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Union foe Chuck Reed endorses Ashley Swearengin for state controller

By on July 30, 2014

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, one of the state’s leading opponents of labor unions, has crossed party lines to endorse Ashley Swearengin for state controller. The pro-business Democrat said he’s worked closely with his Fresno counterpart on issues affecting local governments.

Ashley Swearengin and I have worked together as part of the Big Ten Mayors, a bi-partisan group organized to focus on statewide issues impacting our residents and taxpayers,” Reed said in a statement released by Swearengin’s campaign.

But, the endorsement by the Bay Area Democrat could prove to be more trouble than it’s worth, and in the long run, benefit Democratic candidate Betty Yee, the Bay Area’s representative on the state tax board. Considered “public enemy number one” by the state’s labor community, Reed’s support of Swearengin is likely to fire up the state’s labor unions, who have yet to prioritize statewide races.

It also reminds organized labor — and its foes — that Swearengin has flip-flopped on union issues.

Measure G: Swearengin “anti-union tactic”…

Central Valley labor leaders, who’ve commiserated with their colleagues in San Jose, won’t be surprised by Swearengin’s latest endorsement. As mayor of Fresno, Swearengin’s tenure has been marked by contentious battles with labor unions, including her failed plan to privatize the city’s trash services.

Last year, voters narrowly rejected Measure G, which would have granted “Mid Valley Disposal an exclusive franchise for the collection of residential solid waste, recyclable materials, and organic materials within the City of Fresno.”

Fresno POA“Organized labor,” according to Fresno’s ABC affiliate KFSN-TV, “lead the charge against Measure G.” The No on Measure G campaign relied on financial support from the International Union of Operating Engineers Stationary Engineers Local 39, Service Employees International Union Local 1000 and Fresno Police Officers Association, according to the Fresno Bee.

Labor unions believed the “anti-union tactic” would line private pockets at the expense of union jobs.

“Measure G is viewed as an anti-union tactic to further the mayor’s political agenda,” wrote IBEW Local 1245 members Georgette Carrillo and Cruz Serna, who organized grassroots opposition to the measure. “If approved, union workers would have their wages slashed by 25 percent and would have their benefits greatly reduced.”

The union members also questioned why “the City’s contract with Mid Valley Disposal calls for the latter to purchase the City’s equipment, including trash trucks and bins, at heavily discounted prices, to the tune of $50 million in assets for a measly $10 million!”

Amid the Measure G debate, the local police union offered $9 million in contract concessions as a budget tightening measure, but was rebuffed by the mayor.

Fresno Police Officer Association President Jacky Parks told the Fresno Bee that, at one point, “City Manager Mark Scott and other members of the Swearengin administration have stopped talking to the police union.”

…Swearengin “orchestrating union control” in high-speed rail project

High speed rail californiaBut, for all of her union trouble, Swearengin is unlikely to find support from the state’s most ardent union critics. Swearengin remains a high-profile supporter of the state’s union-backed high-speed rail plan, which Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari lampoons on the stump as “the crazy train.”

Her support for high-speed rail includes backing a highly-controversial project labor agreement, or PLA, in the first segment of the project’s construction.

In 2013, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction obtained documents through a public records request, which show that Swearengin “inexplicably played a pivotal role in seeking approval from the Obama Administration for the union Project Labor Agreement on the first segment of California High-Speed Rail.”

“The Mayor of Fresno is orchestrating union control of it, without any oversight and accountability of the public,” Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction said in a May 2013 press release. “The backroom wheeling and dealing that led to the union monopoly on California High-Speed Rail construction has remained a mystery up to this point. We were looking in the wrong place.”

“It was apparently the Fresno Mayor and not the California High-Speed Rail Authority that was engineering this sweetheart deal.”

Betty Yee benefits from Swearengin’s union flip-flop

Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio believes that Yee, Swearengin’s opponent for state controller, can capitalize on Reed’s endorsment.

“Chuck Reed is a DINO,” Maviglio tweeted on Tuesday, an abbreviation for Democrat in Name Only. He added in an interview with the Fresno Bee that Reed is “public enemy number one for organized labor.”



About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for,, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.


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