AB 1: A Grave Threat To Democracy In California

A grave threat to democracy in California is sitting on Governor Newsom’s desk. If signed by him, Assembly Bill 1 would allow legislative staff to form a government employee union. That means that the state employees who write and edit thousands of pieces of legislation every year and provide advice to elected legislators about those bills would become a special interest with business before the state.

A greedy grab for enhanced political power is the only reason partisans sponsored AB 1. That’s because unionization of legislative staff would do nothing to address compensation issues (that would require Prop 140 reform) and isn’t needed to address workplace issues (legislators already have the power to endow legislative staff with those protections). The only reason for AB 1 is to turn legislative staff into a political force that could work to defeat legislators, even a legislative staffer’s own boss, and to advance the hundreds of bills sponsored every year by labor unions. 

In a 1937 letter to the president of National Federation of Federal Employees, President Franklin Roosevelt — who did not advocate for unionization of public sector employees as he did for private sector workers — wrote that “meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public” and that the employer of federal employees “is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.” Likewise, the employer of legislative staff in California is the whole people of the State of California who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in the California Legislature. Governor Newsom must veto AB 1 to protect democracy in California and the whole people of the state.