too corrupting an influence on police who are already doing jobs that are quite stressful.

    Police are obligated to be politically neutral. They should not be involved at all in the San Diego Mayoral race. That they are not only involved, but engaging in mudslinging lies, is a sad commentary on their ethics.

    Police need to decide whether or not their allegiance is to the public or to the union.

  13. Reality Check says:

    Skipping Dog – you can hide behind these “laws” until they’re changed. Labor union bosses who were driven out of private industry after they pretty much destroyed it, have hijacked our public agencies, corrupted the democratic process, bribed our public employees with obscenely unaffordable wages and benefits, and put unjust laws onto the books.

    This will change. And when it does you can take social security and medicare just like the rest of us, and know what it means to be a contributing member of the competitive global economy, instead of an arrogant parasite.

  14. SkippingDog says:

    So, John Seiler, your position is that there’s no need to follow existing law because it’s inconvenient? Sure sounds like it. We can argue the economics of pensions until the cows come home, but your claim that following the law will lead to inevitable bankruptcy and, therefore, vacation of the existing pension contracts is nothing more than wishful thinking that exposes your lack of real insight into both municipal bankruptcy and the manner in which public pension systems are funded, not to mention your complete abandonment of the property rights involved.

    By the way, the premise of this screed is completely incorrect. The proponents of Prop B have spent 8 times more money to pass the measure than the unions have spent to defeat it. That sounds much more like the anti-government people who have “gone all out” on the proposition.

  15. Beelzebub says:

    “Police are obligated to be politically neutral”

    Reality, the political system in America in 2012 mimics the design of the Chicago underworld back in the 20’s/30’s.

    It all had to do with payoffs and protection money and extortion.

    The Unions have become so powerful that they control city hall with money and with the ability to terminate political careers. Their slogan should be “our way or the highway”. The cops and the unions couldn’t care less about the general interest of the public or concern about the taxpayer. Quite the opposite, in fact. They have only one REAL interest: To grow their empire by any means necessary and heist as much money from the taxpaying public as possible to sustain their incredibly elite lifestyles. Why should a blue-collared cop be in the top 3% of US incomes, reality??? The educated understand what a farce the system is. It’s a shame that a group of armed thugs can hold the taxpayers hostage like this. Just like the mafia did in the 20’s/30’s.

  16. SkippingDog says:

    Reality Check – Apparently you’re unfamiliar with the fact that a private company can make changes to its pension program without impacting a constitutional protection, which is exactly what happens when a government organization attempts to impair a contract or violate a property right.

    The very best you can hope for are changes that allow pension plans to be modified for future years of service, and even that change is legally suspect. What you are and will be seeing are changes to pension plans that involve lower tiers for future employees and some higher contribution levels by both the employee and the employer.

    You also seem to be unaware that many government employees do not qualify for Social Security because their elected officials, such as Pete Wilson in San Diego, long ago opted out of that program to save money. That imposes an even greater legal and moral obligation on the cities, counties and the state to properly fund and support the existing programs, something that has been consistently noted during litigation about these matters.

    In the meantime, I’m happy to be an arrogant parasite who has little trouble getting under your skin.

  17. Beelzebub says:

    “So, John Seiler, your position is that there’s no need to follow existing law because it’s inconvenient?”

    You can’t seem to get this concept through your head. But out of courtesy let me repeat it once again:

    IT IS MUCH EASIER TO CHANGE THE LAWS OR TO EVEN CHANGE THE STATE CONSTITUTION THAN IT IS TO PAY PEOPLE WITH MONEY THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

    Please ponder that concept for a half hour or so…..and let it sink in.

    “The proponents of Prop B have spent 8 times more money to pass the measure than the unions have spent to defeat it. That sounds much more like the anti-government people who have “gone all out” on the proposition”

    8 to 1 sound rightly proportional to me since the ordinary taxpayer outnumbers the union thugs by a MUCH LARGER MARGIN than 8 to 1. There SHOULD be more money spent to pass Proposition B since Proposition B represents the INTERESTS OF THE COMMON TAXPAYING CITIZEN!!!

    It’s called DEMOCRACY, Skippy. A foreign concept to many!!! :D

  18. UptightTO says:

    Skippy just loves getting under your skins…He knows that when he says it’s the law and rattles on about pensions as it they are “property rights” you all start to fume and start pounding out angry responses…Truth is…he makes me mad too. His stick it up your rear end attitude is symptomatic of what unions have turned our public servants into. At least Skippy is an honest liar when he admits his loyalty to his union and not the people he swore an oath to serve… His arguments are irrelevent..Outrageous pay, perks and pensions are not “rights”. Bye bye Skippy…when your pension check bounces…be sure to check in and let us know how things are going…

  19. SeeSaw says:

    You haters of the public sector have nothing on the union members and non-union public employees when it comes to being hateful, spiteful, envious, jealous, parasitic, etc. Your tunes will change, in the future, if you find yourselves marching, in lockstep with the rest of us citizens, to the cadence of the Koch Bros. Until then, carry on with your own self-imposed pity parties.

  20. Ted says:

    Yeah—- that Skippy—- he just wants us to follow the law! Sheeeeesh we shouldn’t have to do that!

  21. SkippingDog says:

    As I’ve told many others here, Uptight, I spent most of my career as a non-union manager in a large public safety agency. I have no desire to “stick it up your rear end,” although I do recognize that you might see it that way.

    The oaths of office I took were to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and the State of California, and the laws of the state. No public official takes an oath to any “people,” and it would be inappropriate for him/her to do so.

    Although you make think my arguments are irrelevant, the law of our land does not share your view. Contracts made between the government and its employees are subject to the same or greater protections under the contracts clause as private contracts, and are further protected by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

    Just as an aside to make you and Beelzebub think a little more deeply, CalPERS and every other retirement system in California are heavily invested in the equities of U.S. companies, as well as in treasury notes, real estate, and other investments. Currently, U.S. companies have been reporting record levels of profits, notwithstanding their stock prices, and have what is estimated to be more than $3 Trillion in cash just sitting in their accounts awaiting the time for capital investment and expansion. That means unless all of those companies and their assets suddenly disappear, CalPERS and the other pension systems are essentially sitting on the very same asset base.

    Think that over for awhile and get back to me on how that will make the pension obligations of CalPERS and other systems somehow unachievable.

  22. Beelzebub says:

    “You haters of the public sector have nothing on the union members and non-union public employees when it comes to being hateful, spiteful, envious, jealous, parasitic, etc.”

    The tide is starting to turn, seesaw. Scams can’t survive forever. The public employees should consider themselve very lucky that they were able to pull it off for as long as they have. Now the chicken’s are coming home to roost. The anti-public union tidal wave is going to roll across the nation. You folks just don’t have the numbers to stop it. It is classic democracy at work. Sorry you are so vindictive about it. What you are witnessing is a natural phenonomen. The organism will do anything to survive. It is nature at work. Enjoy the show! It’s going to be a 5-star one for sure!!! :D

  23. Beelzebub says:

    “At least Skippy is an honest liar when he admits his loyalty to his union and not the people he swore an oath to serve… His arguments are irrelevent..Outrageous pay, perks and pensions are not “rights”. Bye bye Skippy…when your pension check bounces…be sure to check in and let us know how things are going…”

    heh. :)

  24. Ted says:

    lol—- we’ll see Beezyboob.

  25. NTHEOC says:

    To all those on here who are slamming skipping dog,do not let your envy and wrong personal life choices get in the way of FACTS!!!!! Skippingdog,you really need to have your own website or blog!! You could call it,TRUTH and COMMON SENSE.

  26. Beelzebub says:

    “As I’ve told many others here, Uptight, I spent most of my career as a non-union manager in a large public safety agency”

    A job that is worth no more than $70k tops w/ high co-pay medical insurance and a 401-K w/ a 3% match on the first $6000 saved.

    Nothing more, nothing less.

    “Contracts made between the government and its employees are subject to the same or greater protections under the contracts clause as private contracts, and are further protected by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution”

    Scam contracts are made to be broken or cancelled. IT IS MUCH EASIER TO CHANGE THE LAWS OR EVEN THE STATE CONSTITUTION THAN IT IS TO PAY PEOPLE WITH MONEY THAT DOESN’T EXIST! Look what’s happening is Wisconsin as I type! ;)

    “Just as an aside to make you and Beelzebub think a little more deeply, CalPERS and every other retirement system in California are heavily invested in the equities of U.S. companies, as well as in treasury notes, real estate, and other investments”

    I know that you’re not quite smart enough to figure this out …… but the pension funds are holding about $1T worth of toxic investments sold them by Wall Street. heh. They are holding the investments (mainly RE related) hoping that they increase in value ON THE BALANCE SHEETS. But they won’t because, at best, we are in a long termed Japan-like stagnation and quite probably a full-on economic collapse if the EU goes down. Talk to your fellow college professors about it. There must be at least one in the group with the brains to figure it out.

    The scam has really outlived it life already, Skippy. You’ve reached the end of the road. Feel fortunate that you were able to pull it off for as long as you have. Now Mr. Math takes over. Prepare wisely.

  27. SeeSaw says:

    Beez, you seem to keep skipping around the fact that Skipper was not in a union. How many times must you be told. Not that whether he is or is not, should have any relevance, when you decide where to focus your hate-rants.

  28. Beelzebub says:

    “Beez, you seem to keep skipping around the fact that Skipper was not in a union”

    Makes no difference. Those contract are scammed in the same manner as union contracts. It’s just more play for pay. Exactly by the same mechanism. You must really think we’re stupid out here, seesaw! :)

    “Not that whether he is or is not, should have any relevance, when you decide where to focus your hate-rants”

    You confuse ‘rants’ with truth.

    Open your mind and let the truth seep in, seesaw!

  29. Ted says:

    seesaw– pls do not confuse beezy with the facts. He hates that. It’s more fun for him to loathe those who made better life desicions than he did and wax angrily about end times.

  30. Beelzebub says:

    “seesaw– pls do not confuse beezy with the facts. He hates that. It’s more fun for him to loathe those who made better life desicions than he did and wax angrily about end times”

    Seesaw, any idiot knows that management in public safety has much higher pay and the same 3%@50 retirement scam as the grunts do.

    So how does it benefit the taxpayers when management in public safety is allegedly not part of the union if they get union benefits plus more?

    Teddy can’t figure this out. He apparently needs me to tell him (again).

    I consider my comments a public service announcement.

  31. SkippingDog says:

    I don’t know where you come up with some of your wild ideas, Beel. Just for the sake of grins, why don’t you tell me what the appropriate level of salary would be in a private company for an executive level manager with responsibility over something near $100 million in annual budget?

    I’m very confident it’s much higher than the $70k per year you’ve posted, and equally confident that it’s far higher than anything I ever made as a humble public servant, working long hours under dangerous circumstances on your behalf.

    You can thank me when the bile clears out of your throat.

  32. Beelzebub says:

    “Just for the sake of grins, why don’t you tell me what the appropriate level of salary would be in a private company for an executive level manager with responsibility over something near $100 million in annual budget?”

    You weren’t a private company manager. You were a lowly public servant who signed up to serve society – not to fill your pockets, buddy.

    Besides, what department did you work for??? $100,000,000 is a stretch, eh? And were you the chief of the department. I suspect not. If you were a manager you were probably just a grunt manager who checked time sheets and not even with a fine toothed comb. heh.

    REAL private company managers actually work in a RISKY environment. If they screw up – they’re OUT THE DOOR and in the UNEMPLOYMENT LINE. You goofballs can’t be fired even for publicly lying and committing acts of blatant malfeasance – and if you question that see the Fullerton Police Department!!

    One can be a complete moron and end up in the exec ranks of a common police department with an implied no-risk employment contract!!! heh.

    Cop managers are overpaid by at least 50%. And no, that’s NOT an exaggeration!

    “I’m very confident it’s much higher than the $70k per year you’ve posted, and equally confident that it’s far higher than anything I ever made as a humble public servant, working long hours under dangerous circumstances on your behalf”

    “Dangerous”??? HAH! How is pushing a pen across a piece of paper and prematurely wearing out the cushion on your desk chair with an oversized butt “dangerous”??? HAH! :D

  33. SkippingDog says:

    See, Beel, I knew you weren’t capable of engaging in any form of meaningful discussion. You’re just too full of bitterness and jealousy over your failures in life, so you love to pontificate about how others should conduct themselves.

    Just another bitter old man who never used the tools he had to do anything at all important or larger than yourself — an internet warrior who makes specious claims about his abilities but can’t do anything to make others believe his nonsense except other old and bitter men.

    There are a lot of public agencies with $100 million budgets in California, and I’m not very hard to find. It matters not to me what you think, but I’m glad to have smoked out your true self. Too bad it’s so inconsequential.

  34. SkippingDog says:

    Back to the matter at hand. Even by Chris Reed’s low journalistic standards, this qualifies as a particularly whiny piece. Get a grip, Chris! Remember what those outstanding conservatives like Pete Wilson and Susan Golding did to the city of San Diego and then whine some more about what a bum rap conservatives get for driving that city, and our country, into a ditch.

  35. Rex the Wonder Dog! says:

    Beelz, GED cop job is very dangerous- the seem to fall out of their chairs/cars/high seats and become injured usually 12-18 months before they reitre ;)

    As for their budgets-it is a joke, they do not have P&L resposibility, because if they did they would be out of business – no one in LE or any other gov job has the brain power to make a profit. How else does a GED dork like Galinisky become CEO of the OC Sheriff’s Dept.?? She couldn’t manage a taco stand successfully.

  36. Beelzebub says:

    Yep. I know Rex. It’s all a tax money grab. Skippy says that his dept’s budget was $100,000,000. Of that $85,000,000 went to labor costs for risk free employment. Cops can beat up innocent housewifes, get found liable in a court of law and keep their jobs with no demotion in rank!!! HAH! :D

    It’s an fing farce!!!

  37. UptightTO says:

    Too bad the arument degenerated to name calling…because both arguments are folly. The current system is not sustainable. Period. we’re broke but havn’t yet declared bankruptsy…So to Skippys point…yeah it’s the law…shoudn’t be but it is…While us in the private sector had our heads down making a living, raising families and saving for the future our public servants pulled on over on us and made it law…BUT..that doesn’t mean laws can’t be repealed or abrogated…and there is precedent,but again…even that may be folly…if there is no money to pay these fabulous benefits..

    To the idea that those of us on the private side somehow made poor life choices and worked on the private side..BS…Some of us prefered to take risks and thought less of those who chose womb to the tomb security.

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