Why Are Oakland Burglars Breathing Easier?

Police Chief Anthony Batts to Oaklanders: If your home is burglarized, don't call us. Credit: AP
(Source: August 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

Public-Safety Union Monopoly Undercuts California Law Enforcement

On Tuesday, July 13, Oakland, Calif., became a friendlier place for burglars, embezzlers, car thieves, bad-check passers, extortionists, and an array of other criminals.

That afternoon, Oakland, a major West Coast port city with roughly 400,000 residents, laid off 80 police officers, or 10% of its force, to help eliminate a budget deficit of over $30 million. In response, the city police department implemented a new policy in which officers aren’t being dispatched to take reports for 44 “lower priority” crimes.

Oaklanders whose homes or vehicles are burglarized must now go online or visit a police station to file reports. However, the police department warns them that, even if they do: “There will be no follow-up investigation, and the primary reason for filing the report is for insurance purposes.”

Why is the city recently reported to have the fourth highest violent crime rate in the country slashing the number of cops it employs? Some observers are blaming the recent national recession, which hit California especially hard.

But despite the recession-induced decline in Oakland’s tax revenues over the past couple of years, city officials could still have avoided laying off police this summer — if their hands weren’t tied by California labor policies that promote monopolistic unionism in the public sector.

Decades ago, Big Labor California politicians rubber-stamped legislation forcing local police departments to allow the agents of a single union to speak for all the police on their force, including those who haven’t joined the union and want nothing to do with it, on matters of pay, benefits, and work rules.

Government Union Bosses Prefer Service Cutbacks To Other Alternatives

The same union monopoly-bargaining system was foisted on California fire departments, school districts, prisons, and other government agencies.

As a consequence of government union bosses’ special privileges, California elected officials who face fiscal crises must get Big Labor’s permission before they can attempt to get their budgets back in order by changing the way employees are compensated.

For example, in Oakland, like in many other California jurisdictions, government union-promoted work rules make it almost impossible for police supervisors to schedule officers to work when and where they are needed during their regular eight-hour shifts.

Consequently, local taxpayers rack up enormous overtime costs.

Changing Big Labor scheduling restrictions and other work rules could easily have reduced the Oakland police department’s compensation expenses by as much as laying off 10% of the force does.

However, police union bosses rejected all proposals that would have resulted in a significant net reduction in taxpayers’ compensation costs, making layoffs unavoidable.

“When times are bad, government union bosses generally prefer layoffs that reduce services to other alternatives, partly because they know the layoffs will, very likely, only be temporary,” commented National Right to Work Committee Vice President Matthew Leen. “Consequently, structural problems never get resolved.”

Will U.S. Congress Make Matters Worse?

“That Californians have to deal with this is bad enough,” Mr. Leen continued.

“But incredibly, just as Golden State Congressman Brad Sherman [D] wants to foist private-sector forced union dues on all 50 states [see p. 5 for details], other Big Labor politicians are eager to federalize the public-sector union monopolies that are dragging California cities down.

“Their vehicle is S.3194/H.R.413, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and union-label Congressman Dale Kildee [D-Mich.]. Unless it is stopped, this legislation could bring Oakland’s woes to other cities across America.”

For more information on S.3194/H.R.413, the Police/Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Bill, see pp. 1-2.