Same Old Story: Rich Republican Tycoon Against Pro-Worker Public Servant

Posted on 07 July 2010

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By Bob Balgenorth
State Building and Construction Trades Council

A wealthy tycoon is trying to buy her way into a statewide office against a veteran public servant with a terrific record on the issues that matter to most to working people. Would that be Meg Whitman, running against former Governor Jerry Brown? Well, yes, she fits the description.

But it’s the same story in the race for U.S. Senator from California, where rich tycoon Carly Fiorina won the Republican primary by pouring her immense personal wealth into her campaign, and who now hopes that her wealth will buy her the seat currently held by a great friend of working men and women, Senator Barbara Boxer.

Fiorina touts her experience as CEO at Hewlett-Packard as her prime qualification to be our Senator. She neglects to mention that she failed in that job, dismally, and in 2005 was fired by a fed up board of directors. They actually paid her $21 million to go away. HP stock rose sharply the day after she left, and an analyst attributed the jump to investors’ hopes “that anyone will be better.”

Read economists’ analyses of Fiorina’s HP tenure and you repeatedly find phrases like “ragged financial performance,” “failure to execute,” “massive shortfall,” “swooning stock price,” and, time after time, “job losses.” In fact, Fiorina fired 30,000 workers and sent jobs overseas to China.

"What the devil is she talking about as a virtue in her business leadership?" Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean of the School of Management at Yale University, commented on National Public Radio. "She sliced shareholder wealth in half, (caused) massive job loss. Gosh it's hard to see what's the selling feature."

Inept performance, laying off workers, shipping jobs overseas, while taking an extravagant salary, rated the worst CEO in America and zero political experience.
It is small wonder that a long list of Silicon Valley executives, people who are the most intimately familiar with Fiorina’s history, are supporting Boxer.

So are well-informed working people across the state, who know Boxer’s record. Judge it for yourself.

  • She’s a strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act to guarantee workers the right to organize and join unions.
  • Time and again she helped block Bush Administration proposals to abolish the 40-hour week and rob workers of overtime pay.
  • She’s fought for the right of victims of wage discrimination to seek justice in the courts.
  • She’s a longtime supporter of the Davis-Bacon Act to ensure that workers on government projects receive the prevailing wage.
  • For 10 years, she led the fight to increase the federal minimum wage.
  • She fought for legislation to extend and expand eligibility for unemployment compensation.
  • She fought for President Obama’s federal stimulus package to get people back to work.
  • She was instrumental in persuading the President to set aside $2.25 billion of that package for California’s High Speed Rail Project.
  • In her important role as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she’s focused on creating clean-energy jobs and reducing carbon emissions.

So as in the Governor’s race, the U.S. Senate race pits a rich Republican tycoon, who performed badly and was fired, against a long-time public servant with a sterling record of fighting for and expanding the interests and rights of working people.

Who will prevail? What should we do about it? It’s up to you.


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.

It is almost laughable to see a construction union official praising a "prevailing wage." It would be laughable if it were not so sad. The truth is that prevailing wages don't prevail. The survey methodology is rigged to favor union wages. As a result prevailing wage laws, like the Davis-Bacon Act, protect union contractors from competition at the public's expense. Here's just one example of the problem. According to the Davis-Bacon Act the prevailing wage for a carpenter in the San Francisco Bay area is $36.50 an hour plus $20.96 in fringe benefits, which by the way is paid to the union and not all of it are of real benefit to the carpenter. The office of Occupational Employment Statistics, using data from the Current Population Survey, reports that the mean hourly wage for a carpenter in California is $25.52. In other words, the so-called "prevailing wage," even without the inflated fringe benefit costs is 43% greater than the wage that truly prevails. Our infrastructure is crumbling. The state is for all practical purposes broke and we are asked to honor politicians who curry favor with labor unions by insisting on paying unrealistically high wages on public works construction. Give me a break!