SEIU Lobbies for Lousy Legislation

The California legislature is currently considering legislation which would make it nearly impossible for most county governments to hire companies and nonprofits to deliver public services. The bill, AB 1250, was introduced by a former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) boss, and SEIU is one of its chief proponents.

Why does SEIU care about the manner in which local governments deliver services to their residents? Because it has thousands of members who work for county governments, and SEIU would like to keep them and their dues money.

The bill would require that contracts save money, which sounds reasonable enough. But then the bill stacks the deck against contractors by adding unnecessary costs to contracts. County governments would be required to perform cost-benefit analyses, conduct environmental reviews, provide orientation to the employees of contractors, and perform annual audits. The legislation would also mandate that contracts must not displace any current government employees or even cause them to lose hours; and it would make counties liable for contractors’ labor law violations. So you see why it would be so difficult for counties to contract out – and these are just some of the bill’s provisions.

SEIU ridiculously claims that AB 1250 is “common sense” and will protect taxpayers and county services while increasing accountability and transparency. It further claims that “counties are protesting basic, commonsense standards of good governance that the State of California… abide[s] by already.” But this is not the case; the bill’s requirements for counties and their contractors are more burdensome than those currently imposed on the state and its contractors.

To help make its case for the bill, SEIU warns of the dangers of contracting out: “Bribery, corruption, sweetheart contracts, and hidden costs are an inevitable risk when governments contract out.” Of course, the union fails to note that those same risks are present every time politicians negotiate with powerful public employee unions.

In addition to the SEIU, the bill has the support of other unions, but that’s about it. This legislation has been blasted by various newspapers, including USA Today and two of the largest newspapers in California, the Orange County Register and the San Jose Mercury News. The Mercury News called the bill “onerous” and “an ambiguous mess.” USA Today called it “an audacious, self-serving bill” and recommended the state legislature “bury” it. The Fresno Bee heaped scorn on the bill calling it a “bucket of horse slop” and a “turkey.” The California Chamber of Commerce, a wide range of nonprofits and professional and business associations, and scores of local governments also oppose the bill.

What these opponents of AB 1250 recognize is that companies and nonprofits can often provide cheaper and/or better services than government bureaucracies can. And with many localities already having difficulty with meeting the needs of their residents and meeting their pension obligations, now is not the time for this legislation.

In addition to taxpayers, some of the most disadvantaged – those living in poverty, the elderly, the homeless, domestic abuse victims, etc. – could be negatively impacted by this legislation. After all, if struggling localities can’t save money by offering services through efficient private sector contractors, then some of those services might have to be curtailed.

Furthermore, because this legislation would likely increase costs, or at least reduce savings which might otherwise be realized, it could eventually result in localities not meeting their pension obligations and many SEIU members not receiving the pensions they’ve been promised. That should be a chief concern of the union, but it isn’t for some reason.

At long last, it’s time for SEIU to recognize that local governments exist to serve the needs of residents, not to provide cushy jobs to government workers. State leaders should help teach SEIU this vital lesson by rejecting this junk legislation.