Immediately after San Jose’s Measure B passed last week, the unions filed a court challenge against the initiative. Measure B reduces benefits for current public employees; they will have a choice between a new, lower-benefit retirement package or keeping their current benefit plan but contributing more to pay for it. In the private sector, employers can reduce employee-pension benefits going forward, but in California, anyway, the courts have prohibited benefit reductions for public employees.

San Jose officials argue that they’re legally in the right because of specific city ordinances and because of the municipality’s status in California as a “charter city.” Mayor Chuck Reed explained in response to the union lawsuit: “Measure B was carefully crafted to follow California law. San Jose is a charter city and the California Constitution gives charter cities ‘plenary authority’ to provide in their charters for the compensation of their employees. San Jose’s City Charter reserves the right of the City Council and the voters to make changes to employees’ retirement benefits: ‘. . . the Council may at any time, or from time to time, amend or otherwise change any retirement plan or plans or adopt or establish a new or different plan or plans for all or any officers or employees.’” …

So the results in deep-blue California are clear. Even in Democratic Party bastions, such as San Jose, voters said “yes” to pension reform and “no” to union priorities by an overwhelming majority. As I wrote previously for City Journal, San Jose’s Reed made the progressive case for pension reform: he argued that the government programs liberal Democrats care about are endangered by a pension burden that now consumes 20 percent of the city’s general-fund budget. He distinguished between union Democrats and progressives, a distinction that will serve pension reformers well as proposals go forward in blue states.