The Prop 32 Effect
By Steve Smith
As the election results came in late Tuesday night, it became abundantly clear that the handful of billionaires and CEOs who sought to silence our voice were in for a rude awakening. Their deceptive measure, Prop 32, didn't just fail, it tanked - by a 12-point margin.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:
For the third time in the last 14 years, California voters rejected an attempt to shut working people out of the political process. The message voters sent the wealthy interests behind Prop 32 could not have been clearer. Californians categorically reject power plays designed by a few in the 1% to rig the system to their favor. Sooner or later, these CEOs and billionaires trying to push their agenda on our state will realize that no amount of money spent on deceptive ads will fool voters into passing measures like Prop 32.
Defeating the deceptive Prop 32 was always a priority for California's working families. More than $50 million was spent in support of 32, money that came from a handful of billionaires and out-of-state Super PACs. But all the money in the world can't compare to the unprecedented ground game we mounted to defeat 32, and in the end, voters roundly rejected the Prop 32 deception.
But our victories didn't stop there. Labor's ground game also played a huge role in Prop 30, the sorely-needed school funding measure, much to the chagrin of the anti-worker billionaires who thought shifting our attention to Prop 32 would be bad news for Prop 30. And that strong pro-worker turnout had ripple effects all the way down the ballot, particularly in state races.
According to a column by Jon Healey in today's LA Times:
By picking a fight with labor, the pro-Proposition 32 faction risked losing not just on that measure but also on other fights important to conservatives, including Proposition 30 and races for Congress and the Legislature. That's what happened in 2005, when three other so-called reform measures were crushed alongside Proposition 75. And after Tuesday's election, not only did Proposition 30 win, but Republicans were almost certain to wind up with four fewer seats in Congress, two in the state Senate and, surprisingly, two in the Assembly. If those losses hold, Democrats will hold two-thirds of the seats in each chamber - for the first time since the 19th century.
The positive and progressive momentum Labor brought out truly extended all the way down the ballot, as workers achieved victory on a number of local ballot measures, including a living wage measure for hotel workers in Long Beach, and a two-dollar minimum wage increase for the lowest-wage workers in San Jose.
But we never could have achieved any of this if it wasn't for the hard work and dedication of more than 40,000 union volunteers who distributed 5.1 million fliers at worksites and door steps and made more than 3.7 million direct voter contacts on the phone and at the door - a million of those contacts in the last week alone (check out GOTV photos here). This massive effort began in the spring, much earlier than we've ever kicked off a ground effort before. Every evening and weekend for months, working people volunteered in record numbers to educate voters about the stakes in this election.
The defeats that Republicans and their corporate interest allies suffered in this election were nothing short of crushing. With a two-thirds supermajority looming in both the State Senate and Assembly, 3 or 4 congressional pickups for Democrats and victories for working families on minimum wage and other issues, this election proved to be a game-changer. And it couldn't have been possible without a galvanized, motivated labor program on the ground. In that respect, Prop 32 made a big difference for nearly every race in California.
There's a lesson to be learned from this - I call it The Prop 32 Effect. If measures that attack workers are on the ballot, they will be defeated. And not only will they be defeated, they will drive workers to the polls in record numbers, which has a direct impact on races and measures up and down every ballot across California.
Steve Smith is Communications Director at the California Labor Federation, which represents more than 2 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries in the state of California. This article was originally published at Labor's Edge.