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Politics

Phil Matier: An Evolving Relationship Between Labor Unions And California Democrats

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Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) union workers with SEIU Local 1021 hold signs as they picket in front of the Lake Merritt station on July 2, 2013 in Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) union workers with SEIU Local 1021 hold signs as they picket in front of the Lake Merritt station on July 2, 2013 in Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PhilMatier01-370 Phil Matier
Whether it's politics, personalities or analysis Phil Matier is one ...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is leading an effort to put an initiative before voters allowing cities to renegotiate pensions for existing public employees—as well as new hires. Meanwhile, State Assembly candidate Steve Glazer from Orinda, is pushing an initiative preventing transit employees from striking in the future.

So what does this say about the relationship between labor unions and California Democrats?

For one, it shows that the public employee unions have a legislative hammer hold on the establishment in Sacramento—uniquely with the Democratic Party.

That’s why Chuck Reed, and other Democratic mayors, are suggesting a state initiative on the ballot that would go around the legislature for pension reform because, quite honestly, it’s just not going to move through Sacramento.

Glazer has been riding the trains handing out leaflets about his idea which is to put a clamp down on transit strikes—initially through the legislature. But that would likely go to the ballot as well, partly because of political gridlock, and because Sacramento really just doesn’t want to deal with it.

What also makes all of this interesting is the open primary. In the past, if a politician didn’t have the support of the police, firefighters, prison guards and public employees union, they wouldn’t go anywhere in a Democratic primary.

Open primaries now, however, allow people to make more choices. You can choose between two Democrats. It’s no longer just a right-wing Republican versus a labor-friendly Democrat.

Republicans can now get into the mix by voting for a Democrat. That’s what has change and gives someone like Steve Glazer a shot. He knows that he won’t be labor’s choice but he can stake his own his turf and find support.

That was unheard of a few years ago.

There was a time when there was a select group who ruled the roost and told aspiring politicians on how things were going to be run.

That bottom line now is that whether politician has ambition or that they feel like they are hitting a wall they can now tap into other sources for support—including anger over the perceived goodies for public employees.

This is a new ball game that we are seeing.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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