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California | Labor & Workers

Attack On Unions: California Special Election Prop 75 Analysis
by Buy Blue (reposted)
Thursday Oct 20th, 2005 3:39 PM
PROP 75 - PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNION DUES. REQUIRED EMPLOYEE CONSENT FOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS. INITIATIVE STATUTE
This initiative would prohibit state and local government employers from withholding union deductions from a worker's paycheck if the money is used for political donations. Public employee unions are among the largest financial donors to Democratic campaigns in California. Of all the ballot measures, Prop 75, the so-called “paycheck protection measure,” is one of the two biggest threats to Democrats' power. The other is Prop 77.

The Public Employees' Right to Approve Use of Union Dues for Political Campaign Purposes Act would require California public employee unions to get, annually, the written consent of members and bargaining unit participants to use dues and fees for political purposes. The exact wording of the consent form is specified. The measure would further require unions to retain copies of the forms and keep detailed records of funds received and political expenditures made.

A 1988 U.S. Supreme Court case, Communications Workers v. Beck http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=487&invol=735
affirms the right of union members to opt out of the political spending of union dues. The legal presumption in California is that such spending is permitted unless union members specifically object. Under Prop 75, union members would have to opt in. The legal presumption would be that political spending is not permitted unless specifically authorized by union members.

According to the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies, California voters have considered the issue of union dues spending for political purposes before. In the 1998 primary election voters turned down Proposition 226, called the “paycheck protection initiative” by its supporters. Proposition 226 would have required all unions, not just public employee unions, to obtain union members' written consent annually before using union dues for political purposes. The vote on Proposition 226 was 53.32% no and 46.68% yes. Almost $30 million was spent on the Proposition 226 campaign, $23,574,954 by opponents and $6,240,157 by supporters. http://www.igs.berkeley.edu/library/htUnionDues.html

The text of Proposition 75 is here: http://ag.ca.gov/initiatives/pdf/sa2005rf0009.pdf

Supporters

CALIFORNIANS FOR PAYCHECK PROTECTION, A PROJECT OF THE NATIONAL TAX LIMITATION COMMITTEE* , $122,000
*Who are these guys? link

COALITION FOR EMPLOYEE RIGHTS, SUPPORTING SA2005RF0009, REGARDING UNION DUES, WITH MAJOR FUNDING FROM SMALL BUSINESS ACTION COMMITTEE-PAC AND CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY

CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY - NON-CANDIDATE ACCOUNT, $200,000

SMALL BUSINESS ACTION COMMITTEE –PAC, $555,000 *
*Who are these guys? link also see summary below.

Opponents

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT CALIFORNIA’S FUTURE – NO ON 74, 75, 76, AND 77, $0*
*Who are these guys: The Committee is controlled by Fabian Nunez, D-46th AD, Speaker of the California Assembly. link.

WORKERS' RIGHTS PROTECTION FUND OF THE CALIFORNIA LABOR FEDERATION, AFL-CIO - NO ON 75*, $376,252
*Who are these guys? link.

NO ON 75, A COALITION OF NURSES, EDUCATORS, FIREFIGHTERS, SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, OPERATING ENGINEERS, BUILDING TRADES, SCIENTISTS, ENGINEERS, AND LOCAL AND STATE EMPLOYEES*,
* Who are these guys? link.

NO ON 75, EDUCATORS, FIREFIGHTERS, SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, HEALTH CARE GIVERS AND LABOR ORGANIZATIONS* , Committee total last 12 months $6,114,179

*Who are these guys? link.

BuyBlue analysis

Proposition 75 is aimed at weakening the political clout of public employee unions. In a now familiar ploy, the measure's right-wing financial backers did their best to remain unknown to the public during the signature gathering campaign to qualify for the ballot. The dirtiness in this game is twofold: 1) the outfits backing Prop 75 are run by Governor Schwarzenegger’s political advisors and paid political consultants. And 2) businesses that will profit from gutting the political power of public employees are using the initiative process to get their measure before the public. But the initiative process is intended to allow the voters, not industry shills, to put measures before the public, without having to rely on a potentially captured legislature. (For a history of the California initiative process and its direct democracy purposes, see this link)

The ballot measure committee that gathered signatures for Prop. 75 and funds it is the Coalition for Employee Rights. That “coalition” has received nearly all of its funding from one source, the Small Business Action Committee. That group, which has donated $550,000 as of August 1, 2005, did not have to disclose its donors’ names until late July, long after the measure qualified for the ballot.

Prop 75’s donors are in fact Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political advisors. The governor's aides repeatedly denied any connection to the initiative. But Lewis Uhler, leader of the Coalition for Employee Rights, said in an interview that a political group affiliated with Schwarzenegger, Citizens to Save California, has been "encouraging some people to make contributions" to his cause. Joel Fox, a paid adviser to Schwarzenegger during the recall election, is co-chair of both Citizens to Save California, the Governor’s shill for his ballot measures, and the Coalition for Employee Rights. He is also the chair of the Small Business Action Committee Jeff Flint, a spokesman for the Small Business Action Committee, said there was no agreement in place to channel donations to the small-business group so they could then be contributed to the union initiative, noting that would be illegal.

The union-backed group opposing Prop 75, Alliance for a Better California, filed two complaints with the Fair Political Practices Commission because Prop 75’s backers were circumventing laws requiring them to disclose their contributors’ identities. At present, the FPPC can act on such complaints whenever the spirit moves them. Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, sponsored legislation that would impose a 15-day window for the commission to act on such complaints, to solve the problem of no time requirements on the FPPC’s acting.

In the Official Voter Guide, Prop 75 backers argue that they’re helping public employees look after their “hard earned dollars.” Self-styled conservator of public employees’ hard-earned dollars Lewis Uhler told the San Francisco Chronicle he focused Prop 75 to specifically target public employee unions because of their “greed” and “arrogance.” article

Another Prop 75 backer is well-known champion of workers’ rights, economist Milton Friedman, who has criticized Social Security as an “unethical program.” article.

In 2004, the Small Business Action Committee received nearly all its funding from major corporations and executives. Notable: $50,000 from sub-prime lender Ameriquest and former Gap Inc. Chairman Donald Fisher, $45,000 from cigarette-maker Philip Morris, and $10,000 from PG&E Corp.

http://www.buyblue.org/node/2363
by More
Thursday Oct 20th, 2005 3:47 PM
The California Teachers Association sent letters to county district attorneys seeking a criminal investigation after an estimated 90,000 public school teachers received a "Yes on Proposition 75" campaign letter in their school e-mail inboxes Wednesday.

In a telephone press conference, union representatives said the e-mails were in direct violation of California Education Code 7054, which prohibits the use of district resources or equipment to advocate for an initiative or a candidate.

The union says the e-mail violates the law because the teachers' e-mail addresses are district property, housed on district computers and servers. However it is unclear whether sending an e-mail is a use of district resources and supporters of the campaign say the law only applies to district and county employees.

The e-mailed letter, "from the desk of" two Southern Californian teachers and funded by GOP donors Robin Arkley and Frank Baxter, urges readers to vote yes on Proposition 75 and alleges that the CTA is headed for bankruptcy a claim CTA leadership refutes.

The proposition, which the CTA opposes, would require public unions to get annual consent before using member dues for political contributions.

"The California Education Code is very clear," Beverly Tucker, chief council for the CTA said. "It prohibits the use of school district e-mails by any person or campaign for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure."

The law in question reads:

"No district or community college district funds, services, supplies or equipment shall be used for the purposes of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure."

However, it is found under the article titled "Political Activities of School Officers and Employees," which raises questions as to whom the law applies to.

The CTA maintains that its passive language "strongly implies that the prohibitions are not restricted only to school administrators or employees," Tucker wrote in a legal advice memorandum.

Yes on 75 spokesperson Eric Beach has stated publicly that the campaign has not violated the law, saying that the law only refers to district and county employees. He did not return repeated phone calls to the Post by press time.

State associations of school administrators and school board members however, sided with the CTA, saying the political "spam" was offensive.

"School board members are always concerned about the use of district-owned e-mail systems for campaign purposes. Staff time should not be diverted from the important work that goes on in our school's classrooms," Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association, said.

Milpitas teachers were among those to receive the e-mails.

Although the CTA often mails political material to its members, Milpitas Teachers Association President Sharon Smith said the union opts to use home e-mail addresses to avoid legal issues.

"It was an annoyance as much as anything," first-grade teacher Smith said. "It's inappropriate use. And the CTA is not allowed to use the e-mail on the other side."

James Logan High School teacher Don Heinsohn said he also received the e-mail and tried to respond to its authors.

"The reply was addressed to a spambot," the Union City teacher said.

Tucker, the CTA chief counsel, said she sent letters Friday to district attorneys in Alameda, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties asking for an investigation and appropriate actions, including filing criminal charges against the Yes on 75 Committee. She said she would continue to pursue action as more reports came in.

If the district attorneys find the committee in violation, penalties include up to three years in prison and or fines of $1,000.

http://www.themilpitaspost.com/Stories/0,1413,93~3416~3099669,00.html
by More
Thursday Oct 20th, 2005 3:48 PM
The upside to American industrial growth in the late 1800s was the creation of new jobs and a higher standard of living. The downside was the steep price paid by workers who toiled for 10 to 12 hours per day, six days per week, braving conditions that jeopardized their health, safety and lives.

By 1900, more than 1 million women and several hundred thousand children younger than 16 worked in industry, enduring discriminatory wages and employers who routinely ignored child-labor laws.

Out of this human tragedy, workers formed unions to demand better pay and safer working conditions. In response, employers often hired armed heavies and hooligan strikebreakers to harass, intimidate and beat up union members.

We may not see the goon squad tactics of yesteryear but lawsuits, harassment, threats of dismissal, spying, and now propositions like California's 74 and 75 are modern-day corporate methods to disrupt union activity.

One only has to look as far as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's list of corporate backers who have pumped tens of millions of dollars into supporting propositions 74 and 75 to see the current strategy to silence the voices of police officers, firefighters, nurses and teachers who stand in the way of special interests.

Claims that Prop. 74 will rid California of incompetent teachers by lengthening the probationary period for new teachers and providing for the dismissal of veteran educators upon two successive, unsatisfactory job evaluations are politically motivated. Current law already exists to remove ineffective teachers at any time.

The truth is that if Prop. 74 passes, it will only serve to squelch the voice of teachers who question school policies, expose corruption or speak out for the welfare of their students. This measure offers teachers no protection against an incompetent administration and will give managers unbridled power to remove teachers for a myriad of behaviors under the guise of incompetence.

Under Prop. 75, unions would be required to seek permission from their members before using dues for political activities. This measure is redundant since provisions already exist for teachers to either decline union membership or have dues diverted to another cause if they disagree with union stances.

Prop. 75 is simply another attempt to unfairly limit the collective voice of police officers, nurses, firefighters and teachers by restricting the financial capability of their unions to speak out on their behalf and fails to include a similar constraint on the governor's corporate backers.

And how can we trust Gov. Schwarzenegger? He pledged not to accept campaign contributions from special interests, declaring that "Any of those kinds of real big, powerful special interests, if you take money from them, you owe them something." He broke that pledge and now he is beholden to corporate interests.

Propositions 74 and 75 are not sincere efforts to reform public education as the governor and his corporate allies would have you believe, but rather diversionary tactics designed to strip employee unions of influence and reinforce an anti-union culture at the state level.

Robert Eilek of Temecula is a teacher at Temecula Middle School.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/10/20/opinion/commentary/20_22_4110_19_05.txt