The State Worker

VIDEO: Unions picket pension-change meeting in Sacramento

Union-organized protesters march at the Sterling Hotel in Sacramento during a pension-change conference inside on Friday.
Union-organized protesters march at the Sterling Hotel in Sacramento during a pension-change conference inside on Friday. jortiz@sacbee.com

A decade-old political debate over California public pensions reignited Friday morning at downtown Sacramento’s Sterling Hotel.

Inside the stately Sterling Hotel, a conference sponsored by the libertarian Reason Foundation focused on the case for cutting how much government spends on pensions. Leaders of the pension-change movement, including former San Diego City Councilman Carl Demaio and Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, were in the room.

Outside the hotel, about 150 people organized by a union coalition marched in a circle and shouted slogans such as, “Pension busting! That’s disgusting!” and “ Hold the line for pensions! Hold the line for all!”

The protest signals that labor has already mobilized against Demaio and former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who have a plan to put a public pension-change measure before California voters next year. The details of their proposal have not been disclosed, but both politicians spearheaded successful local ballot measures in 2012 intended to cut pension costs in their respective cities. The unions fought both in the courts.

Friday’s ruckus was clearly heard by the 70 people inside the hotel conference room. Speakers occasionally glanced toward the glass-pane double doors in the back corner that stood between the groups. Protesters occasionally pressed their faces against the doors to peek inside.

One conference speaker, Stephen Eide of the Manhattan Institute, noted that pension-change advocates have some disadvantages going toe-to-toe with unions.

“The organizational advantages of the other side,” he said, “are significant.”

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

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