ADMITTED: TEACHERS UNION ‘OWNS’ CALIFORNIA
California Teachers Assn. members join others at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to protest budget cuts to statewide education. The union holds sway over Democrats -- labors traditionally ally --and Republicans alike. (Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times)
Last year, as Gov. Jerry Brown hammered out final details of the state budget, he huddled around a conference table with three of the most powerful people in state government: the Assembly speaker, the Senate leader and Joe Nuñez, chief lobbyist for the California Teachers Assn.
California was on the edge of fiscal crisis. Negotiations had come down to one sticking point: Brown and the legislators would balance the books by assuming that billions of dollars in extra revenue would materialize, then cut deeply from schools if it didnt.
Nuñez said no.
Opposition from the powerful union, which had just staged a week of public protests against budget cuts, could mean a costly legal challenge. So the group took a break, and the officials retired to another room to hash out something acceptable to CTA while Nuñez awaited their return.
It may seem unorthodox for an unelected citizen to sit with Sacramento’s elite as they pick winners and losers in the annual spending sweepstakes. But few major financial decisions in California are made without Nuñez, who represents what is arguably the most potent force in state politics.
The union views itself as “the co-equal fourth branch of government,” said Oakland Democrat Don Perata, a former teacher who crossed swords with the group when he was state Senate leader.
Backed by an army of 325,000 teachers and a war chest as sizable as those of the major political parties, CTA can make or break all sorts of deals. It holds sway over Democrats, labor’s traditional ally, and Republicans alike. (Read Full Story)