California, the union state

UnionsLastHopeJan. 27, 2013

By Joseph Perkins 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that the national union membership rate (the percentage of wage and salary workers who are members of a union) fell to 11.3 last year from 11.8 percent the year before that. BLS also reported that actual number of unionized workers shrank to 14.4 million last year, a decline of some 400,000.

There were a handful of states that bucked the trend and, surprise, surprise, surprise, California was one of them. In fact, unions here in the Golden State grew their ranks last year by 100,000 members.

It’s not because of exceptional recruiting by such union leaders as Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association; Laphonza Butler, president of the California Service Employees International State Council; and Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation.

It’s because, while private sector payrolls here in California only modestly increased in 2012, state and local government added employees at a clip unseen since before the Great Recession.

The additional 100,000 union members enabled CTA, SEIU, CLF and their union confederates to really throw their political weight around last year.

Indeed, Jerry Brown was barely a few minutes into his long-winded State of the State Address this past Thursday before he paid homage to Vogel, Butler, Pulaksi, et al. “I salute the unions,” he said, “their members and their leaders. You showed what ordinary people can do when they are united and organized.”

What California labor unions showed they could do was pull off a political trifecta this past November.

Spending well more than $100 million of the nonconsensual dues collected from rank-and-file members, unions delivered Democrats supermajorities in both the state Assembly and state Senate, won approval of Proposition 30, a $30 billion state tax hike,  and defeated Proposition 32, which would have reined in the outsized political influence unions wield in the Golden State.

Now it’s time for the Big Payback. The unions fully expect Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-controlled Legislature to show their gratitude in a tangible way.


It means billions more in state education spending, most importantly for unionized teachers and staff.

It means more taxpayer “investment” in public infrastructure — from roads and bridges to water projects to the High-Speed Rail project — with contracts going to private companies that agree to union-only Project Labor Agreements, or at least, artificially-inflated prevailing wages.

It means new taxes, enacted by the unimpeded Democrat supermajorities in the Legislature, with the additional “revenues” used to pay for union goodies, including sweetheart labor contracts and gold-plated pensions.

It means less than zero possibility that union reform legislation, including right-to-work and enforcement of Beck rights, will be included among the 1,000 or so bills that will make it to Gov. Brown’s desk this year.

One need not be a millionaire Brown demagogued for unwillingness to pay higher taxes, nor among the “wealthy corporate interests” demonized by labor bosses, to find worrisome, if not downright ominous, the power wielded by California unions, which effectively function as the fourth branch of state government.

They may represent well the interests of the 17 percent of California workers that are union members. But certainly not the interests of the other 83 percent of us.


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  1. Douglas
    Douglas 26 January, 2013, 21:16

    “state and local government added employees at a clip unseen since before the Great Recession.”?

    BLS shows a decrease of 23,000 government workers in California during 2012, and 154,000 fewer government workers than this month in 2007.

    Reply this comment
  2. Cacheguy
    Cacheguy 27 January, 2013, 06:52

    Douglas, I found a site that showed the total amount of California state employees was 215,605 on December 31, 2012. You say that is a decrease of 23,000 from 2011 and 154,000 for 2007.

    So, in 2007, you say we had over 360,000 state employees? Will you please provide a link to where you found these numbers. I find them a little hard to believe.

    Thanks you.

    Reply this comment
  3. Douglas
    Douglas 27 January, 2013, 10:56

    The article refers to an increase in ALL government workers in California. State, local, and federal.

    Dec 2011…2.39 million
    Dec 2012…2.358 million

    a decrease of 31,000

    Dec 2008…2.512 million
    Dec 2012…2.358 million

    a decrease of 154,000

    Please believe me when I say there are FEWER state workers now than a year ago. The state, federal, and most local governments in California, and most other states, have been reducing employment for several years.

    They have definitely NOT “added employees at a clip unseen since before the Great Recession.”

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 27 January, 2013, 14:01

    Jan 2005 2.40 million
    Jan 2012 2.38 million

    So we have a drop of less than 10%, while the private sector loss MILLIONS of jobs.

    And remember that in the private sector there are PAY CUTS, not so in the trougher world. There have BEEN NO PAT CUTS

    Reply this comment
  5. Hondo
    Hondo 27 January, 2013, 17:50

    The unions own it and if the economy breaks again, or runs outa money, they own it. If these huge tax increases don’t lower the unemployment rate, its all on the dems. If these pro union leaders don’t get the economy to grow, its all on them.

    Reply this comment
  6. BobA
    BobA 27 January, 2013, 18:50


    Need I remind you that none other than the great California economist Nancy Pelosi once said that an unemployment check and food stamps stimulates the economy. By that standard, California’s economy should pick up steam as the unemployment rate moves higher.

    What the state needs is more people receiving unemployment checks, jobless benefits and food stamps. Then we’ll see an economic miracle unfold in California.

    The upside is that public sector and union employees have to foot the bill since the private sector will be mostly nonexistent by then.

    People receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps should unionize and immediately go on strike to demand a guaranteed middle-class income, better benefits, a state funded 401K retirement plan. They’re :entitled” to live just as well as people who work for the state.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ftheunions
    Ftheunions 27 January, 2013, 22:01

    We can all thank Jerry Clown and Union Hobama for the demise of the private sector! I wish big business would grow a pair and have a mass exodus out of California and bankrupt the state once and for all!

    Reply this comment
  8. MadMax2
    MadMax2 28 January, 2013, 08:35

    If you’re in a closed shop union, and you want your political contributions back, then file for “exempt status” under the case known as “Communications Workers of America vs. Beck.”

    Reply this comment
  9. BobA
    BobA 28 January, 2013, 09:50


    The fact is, most big business owners support and vote for democrats. The nexus of crony capitalism and unions is what’s killing the private sector.

    Reply this comment
  10. Ftheunions
    Ftheunions 28 January, 2013, 20:05

    I’m aware of some big business leaders leaning democratic, but what you say goes against much that I have read and studied. Not exactly sure what any leader in big business would see as beneficial from a democratic administration. Unless they lean democratic for reasons unrelated to business.

    Reply this comment
  11. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 January, 2013, 20:25

    The nexus of crony capitalism and unions is what’s killing the private sector.
    BobA you are very wise!

    Reply this comment
  12. BobA
    BobA 29 January, 2013, 07:42


    The proof of my allegation is based on my own experience in the corporate world. I’m also a long time investor and read numerous publications (WSJ, IBD, Forbes, etc.) on a daily basis and have done so for 20+ years. You’d be surprised at the number of CEOs of the largest corporations in America who are big time democrat party donors and fund raisers.

    Companies and corporations are capitalists first and they play both sides of the fence based on who’s in and who’s not. Their only interest is in their stock price and their ginormous salaries. What’s good for America or in the best interest of America is a non-factor in their corporate political calculus.

    Reply this comment
  13. Marten Purdy the metroman
    Marten Purdy the metroman 1 February, 2013, 12:43

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its monthly report of hours worked. This revealed that, while employees are working more hours, unemployment has not declined and wages continue to decline.

    Reply this comment

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