Friday, June 1, 2018

Dave Regan: "$6 Million Dollar Man"

‘Spend it like it’s burning a hole in your pocket.’

That’s apparently Dave Regan’s philosophy when it comes to ballot initiatives.

During the first 111 days of 2018, Regan spent $6 million on just one of his more than 10 ballot initiatives, according to California campaign disclosure records.

Soon, he may be spending lots more.

His initiative -- which targets kidney dialysis companies in an effort to push them into a unionization deal with SEIU-UHW -- qualified this week for California’s November ballot.

If Regan can convince the dialysis companies to cut a special deal with him, he could withdraw his ballot initiative before a June 28 deadline. If not, the initiative is headed to an expensive statewide election campaign against deep-pocketed opponents.

The dialysis industry, which is dominated by two giant for-profit companies, has already organized a coalition of nearly 100 organizations to oppose Regan’s ballot measure, according to the coalition’s website and press releases. And it has already mounted attack ads against Regan’s initiative.

How much would SEIU-UHW have to spend to win a statewide election campaign?

Observers say it would be very expensive. California has some of the most expensive media markets in the nation with top-dollar prices for TV, print and radio advertising and a massive voter population in the state of 40 million inhabitants.

How much cash does Regan have left in SEIU-UHW’s bank account?

In recent years, he’s used a strategy of boosting dues on SEIU-UHW’s members and holding down spending on representation and member support in order to assemble big cash reserves. By the end of 2017, Regan had stockpiled $63 million in cash (vs. $14 million in debt). That’s a lot of money. Remember, however, that he burned through $6 million in cash for just one of his 10+ ballot initiatives in just the first 111 days of 2018. At this point, it’s unclear how much is left.
Dave loves ballot initiatives
Why is Regan spending so much of SEIU-UHW’s budget on ballot initiatives?

Good question. During the past seven years, he spent more than $30 million of SEIU-UHW’s budget on 20+ ballot initiatives, all of which were unsuccessful in producing organizing victories. Even his infamous deal with the California Hospital Association, which grew out of a threatened ballot initiative, eventually exploded in flames and left SEIU-UHW on the losing end of costly lawsuits.

Despite these failures, Regan decided to double down on his ballot-initiative strategy in 2018. According to Politico, he has filed more ballot initiatives in 2018 “than in the past six years combined.” In fact, he’s even begun plying his ballot-initiative strategy in other states. For example, Regan introduced a copycat initiative targeting the dialysis industry in Ohio, where he needs to collect more than 300,000 valid signatures from registered voters by July 4 in order to place the issue on the November ballot, according to press accounts.

Regan appears to be locked into a high-risk game of chicken with the dialysis industry… and the filing of copycat initiatives in other states is his effort to raise the stakes.

Will Regan’s multi-million-dollar ballot-initiative gamble pay off this time?

What happens if it doesn’t… and Regan burns through $40-$60 million of SEIU-UHW’s savings without any real victory? Will the union’s members take him to the shed?

Stay tuned.