Unions use malleable Sidhu to flex power

MAY 28, 2010

By Steven Greenhut:

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh issued in January what OCers are calling the “Baugh manifesto”: a warning to local candidates who are seeking the party’s influential support that they must first reject union funding and also support a now-dead Paycheck Protection initiative that would have limited the ability of unions to tap members’ dues for political campaigns.

Baugh’s speech is “perhaps the riskiest and most courageous I’ve heard by a local politician – and I say that without passing judgment about whether he’s in the right,” reported Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit. “No matter where you stand on the influence of public employee unions in elections, it’s undeniable the Baugh Manifesto has the potential to reverberate through O.C. politics for a long time.”

Sure enough, the reverberations are now being felt in Orange County and could well be felt statewide. Baugh has said that he has thrown down the gauntlet, but even in conservative Orange County, the unions have so much power that they have decided to throw the gauntlet back in Baugh’s face. The big showdown is ongoing in the run-up to the June 8 election that will fill the supervisorial seat vacated by Chris Norby, now an Assemblyman who represents a large portion of north Orange County.

Fullerton Councilman Shawn Nelson is favored by Baugh, the OC Republican Party and the state party. I know him and have written extensively about his guts in standing up to a stealth union proposal to massively and retroactively hike pensions for government employees in his city. He is the candidate who would most convincingly replace the principled, cantankerous and small-government Norby on the board.

Nelson embraced Baugh’s manifesto and did not solicit union support. But the unions have nearly limitless access to their members’ cash, so they have decided to back Harry Sidhu, an Anaheim council member who desperately wants to win higher office. He moved into the district — from his Anaheim Hills mansion to a modest apartment — so he can run for this seat. Sidhu is a nice enough sort, and he has the support of those local Republicans who put access and deal-making ahead of principle.

Sidhu has no obvious principles that I can detect. He has agreed to drop OC’s lawsuit against the 2001 retroactive pension hike for deputy sheriffs, which has earned him the unending loyalty of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. He supports the high-speed rail boondoggle. He would not support the Prop. 90 eminent-domain reform. He talks like a conservative at times, but that’s typical in OC — talk like a conservative, then vote like a liberal on the really important stuff.

Chip Hanlon of Red County had it right: “Even his supporters say Harry Sidhu would be ‘pretty good, voting-wise, if elected. What that means is: he’ll generally vote like a conservative but don’t be surprised if he blows it on the big issues. With supporters like the public employee unions and these particular consultants, I am not comfortable with the folks who will have his ear when he needs to cast those big votes.”

Hanlon does a great job detailing the role of powerful OC GOP political consultants who want nothing more than access to the Board of Supervisors. They talk about conservative principles, but they seem to care most about enhancing their bottom line — and that comes through access to malleable candidates who aren’t always so solid on limited-government principles. Some of these good Republicans, by the way, had previously backed the very liberal Democrat Tom Daly for the seat.

I also like how OCWeekly’s Scott Moxley explained Sidhu’s supposed conservatism: “He has also said he backs serious government-employee pension reform, though apparently not enough to offend the unions.” [emphasis added]

Having covered OC politics for more than a decade, I can guarantee that virtually every Republican sings the “I’m a conservative” song and very few of them actually govern like conservatives. There’s a reason previous Republican boards voted to retroactively spike pensions twice in the past decade. There’s a reason OC has the same union and pension problems as liberal counties.

Sidhu is loved by the unions and loved by the deal cutters.  And Hence the pro-Sidhu union onslaught continues. Day after day, voters get the pro-Sidhu and anti-Nelson hit pieces. The GOP has launched some pro-Nelson IEs, but the unions have more money, even in OC.

Some of the hits and statements are particularly despicable. Orange County Employee Association President Nick Berardino, the union activist whose forces have previously had much control over the board, told the Weekly, “We [OCEA] represent county employees who try to get sex offenders off the streets. Shawn Nelson wants to put them back out on the street. Should he be in charge [as a supervisor] over the budget that is related to catching sexual predators? No.”

Talk about a vicious and absurd attack. Nelson’s law firm does some criminal defense work. Some of Sidhu’s Republican supporters have been making that case also. Sidhu’s consultant, Tim Clark, throws in the term “defense lawyer” when referring to Nelson at opportune moments. So is Clark arguing that there is something wrong with being a defense attorney?

If I were unjustly accused by the government of a crime, I would certainly want a defense attorney, and a darn good one, too. Apparently, big-government toadies such as Berardino and Clark believe that the government (and its employees) never get it wrong.

None of this has anything to do with the issue at hand. The unions know the threat when they see it. By the way, Sidhu did tell Baugh that he would not take union money, but he has sat back and said nothing as the unions pound out one independent mailer after another on his behalf.

The Baugh manifesto needs to get tougher — to deal with candidates such as Sidhu who claim to disavow union support, even as they enjoy as much of it as they can get.

If Sidhu wins in Orange County, then the unions will have won an enormous victory in arguably the most union-unfriendly area in the state. They will have made their point loud and clear: If you stand up to us, we will defeat you and will elect our own hand-picked candidate. Forget about pension reform and other union reform issues if they hold sway.

Those interested in union issues across the state need to pay close attention to the Sidhu vs. Nelson race in the OC and to the results on June 8.


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  1. DavidfromLosGatos
    DavidfromLosGatos 29 May, 2010, 20:05

    The unions know how to get you elected and, more importantly, how to get your opponent elected. They know how to manipulate the public. For example, rather than take “reduced” pay or pension or healthcare benefits, you lay-off teachers and cops and firemen. They threaten the children and the elderly and get what they want. That’s how it works.

    There is this small problem in that no public entity except the fed can print money. But no worries. With the cities and counties and states and tapped out, the unions just hit up the fed for a “bail out” (er, I mean “stimulus” program). The unions own the democratic party, and as you point out, most of the Republican party, so there will be unlimited federal cheese for the public employee unions. The banks and bondholders will go along with the program, since they want the fed to backstop the state and municipal bonds.

    Correct me if I have this wrong ….

    Reply this comment
  2. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 31 May, 2010, 14:01

    No David, you’re completely correct. That’s quite good because I worked a long time with my union to make sure we knew who our friends in government were and awarded their loyalty with money and votes. That’s exactly the same thing the Chamber of Commerce and various business and professional groups do, particularly if they’re trying to get at the government teat through the crony network of “privatization”.

    It costs a lot of money to live and raise a family in California, particularly Orange County. The people working for government should be compensated at the rate that provides them with an opportunity to do so outside of poverty – even when they retire.

    Reply this comment
  3. OCO
    OCO 31 May, 2010, 14:43

    David nailed it-the Fed is NOW using their ability to run budget deficits to shore up state public unions=which is where 90% of the TARP money used for job creation (or job “saving”) went.

    But that is over! Well runs states like TX are not going to sit around while they get stuck bailing out irresponsible states like CA.

    As for Skipy-the Chamber of Commerce works in a thing called the free and open market (which a public e ployee has no concept of), which is a little different from a muni or state gov that operates in a monopoly with civil service protections.

    The fact is public employees should not be alllowed to unionize b/c the civil service job protections they have already are, standing alone by themselves, light years ahead of anything in the private sector-there is no need for public unions except to engage in fraud, scams and rip off the public.

    But don’t let your public employee spin stop with the facts 🙂

    Reply this comment
  4. OCO
    OCO 31 May, 2010, 14:46

    It costs a lot of money to live and raise a family in California, particularly Orange County. The people working for government should be compensated at the rate that provides them with an opportunity to do so outside of poverty – even when they retire.

    Public employees who only have a GED or HS diploma are not “entitled” to be “compensated” at a rate that allows them to be paid in the top 5% in the nation like they do now.

    And they are sure not “entitled” to $5 million pensions at age 50 that have been 95% paid for by the public.

    Public employment is not a trust fund paid for by taxpayers.

    Reply this comment
  5. Tough Love
    Tough Love 31 May, 2010, 17:38


    Well said …. but its more likely only $4 million, not $5 Million.

    Not Taxpayers, doesn’t THAT make it better ? And tell me …. do you feel like you’ve been “suckered” ?

    Reply this comment
  6. OCO
    OCO 1 June, 2010, 06:50

    Whatever the true value of the public safety, 3%@50 pensions, it is an absolutely insane amount where the vast majority, and in many cases the ENTIRE amount, is funded by the taxpayers.

    Reply this comment
  7. Charles Sainte Claire
    Charles Sainte Claire 1 June, 2010, 16:57


    I challenge you to produce backing for your unreal assertion that government employees receive the upper 5% of salary in this country. This can only be described as a bald faced lie, and I am sure you KNOW it is. I get 90% of my final salary in retirement after working 40 years and retiring at the age of 59. More than 75% of that money comes from Calpers investments today, not tax money. During the early 2000’s government paid nothing and 100% came from Calpers, not taxes.

    It is also a fallacy that all this comes from tax money because at one time the ititial source was tax money. When I cashed my salary check once per month that money became mine for working my job and producing something useful for California Citizens. Like the highways and freeways you drive on. I bought my house with my tax paid salary. I suppose you think State Government now owns that.

    What else do you want? By the way Professional State Employees still lag about 10% behind the private sector. Take your hate elsewhere.

    Reply this comment
    SEESAW 1 June, 2010, 21:50

    Right on, Charles. Once you do the work and have the check in hand, the money is your’s and noone elses. Then you can use it to purchase the product that OCO sells. But, try telling him that a public worker funds his living. What would all these public-worker haters do without their computers? I wonder if they ever go out into the sunshine.

    Reply this comment
  9. OCO
    OCO 2 June, 2010, 18:10


    I challenge you to produce backing for your unreal assertion that government employees receive the upper 5% of salary in this country
    FF, cops, prison guards and NUMEROUS other GED educated, no prior training needed, gov employees are comped at $200K per year in CA, and MORE (Vallejo FF’s were averaging $250K before OT) and that is before OT.

    $200K actually puts you ABOVE the top 5% in the nation in income-you can find those facts out with a 1 second Google search.

    As for your 90% @59 public pension, that is about 3 times what a person in SS gets at age 67-so if you’re claiming you’re not getting a great deal then you’re not being honest-and the fact is public employees pay little to NOTHING into their OWN retirement fund. Most munis “pick up” the employees share as well as their own share.

    BTW-public employees are comped at TWICE the rate of the private sector-in the case of GED cops, FF’s and prison guards it is 20 times the rate of the real world.

    Sorry to shoot your public employee claims full of holes Chucky, but your public employee “spin” won’t work here-we’re immune 🙂

    Reply this comment
  10. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 2 June, 2010, 18:31

    We interrupt all this garbage about the “powerful” unions with this report:

    Business groups dominate the funding of California lawmakers’ campaigns, according to a study released today by the nonpartisan research group MAPLight.org.

    Businesses and trade associations paid for 40 percent of California legislators’ campaigns over the last three years. Business groups provided more money than private citizens (17%) and labor unions (16%) combined. The study examined campaign contributions to members of the state Senate and Assembly. Political parties funded 12 percent of campaigns, with most of these funds directed towards a small handful of legislators. Advocacy groups – such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California League of Conservation Voters—gave a tiny amount, less than 1 percent of all funds.

    “Businesses investing in political influence receive a high return on their investment,” said Daniel Newman, MAPLight.org executive director. “Our broken campaign funding system lets businesses profit from paying for lawmakers to stay in power.”

    Sen. Sam Aanestad received the highest share of funds from businesses, 87 percent.

    To see how much your representative received from business, labor unions, and more, visit http://maplight.org/investing-in-influence-610

    “Even well-intentioned legislators must grovel before interest-group donors to raise campaign cash,” said Newman. “The problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel.”

    Next week, California voters will decide on Prop. 15, sponsored by the California League of Women Voters. The measure creates a pilot program for Secretary of State candidates to run for office without raising interest-group campaign funds. MAPLight.org is a supporter of Prop. 15.

    Reply this comment
  11. Fullerton92838
    Fullerton92838 6 June, 2010, 20:56

    No Greenhut, you have it all wrong. For the survival of the Republican Party, they need to expel felons-who-get-somehow-get-off like Baugh (Capizzi was right!)…kick him off the shameful OC Republican Central Committee! And Steve, you need to go back to writing in Soldier of Fortune, at least something you know about. Sidhu hasn’t given the unions a single thing in Anaheim, it’s just that creepy Gerragos-like attorney Shawn Nelson that everybody (who’s not part of the neo-Nazi libretarian party) is against! Not unions for Sidhu!

    Reply this comment
  12. Liberty427
    Liberty427 12 June, 2011, 18:16

    In response to Charles Sainte Claire — You are right and you are wrong. Government “workers” do not receive the “upper 5% of salary in this country”, whatever that means. YOU ARE DEAD WRONG THAT STATE EMPLOYEES LAG 10% BEHIND THOSE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. I am from the private sector…the real world. My employer does not offer a pension program. I have to pay the lion’s share of my health care insurance. Little in the way of benefits that compare to what you have. I do not have the luxury of retiring at 59. I have nothing to retire on. Up until now, state employees have pretty much been guaranteed a job for life. The concept of being merged and acquired out of a job, or to have one’s job sent offshore, or to be downsized doesn’t figure into your vocabulary. Why should it. You are feeding from the public teat. The tax payers are no longer going to tolerate having to pay generous compensation in addition to ridiculously generous benefits to government workers who do nothing more than warm a chair. The day of public employee unions are rapidly coming to an end. And it cannot happen soon enough.

    Reply this comment
  13. Mae
    Mae 15 March, 2012, 21:28

    I voted for a union at Western IL Univ where I taught, as a cqnseouence of a Very Flawed evaluation system which was determining how raises were administered. I knew this from having served on the committee that did the evaluating for a number of years. both at the Department and the College level. It was difficult, complicated, and not really satisfactory. We did our best, as everyone I served with cared very much to try to be as impartial as humanly possible. Besides, it wasn’t worth having people not speak to you for periods of time, especially when the decisions made were questionable from my perspective.So when the idea of a union was floated to help in obtaining justifiable increases for the professors I began to consider it. Especially since the individual who was fighting for having a union was a very good friend of mine and I respected her intelligence and motives. She was first president for a number of years and I personally thought she did a very good job and was fair in her dealing with that responsibility. She was co-ordinater of the system, and didn’t make any evaluative decisions herself.One instance of it’s efficacy was when we began investigating our pay in relation to other similar institutions our size and location (not in a city or urban environment) It was discovered we were substantially below the level of these. Consequently there was a request for a substantial amount of money to remedy this. I thought it a good idea but had my questions until it was learned that the administration had voted themselves a sizable increase in their salaries I want to say something like 18%?? When we were informed there was no money for our raises, finding out about those raises really hit home. I’m still not sure if I would have gone on strike as we had voted that went against a lot of my beliefs’, but at the last minute the funds were found, the strike was avoided, and our salaries, which even after the increases, were still not very high, but certainly a definite improvement. OK, I did NOT go into teaching to make money, but it was interesting’ to find out that my son’s first job offer after college was higher than what I was being paid after 20+ yrs of teaching. While I know the market governs such things, and I was certainly happy for him, it was nonetheless thought provoking.Of course I retired in ’98 and am not aware of how the union is functioning at Western now, but I can tell you that back when’, most of us worked hard at what we did because we thought it was right to do so. There will always be people who try to beat the system’ in any enterprise, organization, etc, but I found very few of them among the teachers at WIU. And felt the union had very little to do with that. They were doing that Before the union was formed. Some I felt maybe shouldn’t have been teaching, but that was my opinion. Plus, from experience, I think teaching is a rather complicated process.. it’s Not just a matter of dispensing information. People are involved .A bit surprised that I’m even responding to this, but just out of a whim today I decided to check out your website as I hadn’t for a long time. Saw the article, which pushed buttons All over the place.. hence this comment.Hope you all are doing well there. I didn’t send any cards this past holiday season. Still trying to decide whether to write some kind of New Years card.Oh, pardon anyone else who might read this. I happen to be admin’s Dad’s brother.Very best to you all Hope my two cents worth’ makes a little sense??

    Reply this comment

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