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University of California Regent David Crane has joined the national debate over whether public employees should be unionized, drawing fire from Sen. Leland Yee, a longtime critic of UC management.

In an opinion piece published Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle, Crane argues that unions make more sense in the private sector, where "compensation and benefits are determined through negotiations conducted by unions representing employees and management representing shareholders."

"Neither side has influence over the other, and there is a healthy tension as each side works to increase its share of the pie," wrote the former Arnold Schwarzenegger adviser, who has been a vocal advocate for changing the state's public employee pension system.

"But in the public sector," Crane wrote in the Chronicle, "no such healthy tension exists because unions can use campaign contributions to gain control of 'management,' which in California's state government means the 120 legislators and the governor who together determine employee compensation and benefits."

Not surprisingly, Yee -- who is adored by UC's labor unions -- fired back with a news release blasting Crane's perspective. Yee, who is running for mayor of San Francisco, said Crane had launched a "direct attack on working families."

"It is time for Regent Crane to put away his Wisconsin playbook and come down from his ivory tower," the San Francisco Democrat said in the statement.

"While the Regents have approved million dollar contracts for their top administrators," he added, "they allow many UC workers and their families to live in poverty. ... Now, Regent Crane wants to take away their only avenue to earning a livable wage and a respectable retirement -- their collective bargaining rights."



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