Collective Bargaining in Crosshairs

Lanny Ebstein Takes Fight Statewide

Lanny Ebenstein, a frequent contributor to the Santa Barbara News-Press opinion page who often goes after employee unions and pensions, is taking his fight statewide.

At a time when the public is becoming more and more disgruntled at the salary and pensions of government employees, Ebenstein — who, as president of the newly formed California Center for Public Policy, recently issued a report on public employee compensation — is set to file a petition with the state to introduce a ballot measure that, if passed, would end collective bargaining for all city, county, and state employees. “The bottom line is public employees have higher pay, better benefits, more days off, greater job security, and especially higher pensions than the private sector,” Ebenstein explained.

Public-sector collective bargaining is an idea that has come and gone, Ebenstein said. The issue should be a nonpartisan one, he stated, explaining that if public employees were paid a fair wage, more money could be open for social programs.

Should the measure — which Ebenstein hopes to get on a 2012 ballot — pass, union organizations could still lobby decision makers, but would no longer be allowed to negotiate on behalf of employees. He said there was an inherent conflict when unions work so hard to get politicians elected, and then the politicians negotiate with the unions on employee contracts. “They’re basically electing their own bosses to office,” he said.

The Attorney General’s office would have to okay the language of the measure, and then Ebenstein would get to work raising $100,000 or so to do some research and polling to gauge voter interest. He anticipates having to raise $1.5 million to make the measure competitive, but said he has felt widespread support wherever he pitches the idea.

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