As previous posts have noted, private-sector unions have fallen on hard times. But notwithstanding a setback in Wisconsin, public-sector unions remain powerful And as the Los Angeles Times reports, the California Teachers Association provides a vivid example:
The union views itself as "the co-equal fourth branch of government," said Oakland Democrat Don Perata, a former teacher who crossed swords with the group when he was state Senate leader.
Backed by an army of 325,000 teachers and a war chest as sizable as those of the major political parties, CTA can make or break all sorts of deals. It holds sway over Democrats, labor's traditional ally, and Republicans alike.
Jim Brulte, a former leader of the state Senate's GOP caucus, recalled once attending a CTA reception with a Republican colleague who told the union's leaders that he had come to "check with the owners."
CTA is one of the biggest political spenders in California. It outpaced all other special interests, including corporate players such as telecommunications giant AT&T and the Chevron oil company, from 2000 through 2009, according to a state study. In that decade, the labor group shelled out more than $211 million in political contributions and lobbying expenses — roughly twice that of the next largest spender, the Service Employees International Union.