During our recent trip I was able to read the book Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions, by Philip K. Howard (Rodin Books, 2023). Honestly, the book did not change my mind on this subject, but it certainly reinforced it. For example, the book quoted labor leader Victor Gotbaum as saying: “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.” And he is right. Who cares more about who is elected to the various county boards of supervisors than the public employee unions? Why? Because the supervisors set the public employees’ salaries, benefits and conditions of employment. And that is also equally true with state and federal offices. Mr. Howard emphasized that point by writing: “About ten percent of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are members of the teachers unions ‘making them the single largest organizational bloc of Democratic activists.’” So, since they are so powerful, if someone runs for any of these offices there is a major tendency both to accept the unions’ political contributions and, if elected, to give the unions whatever they want. And that is what we have seen now, for decades, to the degree that this is destabilizing most if not all of our governments – local, state and even federal. Furthermore, if you oppose those unions they can – and will – spend huge amounts of money either to fund your opponent in the next election or even to sponsor a recall election. Just ask former Riverside Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, Santa Ana City Councilperson Cecilia Iglesias, or former State Senator John Moorlach, who all lost their positions because they stood up to the public employees unions.

In other words, we should have listened to Thomas Jefferson, who issued an order barring federal employees from “tak(ing) any part in the business of electioneering, that being inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution and his duties to it.” Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt adamantly opposed public sector bargaining: “The employer is the whole people . . . Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people . . .” Thus FDR said that we cannot have federal employees putting their interests in front of the interests of We the People! But this union power is now engrained in our Constitutional law by the (badly decided) 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. This case allowed entities, both public and private, to be able to accumulate and spend limitless monies on election campaigns as a matter of First Amendment free speech. My ruling would have been that any individual human has such a right, but artificial “persons” do not. If human beings want to spend their own money, let them, with full disclosure. But corporations or unions should not have that power, if only because there often are shareholders or union members, etc. whose money is being spent on outcomes with which they do not agree.

And it does matter. For example, years ago a deputy sheriff pointed out to me to a driver of a sheriff’s bus and said that he was about to retire at 150 percent of his current salary. How could that happen? The formula is to pay each qualified retiree 75 percent of his last year’s salary. Okay so far. But how is that last year’s salary computed? Almost all of the employee’s supervisors cooperate with the upcoming retiree by giving them as much overtime during their last year that they can handle, and that also goes into the computation. In addition, they don’t take any vacation during their last year, so that is added as well, and as often is sick time. And that is their base for the rest of their lives. As a result, as written on the front page of the August 6, 2023 edition of the Orange County Register, last year a Los Angeles firefighter who makes $169,489 per year, was paid an additional $510,301 in overtime pay, for a total yearly compensation of $699,478! Mr. Howard spreads the alarm this way: “Most of the huge debt for public employee benefits in the future, incurred largely as a result of union demands, will not come due during the tenure of the political leaders who acceded to it, nor indeed to the voters at that time. Our children must pay the bill.” In other words, no one is protecting our children and grandchildren! Unless we do!

Quote for the week: “No people can be truly free unless they are exempt from the debasing influence of ignorance and vice. Upon the knowledge and integrity of the people rests the whole fabric of government.” Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

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