Many friends and neighbors who live or work on the Coastside are members of labor unions. The airplane pilot at United, the check out clerk at Safeway, the nurse at Seton Medical Center, the teacher at the high school, the custodian at Hatch, the mail carrier, the electrician, our police officers and fire fighters all have a voice in their workplaces through their unions. Should these union members also be allowed to have a collective voice in our political process through their unions?
Proposition 32 says “no.” This proposition exempts powerful corporate interests, but imposes formidable barriers to unions. It bans money raised through voluntary deductions from a workers paycheck from being used for political purposes. Only unions rely on voluntary paycheck deductions as their source of funding, however. Members of the one percent or the ten percent use profits, interest, dividends, salaries, and bonuses.
While dressed in the guise of “campaign finance reform,” Prop 32 will have virtually no impact on the campaign contributions of corporate executives, independently wealthy individuals, law firms or real estate trusts. Corporate contributions to super pacs will be business as usual.
There is also a second shoe to drop. If Prop 32 passes, then next year we can expect to see other anti-labor propositions like the Indiana right-to-work law further weakening private sector unions and the Wisconsin legislation to end collective bargaining for the public sector. The workers’ ability to fight back will be stopped in its tracks by Prop 32.
In the US, workers having a collective voice in the political process is firmly rooted in the New Deal. Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt believed that workers had a right to a voice at work as well as a voice in politics. They also saw the two as strongly intertwined. They worked closely with the labor movement from local races in New York City to the presidential campaigns. Mrs. Roosevelt saw unions as fundamental to the democratic process. She thrived on educating union members and rallying them to register people to vote, participate in conventions and campaigns, and get people to the polls on election day.
Unions began to contribute money to political campaigns, but then, as now, they were outspent by the anti-union forces. By 1947 Mrs. Roosevelt concluded in her My Day column that while “labor today is stronger than it used to be, it is no stronger than organized capital.” In Prop 32 we have a fine example of what Mrs. Roosevelt would call a “predatory and misleading campaign.”
Labor is joined in opposing this proposition by an alliance of organizations including the California League of Women Voters who say it is “unfair and unbalanced, restricting unions while not stopping corporate special interests.” As a neighbor and friend on the Coastside and a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, I urge you to vote no on Prop 32.