California Gov. Jerry Brown. (AP Photo/File)

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez has waded into the effort to reform California’s public pension system by standing on the side of labor unions – and against Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan.

Perez sent a letter that did not come to light until last week, when the Sacramento Bee newspaper obtained a copy of it. In it, he gave the state until this past Friday to exempt the workers from a September 2012 law or risk losing billions in federal transportation funds, including $1.5 billion this year. The unions and the state were holding negotiations Monday.

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