By Jon Fleischman
Democrats advanced legislation supported by public employee unions this week that would block the public from seeing collective bargaining negotiations between labor and government until they are complete.
Assembly Bill 1455, introduced by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), passed the State Assembly Judiciary Committee on a party line 8-3 vote.
According to the floor analysis, AB 1455 "[e]xempts from required disclosure under the California Public Records Act the records of local agencies related to collective bargaining if those records reveal a local agencies deliberative processes, impressions, evaluations, opinions, recommendations, meeting minutes, research, work products, theories, or strategy...".
If AB 1455 becomes law, it will end the last potential route for the public to know the details of negotiations and to have input into the negotiations themselves. Without public disclosure through the California Public Records Act, the first time the public knows about the "deal" is when it is released for a final vote - when it is usually too late to change the terms.
Why would employee unions want to exclude the public from this process? Maybe it is because collective bargaining negotiations have seen drastic increases in total compensation to public workers, including benefits as well as salaries. It is this process that has created massive unfunded pension liabilities, as politicians (often elected with the help of the very unions with which they later negotiate) often reach deals that are much better for the unions than the taxpayers.
I am personally very familiar with this process, as I was involved in litigation about a year-and-a-half ago that prompted the unions to advance this legislation. The County of Orange had entered into collective bargaining negotiations with the Orange County Deputies Union. I filed a request, under the California Public Records Act, for any and all documents in the possession of the county having to do with the negotiation. When the county indicated that it was going to comply with my request, the union filed a lawsuit against the County (naming me as an interested party) in Superior Court, trying to block the records from being released.
The county's counsel ,as well as my own attorney, Craig Alexander, were very effective in the courtroom, and prevailed before Judge Craig Griffin, who ruled against the union. The judge cited the important role of public awareness in a democratic form of government. The documents were released to me, and revealed an outrageous compensation increase for deputies. But the delay caused by the court proceedings meant that the information had no time to reach the public.
The fact that this new legislation is sailing through the legislative process without nearly a peep from anyone in the media speaks volumes about how the mainstream media don't want to poke public labor unions in California. There has been one editorial against the bill in an Inland Empire newspaper, and a column from my attorney over at the FlashReport - but no news coverage of this legislation otherwise.
Breitbart News has reported on the epic amount of money that is continually spent by public labor unions to influence the State Capitol, especially on issues of interest to them - over a billion dollars a year spent on California politics!
When you own the game, and you lose, it makes perfect sense that you would simply make up new rules, which is what is happening here. Unfortunately ,the losers continue to be the public, who are not only excluded from the labor negotiation process when it matters, but are also the ones picking up the tab after these secret negotiations result in huge financial liabilities for local government.
AB 1455 will next move to a full vote in the State Assembly, and then over to the State Senate. If you are looking for a safe bet, anticipate it making it to the governor's desk, where the massive investment by public employees in the elections of Jerry Brown will likely pay yet another sweet dividend.