Californians may get to abolish public employee unions on 2022 ballot

Venture capitalist begins gathering signatures that, if successful, would put the abolition of all public employee unions on the ballot.
California State Flag
California State Flag
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

A venture capitalist from southern California soon will begin gathering signatures that, if successful, would put the abolition of all public employee unions on the ballot.

Tim Draper, an investor with a track record of supporting successful technology startups, filed a ballot initiative with the attorney general’s office in Sacramento that would put an end to what he called “anathema to being a free country.”

Quite simply, the ballot measure would abolish collective bargaining laws for public employees in California.

“No public employee shall have the right to form, join, or participate in the activities of a public employee labor organization for the purpose of representing said employees on matters of employer-employee relations,” his proposed change to the state constitution reads.

Draper, who filed his ballot initiative Monday, has been the driving force in trying to split California into multiple states in an attempt to better represent regional differences.

In the initiative’s preface, Draper said the cost to taxpayers has exploded since the state allowed for public workers to organize, largely because of public employee pensions and generous health benefits not seen in the private sector.

“Worse yet, some public employee unions have used their money and power to protect bad employees engaged in unspeakable conduct and others who have completely failed at their jobs,” it read.

Representatives for the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest public-sector union, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a public blog post, Draper points the finger at union leaders for the state’s struggling school system and lagging quality of life issues.

”Union bosses donate to politicians,” he wrote. “Politicians set union salaries and benefits. This can lead to favoritism or even corruption. Government unions are anathema to being a free country.”

Draper wrote that abolishing public-sector unions would return California to its former reputation as a desired location envied by the rest of the country.

“If we make this change, with our California ingenuity, drive and creativity, we will almost certainly be number one again. We have the Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the best weather in the world. We know we can be the #1 state again,” he wrote.

Draper needs to collect nearly 1 million verifiable signatures in a 180-day window once the attorney general's office gives the initiative a ballot title and a summary.

If he succeeds, the measure will join four others that already have made it on the ballot in 2022.

California’s public pension debt, according to Truth in Accounting, accounts for the majority of what it refers to as a Taxpayer Burden of $21,100. According to the nonprofit California Policy Center, public pension debt has long weighed on local municipalities. Los Angeles Unified, for example, has an estimated $27,434 of debt per student.