San Francisco unions have never disclosed their lobbying of city officials despite a 10-year-old law aimed at eliminating back-room deal-making. SF’s Ethics Commission is now attempting to force compliance by the unions, particularly Service Employees International Union which is SF’s largest union and has led the lobbying effort this year on hotly-contested health care legislation. The unions face thousands of dollars in penalties if they are found to have knowingly not complied with the ordinance. Union bosses contend they were unaware the measure applied to them. They also argue it is wrong to lump them in with hired-gun lobbyists for corporate interests. And they have said the unions will resist city efforts to force them to make disclosures under the lobbying ordinance.
But that has not sat well with other lobbyists and elected officials. “Since I took office in 1993, the unions have been the strongest lobbying force and the most effective. I don’t think they should be treated any different from private developers or other advocacy groups,” said Board of Supervisors President Barbara Kaufman. Mark Mosher of a local business association said the financial stakes are often at least as high when SEIU comes calling on City Hall as when Chevron or some other private firm does. “They’ve got more money on the line than any other single interest group,” Mosher said, noting that the bulk of the $3.9 billion city budget goes to employee pay. [SF Examiner 07/30/98]