By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Teachers, firefighters, police, nurses & others fight Prop 32
“Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act, will prevent educators from using their political voice to improve schools and enhance the teaching profession,” says CTA President Dean Vogel. “CTA would be curtailed from being a strong advocate for increasing funding for schools and colleges, reducing class sizes, and preserving salaries and retirement plans for school employees. It would be difficult to protect our right to collectively bargain, oppose anti-education legislation, or take a stand on local school board races and ballot measures. That is why I am asking CTA members to vote no on Prop. 32 and help us on the campaign.”
Prop. 32 claims to be about stopping special interest money in politics, but it is not what it seems. It’s really an attempt to deceive voters into passing a law that would change the rules to benefit wealthy corporate interests — at the expense of middle-class workers and unions.
The measure, sometimes referred to as “paycheck deception,” prohibits unions and corporations from using donations from dues money through payroll deductions to support political campaigns or candidates. This would have little impact on corporations, which seldom use payroll deductions for political spending, but would be devastating for unions.
Proposition 32 also bans donations from unions and corporations to political candidates and candidate-controlled committees. However, there are loopholes: It doesn’t ban contributions from “limited liability companies” (LLCs), or from limited partnerships or real estate trusts — which represent some of California’s biggest political donors. And it doesn’t ban contributions to independent expenditure campaigns.
The Special Exemptions Act does nothing to stop corporations from spending billions in profits to influence elections. That’s because it exempts secretive Super PACs (political action committees), which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporate special interests and billionaire businessmen.
For these reasons, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause have come out against Proposition 32, because they believe it would tilt the scales of power in favor of corporations and silence the voice of labor and the middle class.
Teachers, firefighters, nurses and other middle-class workers join together to raise money for political action — through donations, bake sales, fun runs and other events. Individual corporate executives can write a check for as much as a group of educators can raise.
Corporations already outspend unions 15 to 1 on politics. Proposition 32 would skew the playing field even more, says Vogel. While millionaires and wealthy corporate interests claim the measure is “balanced reform” that removes special interests from politics, nothing is further from the truth.
Prop. 32 is unnecessary, Vogel adds, because current law already protects workers’ rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no one can be forced to join a union and contribute to political campaigns. Union members can opt out of having dues money spent for political contributions.
“This measure attempts to fix something that doesn’t need fixing in order to hide its real intent — to keep educators and unions from speaking out,” says Vogel. “Someone has to protect working and middle-class families in California, and that’s not going to happen if all the power is in the hands of big corporations and the super-wealthy. We may never match corporations dollar for dollar, but we can make a difference by standing together. This initiative would take away our ability to do that. It would take away our seat at the table.”