Democratic candidates for governor flocked to Riverside this week to pay their respects to the most important constituency of the Democratic Party: pubic employee unions.
On Wednesday and Thursday, John Chiang, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa decided it was necessary for the sake of photo ops and fostering goodwill to their future donors to join striking members of Service Employees International Union Local 721.
The union, which represents public employees in Southern California, is currently throwing a fit over not getting its way in negotiations with Riverside County.
Since 2012, members of the union have seen average salary increases of 38 percent, according to county spokesman Ray Smith. But of course, the idea of not getting more has prompted SEIU 721 to turn up the histrionics, typical for SEIU during negotiation time.
Officially, the union’s strike on Wednesday and Thursday has to do with allegedly unfair labor practices by the county, not necessarily pay, but of course it’s no coincidence the strike is occurring amid negotiations that aren’t going as desired.
Riverside County’s finances, like those of governments across California, have been drained by its public sector unions, which see themselves as more important than the taxpaying public.
It’s a worldview that Democratic candidates for governor were only happy to indulge. “Every day you make Riverside County and you make the state of California better,” said Chiang.
It’s a bizarre perspective considering what public sector unions have done to the state. Take for example the perpetual pension problem. Since 2012, the number of CalPERS pensioners receiving pensions in excess of $100,000 has grown by 63 percent, with nearly 23,000 CalPERS retirees receiving $100,000 pensions.
According to Transparent California, Riverside County happens to be one of the biggest sources of $100,000 plus pensions, with 469 retirees collecting pensions of that size as of 2016. If you include non-CalPERS public sector pension systems statewide, 52,963 government retirees were known to be collecting pensions of at least $100,000.
It would be one thing if these pensions were well-funded and didn’t come at the cost of services, but that’s not the case. The pension burden alone has crowded out funding for services and programs across the state, with tax hikes routinely needed just to ensure public sector workers
Meanwhile, public sector unions like SEIU Local 721 have repeatedly campaigned against public-private partnerships and privatization precisely because they want to limit competition and keep high-paying government work to themselves. Luckily, the unions’ latest effort, Assembly Bill 1250, designed to make it harder for counties to contract with the private sector, failed to advance this session.
But don’t expect Chiang, Newsom and Villaraigosa to push for significant reforms to the grip public sector unions hold in California.
The Democratic Party in California is beholden to public sector unions, which use progressive rhetoric to distract Democrats while they loot the public coffers and come back asking for more taxes to keep the looting going. That’s why Chiang, Newsom and Villaraigosa showed up to Riverside County.
Of course they weren’t concerned with budget problems caused by public sector unions, growing tax burdens, stifled manufacturing in the region thanks to Democratic policies or the region’s high poverty rate.
No, the Democratic candidates just needed their moment to pay tribute to those who pull the strings in the state.
Sal Rodriguez may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org