September 3, 2014

Beware this backdoor effort to silence labor’s voice

By National Legislative Director James Stem – You remember Humpty Dumpty, the character created by children’s author Lewis Carroll. Most famously, Humpty Dumpty said, ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

Humpty Dumpty may well have written the language for Proposition 32, which goes before California voters on Election Day.

Although Proposition 32 appears to put restrictions on the use of so-called special interest money in elections, its real meaning is to ban unions from collecting payroll deductions for union political action committees (PAC) — to silence the voice of organized labor in politics.

“This attempt to silence the voice of workers in California with Proposition 32 is a national issue, because, if passed, it will set a precedent for other states to follow with legislation,” says UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. “Labor’s struggle in California is for the very right to support or oppose proposed laws and regulations that would impact worker safety issues, taxation issues, voting rights, and the right to work under a union contract. Many issues started in California have spread around the country.”

Adds the secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, “It’s not enough for them to have taken our houses, and it’s not enough for them to make millions off the TARP funding and federal government support for the banks. Now they want even more. They want us to not even have a voice in politics whatsoever.”

Although the California ballot measure appears to ban both corporate and union contributions to state and local candidates, the primary impact would be on labor unions, because Proposition 32 exempts business super PACs dominated by corporations and their executives who solicit and bundle money to elect or defeat labor-friendly candidates.

One critic points out that while the measure “sounds balanced, 99 percent of California corporations don’t use payroll deductions for political contributions,” meaning they would not be restricted in using their profits and direct contributions from executives to influence elections.

Thus, if the measure passes, labor unions would be restricted from supporting labor-friendly candidates through PAC contributions and donations, while corporate special interests will have no restrictions on their political contributions to anti-labor candidates.

Says California political columnist Thomas Elias, Proposition 32’s “ban on contributions to candidate-controlled committees is meaningless, merely a cover for another blatant attempt to reduce funds for liberal candidates while letting contributions to conservatives continue unfettered.”
 
A California labor leader adds, “The measure is a wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to fool voters into approving a corporate power grab that will lead to even more corporate influence over our political system. What the backers won’t say publicly is that they’ve written a giant loop hole to allow for unlimited corporate spending on campaigns while furthering their real agenda of silencing the voices of middle-class workers and their unions.”
 
Who is supporting Proposition 32? Billionaire Charles Munger Jr. contributed $24 million for advertising supporting the measure, out-of-state super PACs funded by those with an anti-labor objective have contributed $15 million in support of Proposition 32, and millions more have been contributed by Wall Street firms and corporate investors and executives, all of whom will be exempt from Proposition 32.

“The fundamental question,” says Stem, “is why the backers of Proposition 32 want to shut working people out of the political process while providing corporations, corporate executives and other anti-union forces an exemption.

“The answer,” says Stem, “is they want to shut off contributions to candidates supporting collective bargaining rights, workplace safety laws and regulations and legislation such as the Family Medical Leave Act that gives workers time off to care for a newborn, elderly parents or ill children without fear of losing their jobs.”