Santa Ana Recall Is About Union Power—Only

Santa Ana Recall Is About Union Power—Only

Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Jessie Lopez and Councilwoman Thai Viet Pham speak about recall efforts against them at the city hall of Santa Ana, Calif., on Jan. 30, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 9/5/2023


A friend who lives in Santa Ana, California, wrote to me objecting to my Aug. 29 Epoch Times article, “Voters to Decide Extent of Union Dominance in Santa Ana.” The issue is whether to recall Councilmember Jessie Lopez.
In article, I quoted a Voice of OC report from June, “The recall threats come after [Councilmember Thai Phan] and Ms. Lopez supported a December labor contract that went against the police union’s pay-raise proposals.” Ms. Phan is no longer facing a potential recall.
My friend wrote my article “was not accurate regarding Jessie Lopez. If you would have read about her background to see that she is truly a far-left leaning Democrat. She wants to BAN a 30-year ruling that is on the books for street racing and ‘take overs’ in intersections. No, John, this is a woman who wanted to defund our Santa Ana Police entirely. These ideological and left-leaning concepts that Ms. Lopez holds are a Marxist viewpoint to further the decline of our Santa Ana community, in my opinion.”
In my article, I mentioned my experience seeing how the unions mercilessly smeared state Sen. John Moorlach when I worked for him and his reelections. My friend also wrote, “Furthermore, I certainly would not lump Ms. Lopez in with John Moorlach and the issues he went through. She represents Ward 3. We got over 5,700 signatures that wanted her to be replaced. She is a radical! Please know that we are in a mess with Santa Ana politics with the likes of Ms. Lopez. This is an opportunity to find a more moderate Councilmember.
“We are hopeful for her to be defeated. She does not stand for anything that is favorable to Santa Ana, except radical far-left-wing ideas. Do you want to lift a 30 year ban on street racing and allow this to happen where you reside? She has the Cannabis dollars to promote her left agenda. You may get what you want—a total hard lefty.
“However, what a mess if we have to have her continue on Santa Ana City Council.  The unions and Santa Ana Police Department have enough hostility toward them, not a council member.”
I also mentioned the March primary was just four months after the recall. My friend wrote, “Glad they did not wait until the 2024 elections! Please remove Jessie Lopez. She is harmful to Santa Ana Neighborhoods. She is for radical rent control laws.  Not good for landlords.”
Indeed, in my original article I wrote how Ms. Lopez’s positions on rent control and other policies were not good for the city.

My Response: Union Power Rules

Here’s my response to my friend’s excellent points, expanded for this article.
In the end, this is about union power, specifically police union power. There is no worse kind. After my Aug. 29 article came out, on Aug. 30 the Voice of OC published another article, “Orange County’s Police Unions Are Increasingly Electing, Unseating Their Own Bosses.” The title is similar to one I have been using for about 35 years, and might even have invented, “The unions want to sit on both sides of the bargaining table.”
The Voice of OC article began, “It’s the story that replays itself every few years.
“Police unions are becoming the biggest spenders in Orange County’s municipal and county elections.
“Some local leaders from both political parties fear it’s creating an environment where police have the power to elect—or unseat—the very people they’re supposed to answer to.
With Anaheim’s police union entangled in a City Hall corruption scandal—and Santa Ana’s spending $371,000 in hopes of successfully recalling a City Council member over police salaries for the second time in three years—police union politics are out on full display this year like never before.
“And in Anaheim’s case, under city investigators’ focus.
“A July 31 report by independent investigators—hired by the City of Anaheim in response to an ongoing FBI corruption probe into City Hall—alleged that a powerful network of Disneyland resort interests improperly controlled city policymaking from the shadows.
“City-hired investigators—themselves former police officials—tied the police union to forces improperly exerting influence at city hall. Investigators highlighted police union efforts opposing a gas station approval that would have competed with one owned by a political fundraiser for disgraced former mayor Harry Sidhu.”

Admission of Union Power

Union bosses even boast of this. In 2021, Alex Caputo-Pearl, formerly the vice president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, said to a meeting of his union, “We have a unique power—we elect our bosses. It would be difficult to think of workers anywhere else who elect their bosses. We do. We must take advantage of it. ... If we win, they will decide how the hundreds of millions of dollars in additional money is used. They will be across the bargaining table from us in our huge full contract negotiations in 2022.”
Mr. Caputo-Pearl on July 1 was appointed practitioner-in-residence at the UC Berkeley Labor Center. The website said, “He will build on the Leadership Development Program’s partnerships with the NEA, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), and other educator unions.” That means he will be teaching the next generation of union officials how to “elect our own bosses.”

Regular Elections

Recalls are supposed to be for extraordinary purposes, not recalling someone just four months before a regular election. The union is acting now as a display of pure political clout. They want to show, clearly, in a single up-or-down vote, who is running the city: the people or the unions. Special elections like this one also have much lower turnouts than primary elections, meaning the union campaign cash, derived ultimately from the taxpayers, more likely will decide the issue. By contrast, next March’s primary election will feature contentious presidential elections for both Democrats and Republicans, bringing out more voters.
If the Lopez recall is defeated, the police union’s power will have been blunted, and it will be more careful in the future, beginning with next year. But if they recall Ms. Lopez, they will get away with anything. They will run the city more than they already do.

Police State

The real danger of police unions, even more so than for other government-employee unions, is they take over both the executive/enforcement branch of government, and the legislative/city council branch; at the state level, the unions even take over the third branch of government, the courts, because the governor appoints the judges, and the unions control the governor. That’s why the courts always thwart pension reform.
The threat of “defunding the police” was just a fad among Democrats. The real threat, as we’re now seeing with the persecutions of Trump and others, is the police state—the FBI and CIA—attacking citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights to assembly, speech, and religion. As I reported in The Epoch Times on Aug. 21, “Is the FBI Spying on My California Church?”

Conclusion: Will Voters Curb Absolute Police Power?

In sum, the Lopez recall has nothing to do with Ms. Lopez’s particular votes, and everything to do with whether the voters will choose to curb absolute police power.
As to city finances, the more powerful the police become, the worse off the city’s finances will become. Watch. They’ll be seeking higher taxes on sales and property to pay for higher police pay, perks, and pensions.
Finally, here are the top five pay and benefits recipients in 2022, as tallied by Transparent California, of Santa Ana city employees; four are police. By comparison, President Joe Biden makes $400,000 a year.
  • Police Captain Enrique Esparza: $795,414.36
  • Police Chief David Valentin: $669,699.01
  • City Manager Kristine A. Ridge: $551,125.70
  • Police Captain Robert Rodriguez: $544,365.88
  • Police Captain Sergio Z. Enriquez: $542,035.82
That’s what union power brings you.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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