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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Labor & Workers
Attack On Unions: California Special Election Prop 75 Analysis
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
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.
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.
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.