Union Letter to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed

November 7, 2013

Dear Mayor Reed: 

This is in response to your letter inviting dialogue on the ballot measure you have introduced.

As you are aware, there is a retirement crisis in California.  A study released just this week noted that 42 percent of Americans say that saving money for retirement and paying their bills is not possible; 37 percent say they will never be able to afford to retire, continuing to work until they are sick or die. 

Your measure would further undermine the retirement security and health benefits of millions of Californians, and accelerate the race to the bottom for California's middle class. At a time when six million Californians have no retirement plan at all, and million more face the threat of retiring into poverty, your measure would pull the rug out from under hundreds of thousands of middle class Californians with no recourse. 

We represent nearly two million Californians who keep our streets safe, fight our fires, teach our children, keep our water clean, and serve our most vulnerable communities. Your proposed measure would allow employers to unilaterally cut, or even completely eliminate the retirement benefits and retiree health care of those public servants in the middle of their careers.

You assert that your measure requires employers to comply with applicable collective bargaining law. You assert that you do not seek to blame public employees. You assert that you seek dialogue.

We question whether your communication is sincere or simply politically expedient.

First, you misrepresent your measure, which allows employers to unilaterally abrogate collective bargaining after 180 days and publishes the middle class workers who teach our children, build our roads, and keep our communities safe and prepared.

Second, you have participated in numerous forums where unions were denied the opportunity to participate, including the recent "dialogue" on pensions at the ultra-conservative Hoover Institutional at Stanford University where you made your announcement. You have traveled across the nation shopping your measure to out of state extremist organizations and you have attended conferences conducted by the right-wing interests supporting your effort.

The 2013 Public Employees Pensions Reform Act (PEPRA) signed by Governor Brown has already reduced the pensions of many workers, saving the state more than $100 billion. Yet you insist on further abrogating the rights of public employees.

Sadly, your "Ready-Fire-Aim" approach to dealing with our state's pension challenges flies in the face of actions by more than 500 other elected leaders in the state who have settled their differences through mutual agreement. Recent polling indicates that 63 percent of Californians oppose unilateral cuts in the benefits of teachers, nurses and firefighters for example -- the heart of your proposal. That poll also shows only 30 percent of the state's voters support pension issues being dealt with at the ballot box.

The retirement security of Californians is a California issue and the "dark money" behind your efforts leads us to question your motives. According to news reports, you have accepted more than $200,000 from an out-of-state foundation funded by a Texas billionaire, who made his fortune at Enron ripping off Californians through the energy crisis and walked away from bankruptcy with a golden parachute, while other Enron workers lost their life savings. Now, after introducing this draconian measure you decide to invite dialogue.

Your efforts, and the support of your funders would be better spent working to extend retirement options to our friends and neighbors who need it, not hastening the race to the bottom through attacks on what little retirement security remains in this economy.

Meaningful dialogue can only occur in an environment of trust and sincerity. Your choice, to first introduce this draconian and flawed measure and then invite dialogue, shows a lack of both.

Should you drop your measure we would be willing to meet with you and discuss how we can insure that our public retirement systems are sustainably funded, and all Californians can retire with dignity and security.


Alan Wayne Barcelona, President
California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, Special Agent -- DOJ

Cathrina Barros, President
Professional Engineers in California Government

Stuart A. Bussey, M.D., J.D.
President, Union of American Physicians and Dentists

Ron Cottingham, President
Peace Officers Research Association of California

Kimberly Daniels, General Manager
San Luis Obispo County Employees Association

Jon H. Hamm, CEO
California Association of Highway Patrolman

Craig Hinckley, President
Glendale City Employees Association

Mike Jimenez, President
California Correctional Peace Officers Association

Dave Low, Executive Director
California School Employees Association

David Miller, President
California Association of Professional Scientists

Tony Myers, President
California Association of Psychiatric Technicians

Willie L. Pelote, Sr., Political and Legislative Director
AFSCME, California

Deirdre Rodriguez, General Manager
San Bernardino Public Employees Association

Danette Shipley, President
Organization of SMUD Employees

Dr. Lillian Taiz, President
California Faculty Association

Dean E. Vogel, President
California Teachers Association

Yvonne R. Walker, President
SEIU Local 1000

John Youngdahl, Executive Director
SEIU, California