Friday, May 22, 2009
This is really chilling. The San Diego Union-Tribune was recently acquired by Platinum Equity. Platinum Equity in turn depends heavily on investments from California public employee pension funds, including $30 million from the Los Angeles Police Officers union. And the union doesn't like the Union-Tribune's editorial policy--especially as it concerns what the L.A. Times calls "the paper’s consistent position that San Diego lawmakers should cut back on salaries and benefits for public employees in order to help close gaping budget deficits." The L.A. Times quotes from a March 26 letter from union boss Paul M. Weber to Platinum CEO Tom Gores:
A violation of the Union-Tribune's First Amendment rights? No, of course not. The First Amendment protects us only from the government, not from private parties. If it were a violation of First Amendment, I'd feel a lot better, since there'd be something the Union-Tribune could do about it. Thuggish abuse of power? You bet. That's the thing about these huge union pension funds. It gives union officials huge clout in addition to the clout they get from the union itself. And some are not shy about using that power for the benefit of current union members.
I hope that neither Platinum nor the Union-Tribune caves to this pressure. One Platinum executive has done the right thing by asserting that the union is wasting its time and that Platinum has "no editorial agenda." Still, threats like these can cause a newspaper to soft-pedal its views even when the threats aren't carried out. And these days the thing that California needs most is a strong, responsible voice for fiscal sanity. First and foremost, that means a voice willing to take on the public employees unions. All I can say to the Union-Tribune is please don't give an inch.
The more Union-Tribune readers know about this letter, the better. The Union-Tribune is less likely to be cowed by these guys if its readers know about the problem and are rooting for them. I hope therefore that the letter gets a lot of publicity. If the Union-Tribune does become a public employees' union mouthpiece, there are going to be a lot of cancelled subscriptions.