Today's San Francisco Chronicle has an opinion piece in favor of Proposition 75, which would require unions to get annual written consent from members before spending any union dues on political campaigns. (There was an opposing piece across the page.)
The poster child in this piece is one Sandra Crandall, identified only as a kindergarten teacher in Fountain Valley. Here's what the author says about Ms. Crandall's sad plight:
To exercise her "right" to a refund of her political dues, under the terms of a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Hudson), which applies to public employees, Sandra has had to do the following:
-- Resign from the CTA, which she did not want to do because she forfeits her $1 million professional liability policy and her right to hold union office or to vote for union leaders or on the collective-bargaining agreement.
-- Submit a written request -- valid only if she does so during the month of September -- for return of her political dues. Silence, inaction or missed deadlines on her part is interpreted as consent to the use of part of her dues on politics.
Well, now, that sounds awfully tough on Ms. Crandall. If she doesn't want to fund the work the union is doing to get her the salary and benefits she gets, she has to give up one of her benefits. Oh, and she doesn't get to be part of the union leadership if she isn't in the union. Or, if she chooses to stay in the union, she has to fill out some paperwork.
That is, like, so unfair.
How anyone can write this nonsense with a straight face is beyond me. What Ms. Crandall wants is what old-fashioned people like myself used to call 'having it both ways' (this was, of course, before the Post-Modern Presidency raised that from a derogatory comment to an art form...but I digress). She wants the benefits the union brings without actually supporting the union. More to the point, the measure isn't about the hardships suffered by the Sandra Crandalls of the world; it's about crushing the political power of public employee unions.
Call me a cynical bastard (my parents do), but I was a little dubious about this Sandra Crandall character. So I Googled her--and found that Weatherhead had already done the legwork, in response to a September 18 article on Prop 75 (also in the Chronicle) that got quotes from Crandall. Crandall, as it happens, is on the board of directors of the National Right to Work Committee, an organization dedicated to eliminating union money from politics.
So...not just a simple kindergarten teacher. More of a...how to put this...right-wing activist. And to all appearances, she's just about the only teacher they can go to for those 'balancing' quotes in favor of Prop 75.
And the author of the piece? One Lewis K. Uhler, described in this profile as an "an unapologetic McCarthyite and a former member of the John Birch Society whose hard-right ideology has taken him to the fringes of American conservatism." The profile goes on to describe one of Uhler's finest moments:
Although Uhler has mostly operated behind the scenes, he served as Reagan's point man in 1970 to torpedo California Rural Legal Assistance, writing a report that accused its staff, among other transgressions, of engaging in ideological campaigns instead of representing the poor....A panel of retired judges appointed by the Nixon administration investigated the charges and found that the Uhler report "in many instances ... misrepresented the facts" and that the allegations against CRLA were "totally irresponsible."
One meets such lovely people in politics...
Update: Eli at Weatherhead e-mailed me the following welcome clarification of a point I realized at the time I had not adequately made: "One thing you wrote, I thought didn't go far enough (though I didn't really explain it either): "the National Right to Work Committee, an organization dedicated to eliminating union money from politics." Actually, if you read their mission statement, they go farther than that: they want to eliminate the whole idea of the "union shop", i.e. a job where the union has won the right to
represent everyone and everyone in that job is in the union; instead, they want employers to be able to hire non-union workers and negotiate with them separately. That's what "right to work" always means in this context, and right-to-work laws are basically ways to make unions powerless in the workplace, not just in politics. The rest of their site makes it clear that they'd like to get rid of unions, period."