Daniel DiSalvo on the Political Influence of California’s Public-Sector Unions

By Reihan Salam, National Review Online

In “The Nays Have It,” a new report sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, political scientist Daniel DiSalvo analyzes how California’s public-sector unions have used ballot initiatives to advance their interests:

Public-sector unions have taken a position on 42 percent of the 178 ballot initiatives over the last 30 years. Voters ratified nearly half the measures they supported, and 75 percent of the measures that the unions opposed were defeated. In other words, unions are fairly effective playing “offense,” working to win their goals at the ballot box. But they are extraordinarily effective playing “defense,” using initiative campaigns to block proposals that threaten their interests.

Even these figures may understate the extent to which unions have succeeded in using initiative campaigns to meet their policy goals: we found that whenever a proposal was especially important to the unions, such that they pulled out all the stops in their campaign efforts, they almost always won.


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