Yee Right, Chronicle Wrong about David Crane

Beyond Chron, 3/9/11.

by Randy Shaw

In its March 8 editorial, “State Sen. Leland Yee’s attack on the truth,” the San Francisco Chronicle claims that “Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, has been trying to whip up opposition to the confirmation of University of California Regent David Crane by claiming that the regent “called for an end to collective bargaining rights for California teachers, nurses, firefighters, university employees and other public sector workers.” Describing Yee’s charge as “disinformation,” the Chronicle denies Crane supports ending collective bargaining and quotes Crane accusing Yee of resorting to the “Big Lie.” But while the Chronicle is focusing on a February 27 op-ed by Crane, the fact is that there is ample documentation for Yee’s accusation that the current Regent opposes collective bargaining. And Yee is also right that Crane should not be confirmed.

I had not heard of David Crane until he became a major funder of Prop B on San Francisco’s November 2010 ballot. This measure would have greatly increased health costs for city employees, while also increasing their pension expenses, and was soundly defeated.

I next heard of Crane when I got a press release from State Senator Leland Yee announcing his opposition to Crane’s confirmation as a UC Regent. Crane clearly has no business serving on a body that negotiates with thousands of unionized employees – but considering that the Board of Regents has long been dominated by wealthy, out of touch representatives, Crane’s confirmation seemed virtually certain.

But Crane and his backers apparently are not so confident. They got an editorial in the March 8 Chronicle accusing Yee of waging a “disinformation campaign” that “might help his run for San Francisco mayor,” and defending Crane’s support of collective bargaining.

Well, I’ve never been accused of helping Leland Yee’s mayoral run, and while people can disagree about Yee’s motives, Crane has clearly spoken out against collective bargaining.

Crane’s Record

Fox News’ Fox Business Network: August 4, 2010

“CRANE: No, but let me just point this out. Even if you took care of every one of these spiked above the iceberg level pensions in California, you would not take care of the pension problem in California, which is true of virtually every state in the country, at least those where, you know, government employees have collective bargaining rights.”

Los Angeles Times: April 6, 2010

“State legislators are afraid even to utter the words “pension reform” for fear of alienating what has become — since passage of the Dills Act in 1978, which endowed state public employees with collective bargaining rights on top of their civil service protections — the single most politically influential constituency in our state: government employees.”

Los Angeles Times: December 14, 2010

“The year 1978 wasn’t notable just because of Proposition 13. That was also the year public employees gained a power Franklin D. Roosevelt had warned against: collective bargaining rights.”

“California hasn’t been the same since. Public workers have gained at the expense of private workers as government spending was redirected from infrastructure and education to higher salaries, pensions and other benefits.”

San Francisco Chronicle: February 27, 2011

“The battle in Wisconsin is not over collective bargaining rights generally but rather the appropriateness of those rights in the public sector.”

“Collective bargaining is a good thing when it’s needed to equalize power, but when public employees already have that equality because of civil service protections, collective bargaining in the public sector serves to reduce benefits for citizens and to raise costs for taxpayers. Citizens and taxpayers should consider this as they watch events unfold in Madison.”

Crane’s own words about collective bargaining are hard to distinguish from those of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Yee is right, and the Chronicle’s accusations are wrong.

During his prior stint as Governor, Jerry Brown made the greatest Regent appointments ever – including lifelong progressive Stanley Sheinbaum (who was recommended by Cesar Chavez), the brilliant anthropologist Gregory Bateson, labor leader John Henning, Theodora Kroeber-Quinn, author of the legendary Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America. and wife of Alfred Kroeber, for whom the UC Berkeley Anthropology building is named, Vilma Martinez, the first Chicano Regent and general counsel of MALDF, and many more.

As the University of California faces unprecedented challenges, these are the type of creative minds that the UC system desperately needs. It does not need an anti-union millionaire eager to use his position as a bully pulpit for bashing public employees.

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