The Blog

Guest Blogger: Gretel Liana Rodriguez describes her experiences as a novice NEA RA attendee

Gretel Liane Rodriguez This is my third NEA Representative Assembly, and I am as excited to be here as if it were my first! My first RA was in Washington, D.C., and I think that is the best place to attend the RA for the first time. I traveled all alone and didn’t know anyone that year. I have seven friends traveling with me this year, and I am rooming with two of them. I had to beg to find a roommate my first year. Luckily, a veteran took me under her wing. 

There is one true fact about the RA: Everyone is so friendly and kind to “newbies.” You feel loved and cared for – so Shout Out if you are new so that others can help you.

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City Budget in the Red? Mayor Reed Blames the Unions!

Sacramento Bee Columnist Dan Walters has apparently come to believe the spin spun by the pension “reformers” who assert that cities’ fiscal woes are due to the high costs of providing pensions to the women and men – the first responders and others – who put their lives on the line for these cities’ residents.

The word whirling by the likes of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed –  and the Texas millionaire who is supporting his efforts – holds that if these “high pension payments” were reduced to better levels, all would be right for the cities.

In fact, cities in fiscal trouble don’t have their police officers and firefighters to blame.  The voters should be blaming officials – like Mayor Reed – who made fiscal and urban planning decisions that have put their localities in the hole.

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New Web Site Spotlights Right Wing Zealots Playing the Part of Think-Tanks

The Beatles sang that “money can’t buy you love,” but it certainly can buy a lot of right-wing “thinking.”

New information cobbled together by two sources – the Center for Media and Democracy and its partner Progress Now – is shining a spotlight on efforts by right-wing zealots to package their corporate agenda as if it were the product of nonpartisan research.

Simply put, the bad guys are pretending to be good-guy researchers.  

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Anti-union Plaintiffs Drop Two Districts from Suit

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit -- Vegara v. State of California -- have dropped two school districts from the suit that seeks to overturn due process protections for teachers and other laws governing layoffs. The lawsuit threatens to make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers by asserting that the laws governing teacher dismissals, permanent status, and layoffs are unconstitutional.

Dismissing two of three school districts demonstrates the plaintiffs don’t have viable claims in this case.  We continue to see this case as baseless and meritless, and we believe it does nothing to address the real problems facing our schools. Simply put, this lawsuit highlights the wrong problems, proposes the wrong solutions, and follows the wrong process.

The plaintiffs, a group called Students Matter—which describes itself as a nonprofit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education—say they are focusing on defendants including Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state, and the two teachers unions, which voluntarily signed on to defend vital state education laws.

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Vote Today as If Your Future Depends Upon it: (P.S.: It Does!)

Voters’ decisions today in California’s elections will impact virtually every aspect of our lives. The passage of Proposition 30 will protect California’s K-12 public schools, the community colleges, and the state university systems from another $6 billion in devastating cuts….cuts that would come on top of slashes that have pared $20 billion from the education of our most important natural resource – our young people.

Voters’ defeating Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act that would boost the political power of Super PACS and other wealthy special interests at the expense of the rest of us, will stop this cynical attack on middle-class workers, including educators, firefighters, and nurses.

Your vote matters – and the polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

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Prop. 30 "Best Option"; Prop. 32 "Reeks," LA Times Columnist Declares

Looking for sage advice on how to vote Tuesday on California’s ballot measures? One need look no further than Monday’s offering by LA Times Columnist George Skelton.  Skelton (pictured at left) is the award-winning journalist who’s been covering political shenanigans for decades from his perch in Sacramento.

Skelton has looked over each ballot measure closely and critically. Most importantly, he’s summed it all up quickly and succinctly, particularly Prop. 30, the governor’s revenue measure to aid public education, and Prop. 32, the cynical Special Exemptions Act aimed at silencing the voices of union members and other middle class voters while boosting the political power of wealthy special interests.

Writes Skelton about Proposition 30: “It isn't about "Sacramento politicians. It's about whether to cut $5.9 billion more out of public education, from kindergarten through the universities. A yes vote means no cuts. A no vote brings out the machete….The measure isn't perfect, but it's the best option for now.”

Opines Skelton about Proposition 32: “The measure is cynically billed as ‘The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act.’ It's actually about one crowd of interests on the right attempting to cripple a rival interest, labor, using $11 million in secret laundered money. It reeks.”

Read the entire column at Last Minute Advice on State Ballot Measures.


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School Supporters Take to Phones, Streets, Airwaves for Prop. 30, Against Prop. 32

Photo above: CTA President Deal Vogel (c.) joins more than 60 educators at the Sacramento City Teachers Association making phones calls to voters to secure the passage of Proposition 30, the only measure on the ballot to stop $6 billion in trigger cuts to schools, and to defeat Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act that will increase the political power of wealthy special interests.

Photo left: Educator Carlos Rico tells a reporter for Channel 19, the Spanish language station in the Sacramento media market, why passing Proposition 30 is so vital for schools, students, and their families.

Throughout California on the last weekend before Election Day, thousands of dedicated educators are making phone calls, walking precincts, and giving media interviews – all urging voters to approve Proposition 30 and defeat Proposition 32.

For public education and its nearly one million students, the passage of Proposition 30 is crucial.  It will stop $6 billion in automatic or “trigger” cuts from taking effect.  Additional cuts of that magnitude will hit schools hard, schools that have already been slammed by more than $20 billion in cuts.

For middle class voters and working women and men, the defeat of Proposition 32 will ensure that their voices will be heard in the state Capitol and not be drowned out by the unfettered political contributions of wealthy special interests.

Wealthy special interests are hard at work, trying to defeat Proposition 30 and pass Proposition 32.  To counter potentially illegal activities, the state’s political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), has gone to court in hopes of forcing one out-of-state Super PAC to reveal the sources of the $11 million it has given for Prop. 30 and against Prop.  32.

Polls are open from 7:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. on Tuesday, November 6.  Persons who have received vote-by-mail ballots are urged to consider dropping them off at polling places on Tuesday instead of putting them in the mail and risking that they do not arrive in time.

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Columnist Calls Prop. 32's Real Purpose "To Cripple Unions Politically"

Los Angeles Times Columnist George Skelton
George Skelton, a highly respected and insightful political commentator for the Los Angeles Times, has turned his "de-cloaking" device onto Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act.   And what he's turned up should help remove the blinders from anyone's eyes.

In a column published October 17 and aptly titled, "Prop. 32's Real Purpose is to Cripple Labor Unions Politically," the long-serving Sacramento observer put it succinctly:

"Prop. 32's real purpose is to cripple labor unions politically. It would do this by prohibiting unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes, width or widthout a worker's permission.

"Corporations — and this is particularly deceptive — also would be covered by the ban. But they generally don't raise political money width payroll deductions. They do it either by dipping into their corporate treasuries or by putting the squeeze on highly paid executives," Skelton writes.

"As a solution to special-interest influence in politics, Prop. 32 is a self-serving sham," Skelton concludes.

Read the entire article in the LA Times: George Skelton's Oct. 17 Column on Prop. 32.

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Fighting “Koch Addiction”: Anti-special Interest Bus Tour Hits the Capitol

The Patriot Majority Bus Tour made a stop Friday at the State Capitol as part of the effort of working women and men to expose the billionaire Koch brothers, who have pumped more than $400 million in political contributions to tilt the playing field against the middle class.

(At left) Flanked by foes of Proposition 32, the deceptive Special Exemptions Act that masquerades as political reform, Sacramento City Teachers Association President Scott Smith tells reporters that the measure would make it impossible for educators to advocate effectively for smaller class sizes, more funding for schools, and higher educational standards.

Derek Cressman, of California Common Cause, noted that Koch money is behind Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act.  Cressman pointed out that the Proposition, disguised as campaign reform, will further tilt the political playing field in favor of wealthy special interests, which outspend unions and working women and men by a ratio of 15 to 1 already.


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Lawmakers Review, Then Denounce Prop. 32 as Deceptive Power Grab by Special Interests

Following their constitutional responsibilities, legislators on Tuesday morning held an informational hearing on Proposition 32, the CTA-opposed Special Exemptions Act that aims to gag the voices of educators and working women and men while allowing special interests even more power to shape government to their wills.

During a joint hearing at the state Capitol of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committees, chaired respectively by Sen. Lou Correa and Assembly Member  Paul Fong, lawmakers pressed proponents of the measure to reveal the source of the funding behind the proposition, something they could not do.

Proposition 32 Proponents John Kabateck , the executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and David Wolfe, a representative of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, were unable to respond to lawmakers’ inquiries about the special interests supporting the measure because current law – and the provisions of Proposition 32 – do not create that kind of transparency.  (Wolfe spoke in place of former Sen. Gloria Romero, who has scheduled to address the panel but demurred due to a “scheduling conflict.”)

Legislators noted that a Super PAC tied to the radical Koch Brothers had reportedly contributed $4 million to help underwrite the measure.  The law does not require the PAC to disclose who its contributors are or where the money came from.

“It is clear that unions use payroll deductions help finance positions, and corporations don’t – they just use general fund money,” declared Assembly Member Sandre Swanson.  “Proposition 32 would tilt the balance of political participation toward corporations because they are financed differently than unions….If this is simply an attempt to develop a political advantage, then voters need to take that into consideration when making their decision.”

Early in the hearing, Assembly Member Susan Bonilla leaned on Proposition 32 backers to make it clear that current law already provides employees width an opt-out provision so that no payroll-deducted funds are used for political purposes widthout their consent. “Union membership is voluntary, … [and] no one is involuntarily having their moneys used for political purposes,” she stressed.

Lawmakers chided both Kabateck and Wolfe for pretending to speak for union members, saying unions do, and business representatives do not. “It smells funny that the business group and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Union are ‘speaking up’ for union members…..unions represent their members – you don’t.”

Union members have voices, lawmakers said, and they can vote out their leaders if they are unhappy width their union’s positions.

Kabateck asserted that unions were blocking regulatory and education reform, and blamed unions for the demise of a bill he said would have gotten teachers convicted of crimes out of the classroom.

Assembly Member Tony Mendoza noted that he himself was a former teacher, and he knew the opposition to the bill (SB 1530 Padilla) “wasn’t about keeping bad teachers in the classroom.  It was about due process…that assures that [as a teacher] you’re not singled out by some principal who doesn’t like you. Those reforms [in that bill] didn’t protect educators…..”

Opponents of the bill, including Trudy Schafer of the League or Women Voters, and Derek Cressman of California Common Cause, insisted that Proposition 32 is masquerading as political reform but is nothing of the sort: “Proponents have tried to make it attractive by dressing it up as campaign reform…. Many leading political organizations dedicated to good government and consumer advocacy are all opposed. Like the League….they came to the conclusion Proposition 32 is not what it seems. It promises political reform but really aims to help its supporters and harm opponents….It earns the name of the Special Exemptions Act because its restrictions don’t apply to a wide number of organizations.”

“They came after us in 1998 and 2005.   This is the third go ‘round trying to do something to worker s in this state,” thundered Willie Pelote, testifying on behalf of the American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees, which represents both public sector and private sector workers.

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