President Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese
AD73: Anna Bryson Saved School District From Costly Court Judgment & Upheld “Sanctity of Contracts”
Praised by Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese
By Ze’ev Wurman, Policy Adviser, Anna Bryson for State Assembly 2014
(This is the 14th in a series of blog posts “Setting the Record Straight on Anna Bryson”)
One of the most fascinating aspects of the “unforeseen funds” controversy is that Anna’s critics never talk about conservative principles. These critics only talk about the fact the members of the teachers union ended up with some more money than they had at one earlier point.
But surely conservative principles like the rule of law and the sanctity of contracts should be the basis for evaluating this contentious issue.
The teachers union had gone on strike in April of 2010. Anna was the school board president during the strike, and no one could have fought harder for the needed salary cuts. The facts were the facts about the district’s financial condition, and the teachers union settled –accepting a 10.1% cut to teachers’ wages and benefits.
But part of the after-strike settlement was a provision in the new contract that said that if “unforeseen funds” came from Sacramento that there would be a certain amount of pay restoration to teachers. At the time, the country was in a deep recession and the state in bad fiscal shape.
No one on the school board thought there would be “unforeseen funds” from the state, and all the board members (including Brough-endorser Ellen Addonizio and Anna) signed off on the new contract that settled the strike.
But, in the Fall of 2010, “unforeseen funds” did come in from Sacramento. So the district’s lawyers told the school board that the teachers were entitled to the agreed-upon amount of pay restoration.
In December 2010, Anna voted with the Trustee board majority to restore the specified amount (3.5%) of teacher compensation – as required by contract. Addonizio voted against, although she had signed off on the teachers’ contract.
The Orange County Register summed up the situation in an Editorial (4/17/11):
“Trustee Anna Bryson said of the [teachers’ pay] restorations, ‘We entered into a contract, perhaps we did not get the best advice when going into the contract, but nonetheless we signed onto the contract and must honor it.’”
By voting to uphold the sanctity of contracts and to restore the compensation, the district avoided a costly court battle and a sure loss in court. The procedures the Trustees followed in making this decision were upheld by the Orange County District Attorney. Teachers still received a compensation cut of 6.6% – a necessity in our difficult economic times.
Upholding the obligation of contracts is a bedrock conservative principle. As the great conservative philosopher Aristotle says, “Anyone who disregards or repudiates any contract is repudiating the law itself.” “Most business relations,” Aristotle points out, are controlled by contracts, and “if these lose their binding force, human dealings will cease to exist.”
The Orange County Register’s Editorial concluded on a practical note:
“This situation brings to mind Orange County supervisors’ failed lawsuit against a retroactive pension increase for sheriff’s deputies awarded 10 years ago by a different board. As one court stated in that case, imprudence is not unconstitutional. And, as Ms. Bryson noted, undoing a valid union contract is virtually impossible.”
In short, the pay restoration was an unfortunate situation for the district to have gotten into. But once the district had to face the fact of “unforeseen funds” from Sacramento, the only correct way (legally and morally) to proceed forward was to follow the contract and provide the partial restoration of teachers’ compensation. This is why President Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese, in endorsing Anna for the State Assembly, praised her for “upholding…the obligation of contracts.”
Balking at fulfilling the terms of the contract [as suggested in their attack pieces on Anna by Brough-supporters Craig Alexander (10/20/13) and Aaron Park (4/9/14); and by candidate Jesse Petrilla in his many mass mailers] would have been contrary to conservative principles on the rule of law and the sanctity of contracts. The Orange County Register’s Editorial reaffirms this point: “Protecting the terms of contracts is absolutely essential” — Unless you are unprincipled, as Addonizio, Alexander, Park, and Petrilla show themselves to be.
I am adding a postscript on “all or nothing” conservatism from President Ronald Reagan’s 1990 autobiography (p. 171) because it is relevant to how conservatives should view negotiations with labor unions:
“…I knew something about negotiating. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, I’d matched wits with some of the shrewdest negotiators on the planet – people like Jack Warner, Y. Frank Freeman, the president of Paramount, MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, and the heads of the other studios.
“When I began entering into the give and take of legislative bargaining in Sacramento, a lot of the most radical conservatives who had supported me during the election didn’t like it. ‘Compromise’ was a dirty word to them, and they wouldn’t face the fact that we couldn’t get all of what we wanted today.
“They wanted all or nothing, and they wanted it all at once. If you don’t get it all, some said, don’t take anything….
“If you get seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that’s what I told those radical conservatives, who never got used to it.”
- Orange County Register story on “unforeseen funds” provision in the contract: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/teachers-256477-district-capistrano.html
Orange County Register story on teachers’ pay restoration after “unforeseen funds” come to Capistrano Unified: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pay-287895-district-percent.html
Orange County Register Editorial on Teachers’ Pay Restorations in Capistrano Unified: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/district-296595-trustees-year.html
Art Sanchez’s previous post on this matter: http://ocpoliticsblog.com/2013/11/07/sanchez-says-that-73rd-a-d-candidate-bryson-has-stood-up-to-the-unions/
Ze’ev Wurman is an executive with a Silicon Valley software company and was a senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Education during the George W. Bush administration. He is one of the nation’s leading opponents of the Common Core national curriculum-content standards.