From Wisconsin to San Francisco

Pub date April 5, 2011

Public Defender Jeff Adachi is scurrying all over town trying to explain how his version of pension reform is really “progressive.” It would be laughable if its implications weren’t so devastating for working people employed by the city and those living in and around San Francisco.

Adachi is rightfully worried that the events in Wisconsin and the national movement to defend union rights they have inspired will hurt his campaign. He is eager to say that he, unlike the Republicans in Wisconsin, supports unions’ rights to collective bargaining. But while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature eliminated collective bargaining for their public employees to slash their wages, health care, and pensions, Adachi is slashing San Francisco’s workers pay and pensions through the ballot, effectively taking those items off the bargaining table. What’s the difference?

In both Wisconsin and San Francisco the deficit is the excuse to require cuts in public worker retirement and community services. Walker created Wisconsin’s deficit by granting huge tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich. In San Francisco, the deficit that cannot cover the city’s pension fund contributions was similarly brought on by three decades of tax cuts for corporations and the rich in California, compounded by former Mayor Gavin Newsom opposing nearly every revenue measure proposed throughout his seven-year reign — and by the city not contributing its share to the pension fund for all the years the stock market was doing well.

In determining how “progressive” Adachi’s measure is, we should, as always, follow the money. Here’s who’s is backing his proposal:

 Michael Moritz, the billionaire venture capitalist (and No. 308 last year on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans) who hosted fundraisers for Prop. B — Adachi’s first attempt last year at pension reform that was soundly defeated — and is a major financial backer of Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee.

 Howard Leach, the billionaire financier who raised almost $400,000 for the George W. Bush campaign and was rewarded with the position of ambassador to France. He also contributes to the Republican Governors Association, whose major objective was the election of the new crop of conservative governors pushing anti-worker measures in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, New Jersey, and other states.

 David Crane, who is a paltry multimillionaire former investment banker and close friend of and former top pension adviser to Republican former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

You have to wonder why these super-rich are suddenly so concerned about the parks and senior and youth programs, the mental health and drug abuse programs Adachi cites as being cut because of pension costs. If these billionaires were so moved, they could take the money they are sinking into Adachi’s measure and donate that to the programs. Or they could support some kind of progressive revenue measure that makes the wealthy downtown financiers and investors — who can afford to pay — ante up to protect the programs they claim to be concerned about.

No one is more concerned with the viability of the pension fund than those who plan to retire on it. That’s why the city’s unions are engaged in discussions with the city to develop real pension reform that is fact-based, principled, and compassionate to those trying to raise families in this economic climate.

So when Adachi’s high-priced signature gatherers (paid as much as $5 per signature to get Prop. B on the ballot) come to your neighborhood grocery store, just say “No!”

No, this is not what we call progressive policy. Not in Wisconsin, and not in San Francisco.

Roxanne Sanchez is president and Larry Bradshaw is San Francisco vice president of SEIU Local 1021.