Crane says Yee misunderstood his position on unions

Sacramento Bee, 3/3/11.

The fight between UC Regent David Crane, right, and state Sen. Leland Yee is getting weirder, with Yee planning a protest against Crane in San Francisco and Crane saying Yee is mischaracterizing his position on public employee unions.
Yee, a frequent critic of UC management and darling of its labor unions, is planning a protest tomorrow at UCSF where, he claims, “hundreds of community members and public employees (will) rally against Regent Crane’s recent attack on working families.”

Yee, who is running for mayor in San Francisco, is referring to an opinion piece Crane wrote Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle that questioned whether public employees should be unionized. Yee fired back earlier this week with a news release criticizing Crane’s perspective.

Now Yee says he plans to stop the Senate from confirming Crane to UC’s governing board of regents. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Crane, one of his advisers and a vocal critic of public employee pension plans, to the regents during his final days in office. Crane has not yet been confirmed.

Crane responded to the announcement of Yee’s protest by sending a statement to Capitol Alert saying the senator misunderstood his piece in the Chron. Crane believes UC workers should have collective bargaining rights, he wrote. What he objects to, Crane said, is unions for “public employees who have statutory civil service protections” — which UC workers lack.

Read the full text of Crane’s statement to Capitol Alert on the jump.

“State Senator Leland Yee issued a statement accusing me of proposing, via an op-ed I published last Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle, to take away collective bargaining rights from University of California employees. Simply put, that is not true, as any reader of the op-ed will understand.

In that op-ed I explained how, in the specific case of employment contracts requiring the approval of the state legislature and governor and involving public employees who have statutory civil service protections, collective bargaining rights for public employees can be costly for citizens and taxpayers. I cited as one outcome the decline in state spending on higher education as state spending on retirement benefits has risen.

Somehow (or perhaps deliberately?), Senator Yee extrapolated incorrectly from that op-ed to conclude and then publicly state that I favor the suspension of collective bargaining rights even for workers who have no statutory civil service protections and even when the state legislature and governor are not involved in contract negotiations. In that he is absolutely incorrect. As a state senator should know, employees of the University of California do not have statutory civil service rights and their employment contracts are not negotiated with or approved by the state legislature or governor. I strongly support UC workers’ rights to collective bargaining.

As the State of California continues to tackle difficult financial issues and struggles to protect important services such as higher education, we can only hope that our legislators are fully informed.”

Yee’s chief of staff said there was no misunderstanding, and the senator wouldn’t drop his fight to keep Crane from being confirmed by the Senate.

“It is unconscionable for a multi-millionaire Regent to suggest that public sector workers should not have collective bargaining rights, which has no effect on balancing the budget and protecting vital services,” Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, wrote to Capitol Alert. “Rather than launching yet another unjustifiable attack on working families, Regent Crane should be standing with Senator Yee against cuts to education, supporting an oil severance tax, clawing back corporate tax breaks, and ensuring the rich pay their fair share.”

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