“For anybody with the integrity to view the circumstances honestly the status of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is truly astounding in its embrace of dishonesty, partiality and cheating,” Don Curlee wrote in the Agricultural Action Committee’s newsletter, Ag Accent.Read more
Assemblywoman Grove & Union workers advocate for legislation requiring unions to be more accountable to their members
SACRAMENTO – Assemblywoman Shannon Grove has introduced legislation to address the frustrations of disenfranchised public union workers who came to her seeking help to make unions more accountable to their members. These individuals include members of SEIU Local 1000, the Fresno County Public Safety Association, the Regional Employees Association of Professionals, to name a few. Grove’s two union reform bills, AB 2753 and AB 2754, would require public employee unions to be transparent with how they spend union dues, and a simplified process for union members to affirm or replace the union that represents them.
Union choice and transparency are almost impossible for its members because of the stranglehold public unions have on power. Grove’s bills will change this dynamic.
“Americans rightfully demand transparency and accountability from their government officials,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Grove. “Why shouldn’t public union workers expect the same from their unions?”
The first, AB 2753, would require California’s public employee unions to post an itemized version of its budget online, making it accessible for its members. The second bill, AB 2754, would require public unions to hold an election every two years to determine if the current labor union should continue to represent its members. The election would also allow workers to select another public employee union to take its place.
One of those union workers demanding more accountability is Mariam Noujaim, a SEIU 20-year member and an employee with the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento. She has been trying for the past three years to find out how her union, SEIU Local 1000, is spending the nearly $60 million in revenue it collects each year. After filing a lawsuit against them, she was only able to see small sample of their records, but was not allowed to make copies.
“I am not against the original idea of a union representing the rights, wages, and benefits of working members,” Noujaim said. “Unfortunately, with the huge amount of money they have been taking from workers, the union bosses act as if it is their money to do with whatever they please.” (Read more of Noujaim’s story here.)
Rick Gay was once a steward for SEIU 721 in the Inland Empire, but ended up joining a competing employee association, the Regional Employees Association of Professionals (REAP), after becoming dissatisfied with SEIU tactics of “deceit and underhandedness.” REAP has tried to become a recognized county labor organization, but even after meeting all the required criteria, Gay said the county still refused to recognize them.
“Unions have a stranglehold on our political system, and a complete, unfair advantage,” Gay explained. “No one body should have this much influence and power. There needs to be a legitimate alternative to removing bad organizations… . Unions, like politicians, should be re-elected on their merit not how deep their pocket books are.” (Read more of Gay’s story here.)
The two bills will then be heard in the Committee on Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security in the Capitol Hearing Room #444 at 9:30 a.m.
- A coalition of public labor union reformers put together the following video to advocate for union choice and transparency.
- Here is the contact information for some of union members featured in this video:
- Rick Gay, Interim President, REAP - Regional Employees Association of Professionals, (951) 660-0496, Rick@reap4us.org, www.reap4us.org (Rick Gay’s story)
- Eulalio Gomez, President of Fresno County Public Safety Association (FCPSA), (559) 681-3384, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mariam Noujaim, Member SEIU Local 1000, (916) 834-8916, Themighty1@comcast.net, www.UnionTransparency.com, www.SEIUngo.com (Mariam Noujaim’s story)
- Lisa Garcia, Member SEIU Local 1000, (916) 893-4449, Lgarcia916@yahoo.com, www.UnionTransparency.com (Lisa Garcia’s story)
- Mark F. Goudy, Sacramento Probate, (916) 448-4980, mfgoudy@GoudyLaw.com
More information about the fight for union transparency can be found at www.uniontransparency.com and a petition website has been set up at www.transparencyandchoice.com for supporters of Grove’s Union Reform bills.
Updated May 2, 2016 5:15 p.m. ET
In a pair of rulings, Colorado’s high court found that measures passed by the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont that sought to halt the controversial drilling technique known as fracking “were preempted by state law and, therefore… invalid and unenforceable.”
The decisions uphold lower court rulings and come amid a long-running battle over fracking across northeastern Colorado, which sits atop a large shale formation. In recent years, cities along the state’s fast growing Front Range have sought to limit the practice amid concerns that drilling is taking place too close to population centers and complaints from environmental groups.
The legal dispute dates back to 2012, when voters in Longmont approved a ban on fracking. A year later, Fort Collins voters passed a five-year moratorium on the practice.
But two district court judges subsequently ruled that the bans were illegal under state law, after the Colorado Oil & Gas Association filed a pair of lawsuits seeking to overturn them. The Supreme Court took up the case after both cities appealed.
In a statement, Fort Collins said that while it was still reviewing the ruling, “it is clear that the Supreme Court has found that the Fort Collins moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is in operational conflict with Colorado law.”
Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs said, “The case did not end as the city hoped, but we respect the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Energy industry groups, meanwhile, lauded the decisions.
“This is not just a win for the energy industry but for the people of Colorado who rely on affordable and dependable energy and a strong economy,” said Dan Haley, president and chief executive of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. “It sends a strong message to anyone trying to drive this vital industry out of the state that those efforts will not be tolerated.
The American Petroleum Institute said the ruling “protects private property rights, which are a main driver for the energy renaissance in this country.”
The fight over fracking also has unfolded elsewhere around the country as municipalities have similarly sought to limit or bar fracking and the energy industry has tried to beat back such efforts.
Last year, for example, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a law prohibiting fracking bans, making it harder for local municipalities to limit where oil and gas wells are drilled. The measure was passed in response to a fracking ban passed by the north Texas city of Denton.
Other states have taken a variety of stances on fracking, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 2015, New York banned fracking statewide. Conversely, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled last year that the state has the exclusive authority to permit oil and gas drilling, limiting local government power on the issue.
The debate over fracking has been especially charged in Colorado. In 2014, Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, convened a task force to deal with the issue amid a controversial push to ban fracking statewide. The group completed its work last year but didn’t resolve the role of local governments in limiting drilling.
According to Mike Wade, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Farm Water Coalition, "Water diversions have been regulated for 20 years and the result has been little, if any, identifiable improvement in salmon populations."Read more
Assembly Public Safety Committee approves Shannon Grove’s bill to crack down on adults who solicit sex
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted to approve Assemblywoman Shannon Grove’s anti-human trafficking bill this afternoon with the help of testimony from several Kern County witnesses. Bakersfield Police Department Sgt. Jeff Burdick, Magdalene Hope president and founder Doug Bennett, as well as several human trafficking victims waited over four hours before being allowed to testify at the Capitol hearing. In the end, AB 2188 passed with a 4 to 3 vote.
The new law would give law enforcement increased authority to arrest adults for soliciting sex from minors. The idea for the bill came from Bakersfield Police Department officials who said the change would help them in their efforts to combat the human trafficking problem in Kern County.
“I’m so glad committee members decided to stand with the 14-year-old victims of human trafficking, and not with those buying our children for sex,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Grove. “Our law enforcement officials need the ability to arrest adults that are combing our streets looking for young teens they can purchase. This bill will help that happen.”
AB 2188 would allow law enforcement the authority to arrest any adult when there is probable cause to believe they solicited sex from a minor. Currently, law enforcement officials can only arrest an adult for soliciting sex from a minor if they witness the solicitation or if there is another witness to the crime.
The bill will now be scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee sometime within the next few weeks.Read more
"The United Farm Workers (UFW) pays millions of dollars a year to its executives, employees, lawyers, and political cronies in Sacramento.
This is why ALRB is fighting so hard to force workers to pay 3% of their income – to feed the Sacramento political machine."
If you are a teacher or working in education take a moment to read this article about an important Supreme Court Case regarding choice and union membership.
Jan. 3, 2016 4:23 p.m. ET
I have taught in public schools for nearly 30 years, mostly in California. I grew up in the Central Valley, and though I’m the son of two teachers and related to eight more, I didn’t think I’d choose a career in education. But when I went off to college, I started tutoring other students in math and realized that I was good at teaching and I really enjoyed it.
I’ve never regretted my decision. Sunday nights are joyous because I know I’ll be going to work in my classroom, with my students, on Monday morning.
I was a member of the union for years and even served as a union representative. But the union never played an important role in my school. When most teachers sought guidance, they wanted help in the classroom and on how to excel at teaching. The union never offered this pedagogic aid.
Instead, the union focused on politics. I remember a phone call I received before a major election from someone in the union. It was a “survey,” asking teachers whether they would vote for so-and-so if the election were held tomorrow. I disagreed with every issue and candidate the union was promoting. After that conversation, I thought about what the union represents. Eventually, I realized that my dues—about $1,000 a year—went toward ideas and issues that ran counter to my beliefs.
So I opted out of paying the portion of union dues that is put toward political activities. The Supreme Court requires unions to provide this option, but I was surprised by how difficult this is. To opt out you have to resign from the union and relinquish all benefits—insurance, legal representation, maternity leave. Although you are prohibited from voting on any new contract, you are still forced to pay for the union’s collective bargaining, on the theory that the union negotiates for everyone.
But over time I’ve learned that the union’s collective bargaining is every bit as political. The union is bargaining for things I’d never support. For example, in my community, the union spends resources pushing for ever-higher teacher salaries. I’m in favor of a decent salary for teachers, but I think we are already well paid compared with everyone else in the Central Valley.
The area has endured hard times in the past few years. Parents of my students have been laid off, and many are still unemployed. Some have moved in with grandparents or other family members to stay afloat financially. Families struggle to make ends meet. That the union would presume to push, allegedly on my behalf, for higher salaries at the expense of smaller class sizes and avoiding teacher layoffs is preposterous.
The union also negotiates policies on discipline, grievances and seniority that make it difficult—if not impossible—to remove bad teachers. Over three decades I’ve seen my share of educators who should be doing something else. One example that sticks with me involved a colleague whom everyone, students and faculty, knew was incompetent. All on campus knew that he was biding his time until retirement.
These situations are sad. Students were relying on this teacher for an education, and he did not deliver. Yet he could do exactly as he pleased because the union had negotiated protections based on seniority. Sometimes the very teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom are protected from layoffs thanks to seniority rules, while slightly younger but more competent colleagues are given the ax—again, thanks to collective bargaining.
The teachers in my family disagree about the union. Some support it and others don’t. But everyone agrees that each of us should have the right to decide whether to join. So I’m not against the union; I’m against the state forcing me to pay union fees against my will.
Most Americans agree. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government recently released its ninth annual “Education Next” opinion poll. A majority of teachers who had an opinion, 50% of those surveyed, favored ending mandatory agency fees. Most Americans, regardless of political persuasion, are also on our side. A Gallup poll last year found that 82% of the public agrees that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.” That’s all we’re asking.
Mr. Elrich is a math teacher in the Sanger Unified School District.
California farmworkers ask Dolores Huerta for help in getting their votes counted to de-certify the UFW. Huerta then stands with farmworker leader Silvia Lopez and Governor Jerry Brown.
Senate District 16