Senator Yee Fires Back At UC Regent Who Opposed Collective Bargaining For Public Employees

Leland-Yee-SenatorLast weekend, the Vanguard reported on David Crane’s editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle in which he argued that collective bargaining had no place for public employees, given the fact that they already have civil service safeguards as well as the ability to donate money and thus influence officeholders.

David Crane, a former advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current member of the UC Board of Regents, wrote, “In the private sector, collective bargaining is used to equalize the power of employees and employers.”

He pointed out that even strong union supporters like President Franklin Roosevelt and George Meany, who headed up the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), opposed the right to collectively bargain in the public sector.

Unlike in the private sector, public sector employees already had protections against dismissal, based on laws like the Civil Service Act.

Mr. Crane continued, “because state employees already had civil service protections, collective bargaining wasn’t needed to equalize their power with employers’ power. As a result, collective bargaining for public employees in California changed the balance of power and – most importantly – gave public employees power over their compensation and benefits.”

It should surprise few that Senator Leland Yee, one of the strongest defenders of UC Employees in the state legislature, would take exception to these remarks that he saw as “a direct attack on working families.”

“I thought we had already seen the height of arrogance by UC Regents,” said Senator Yee.  “It is time for Regent Crane to put away his Wisconsin playbook and come down from his ivory tower.”

“While the Regents have approved million dollar contracts for their top administrators, they allow many UC workers and their families to live in poverty,” said Yee.  “Now, Regent Crane wants to take away their only avenue to earning a livable wage and a respectable retirement – their collective bargaining rights.”

For UC service workers, wages are as low as $13 an hour and 96 percent are income eligible for at least one of the following public assistance programs: food stamps, WIC (women, infants and children), public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch. Many work two or three jobs to meet their families’ basic needs.

At the same time, Senator Yee’s office argued in a press release Tuesday, the UC Board of Regents has consistently provided double-figure raises to their top administrators.

The latest example is a “retention salary adjustment” for UCLA Medical Center CEO David Feinberg.  Feinberg’s salary was recently increased by an additional $160,300 per year to $900,000.  The Regents also voted to award him an additional $250,000 annual retention bonus. With his annual Medical Center incentive payment, Feinberg’s annual compensation is now $1,330,000 per year.  UC President Mark Yudof also pulls in seven figures with his salary, housing, and benefits.

As we noted, Mr. Crane argued in his op-ed that “collective bargaining for public employees in California changed the balance of power and – most importantly – gave public employees power over their compensation and benefits.”

“The only public employees at the UC that have any real power over their compensation are the top executives,” said Senator Yee.  “The Regents consistently cater to the elite and ignore their unionized workers – nurses, janitors, technicians, bus drivers, teaching assistants, and others.  Collective bargaining is vital in addressing this disparity and fighting the unconscionable acts of UC administrators.”

Is this the first step in what may be a confirmation fight in the Senate, particularly now that there is a new governor?  David Crane is a Democrat, but as Senator Yee notes, he was appointed to the Board of Regents by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) during his final days in office.  Mr. Crane awaits confirmation by the Senate this year. 

This remains but a backdrop for the broader dispute over collective bargaining rights by public sector employees.

Governor Walker of Wisconsin has become a polarizing figure, beloved by national conservatives, but increasingly seen by many as too extreme.

New polling continues to show the nation’s opinion favoring unions in their dispute with Governor Walker over his plan to take away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

President Obama has spoken out on the matter, arguing that public workers do need to be called upon to help solve state budget problems.  However he added, “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon.”

A Pew Research Center poll released Monday found 42 percent of adults surveyed nationwide sided with the unions and 31 percent sided with Walker in their dispute.

Meanwhile, the latest New York Times-CBS poll found Americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of almost two to one — 60 percent to 33 percent.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 Comments

  1. Neutral

    “[i]3500. Purpose and intent: . . . It is also the purpose of this chapter to promote the improvement of personnel management and employer-employee relations within the various public agencies in the State of California by providing a uniform basis for recognizing the right of public employees to join organizations of their own choice and be represented by those organizations in their employment relationships with public agencies.[/i]

    [Source: http://www.perb.ca.gov/laws/statutes.asp#ST3500 ]

    The ‘improved relations’ are impossible to achieve in a non-professional negotiation, like those in the City of Davis. The practice is akin to acting as one’s own attorney you have an idiot for a client. How’s that workin’ out for ya’?

  2. Dr. Wu

    [quote]Governor Walker of Wisconsin has become a polarizing figure, beloved by national conservatives, but increasingly seen by many as too extreme.[/quote]

    I think this is accurate. The unions couldn’t ask for a better foil than Gov. Walker, but that doesn’t mean they are right.

    [quote]“The only public employees at the UC that have any real power over their compensation are the top executives,” said Senator Yee.[/quote]

    Collective bargaining hasn’t done much for UC or CSU faculty though it seems to have helped Jr. college faculty and it allows lecturers who should be fired to hang on in the CSU.

    The issue of college administrators is always a contentious one. In my experience a few are grossly overpaid but most are not given the responsibilities they have.

  3. J.R.

    “Governor Walker of Wisconsin has become a polarizing figure, beloved by national conservatives, but increasingly seen by many as too extreme.”

    You could just as well say:

    The Wisconsin unions have become a polarizing symbol, loved by national leftists, but increasingly seen by many as too extreme.

    From Walker’s point of view, if he capitulates he becomes a total loser, despised by all.
    If he persists and carries the day, he becomes a national standard bearer for fiscal responsibility.

    The unions have drawn a losing hand here.
    The video coming out of Wisconsin makes them look less and less sympathetic with time.
    It’s only a matter of time till they lose.

    As to Yee, he sometimes brings up valid examples of questionable practices. Still, he reveals often that he has a childish understanding of both UC and basic economics.

  4. Rifkin

    [i]”He pointed out that even strong union supporters like President Franklin Roosevelt and George Meany, who headed up the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), opposed the right to collectively bargain in the public sector.”[/i]

    It’s much broader than this. President Obama opposes collective bargaining “rights” for federal public sector workers. His actions prove it. And every single president, Democrat or Republican, before and since FDR has opposed allowing federal public employees collective bargaining rights. They have never had them and likely never will. They can form unions or guilds or labor associations. They have never once been able to collectively bargain, and their rights to strike are severely limited in most cases.

    In December, President Obama issued an executive order ([url]http://fcw.com/articles/2010/12/23/obama-issues-pay-freeze-executive-order.aspx[/url]), freezing salaries of most federal workers. He did that to show he was serious about the steep federal budget deficit. He said his unilateral action would save federal taxpayers $500 million a year.

    But if Mr. Obama were the governor of Wisconsin or the governor of California, he could not have issued such an order, because that would be an obvious violation of collective bargaining rights. Jerry Brown, for example, cannot legally impose a wage freeze on state workers in California. The Davis City Council cannot impose such a freeze on City workers (unless their contracts have expired).

    Given Obama’s actions, it strikes me as hypocritical of him to say he wants state and local workers to have collective bargaining when he opposes them for all federal employees. It strikes me as inconsistent for those who are defending the collective bargaining rights of local and state employees but not at the same time calling for these rights for federal employees.

    The president has said he is on the side of those Wisconsin Democrats hiding in Illinois (all of whom took huge campaign donations from public sector unions–I heard a reporter on the PBS NewsHour say that was the case). But if they were members of Congress he would be standing against them?

    If the unions were barred completely from supporting candidates or parties or initiatives, and the bargaining which took place was done in public such that the taxpayers were informed on a dollars per hour total comp basis just how much each concession their “negotiators” were giving up before any contracts were agreed upon, I really would have no problem with the PEUs having collective bargaining rights.

    However, because they intentionally corrupt the process–they figuratively own the Democratic Party in many states, especially in California where corrupted pols like Darrell Steinberg do whatever they ask of him–and because the negotiating process is so flawed in favor of the PEUs–how else to explain union bank hours–I think it is time that local and state PEUs be treated the same way Mr. Obama wants federal employees treated. That is, they should no longer have collective bargaining rights. The system does not work.

  5. Perezoso

    [i] David Crane, a former advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current member of the UC Board of Regents, wrote, “In the private sector, collective bargaining is used to equalize the power of employees and employers.”

    He pointed out that even strong union supporters like President Franklin Roosevelt and George Meany, who headed up the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), opposed the right to collectively bargain in the public sector.

    Unlike in the private sector, public sector employees already had protections against dismissal, based on laws like the Civil Service Act.[/i]

    Crane has a point. Many phony liberals continue to overlook the distinction between public and private sector employees. Teachers are not laborers–either skilled or unskilled. That’s not to approve of Walker, and the WI conservatives–but times are tough. Teachers and other public employees may have to sacrifice some of their perqs (and salaries). It’s the sentimental sort of suburban demo–not the working class– who defend teacher, cop and nurse “unions” at any cost. (given that Obama just extended the BushCo taxcuts, with little protest–Demos have nobody to blame but themselves to blame for Fed budget shortages)

    Moreover the Madison situation points at another issue regarding meritocracy, for lack of a better term. Students need math teachers. History and govt. teachers, science teachers. french and spanish teachers, maybe a band director are needed, probably. Yet…do we need Harry Potter teachers, or basketweaving, or basketball-teachers for that matter? Not really. Taxpayers should not be expected to fund Harry Potter teachers. Liberal sentimentalists routinely praise education– but some educators are more equal than others.

  6. Frankly

    Rich, RE: Obama hypocrisy. I think Obama has clearly demonstrated a lack of support for the sovereign rights of states. At least in this he is a consistent hypocrite.

  7. Frankly

    [i]”New York Times-CBS poll found Americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of almost two to one — 60 percent to 33 percent”[/i]

    A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters agree more with the Republican governor in his dispute with union workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) agree more with the unionized public employees, while 14% are undecided. [url]http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/questions/pt_survey_questions/february_2011/questions_unions_february_18_19_2011[/url]

    It all depends on how you ask the questions. I count Rasmussen as the more objective source compared to the NYT.

  8. Neutral

    [i]Rasmussen as the more objective source compared to the NYT.[/i]

    That’s a hoot. Nate Silver was hired by the NYT in large part because he is one of the most objective pollsters in the business. Rassmussen? Not even close.

    J.R.: [i]The video coming out of Wisconsin makes them look less and less sympathetic with time. [/i]

    You must have been watching FOX news when they ‘mistakenly’ inserted the video of last weekend’s protest in Sacramento. And for the record, the *legitimate* polling on the WI action overwhelmingly favors the workers.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “New polling continues to show the nation’s opinion favoring unions in their dispute with Governor Walker over his plan to take away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.”

    LOL From ocregister.com: “Voters show little sympathy for the public employee unions in the Wisconsin labor showdown, with 48% saying they agree more with the governor in the dispute, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll.”

  10. E Roberts Musser

    Rifkin: “Given Obama’s actions, it strikes me as hypocritical of him to say he wants state and local workers to have collective bargaining when he opposes them for all federal employees. It strikes me as inconsistent for those who are defending the collective bargaining rights of local and state employees but not at the same time calling for these rights for federal employees.”

    Very good point.

  11. Frankly

    [i]” Nate Silver was hired by the NYT in large part because he is one of the most objective pollsters in the business. Rassmussen? Not even close”[/i]

    Here is a good source for the back and forth between Nate Silver and Scott Rassmussen:[url]http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/01/did-the-new-york-times-and-cbs-news-ask-leading-questions-to-twist-wisconsin-polling-data-results/[/url]

    Based on this report, Scott sure seems to be the more balanced and analytical of the two. Silver is defensive about his poll results. I generally do not trust people that quickly become defensive over their work… it shows that they probably have something to hide.

  12. Neutral

    [i]Pew Research Center also released a poll recently on the public’s reactions to Walker’s budget plans, and came out with results similar to the New York Times and CBS News poll.[/i]

    The results are not limited to the NYTimes. In all major media polls (USA Today/Gallup, etc.) including Pew’s the public supports the workers.

    Rifkin: [i] “Given Obama’s actions, it strikes me as hypocritical of him to say he wants state and local workers to have collective bargaining when he opposes them for all federal employees.[/i]

    And you read that, found that, and are quoting from? I haven’t seen anything written about the President’s views of federal collective bargaining.

  13. Frankly

    Neutral: Obama froze fed worker pay, but does not support governors having the same authority to do this for their state workers. This reeks of presidential hypocrisy.

  14. Don Shor

    Rasmussen always skews conservative and his poll results are usually outliers compared to other polling firms. Every other poll I’ve seen, as noted by others here, gets different results.

  15. JustSaying

    It appears there’s more support for the MN governor’s pay and related proposals than for his efforts to take away union collective bargaining rights.

    His plan incorporates an interesting twist: He’s convinced many around the country that his money-hungry state employees should be paying a higher percentage of funding their retirement plan…when 100% already comes from their pay.

    It’s fascinating how quickly recent calls to get a handle on budgets has morphed into a nationwide ideological war with misinformation as ammunition. Makes one wonder whether we’ll ever again be able to take care of our political business.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    Jeff: How do you account for the fact that Rasmussen in the last election cycle was consistently about skewed in his polls from the final result and virtually in every case he erred on the side of the republicans – whereas the NYT Poll was virtually spot on?

  17. J.R.

    David: How do you account for the fact that Rasmussen in the last election cycle was ranked the most accurate pollster by a Fordham University Study?

    Poll Accuracy in the 2008 Presidential Election
    The following list ranks the 23 organizations by the accuracy of their final, national preelection
    polls (as reported on pollster.com).

    1. Rasmussen (11/1-3)**
    1. Pew (10/29-11/1)**
    2. YouGov/Polimetrix (10/18-11/1)
    3. Harris Interactive (10/20-27)
    4. GWU (Lake/Tarrance) (11/2-3)*
    5. Diageo/Hotline (10/31-11/2)*
    5. ARG (10/25-27)*
    6. CNN (10/30-11/1)
    6. Ipsos/McClatchy (10/30-11/1)
    7. DailyKos.com (D)/Research 2000 (11/1-3)
    8. AP/Yahoo/KN (10/17-27)
    9. Democracy Corps (D) (10/30-11/2)
    10. FOX (11/1-2)
    11. Economist/YouGov (10/25-27)
    12. IBD/TIPP (11/1-3)
    13. NBC/WSJ (11/1-2)
    14. ABC/Post (10/30-11/2)
    15. Marist College (11/3)
    16. CBS (10/31-11/2)
    17. Gallup (10/31-11/2)
    18. Reuters/ C-SPAN/ Zogby (10/31-11/3)
    19. CBS/Times (10/25-29)
    20. Newsweek (10/22-23)

    http://www.fordham.edu/images/academics/graduate_schools/gsas/elections_and_campaign_/poll accuracy in the 2008 presidential election.pdf

  18. Frankly

    David: I would be suspect of your resources for anything that claims Rasmussen is less objective than the NYT. What are your sources? I would be interested to read them.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    Jeff: The nice thing about this is that you can get the numbers and compile them yourself. It’s a straight comparison of looking at polled result to actual and seeing which are most accurate.

    Here’s the source ([url]http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/[/url])

  20. Frankly

    David: Come on now. You cite an article written by the same Nate Silver of the NYT. He is the main competition here. The kid that started as a blogger and got his big breaks from the Daily Kos… a blog so left it can never stand up. There is no doubt that Silver is a math whiz, but he is so far aligned with the political left he makes Scott Rasmussen look like Harry Reid. At the very least I would admit that Silver is at least as far left as Rasmussen is far right.

    I do not trust Silver as far as I could throw him on top of Paul Krugman. For one, what do we make of a professional going out of his way to discredit a fellow professional? Feels like professional politics to me, not professional polling.

    Frankly, I think the Tea Party candidates threw a monkey into the polling wrench in the 2010 election. Sticking to your party loyalty for those races, you would have fared better leaning left than you would have leaning right. There were an awful lot of people surprised about the outcome in Nevada and a few other places.

    Many scholarly research articles agree that polls can and do influence voters and political outcomes. This is even truer today with our 24×7 new news media injections from every communication source. I think it is more likely that the actual 2010 results drifted away from the Rasmussen polls as a result of the overwhelming competition of left-leaning media pollsters driven by George Soros money to help make the elections turn their way. They focused on these few key races to help save the Senate. It worked! Nate Silver isn’t a better pollster; he just aligned himself with the stronger political power in media.

    My opinion.

  21. Don Shor

    [i]left-leaning media pollsters driven by George Soros money[/i]
    Which pollsters are funded by George Soros? This is not a rhetorical question; I am genuinely curious, since I’m unaware of any.
    It’s funny that you mention Daily Kos, since Kos got defrauded by Research 2000.

  22. Frankly

    Oops… it was Media Matters. I get them mixed up with Daily Kos for some reason. I don’t think Meida Matters polls… they just work to distort the results.

  23. David M. Greenwald

    “I do not trust Silver as far as I could throw him on top of Paul Krugman. “

    Like I said, in this case you don’t have to trust him, you can do your own research to verify what he says. And so can anyone else and I see no one who has disputed his figures, do you?

  24. David M. Greenwald

    “Many scholarly research articles agree that polls can and do influence voters and political outcomes.”

    I used to study that literature and the evidence that polls can and do influence voters is actually pretty sparse. I think the consensus in the scholarly community leans against that supposition.

  25. Frankly

    [i] “And so can anyone else and I see no one who has disputed his figures, do you?”[/i]

    David: My point is that no poll or pollster is any better or any worse. It is only Nate Silver that spends time ripping pollsters he does not agree with politically, and this alone is reason to at least be suspicious of his objectivity, if not outright rejecting of his work.

    I will see what I can dig up on the scholarly research. I remember more recent reports that concluded that polls can influence voters on the margins, uneducated voters, and they can also influence people to not vote when they learn from a poll that their issue or candidate will probably lose. I think there are more sinister uses of polls these days since they have multiplied and the media has taken to put them front and center as the lead or headline story. Ask a question a certain way and then tell voters in effect: “here is what most of the people think, do you want to be like them or the other people?”

    If polls have no significant influence, why would you or Nate Silver care that Rasmussen polls are skewed right?

  26. wdf1

    “When will America’s teachers follow the lead of Wall Street and start making some sacrifices for the children?” — Jon Stewart

    A summary of some juicy satire on last night’s Daily Show:

    [url]http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/thu-march-3-2011-diane-ravitch[/url]

    Especially this segment:

    [url]http://shar.es/3kf3W[/url]

  27. wdf1

    A recently posted column in the Enterprise on the topic, a first-hand account in Wisconsin that’s different from the Fox News filter:

    [url]http://digital.davisenterprise.com/opinion/one-persons-demonstration-in-madison-wis/[/url]

    (No password required nowadays; free public access.)

  28. wdf1

    From Wisconsin:

    Raw Video: 12 News Camera Captures Lawmaker Being Tackled By Police

    Democratic state Rep. Nick Milroy (South Range) was tackled by police Thursday evening while he was trying to make it inside the Capitol in Madison.

    [url]http://www.wisn.com/video/27074185/detail.html[/url]

    If the situation were somehow reversed, I think Fox News commentators and Republicans would waste no time in declaring this an example of the Democrats’ vision of a communist, fascist, totalitarian police state.

  29. Frankly

    wdf1: I doubt there would ever be a case where GOP reps would abandon their posts and responsibility to block the will of the people. Democrats these days are much more apt to see demonstration and agitation as a respected form of politicking. Conservatives, I think, see acts like these Democrat Wisconsin state reps pulled as worthy of scorn and subject to some legal consequence.

    I remember when my father used to scream at the TV over coverage of some campus protest saying “those damn hippies!”. I used to think he was over-reacting, but now as these professional protesters have made their way to seats of power in government, I am thinking the old man might have known more than I gave him credit for.

  30. wdf1

    Jeff B.: I don’t see walking out as being a whole lot different from using any other legislative rule to stall action. Filibustering isn’t really about truly extending the debate. This is one instance where it would have been in Gov. Walker’s long term best interest to compromise. He already had the concessions he needed.

    If Gov. Walker gets his way, I think he’s wrecked his education system by scapegoating teachers for all that’s wrong. The talent will flee if you don’t respect them as workers and pay them what they’re worth. Wisonsin has had a better than average public education system up until now. What kind of salary would convince you to go into teaching?

  31. Frankly

    From WSJ two days ago:
    [quote]Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates will step into the national debate over state budgets Thursday with a call for states to rethink their health care and pension systems, which he says stifle funding for public schools.

    Mr. Gates in an interview said he will use a high-profile conference Thursday in Long Beach, Calif., to urge that more attention be paid to how states calculate their employee-pension funding and health-care obligations. “These budgets are way out of whack,” Mr. Gates said. “They’ve used accounting gimmicks and lot things that are truly extreme.”

    The comments come after Mr. Gates spent more than a year studying the issue and enlisting the advice of leading academics and others.
    [/quote]

  32. Frankly

    wdf1: Of course you do not see anything wrong with the Wisconsin Democrat tactics. However, procedures and standards exist for a reason. This is a terrible precedent to set… that you can just run away from your responsibilities because you don’t like something. You, of course, know that they did this lacking the ability to prevent the legislation by all other standard and legal means. At the very least, it demonstrates terrible leadership. Frankly, if I were a Dem, I would be embarrassed that the leaders of my party just ran away.

  33. wdf1

    Rasmussen poll: Wisconsin Governor Walker: 43% Approval Rating

    [url]http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_state_surveys/wisconsin/wisconsin_governor_walker_43_approval_rating[/url]

    and 57% disapprove.

  34. David M. Greenwald

    “My point is that no poll or pollster is any better or any worse. “

    I couldn’t really disagree more.

    “If polls have no significant influence, why would you or Nate Silver care that Rasmussen polls are skewed right?”

    I can’t really speak for Silver, but I only care because you were citing public opinion on a given issue current issue. I don’t believe that their reported poll matters in terms of convincing people but in terms of evaluating policy it does.

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