California Proposition 75, Permission Required to Withhold Dues for Political Purposes (2005)
The campaign over Proposition 75 was high-profile and hard-fought. Just short of $60 million was spent on the campaign, with those in opposition outspending those in favor by nearly 10-1. (The "Yes on 75" forces spent $5.8 million while the "No on 75" forces spent $54.1 million).
Proposition 75 was one of a quartet of ballot measures on the 2005 ballot that were the centerpiece of Arnold Schwarzenegger's reform plans for California, two years into his governorship. The other three were Proposition 74, Proposition 76 and Proposition 77. The defeat of all four Schwarzenegger measures is frequently cited as a turning-point in Schwarzenegger's governorship.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman signed the ballot argument in favor of Proposition 75.
Impact of loss
Leslie Eastman, a founding member of the Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition, wrote in 2009 that "The aggressive union campaign against Schwarzenegger’s 2005 reform measures (including Proposition 75, which required unions for public workers to get written consent from members before spending their dues money on politics) left unions unchecked. Hence, the “spending spree” of our legislators to appease the union voter base - creating a California cycle of “pay for play” that has nearly destroyed our state."
Text of measure
The ballot title was:
The question on the ballot was:
- "Should public employee unions be required to obtain annual written consent from each member in order to use a portion of that member's dues for political activity?"
The official summary provided to describe Proposition 75 said:
- Prohibits the use by public employee labor organizations of public employee dues or fees for political contributions except with the prior consent of individual public employees each year on a specified written form.
- Restriction does not apply to dues or fees collected for charitable organizations, health care insurance, or other purposes directly benefitting the public employee.
- Requires public employee labor organizations to maintain and submit records to Fair Political Practices Commission concerning individual public employees’ and organizations’ political contributions.
- These records are not subject to public disclosure.
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
The California Legislative Analyst's Office provided an estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact for Proposition 75. That estimate was:
- Probably minor state and local government implementation costs, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines and/or fees.
The official voter guide arguments in favor of Proposition 75 were signed by:
- Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize Winner
- Lewis Uhler, president, National Tax Limitation Committee
- Allan Mansoor, Member of Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs 
Arguments in favor
Supporters of Proposition 75 made these arguments in its favor in the state's official voter guide:
- "There’s a fundamental unfairness in California: Hundreds of thousands of public employee union members are forced to contribute their hard earned money to political candidates or issues they may oppose. Powerful and politically connected union leaders—a small handful of people—can make unilateral decisions with these “forced contributions” to fund political campaigns without their members’ consent. The workers have no choice—money is automatically deducted from their dues."
- "Firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public employees work hard for the people of California and we owe them a huge debt for the work they do on our behalf. That’s why it’s only fair that public employees give their permission before their hard earned dollars are taken and given to politicians and political campaigns."
- "Many public employee union members don’t support the political agenda of the union bosses and it’s not right that they are forced to contribute to political candidates and campaigns they oppose."
- "Proposition 75 will NOT prevent unions from collecting political contributions, but those contributions will be clearly voluntary. It will hold public employee union leaders more accountable to their membership."
Donors in favor
$5,843,989 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Proposition 75, through two different campaign committees.
Donors of $100,000 or more were:
|California Republican Party||$1,250,000|
|U.S. Chamber of Commerce||$500,000|
|Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors||$142,000|
|Fieldstad & Co.||$135,000|
|B. Wayne Hughes||$100,000|
The official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 75 were signed by:
- Lou Paulson, president, California Professional Firefighters
- Barbara Kerr, president, California Teachers Association
- Sandra Marques, RN, local president, United Nurses Associations of California
- Lt. Ron Cottingham, president, Peace Officer’s Research Association of California
- Mary Bergan, president, California Federation of Teachers
- Deborah Burger, president, California Nurses Association
The arguments presented in the official voter guide opposing Proposition 75 were:
- "Prop. 75 is unnecessary and unfair. Its hidden agenda is to weaken public employees and strengthen the political influence of big corporations. Prop. 75 does not protect the rights of teachers, nurses, police, and firefighters. Instead it’s designed to reduce their ability to respond when politicians would harm education, health care, and public safety."
- "Why does 75 target people who take care of all of us? Recently, teachers fought to restore funding the state borrowed from our public schools, but never repaid. Nurses battled against reductions in hospital staffing to protect patients. Police and firefighters fought against elimination of survivor’s benefits for families of those who die in the line of duty."
- "Prop. 75 is an unfair attempt to diminish the voice of teachers, nurses, firefighters, and police at a time when we need to hear them most."
- "Prop. 75 only restricts public employees. It does not restrict corporations—even though corporations spend shareholders’ money on politics. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says corporations already outspend unions in politics nationally by 24 to 1. Prop. 75 will make this imbalance even worse."
- "No public employee in California can be forced to become a member of a union. Non-members pay fees to the union for collective bargaining services, but the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that unions cannot use these fees for political purposes. The union must send financial statements to the worker to ensure that no unauthorized fees are used for politics. Today, 25% of state employees contribute no money to their union’s political activities."
- "Union members already have the right to democratically vote their leaders into and out of office and to establish their own internal rules concerning political contributions. Prop. 75 takes away union members’ right to make their own decisions and substitutes a government-imposed bureaucratic process."
- "Prop. 75 requires members who want to participate to sign a government-imposed personal disclosure form that could be circulated in the workplace. This form, with information about individual employees and their political contributions, could be accessed by a state agency—an invasion of individual privacy which could raise the possibility of intimidation and retaliation against employees on the job."
|Total campaign cash|
The "No on 75" side spent $54,117,749 through seven different campaign committees.
Donors of $200,000 or more were:
|California Teachers Association||$12,102,416|
|Alliance for a Better California||$10,130,517|
|California State Council of Service Employees||$10,013,957|
|California Democratic Party||$3,275,540|
|California Federation of Teachers||$1,848,597|
|California Professional Firefighters||$657,958|
|California School Employees Association||$450,000|
|Peace Officers Research Association of California||$247,931|
|Strengthening Our Lives Through Education||$234,555|
A report in 2009 showed that private financial firms that handle pension funds gave about $1 million in contributions to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, one of Prop 75's leading opponents during the time that Sean Harrigan, the union's former executive director, sat on the boards of several of the largest public pension funds in the state.
Path to the ballot
- See also: California signature requirements
As an initiated state statute, 373,816 valid signatures were required to qualify Proposition 75 for the ballot.
The petition drive management companies involved were:
- National Petition Management. They were paid $4,610,441.40.
- Arno Political Consultants. They were paid $1,094,000.00
- Forde and Mollrich. They were paid $2,172,031.00.
Altogether, the three companies were paid $7,876,472.40. Dividing this across the four propositions involved means that approximately $1,969,118.10 was spent collecting signatures on the individual propositions in the Schwarzenegger package.
- Official California Voter Guide to Proposition 75
- PDF of the mailed November 8, 2005 voter guide for Propositions 73-80
- Full text of Proposition 75
- Proposition 75 on the Smart Voter Guide
- Analysis of Proposition 75 from the Institute of Governmental Studies
- Guide to Proposition 75 from the California Voter Foundation
- Summary of donors to and against 75 from Cal-Access
- Donors for and against Proposition 75 from Follow The Money
- The official results from the Secretary of State
- Follow the Money, Proposition 75
- San Diego News Network, "Leslie Eastman: Look for the union label", June 30, 2009
- Voter Guide, "Arguments for and against Proposition 75"
- Follow the Money, Donors to "Yes on 75"
- Pro Publica, "With Labor Leader on California Pension Boards, Financial Firms Fattened Union Campaign Fund", June 13, 2009