Reader Disputes Overfunding of Public Employee Unions
January 14, 2021
To the Editor:
In a letter published in the Observer (Jan. 7 – 13, 2021) Will Swaim makes the rather absurd claim that public employee unions “are by far the most powerful and lavishly overfunded political actors in California.” That dubious distinction goes to the oil and gas industry. The top lobbying clients nationally and in the state of California in the oil and gas industry are Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries Royal Dutch Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute.
More illogically, Swaim insinuates that public employee union’s political contributions are responsible for CA government officials’ restrictions on businesses to protect the health and safety of all of us in the current pandemic. Lockdown or restrictions decisions are made based upon weighing risks of contagion, not on what Union A or Union B wants. We all love our small businesses (the center of Swaim’s beef) but we love our lives even more.
Ultimately Where Mr. Swaim would be correct would be in pointing to special interest money, be that from unions, corporations, or super rich individuals through PACs, that has infected our political processes from campaigns, through legislation, and finally policy decisions. This sad state of affairs was created by the 2010 US Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Court in its “wisdom” narrowly decided (5-4) that limiting “independent political spending” of corporations and other groups violates the First Amendment. In a time of historic wealth inequality, much worse this decade than last, wealthy individuals and corporations wield outsize influence. Public sector unions do compete on this new political playing field, but at a great disadvantage, if money is the primary consideration.
Bruce Lebedoff Anders