NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 20, 2005

Government unions seem to have limitless funds for ads blasting California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his reforms. So who's paying for all the air time? The answer is no mystery. The money comes from members' pockets, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

Schwarzenegger's Proposition 75 would require public-sector unions to get approval from members before spending their dues on political action. To judge from their response -- including the lavish spending of dues on opposition ads -- union chiefs clearly see this measure as a threat to their clout.

But Proposition 75 is about more than just union democracy. It is also an attack on California's most effective and abusive political machine, says IBD.

  • By using their member's money for lobbying and political contributions, government unions have the power to make or break candidates for the state Legislature.
  • The largest union, the California Teachers Association, collects about $150 million a year, with 200,000 unionized state workers paying another $90 million; with that kind of money, the CTA and other unions can control the outcomes of Democratic primaries and can dictate to the Legislature.

The costs of this power to the taxpayer (including tax-paying public employees) are far-reaching, says IBD:

  • Unions successfully defend lavish pension plans that far exceed private-sector norms and eat up an increasing share of state and local budgets.
  • They block efforts to save money through the use of outside contractors for state and local services.
  • In education, they resist reforms that shift power from them and toward parents, principals or individual teachers.

Proposition 75 might not stop this machine in its tracks because political money has a way of getting to its targets, no matter what restrictions are placed on it. But unions that must ask for their political money, rather than just taking it, might end up more moderate and less partisan, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "His Point Exactly," Investor's Business Daily, October 17, 2005.


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