The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

June 7, 2010
Political winds blowing harder against public employee unions

Politico has a piece today about how politicians, including normally labor-friendly Democrats, are turning on public sector unions.There's a fairly lengthy section about California and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's belief that he can exploit this moment to press his pension agenda:

California, however, remains ground zero for pension fights, as the seat of both the nation's highest-profile budget crises and some of its most powerful public unions. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been fighting them since he took office, and they have handed him his most stinging political defeats. He failed in 2003 and 2004 to attack pension costs through the legislature, then in 2005 backed ballot initiatives to shift public workers to a 401(k)-style pension system, to cap spending and to roll back teachers' tenure. But he was forced to drop the pension measure amid claims it would cut death benefits for police widows, and lost the other measures in an expensive, bruising political fight that was the worst defeat of his tenure.

Now, though, Schwarzenegger - in his final months as governor- is gearing up for what he views as a final, climactic battle over public sector pensions. And he told POLITICO in an interview that he feels the time is now ripe for elements of the fight he lost five years earlier.

"The atmosphere has changed," Schwarzenegger said. "People understand that they have to lay off their workers or they don't have the money for their family. What they don't like is when there is a certain group that doesn't like to make the sacrifices."

Schwarzenegger said he "will not sign" a budget without pension reform.

"I will hold up the budget. It doesn't matter how long it drags--into the summer or fall or into November or after my administration--and I think the people will support that," he said.

Click here to read the entire Politico piece by reporters Maggie Haberman and Ben Smith.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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