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Public Sector Unions Win Big at the California Supreme Court: New at Reason

California citizens must now meet and confer with union bosses before qualifying any compensation-related initiatives for the ballot.

Gala Images/agefotostock/NewscomGala Images/agefotostock/NewscomA recent California Supreme Court decision, striking down a San Diego initiative that rolled back pension benefits for new public employees, has rightly been portrayed as a win for public-sector unions—and something that could cost San Diego taxpayers more money as a lower court hashes out a remedy. But the decision is more consequential than the news coverage would suggest.

Quite simply, it was an assault on the constitutional right to qualify initiatives for the state or local ballot. Union demands have now officially trumped our voting rights. California citizens must now meet and confer with union bosses before qualifying any compensation-related initiatives for the ballot if any city officials were actively involved in the process.

The matter goes back to 2010, when San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Carl DeMaio came up with an idea to replace defined-benefit pension plans with 401-k plans for most newly hired employees (police and firefighters were exempted) via a voter initiative. The reform was necessary given how the city's pension costs were consuming so much of the municipal budget. San Diego was on the cutting edge of a statewide pension-reform movement, as the state faced a budget mess and cities were wrestling with unfunded pension liabilities.

The San Diego ruling is yet a reminder of how deeply union tentacles go into every aspect of this state, writes Steven Greenhut.

Photo Credit: Gala Images/agefotostock/Newscom

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