CUCFA President Responds to a San Francisco Chronicle Pro-Crane Editorial

CUCFA President Robert Meister wrote the following as a letter to the editor in response to a San Francisco Chronicle article that was published March 8th. The Chronicle chose not to print this response.

Your recent editorial (“State Sen. Leland Yee’s attack on the Truth”) is largely an attack on Senator Yee as a potential candidate for Mayor of San Francisco for deliberately (as you see it) misstating the position of David Crane, a yet-to-be confirmed UC Regent, on the question of collective bargaining for public employees.

If there has been obfuscation here, we think it is Mr. Crane’s. His February 27 op-ed (“Should Public Employees Have Collective Bargaining?”) ascribes California’s budget problems to the pension plans negotiated by public employee unions. He is not here complimenting unions and politicians for substituting deferred compensation that might be funded by a rising stock market for higher salaries directly funded by taxpayers; he is rather blaming unions and politicians for the fact that this year taxpayers are legally liable for the delayed effects of the 2008 stock market crash on pension funding.

Mr. Crane is really saying that state financial obligations that were created by collective bargaining should now be reduced by collective bargaining. That’s why he’s going after the unions. But he also suggests, even in the op-ed’s title, that politicians should threaten collective bargaining if the unions refuse to make concessions. That’s why he concludes with a list of California’s collective bargaining laws. They could be changed whether or not unions agree.

David Crane’s approach to collective bargaining strategy is not the only problem in making him a Regent: his op-ed raises a broader question about who the Regents are. Eight of the eighteen publicly appointed Regents made fortunes in the financial sector-David Crane would be the ninth. From 1979 to 2003 he was a partner in Babcock & Brown, a firm specializing in real estate derivatives that once was worth over $9 billion and went bankrupt when the real estate bubble burst in 2008. Even as a Regent-designate, David Crane has taken a lead in pushing the financial sector’s agenda against unions.

The California Constitution provides that “Regents shall be able persons broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and social diversity of the State…” (Article 9 section 9-d.) But there is no one on the Regents with experience in what UC does-higher education, research and hospitals. Where are the professors the scientists, the doctors? Where are the humanists and public intellectuals? Why are there no Regents from the labor movement?

California’s Constitution foresaw that wealth and political connections could contaminate the board of Regents. That is why Article 9 section 9-e defines an eleven member advisory committee the Governor must consult when naming a candidate for Regent. This process has not been followed in recent memory. The time has come to revive it, and in the meanwhile for the California Senate to hold full confirmation hearings on David Crane and the question of regental diversity.

Now that Crane’s appointment has called attention to these broader issues, we ask Governor Brown to withdraw this nomination. This would send a message that Sacramento is not on the road to Madison.

Bob Meister, President
Council of UC Faculty Associations

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