Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
September 6, 2015

  • A sixth of state’s workers are union members
  • Labor wields a big stick in the Capitol
  • Union political power faces two big threats

Only a sixth of California’s 15 million wage and salary workers belong to labor unions, most of them government workers.

On this Labor Day, it would be fair to say that without public employees, California’s 16.3 percent unionization rate, a bit above the national average, would be more like Oklahoma’s 6 percent.

While union members are a fairly small portion of the workforce, and have declined a bit in recent years, their leaders swing a big stick in the Capitol.

The Legislature’s Democratic majority is in almost complete thrall to the state’s unions, particularly those representing teachers, cops, firefighters and other public employees.

Many union-friendly legislators come straight out of union leadership positions.

Labor Day is not only a holiday for unions to celebrate, but the first day of the last week of the 2015 legislative session. And dozens of union-supported bills are floating around the Capitol, including some concepts still looking for landing sites.

They take several forms, from locking into law new employee rights and benefits that otherwise would be subject to collective bargaining, to virtually mandating that public works projects be done only by unionized contractors.

The latter is found in bills that confine projects to bidders who have “skilled and trained” workforces – essentially having union-backed apprenticeship programs.

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