Unions Struggle with Ballot Measures

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

As often noted by political observers, public and private sector unions are strong political forces in California. While they may have once again supported candidates to their liking up and down the ballot, as this is written they have not been as successful wielding their influence on voters through ballot measures.

Let’s add the proper caveat that the votes are still being counted and results could shift, but at this time the trend seems notable.

Proposition 15 to raise property taxes on commercial property and send the new revenue to schools and local governments was a major project for both the California Teachers Association (CTA)and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). As this is written the measure is extremely close, but with 99% of the precincts partially reporting, Prop 15 is behind at 48.3% Yes and 51.7% No. This measure probably won’t be decided until the final vote is certified.

Unions played a major role in backing AB 5 in the legislature to change worker classification laws, with the goal particularly of making app-based driver workers employees who must follow state labor laws. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash attacked the inclusion of the app-based drivers under AB 5 and quickly qualified Proposition 22 for the ballot to exempt app-based drivers from AB 5. The effort worked. Proposition 22 is winning voter approval, 58.4% to 41.6%.

Even the referendum on Proposition 25 to stop the elimination of money bail had interest from the public unions. Under the system that would replace the money bail system, there was expected to be an expanded role for county employees. This measure, which needed an affirmative vote to allow the legislative bill eliminating cash bail to survive, didn’t get it.

While the unions made endorsements on other measures and even made campaign contributions, such as CTA’s support for Proposition 16, repealing the affirmative action ban, which is losing, the focus here is on the major efforts the unions made.

Proposition 23 falls into that category, which was put on the ballot by SEIU United Healthcare Workers. The union wanted unionization of dialysis clinic workers and made a second effort over the course of the last two statewide elections to have the voters force changes on the dialysis clinics and open the door for unionization. The effort failed again, this time by a 36% to 64% score.

Don’t feel sorry for the unions. They still wield great influence over the California political and policy process. But if the latest numbers hold up, Election Day 2020 just wasn’t their day when it came to California proposition campaigns.

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