City Workers’ Union Endorses Bob Filner for Mayor

by on December 13, 2011 · 8 comments

in Election, Labor, San Diego

By Lucas O’Connor / Two Cathedrals / Dec. 12, 2011

In an interesting (if not entirely surprising) wrinkle today, after sitting out two consecutive mayoral races, “The city’s largest labor union found a candidate it wanted. And the candidate wanted the union back.” Despite the relative novelty of the Municipal Employees Association wading back into mayoral elections, it was a bit of a fait accompli once Filner emerged as the only major candidate to oppose Carl Demaio’s pension privatization ballot initiative. The initiative would shift city employees from defined benefit to defined contribution plans, relying on the Enrons and Goldman Sachses of the world to guarantee the retirements of MEA members into the future.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week’s endorsements from the San Diego Labor Council, supporting Filner as well as Democrats Scott Peters (CA-52), Mat Kostrinsky (Council District 7) and Marti Emerald (Council District 9). The Peters endorsement produced approximately the bare minimum of intrigue for a contested primary, and receiving even less attention was the absence of incumbent councilmember Sherri Lightner in a (presumably) tough re-election fight in District 1.

Meanwhile, there’s the lingering issue of super-conspicuous non-endorsements and cross-party endorsements, underscoring the de-centralized San Diego Left that remains structured to put individual priorities over anything like a movement or functional, long-term coalition.

All of it adds up to nothing much of a surprise, but a good illustration of why interest organizations simply can’t ever function as a stand-in for the Democratic Party: The interests just aren’t the same. There is a value to considering partisan gains and losses, but that isn’t the same equation as advancing the influence and interests of specific groups with specific priorities.

Issue-based organizations only remain viable if they defend their issues regardless of partisanship. And issue-based groups, as demonstrated by the MEA, are much more But partisanship isn’t irrelevant. Partisanship is supposed to be one of the building blocks for developing consensus, around which coalitions can develop. Policy coalitions are different than electoral coalitions, and issue-based groups are not apt to (nor should they be) self-organize coalitions. That’s the whole point of a political party.

It takes leadership to build a functional coalition in which partners feel comfortable not having their own interests always in the fore. The San Diego Left still sees that happen from time to time, but that isn’t an actual coalition, that’s a semi-regular series of happy accidents. Instead, individuals build and re-build their own coalitions over and over again, stunting the opportunity for a long-term, diverse movement. Efforts like A Better San Diego show promise, but it will inevitably come down to finding a leader with no vested interest outside of the simple act of long-term coalition building.

In the meantime though, there’s at least occasion to again note that DeMaio is still managing to provoke much of the mayoral race… though it isn’t clear how much it’ll actually help him as every organization under the sun line up to endorse anyone but him.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

realist December 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

Well….. if a BIG Labor union backs him…. then everyone else should too.
We all know how much those unions do for us small business owners / tax payers who pay those guaranteed retirements just like the ones in the real world ! not !


mr fresh December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm

what makes you think a city employees union should do anything for you? it’s there to represent the interests of its members. if the City government made deals with them you don’t like, then that’s who you need to be complaining about. and at least you should be entitled to Social Security–which City Workers are not–until the GOP Congress takes it away to pay for the war on drugs or terror or Acorn or whoever it is they’re fighting now.


realist December 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

First off.. i am complaining about the City’s policies, one of which is the City employee union that does not allow competition, robs the coffers to pay benefits that are unsustainable.
PLUS…I am not ENTITLED to social security, I PAY into it each and every payday, like millions of people in the real world, and as an business owner / employeer i also pay the matching amounts of my socoial security and my employees matching amouts as well.
Unlike Union’s who leverage the citys and there constiuents into paying rediculously high taxes and fees to support a retirement/ bennefit plans that can not be sustained. We in the private sector pay our own medical and retirement plans none of which have guarantees.
Make the politicians and the Goons who run the Unions live by these standards, the rest of us live by, and the Country/City will be a better place.


Anna Daniels December 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm

City Employees pay into their retirement and pension plan. As stated previously, they do not receive Social Security. I know the DeMaio machine doesn’t want the general public to know either of those facts, but they are facts. If you maintain otherwise, you are not a “realist.” You are wrong.


M Lehrer December 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Lucas implies that a switch to a defined contribution plan for city pensions would be unwise because that change would cause them to “…rely on the Enrons and Goldman Sachses of the world to guarantee the retirements of MEA members into the future.

Pensions funds are invested (in the Enrons and with the Goldman Sachs) if they are defined contribution or a defined beneift. The biggest challenge with a defined benefit is that the city can’t determine how much money the pension will really cost because of value of the investments goes up and down but the payout remains the same. With the defined contribution, the pension ends up at the value of the investment at the time the pension is taken…..doesn’t that simply make more sense from a risk standpoint?


mr fresh December 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm “entitled” give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim. “entitled” 1: to give a title to : designate
2: to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something

So you’re entitled to social security because you pay into it. City employees also pay into retirement, by the way. (Obviously not enough, but they do pay)

And I’d like to point out that the unsustainablity of City pensions is also due in part to decisions by the City gov’t to divert funding for a baseball stadium and the 1996 GOP convention. Everybody downtown can take some credit for screwing the taxpayers here. Your eagerness to simply blame the union doesn’t square with the facts here.

Maybe you should look into some anger management classes, cause if you’re ranting ravin’ and splitting hairs over this issue, life surely must be miserable for those around you. Take a deep breath!


RB December 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Your post seems to ignore several facts.
The only group that had the authority to allow money to be diverted from the pension fund was the Pension Board. Three UNION LEADERS on the Pension Board voted to allow the pension contributions to be diverted in return for their own personal pension benefits and gains. These individual UNION LEADER gains, allowing their large union salaries to be used to determine city pension benefits, were a failure of their fiduciary responsibilities and illegal under federal pension law.


True Story December 14, 2011 at 11:10 am

City workers can vote AT ANY TIME to be entitled/pay into (however you see it) Social Security.


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