California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Monopolistic Unions Are a Boon

Xavier Becerra
According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, statutes empowering government union kingpins like Alex Caputo-Pearl to create state crises serve “important interests of public employers across the nation.” Credit: Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times

Does California Attorney General  Love Union Don-Created Chaos?

Burdened by a dumbfounding $13.6 billion in unfunded retiree health-care liabilities, the Los Angeles Unified School District desperately needs to reform the way teachers and other school employees are compensated early this year in order to keep the LAUSD from sinking even deeper into a hole.

On paper, it seems like the LAUSD ought to be able to curtail its health-care expenditures substantially without causing hardship among district staff.

With a payroll of fewer than 26,600 active teachers, the LAUSD now spends $1.1 billion a year on health care, and annual health-care expenditures have been increasing more than twice as fast as the consumer price index.

But the LAUSD has been unable to implement even very modest reforms. At best,  it hopes merely that it will be able to hold health-care costs stable over the next couple of years.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of the Rodda Act, a four-decade-old California law that authorizes and promotes union monopoly-bargaining control over public school employees, it is now highly unlikely the LAUSD will even be able to prevent its out-of-control healthcare costs from soaring even higher.

‘Next Year-and-a-Half Must Be Founded Upon Building Our Capacity to Strike’

Under the Rodda Act, elected officials and their appointees can’t do anything significant to rein in spiraling employee benefit costs without government union officials’ acquiescence.

And the monopoly-bargaining system is so slanted in Big Labor’s favor that irresponsible union bosses like Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA/NEA/AFT) union, are encouraged not to give an inch.

In a fiery summer 2016 speech at a gathering of union militants, Mr. Caputo-Pearl vowed to go to war with the LAUSD rather than accept any meaningful reform of  K-12 employees’  exorbitantly expensive  and taxpayer-funded health-insurance plans: “The next year-and-a-half must be founded upon building our capacity to strike, and our capacity to create a state crisis, in early 2018.”

As a December 2017 government union strike in Oakland, California’s eighth largest city, confirmed, this was no idle threat. According to one newspaper account, the Oakland strike halted basic city functions like “checks of building plans, fire inspections, parking enforcement and street sweeping” while also closing services like “senior centers, libraries, recreation centers, and after-school programs.”

Regardless of what they think about labor unions in general, most Americans would surely agree that a system that empowers a special-interest group to prevent schools from doing what they deem necessary to serve schoolchildren, their parents and other taxpaying citizens is not a good one.

How Does Assisting Union Radicals Like Alex Caputo-Pearl ‘Serve’ Taxpayers’ Interests?

But Xavier Becerra, California’s union-label attorney general, has an altogether different perspective.

According to Mr. Becerra, empowering government union kingpins like Mr. Caputo-Pearl to create state crises serves “important interests of public employers” in California and other states, as he and attorney Aimee Feinberg recently wrote in a commentary they coauthored.

Indeed, Mr. Becerra and a number of other Big Labor state politicians go so far as to contend that government-sector union monopoly bargaining is a “vital public interest.”

And in briefs filed this winter with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the landmark National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, Mr. Becerra and other likeminded politicians go even further. They actually claim it is constitutionally acceptable to force unwilling public employees to pay for union monopoly bargaining or be fired.

‘Xavier Becerra Illustrates How Political Self-Interest Can Warp a Person’s Judgment’

John Kalb, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee (the Right to Work Foundation’s sister organization) commented: “I think the experience of California and many other states actually shows government-sector union monopoly bargaining is a detriment for taxpayers and not a benefit at all.

“But even if corralling public servants into unions whether they personally want them or not did somehow help taxpayers, it still would not justify trampling on the First Amendment freedom of union non-members not to bankroll Big Labor advocacy with which they disagree.

“Ordinary Americans have no trouble recognizing this fact. But Xavier Becerra illustrates how political self-interest can warp a person’s judgment.”

(Click here to download the March 2018 National Right to Work Newsletter)