Soapbox

CalPERS can send a strong message to Trump

California State Treasurer John Chiang speaks to California delegates during the Democratic National Convention in July 2016.
California State Treasurer John Chiang speaks to California delegates during the Democratic National Convention in July 2016. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial on my request of the California Public Employee’s Retirement System questions a proposal that simply doesn’t exist (“Chiang’s CalPERS policy goes too far,” June 19).

I am asking CalPERS on Wednesday to ask their contractors to remain neutral so that workers themselves can determine whether they want to form a union. Instead, the editorial likened the proposal to “a demand of labor fidelity” that would “require that health care insurance companies that do business with CalPERS not deal with hospitals that are nonunion shops.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Here are the facts:

CalPERS has long held the belief that those seeking to do business with the nation’s largest public pension system should not interfere with the right of their workers to determine if collective bargaining is in their best interest or not.

So why am I now seeking to explicitly include this self-determination in CalPERS contracts?

From his callous disregard for private-sector workers seeking to escape an impoverished retirement to his decisively anti-labor choice for Labor Secretary, President Donald Trump has cast his lot with Wall Street 1-percenters over Main Street workers.

These steps backward for working men and women will very likely impact the productivity of workers and overall output at companies in which CalPERS is invested. As the second-largest purchaser of health care in the U.S., its efforts to contain healthcare costs will suffer setbacks as workers lose their say in staffing, patient safety and health-quality decisions.

Rather than sit idle in breach of its fiduciary duty, I am asking CalPERS to lead by emphatically encouraging its business partners to not interfere as their employees determine whether union representation is necessary to combat wage theft, unsafe working conditions or low pay that makes workers depend on public assistance.

As Trump and his labor department side with those who can afford Mar-a-Lago, working Americans need a forceful voice to champion their interests.

John Chiang is California state treasurer. He can be contacted at news@sto.ca.gov.

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