The newly formed Santa Barbara-based group Californians for Public Union Reform is writing a statewide ballot measure that would end collective bargaining and put Lanny Ebenstein, president of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, at the helm.
Ebenstein started the nonprofit California Center for Public Policy and says this is a related effort from interested people around the state.
“Basically, the situation in California now is so significant, with respect to the budget deficits so many government agencies face, that the right solution to confronting these financial difficulties is to end public sector collective bargaining,” Ebenstein told Noozhawk on Monday.
Ebenstein said he is bothered by collective bargaining — which he said is a relatively recent concept in the labor movement — and the major donations by public-sector unions to political campaigns of the officials who vote on their salaries and benefits.
“The problem is that the government exists to serve the people, not public employees. But the way we structured finance in our society now, on the government level, is government is acting mostly in terms of public employees’ interest, not the public interest,” he said. “It’s just a nonprogressive policy and simply a policy that benefits one special interest.”
The ballot measure, which will be sent to Attorney General Kamala Harris this week, would impact state, county and city employees. The group believes that public-sector employees are given better overall compensation than employees in the private sector with salary, benefits and pensions and that money should be spent elsewhere.
The issue of salaries and benefits is a hot topic as municipalities are facing steep increases in Public Employee Retirement System costs and looking to labor concessions for one-time savings.
Locally, the City of Santa Barbara will pay 20.5 percent more into PERS in 2014 than it does now, and Ebenstein said a county employee costs $129,000 annually once salary, benefits, pension and tax costs are taken into account.