Freedom Foundation

Attack on Prop 13 A Scheme to Grow Government — And Government Unions

During this difficult time, you would imagine that the “pro-worker” unions would be doing everything in their power to help their dues payers. After all, they’re the only people in America who have the workers backs, right?


A few weeks back, the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union, two of the largest unions in California, unveiled one of the special projects they’ve been working on — trying to repeal California’s much-loved Proposition 13.

Prop 13, enacted in 1978 by a two-thirds majority of eligible voters, rolled back property tax rates to their pre-1976 levels and froze new increases by a maximum of 2 percent per year. When it went into effect, most people in California enjoyed an average property tax decrease of 57 percent.

Almost immediately, however, government unions began scheming to undermine it. After all, less revenue for the state means fewer government employees — which means less dues money and the leverage that goes with it for the unions.

This was unacceptable.

The lifeblood of a government workers union is their ability to expand their revenue base and grow. Without revenue increases year after year, slowly taking more money out of the pockets of hard-working Californians, government unions begin to stagnate.

This was a problem even before the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) banned mandatory union membership and dues, but it’s an existential threat now that their dues-payers can actually cease paying dues entirely.

The group leading this charge is called Schools and Communities First, which claims to be a broad coalition of state leaders and “organizers.” But the latter — a euphemism for union thugs —  is the real driving force behind this movement.

The California Teachers Association, which represents more than 330,000 teachers across California, has already given Schools and Communities First more than $3 million, while the other largest funder, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has donated over $1.6 million.

Other unions, such as the California Federation of Teachers, have also made large donations.

During a time when more than 3.6 million Californians are looking for work, a massive property tax increase for their potential employers seems like a bad idea. Regardless, Schools and Communities First recently submitted more than 1.7 million signatures — mostly purchased through paid signature gatherers — to place this on the November ballot.

The ballot measure claims that it would introduce an additional $12 billion in state revenue every year, mostly going toward education. However, it’s highly unlikely this would actually increase education spending by $12 billion every year.

Much like the lottery, it’s unclear exactly how much it actually benefits the education budget. Through state budgetary magic, money can be shifted away from their intended goal into other projects.

Color me cynical, but I have a feeling that the real goal here is simply to expand union coffers.