Union Station: Proposed California initiative would ban public-sector unions

Proposed California initiative would ban public-sector unions 

On Aug. 9, 2021, venture capitalist Timothy Draper filed a proposal with the California attorney general’s office for an initiated constitutional amendment that would prohibit public-sector workers from forming unions. If supporters gather enough valid signatures, it will appear on the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot. 

While some states have prohibitions on public-sector collective bargaining, no states currently ban public-sector unions. 

About the initiative

The measure would prohibit public-sector employee unions in California. It would add the following section to article VII of the state constitution:

Sec. 1.5(a) 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.

(b) For purposes of this section:

(1) “Public employee” means any employee of the State and any of its political subdivisions including, but not limited to, counties, cities, charter counties, charter cities, charter city and counties, school districts, the University of California, special districts, boards, commissions, and agencies of the State or any political subdivision.

(2) “Public employee labor organization” means an organization of any kind, or any agency, employee representation committee, or plan in which public employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employer-employee relations including, but not limited to, wages, rates of pay, benefits, hours of employment, grievances, labor disputes, or conditions of work.

(c) The Legislature or the legislative body employing a public employee may provide a severance payment, not to exceed 12 months of employee pay, to any public employee who desires to terminate their employment within 90 days of the enactment of this section.

The initiative says that existing collective bargaining agreements would remain in effect. 

In an Aug. 10 Medium post, Draper said he believed the initiative was the “most important issue Californians can get behind.”   

According to the California secretary of state’s office, the estimated date the attorney general will issue the circulating language for this initiative is Oct. 13, 2021. The petition will be allowed to circulate for 180 days after the official summary date. 

In California, the number of signatures needed to place a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot is equal to eight percent of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. To make the 2022 ballot, 997,139 registered voters must sign the petition. For more information about the California initiative process, click here.

About the sponsor 

Draper is a venture capitalist and cryptocurrency investor whose past investments include companies like Skype, Hotmail, and Tesla. He was previously involved with a 2016 initiative to divide California into six states and a 2018 initiative to divide California into three states. The 2016 initiative failed to qualify for the ballot. The 2018 initiative qualified for the ballot, but the California Supreme Court removed it due to “significant questions … raised regarding the proposition’s validity.” Draper contributed $5.27 million to the 2016 effort and $3.25 million to the 2018 effort.       

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 98 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

No public-sector union bills saw activity this week.