California Workers Mobilize to Beat Back Schwarzenegger’s Attacks


Oct. 12—California’s working families are mobilized to beat back special election ballot measures proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and financed by his millionaire corporate friends that attack union members’ political freedom, teachers’ jobs and school funding.

Also as part of off-year-election action, working family voters and activists are mobilizing to elect new governors and legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia and approve good-government ballot measures in Ohio.

In California, where more than 50 unions and their allies across the state have formed the Alliance for a Better California, union members are waging a massive campaign that includes phone banking, TV ads and rallies to defeat the three anti-worker propositions Schwarzenegger devised.

Ballot Measure ‘Unfairly Silences’ Public Employees’ Political Voice

The most far-reaching ballot initiative, Proposition 75, seeks to silence public employees’ voice in politics. Schwarzenegger called a special election for the paycheck deception measure, which would place massive reporting and administrative burdens on unions before union dues could be used for political expenditures—such as educating members about issues and lobbying for pro-working family legislation.

More than half of the state’s 2.4 million union members could have their political voices silenced if Prop. 75 is passed. While the measure singles out public employees, all segments of the California union movement are rallying to defeat the anti-worker measure.

“Proposition 75 unfairly and unnecessarily silences our voices to make it easier for the governor and his Big Business pals to cut education, harm health care and put public safety at risk,” says Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional Firefighters, an affiliate of the Fire Fighters.

Schwarzenegger’s special election will cost California taxpayers $80 million.

“Classroom teachers oppose Proposition 75 because its real agenda is to make it harder for us to speak out for our students and schools,” says Lisa Dickason a fifth-grade teacher from Long Beach and member of the California Teachers Association (CTA).

The Alliance for a Better California says Schwarzenegger and his corporate backers are using Prop. 75 “as a smokescreen to push their real agenda”—one that opposes raising the minimum wage and strengthening retirement security while supporting cuts to education and health care.

Schwarzenegger also Targets Teachers

Schwarzenegger also is pushing an initiative that reduces teachers’ job security and contract protections (Prop. 74). Another initiative, Prop. 76, would allow the governor to make devastating mid-year budget cuts if revenues fall below expenditures. If passed, it would gut Prop. 98, the law voters approved in 1988 to guarantee minimum funding to public schools.

Under steady pressure from working families, Schwarzenegger pulled back from one of his anti-union initiatives in April when he suspended his pension privatization initiative. The announcement came on the heels of protests by thousands of union members who turned out at the governor’s events throughout California. On the last night of the legislative session, Sept. 8, Assemblyman Keith Richman, a top Schwarzenegger ally, introduced a pension privatization proposal. If approved by lawmakers when they return in January the measure would go before voters next year.

“Can you imagine how hamstrung we would be if we couldn’t speak out against initiatives that threaten education funding, give the governor broad new powers over the state budget and directly attack,” workers’ political rights says CTA President Barbara E. Kerr.