By Mike Myslinski
Barbara Hirst shows how Prop. 32 would affect teachers
“We are not alone.”
That’s one key message that CTA President Dean Vogel shared this summer as CTA mobilized to defeat Proposition 32 — the latest ballot measure that threatens to silence our political voice. CTA members are part of a growing coalition fighting the Special Exemptions Act, and the groundswell is about defending our communities, our classrooms and the middle class.
The 325,000 members of CTA are in good company in this fight. The coalition includes 90 labor, social justice, government reform, public safety and other groups (see the full list at www.stopspecialexemptions.org).
The campaign to defeat Prop. 32 represents more than 2 million teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, school support employees, and workers in manufacturing, retail, construction, health care and other industries. These Californians are workers, parents and community leaders who support adequate school funding, fair wages and benefits, workplace safety, and smaller class sizes in our public schools.
They stand for better health care for children and senior citizens, and safe communities with adequate police and fire protection.
They’re people like Trudy Schafer, senior program director for the League of Women Voters of California and former chairperson of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
Exposing Prop. 32 is a top priority for the nonpartisan league’s 65 local and regional offices, Schafer says. “It tries to look like reform, but in fact it’s unfair and unbalanced. It’s not fair to shut down the voice of any segment of society.”
She spoke out at the No on 32 campaign kickoff news conference July 23 in Sacramento, along with a Davis fire captain and Auburn teacher Lysa Sassman, among others. The next day, the president of the Monterey Peninsula League of Women Voters, Beverly Bean, joined a CTA news conference with President Vogel and local teachers in Pacific Grove to denounce the measure during the CTA Presidents Conference. Bean said Prop. 32 is “really designed by special interests to help themselves and harm their opponents.”
Joining CTA in opposing Prop. 32 are education groups such as the California Federation of Teachers, the California School Employees Association, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Faculty Association, and the Community College League of California, along with other labor organizations such as the California Labor Federation, the Service Employees International Union, Communication Workers of America, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Firefighters are turning up the heat
The 30,000 members of California Professional Firefighters in 180 local, state and county affiliates are mobilizing. Their ability to fight for better response times and against budget cutbacks and fire station closures is at stake, among other public safety issues.
“We’re all in,” says Carroll Wills, the communications director for the union. “We are able to bring our bodies — our boots on the ground.”
California Professional Firefighters President Lou Paulson says, “This is a fight we can’t afford to lose.”
“We’ve fought this fight before, but the stakes have never been so high. If we give up our right to speak up and speak out, everything we’ve earned is at risk,” Paulson adds. “Worse, millions of everyday Californians will be subject to the whims of the super-rich special interests that are exempt from Prop. 32.”
Also in CTA’s corner is the California State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents about 350,000 workers in 186 local unions and regional councils in private-sector building trades. Council President Bob Balgenorth blogged recently that the wealthy interests have learned from their mistakes in 1998 and 2005, when their similar ballot measures to silence workers were rejected by California voters.
“So now in 2012, they’ve gotten sneakier,” Balgenorth wrote. “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.”
Another driving force in the coalition is the California Labor Federation (CLF), the umbrella group for all organized AFL-CIO labor in the state. The CLF is mobilizing more than 40,000 volunteers to contact voters at worksites, on the phone, at the door and online about the dangers of Prop. 32.
“Prop. 32 isn’t at all what it seems. It’s nothing more than a deceptive attack on workers funded by corporate special interests and billionaires,” says CLF Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski.
“This measure won’t solve Sacramento’s problems. By rigging the system to benefit the very wealthy and corporate CEOs, Prop. 32 would actually weaken our democracy and threaten middle-class priorities. Once voters learn the truth, they’ll reject this cynical attempt to give more power to the already powerful.”