Proposition 32: Corporate Billionaires’ Quest to Force Workers to Shut Up
By Bob Balgenorth
State Building and Construction Trades Council
Apparently we union workers are far too successful at affecting public policy in California. Why else would corporate billionaires be gathering and spending huge campaign war chests, for the third time in 14 years, to pass a law that would force us to shut up?
In 1998 it was Proposition 226. In 2005 it was Proposition 75. Now, in 2012, it is Proposition 32 that will silence workers’ voices and destroy our political clout, unless we beat it.
Those previous measures would have prohibited unions from making political contributions with money collected from paycheck deductions. But after voters realized that corporate funds would continue to flow unabated, with workers left powerless to respond, Propositions 226 and 75 were defeated.
So now in 2012, the greedy bastards have gotten sneakier. They claim that Proposition 32 bans contributions from both unions and corporations. Sound fair? It isn’t, because it exempts their secret Super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporate interests. It also carves out specific exemptions for non-corporate big businesses such as limited liability companies, limited partnerships, or real estate trusts, and it doesn’t affect the billionaires behind this insidious plot.
Further, it claims to prohibit both corporations and unions from using funds from paycheck deductions for political purposes. That cripples unions, but has no effect on corporations, who don’t make contributions with paycheck deductions. They make their contributions from their profits, outspending labor fifteen to one.
So the claim that this in any way restricts big business is a lie – a lie told to trick voters into thinking that by voting for this thing, they would be limiting corporate influence. It’s a trick to cripple workers for the benefit of billionaires.
Further proof that Proposition 32 is just a tool of corporations is the fact that its major donor list is a virtual Who’s Who of California corporate bigwigs: Thomas M. Siebel, Charles T. Munger, William E. Bloomfield, Larry T. Smith, and A. Jerrold Perenchio, for starters. I wonder why.
Losing the ability to fight these guys in the political arena would soon become a nightmare for working people. If the backers of Proposition 32 are successful, they’ll waste no time moving California backward. They’ll go after the prevailing wage, our rights to negotiate project labor agreements, workers compensation, overtime pay, rest and meal breaks, health and safety regulations and any other worker protections they can get their claws on.
Today, our collective voice and strength empowers us to stop them. But make no mistake; the corporate billionaires are pushing Proposition 32 because they want to rob us of that voice and strength. Think of it as a one-two punch. First, silence our voice. Then come after our jobs, wages and retirement.
In recent years we have elected some good leaders in California who have passed and signed significant legislation to improve the lives of working people.
That was possible because construction workers, firefighters, school employees, nurses, cops, and other workers were able to join together so workers could be protected. This infuriates the super-rich elitists, who want to make sure we never have the opportunity to enjoy that level of success again.
This deceitful measure is referred to as “Paycheck Protection.” I guess there’s some truth in that because their end game is fattening their own already bloated paychecks, on our backs.
Our enemies will tell voters that Proposition 32 is a reform. But real reformers say otherwise.
The League of Women Voters says:
It is really designed by its special-interest backers to help themselves and harm their opponents.
And Common Cause adds:
Proposition 32 is trying to use our anger and mistrust to change the rules for the benefit of already powerful interests, not the benefit of all Californians. Voters should take a close look to avoid being fooled.
Union members must carry the message. We must reach out to all of our relatives, friends, acquaintances and colleagues to make sure none of them are fooled. Make sure they know how bad Proposition 32 really is.
Make sure we defeat Proposition 32 in November!
Bob Balgenorth is the president of the California State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents approximately 350,000 workers in 186 private sector building trades local unions and regional councils. This article originally appeared in the blog Razor's Edge.