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Back in 2013, some 8,000 members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) rallied at the California state capitol in Sacramento chanting, “We’re letting them know this is our house!” In 2012, the government employee unions had helped elect big-government, tax-hiking politicians such as Jerry Brown, and they were now clamoring for more money and benefits. In his first stint as governor, taxpayers might recall, Brown authorized collective bargaining for state employees, and that boosted the cost of government.
As Jon Ortiz reports in the Sacramento Bee, a tentative contract for California’s state craft and maintenance workers “hikes costs to taxpayers more than any deal bargained by the union in at least 11 years.” According to the state legislative analysis, the deal with the International Union of Operating Engineers Unit 12 “adds a total $473 million over four years to the state’s pay and benefit costs.” As the legislative analyst noted, the deal would “increase annual state costs more than any of the Unit 12 agreements ratified since at least 2005.”
Sweet deals for government unions, however, do not always result in productivity. As we noted, CalTrans pays some 3,500 employees to sit around. The legislative analyst sought to trim these positions but Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, defended the comfy arrangement. In his view, CalTrans should keep idle staff on hand to prepare future projects, and outsourcing work to independent contractors “wastes taxpayer money.”
The powerful SEIU, meanwhile, has been fighting legislation requiring government employee unions to publicly post itemized financial records and hold annual bi-annual elections. So SEIU local 1000 president Yvonne Walker, like other government union bosses, still has a strong case that the state capitol is “our house.” That’s a bad deal for taxpayers.