San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, on public sector unions:

“There’s a difference between being liberal and progressive and being a union Democrat.”

Source: Bloomberg, May 31, 2012

San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, on public sector deficits:

“The enemy isn’t Democrats or Republicans, the enemy is algebra.”

Source: Reason Online, July 30, 2012

Former California Senate Speaker Gloria Romero, a Democrat, on nonpartisan political spending reform:

“The bright spot, even in this loss [Calif. ballot initiative Prop. 32], is that, while proponents were vastly outspent by the opponents led by public sector unions, a new coalition of Republicans, Independents and Democrats has clearly begun to form. If this coalition can be solidified, it may be California’s best bet to move political reforms forward in the next decade by working across party lines in a new California political playing field.”

Source: Orange County Register, November 9, 2012

Former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a Democrat, on Public Employee Compensation:

“The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.

But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits to private-sector levels while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers.

Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders. But at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, January 3, 2010

Los Angeles Mayor (and former teacher union organizer) Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, on the California Teacher’s Association

“I am unabashedly pro-teacher. I believe in collective bargaining. But what you see up here is a broken system… The most powerful defenders of that broken system, without a question, is the teachers’ union.”

Source: Sacramento Press, October 5, 2010

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, on Public Sector Union Influence:

“It’s impossible for this legislature to reform the pension system and if we don’t we bankrupt the state. And I don’t think anybody can do it here because of who elected you. You are just captive of the current environment and I don’t see any way out.”


San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Adachi, a Democrat, on unsustainable public sector compensation:

“This isn’t an attack on labor,” he said. “It’s a math problem. I think everybody recognizes that the train wreck is already here. But nobody talks about it.”

Source: SF Gate, July 10, 2010

California’s Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, on unsustainable public sector compensation:

“Taxpayers are living with cuts and making sacrifices to deal with the reality of California’s budget crisis, state workers are going to have to do the same.”

Source: Brown Campaign Press Release, July 20, 2010

Former California Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, on Public Employee Benefit Reductions:

“Pension reform is essential. You just can’t afford the benefits that have been promised because all the actuarial studies turned out to be wildly optimistic,” he said. “We have no choice now and if I was governor I would be doing exactly what Arnold is trying to do, which is require people to contribute more to their pensions.”

“Pension reform is going to occur because people understand that elected officials and state employees cannot live demonstrably better than the rest of California.”

Source: Reuters, August 16, 2010

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, on teacher unions.

“We need to make sure that we have collective bargaining agreements that are also focused on children, not adults,”

Source: Sacramento Press, October 5, 2010

Davis Guggenheim, Director of “Waiting for Superman” and “An Inconvenient Truth,” on union controlled public schools:

“There’s a dysfunction in our schools. There’s a dysfunction in the politics around them. And if we don’t deal with that part, the sort of uncomfortable truths about the public school system, we’re not going to fix it. You can pour money into it, you can pour in a new generation of great teachers, but unless you deal with those dysfunctions, you’re never going to fix our schools.”

Source: Interview at Sundance Film Festival, January 23, 2010

George Meany, Founder of the AFL-CIO, on public sector unions:

“It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

Source: New York Times, September 16, 2011

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on public sector unions:

“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service … The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations…”

Source:  FDR’s letter to Luther C. Steward, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees, of August 16, 1937

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For ongoing examples of nonpartisan efforts underway across the United States to educate the public regarding the power and influence of public sector unions, and to learn about possible reform efforts, read reports on UnionWatch in our Nonpartisan Union Reform category.