California's public employee unions have long prided themselves on their toughness. If a Democratic politician stepped out of line, they would move to punish that politician.
But some pols have long memories, and Prop 32 offers an opportunity to get revenge.
Take Gloria Romero, a former state legislator who tangled with the California Teachers Association.
She would seem an unlikely advocate for Prop 32, a ballot initiative that, at its heart, is about limiting the political power of unions by making it harder to collect money from members for politics. She's a Democrat, and the public employee unions are the backbone of the Democratic Party.
But Romero, in pushing changes in the education system while in the legislature, had gotten into big battles with the CTA.
Romero pushed successfully for the parent trigger, which grants parents in low-performing schools the opportunity to demand changes in school leadership, and open enrollment, which allows children in the worst performing schools to switch schools.
CTA opposed the legislation and backed her opponent in the race for superintendent of public instruction. She lost.
Romero hasn't forgotten, and so CTA and other public employee unions now have to beat back Prop 32 in a campaign in which a Latina Democrat, not an anti-union Republican, is the face of the effort. See the below Web ad for a taste of Romero's argument.
CTA and the unions have enforced a strict doctrine. They haven't tolerated politicians getting out of line -- because they want things their way. By not compromising, they could lose big this fall if Prop 32 passes.
Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).