UPDATE 2/25/11 at 1630:
Our intention in the blog below was not to ask members or retirees to align themselves with a group or organization whose overall philosophy they disagree with. The paragraph about MoveOn.org and SEIU was not intended to be an encouragement to participate; it was meant to provide information on the far-reaching effects of the debate and concerns. However, these groups are at the forefront of the fight to protect collective bargaining, and as a Board, we do support any effort to preserve it so that our legal rights in California are not eroded.
In California the “law” that grants public employees collective bargaining rights, or “union” rights, is found in Section 3500 et seq. of the Government Code. It was codified into California law in 1968. It is known as the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and was signed by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. In the City of Los Angeles the “law” that grants city employees collective bargaining rights is found in Section 4.830 of the city’s Administrative Code.
We urge you to follow the debate, regardless of the players, and beware of any movement in California, such as Assemblyman Mansoor’s bill, that would inhibit our ability to protect your rights and benefits as your collective bargaining organization or “union.” And we ask that you keep in mind that when we are able to bargain in good faith on behalf of our members, we can and do make the case that those who put their lives on the line every day are entitled to unique consideration and benefits that may not be appropriate or even affordable to provide to all government workers.
It is key to recognize that the economy is clearly the flashpoint of the debate and that our goal is to preserve the ability to work with City and state officials in the collective bargaining process, so that the League can continue to protect its members and, at the same time, be part of the fiscal solution in Los Angeles.
Madison, Wisconsin is 2,000 miles away from Los Angeles, but the political attacks against unions there to eliminate basic protections for workers warrant our full attention and strong opposition.
As widely covered by the media in recent weeks, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, is moving to strip the majority of non-safety public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. The shocking plan has prompted massive protests and a walkout by Democratic lawmakers there, and has led to increasingly large rallies across the nation.
An attack on the collective bargaining process in any of the 50 states is an attack on every unionized worker in America. California, long a pro-labor state, is no exception. Following the Wisconsin governor’s lead, a Republican state assemblyman from Costa Mesa has announced legislation to eliminate collective bargaining for pension benefits by California's public employees. While Assemblyman Allan Mansoor’s bill – aimed at addressing the increasing costs of retired public employees – stands little chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, it serves as a reminder that we must remain vigilant and prepared to take action whenever our basic union rights are threatened.
The thinking behind these attacks is fuzzy at best. For starters, it’s bad politics. A new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows that Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. It found that 61 percent would oppose a law in their state similar to the plan in Wisconsin, and only 33 percent would favor it.
Union leaders and workers throughout the U.S. aren’t taking anything for granted. They are organizing and participating in rallies to show support for Wisconsin working families. More than 2,000 state and local government workers gathered at the State Capitol in Sacramento Tuesday night at a hastily organized rally to support their counterparts in Wisconsin.
A way you can help is by backing candidates who can be counted on to uphold the rights of unions and preserve the collective bargaining process. This is why we perform our due-diligence before every election to endorse only the candidates worthy of the support of the League and its members.
Our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin are under attack. They need and deserve our support. The time to pull together is NOW.