BART Strike and Fiscal Issues Test Unions’ Relationship with Democrats

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

A weekend article by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Andrew Ross suggests that the Bay Area BART strike could weaken the ties between unions and Democratic politicians most often found in the unions’ corner.

As polls show the public’s anger over the strike aimed mostly at the unions, some California Democrats are considering whether to pass a law that prohibits strikes by transit unions. One of the major arguments they raise is that such strikes can be crippling to the economy.

It is not only the transit strike by public unions that is calling into question the traditional relationship. The issue of fiscal management is the knife that is cutting away at the traditional ties.

Last week in California, an initiative was filed to allow more local control to cut public employee pensions. Four of the five initiative proponents were Democratic mayors. They argue that the costs of pensions are eating away at local government budgets preventing cities from fulfilling other basic obligations to their citizens.

Indeed, another article over the weekend on the website Politico, discussing the disappearance of Republican mayors in big cities across the country, attributed that phenomenon in part to the fact that Democratic mayors were adopting fiscal discipline unlike Democratic mayors of a few decades ago.

As the Politico article put it: “It’s awfully hard, in other words, for Republicans to lampoon modern-day Democrats as the tools of unions and the enemies of police – like their counterparts in the 1980s – when they’re backing pension reform and aggressive policing.”

It should be noted here that in a recent Los Angeles Times article by writer Mark Z. Barabak it was pointed out that even in the blue state of California Republicans hold close to half of all mayoral and city council seats so let’s not bury the GOP.

However, Democratic politicians realize that the jobs and economy issues still rank at the top of the list of the people’s concerns half-a-decade after the Great Recession. They also understand that demands made on the public purse by local public unions are making it difficult to govern.

As we’ve seen in Washington recently, making it difficult to govern is not a winning formula.

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