Dick Meister: Labor’s wise election choices

Pub date October 23, 2012
SectionBruce Blog

By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

No issue on the November election ballot anywhere is of greater importance to working people and their unions than Proposition 32 on the California ballot.

As the State AFL-CIO notes in its call for an all-out campaign against Prop 32, it’s “a brazen power play” by billionaire corporate interests and other anti-union forces to all but silence labor’s political voice, while at the same time greatly increasing the political strength of labor’s wealthy opponents.

Prop 32’s corporate sponsors deceptively call their measure an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. Yet it would only limit – and severely limit – the political spending of unions. There would be no limit on the political spending of corporations and other wealthy interests.

A Prop 32 victory would have a serious national impact, since passage of the measure in the country’s largest state would certainly lead to attempts to enact similar measures elsewhere.

California Propositions 30 and 38 also could have major, though less direct, effects nationally.  Both measures would raise badly needed new funds for education.

Prop 30, which is widely supported by unions and a broad base of community organizations, would do it through a tax increase that would be levied on wealthy Californians with annual incomes of $250,000 or more.

But Prop 38, bankrolled by some of the same billionaire interests that are contributing heavily to the Yes on 32 campaign, would raise money by taxing everyone, including the poor. And while Prop 30 specifically calls for added education funds to go to schools at all levels, including the community colleges that train workers for jobs that are heavily unionized, Prop 38 does not apply to community colleges.

There are, of course, other state as well as local and national issues and candidates that are of particular interest to labor. That includes, as it very well should, labor-friendly President Obama and just about any other Democrat.

Although the odds are heavily against Democrats regaining control of the House or adding to their narrow margin in the Senate, that has not kept labor and its supporters from trying to beat the odds.

National Democratic strategists are relying on California to be a leader in raising funds to make that happen. They’re sending out an unprecedented barrage of requests to Californians for money for Democratic candidates in general and especially for candidates in battleground states.

Unions are playing an important role in that effort and in many local elections as well. That naturally includes the voting in San Francisco, long one of the country’s premier labor cities and national pacesetter for labor.

As usual, the SF Labor Council and SF unions generally have endorsed all of the Democrats running for national and state offices. It would be hard to quarrel with that or with most of labor’s other choices of who and what to back and oppose on the city’s election ballot.

Locally, labor is backing incumbent Supervisors Eric Mar (District One) and David Campos (District Nine) and newcomer F.X. Crowley, a longtime union leader and activist who’s running in District Seven. All have consistently supported labor.

Labor is rightly eager to defeat Crowley’s opponent, Mike Garcia, a candidate of the downtown interests that have consistently opposed labor.

Voters would be wise to follow the guidance of the teachers union on candidates for the SF Board of Education. The union has endorsed Matt Haney, Beverly Popek, Sam Rodriguez and Shamann Walton. All would be new to the board.

The teachers union and the Service Employees Union local that represent SF City College workers agree that the best candidates for the Community College Board that governs City College are Hanna Leung, Rafael Mandelman and incumbents Natalie Berg and Chris Jackson.

As far as local propositions go, labor’s support for a parcel tax to raise badly needed funds for City College (Prop A) and for a trust fund to help lower and middle income families secure affordable housing (Prop C) makes very good sense.

Unfortunately, labor did not take an official position on Prop G, the policy statement that calls for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that has allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Otherwise, however, labor has provided voters with an invaluable election guide.

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.