Category Archives: California

Pulaski: Congress Must Reject Job-Killing TPP

by Steve Smith

ARTPulaskiTPPOn Monday, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, representing a fake astroturf group  called the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs,” penned a misleading op-ed in the Sacramento Bee in support of the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Cabaldon used a study from the Peterson Institute to help make his case that the TPP is good for jobs. Unfortunately for Cabaldon, he must not have actually read the study he cited because it actually says the flawed deal wouldn’t create any jobs AND it would lead to fewer good-paying manufacturing jobs.

Today, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski set the record straight with his own op-ed in the Bee, pointing out the many harmful effects of the deal.

Like every other recent trade pact, the TPP is chock-full of goodies for corporate special interests while woefully inadequate on labor and environmental safeguards. The chief problem that plagued deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement is that labor standards were weak or unenforceable, encouraging corporate CEOs to move their operations to countries that pay meager wages in comparison to U.S. wages. NAFTA led to 700,000 jobs shipped overseas.

The TPP is no different. In fact, the Peterson Institute report that Cabaldon cites finds that the trade deal wouldn’t be a job creator for America, but would lead to 121,000 fewer manufacturing jobs by 2030…That’s a major red flag for anyone concerned about the future of our middle class.

Another recent study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University paints a much bleaker picture. It projects that the TPP will lead to GDP contraction in the U.S. and job losses and increased inequality in all participating countries. Experts say the deal could also undermine California’s efforts to combat climate change, result in higher prescription drug prices and allow rampant currency manipulation by other countries.

Anyone who thinks this rotten deal will help address inequality in America clearly isn’t paying attention (or even worse, they’re drinking the corporate Kool-Aid).  Bottom line, progressives like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are rejecting the deal. Conservatives are also blasting it, including Republican congressional candidate Scott Jones, who’s running against Rep. Ami Bera, who sold-out workers on last year’s fast track vote. The notion that Cabaldon and his bogus “progressive” coalition are supporting workers is laughable. Real progressives (as well as many other folks across the political spectrum) oppose the TPP and know from experience this deal will further gut out the middle class.


The legacy of America’s broken trade policy is shuttered factories, outsourced jobs and a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for Congress to take a stand in support of working people instead of kowtowing to corporate lobbyists. For the sake of our future, Congress must reject the TPP.

Cross post from Labor’s Edge

What Color is the Sky in Joel Fox’s Fantasy World?

by Steve Smith

There’s been a lot of attention lately on California’s turnaround. As it turns out, that nonsense about all our jobs moving to Texas was a just Texas-sized whopper. Last year California created about 500,000 jobs to lead the nation in job growth, outpacing the conservative darling Texas.

Basically, the corporate narrative about California has gone up in smoke. In the last several years, California has done a litany of things that the corporate crowd claims kill jobs. We raised the minimum wage. We raised taxes on the rich with Prop 30 to better fund schools and public safety. We guaranteed paid sick days for all workers. We eliminated the wasteful enterprise zone tax credits for big businesses that cost the state nearly $1 billion per year. We got rid of another tax giveaway to business with Prop 39 and instead funneled those funds into clean energy projects that create good jobs. We strengthened regulations that protect workers and the environment. The list goes on and on.

So imagine my surprise when I read Joel Fox’s blog on Fox & Hounds claiming that the Chamber of Commerce was actually responsible for the job growth in California. Oh, ok. Sure. That makes total sense, Joel. The Chamber constantly derides California as the most anti-business state in the country and now wants to claim credit for our success? That makes about as much sense as that idiotic scheme you participated in during the 2012 election to help the Koch Brothers and their rich, out-of-state friends funnel millions into California to help pass the anti-worker Prop 32 and defeat Prop 30. But, I digress.

Hidden at the bottom of Fox’s inane blog is the one line we should all pay attention to in the context of this argument.

The Chamber’s goal is to keep business costs low to improve the economy statewide.

By lowering “business costs” he means eliminating protections for workers and the environment, shrinking wages for workers, while cutting taxes on CEOs and the wealthiest among us. California has roundly rejected this shortsighted notion, unlike, say, Kansas, which is seeing the disastrous effects of implementing the big business plan.

California, under Gov. Jerry Brown, has shown the real path forward.  You can create jobs AND protect workers and the environment. You can put more money in the pockets of those at the bottom while creating shared prosperity that benefits the economy as a whole. You can make the rich pay their fair share to fund our schools, public safety and other important services without hurting job growth. You can protect immigrant workers against exploitation and strengthen the ability for all workers to stand together in unions without hurting competitiveness. In fact, when you do those things, jobs DO grow. Wages DO grow. The economy gets stronger. And most importantly, lives change for the better.

Still, too many workers are struggling today. Now isn’t the time to go backward on workers’ rights. Instead, it’s time to step on the pedal so we raise standards for all workers to combat growing inequality. The last few years we’ve put to rest the narrative that says doing good things for workers and the environment kills jobs.

So let’s not waste time and let’s continue doing more of what we know works. More investment in California’s working people makes California a better place to live and raise a family. More support for workers and their families lowers poverty while creating an economy that works for everyone. And we do this not with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and its corporate CEO funders, we do it in spite of them.  


Fracking brings to mind drilling a hole and then pumping awful stuff down the hole causing gas and oil to be released through fractures in the rock.  A new kind of fracking is being planned: The fracking of the California Democratic Party.  The hole is being drilled in Senate District 7 where Steve Glazer could take a seat with the Democrats in the State Senate.  Glazer is expert at using awful stuff – divisiveness; which he used to turn Democrats against Democrats and labor unions, that’s how he delivered an assembly seat to a Republican in a district with a Democratic majority.  He is using the same divisive strategy in the current campaign and promises to use it if elected.  He would have a seat at the Democratic Caucus where legislators hammer out differences and reach agreements through open discussions.  Glazer would prevent those discussions because he cannot be trusted.

Following the money behind Glazer’s campaign to see why he cannot be trusted.  

· JOBSPAC the Chamber of Commerce’s Committee has been filling our mailboxes with ads attacking first Tim Sbranti & unions, then both Joan Buchanan & Susan Bonilla.  The chamber wants to do away with regulations meant to protect us to make it easier for businesses to take unfair advantage of us.

· Charter Schools Advocates want to privatize our public school system, with an underfunding strategy.  Parents may either send their kids to public school or try to get the kids into a charter school.  Charter schools are paid for by the local school district.  BUT, charter schools do not play by the same rules as the public schools.  They act as not for profit corporations and do not have to reveal how funds are spent.  They write their own curriculum without oversight.  They use non-credentialed teachers at below union scale wages.  Some do an excellent job but many short change students and parents.  By underfunding education in California more parents will opt for charter schools.  Recently NYC former Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the Charter Schools advocates $200,000 to use in the Glazer campaign.  

· Bill Bloomfield is a Southern California Billionaire who has over $800,000 invested in Glazer’s campaign sending most of the positive mailers about Glazer.

· Charlie Munger (son of Warren Buffets partner) spent a reported $4.5 million in the campaign against Sbranti.  His PAC Spirit of Democracy sent a very expensive 16 page mailer about how Glazer had been smeared in the AD 16 race, they sent it after the primary to hurt Sbranti running against Republican Catherine Baker.  Munger is chair of the Republican party in Santa Clara County.

Why are these billionaires and the chamber so interested in a Dem on Dem race?  If this strategy works here in the bay area they can apply it all over the state and nationwide.  It is a strategy for big $$$$ taking over in the bluest state in this nation.  

Josh Richman wrote about the strategy for the Bay Area News Group who endorse Glazer

Will the ‘real Democrat’ please stand up?.  He was kinder than I am.

GAME CHANGER: Jerry Brown appears with Glazer in many mailers, touting he has been a Brown Campaign adviser.  If Jerry Brown endorses Susan Bonilla the game changes.  Brown should endorse Susan because of the effect Glazer would have on the legislature’s effectiveness and on Brown’s agenda.  Does Jerry Brown want to be remembered as the Democratic Governor who let the Democratic Majority in the legislature be fracked?

Art Pulaski: Workers are Left in the Dark with Fast Track

by Rachel Johnson

There’s trouble brewing in Washington D.C. for American workers. In the coming weeks, our congress will decide whether or not to pass Fast Track legislation that will allow trade deals to be made behind closed doors and without any oversight from the people most impacted: American workers.

In a recent opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee Art Pulaski, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, cautioned against turning a blind eye to Fast Track:

In the case of pending legislation authorizing fast-track authority for trade agreements, politicians and corporate lobbyists are pushing to eliminate transparency in favor of expediency. That’s a dangerous course with major implications for our economy. Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority has resulted in secretly negotiated agreements that benefit big corporations at the expense of workers and their families.

Fast Track legislation will allow trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be negotiated by a select few, without any attempt to represent the people who may lose their livelihoods as a result. If we’ve learned anything from history, similar deals have created more harm than good for generations of American workers. Pulaski emphasizes:

The job-loss numbers directly related to seriously flawed trade deals are staggering. Between 2000 and 2014, American manufacturing employment dropped by 4 million jobs. And these were family-supporting jobs that strengthened communities. Since Congress approved permanent normal trade relations with China, the growth in the U.S. trade deficit with China has resulted in the net loss of more than 3.2 million jobs, including nearly 600,000 in California, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

That’s 3.2 million hardworking Americans who, through no fault of their own, found themselves ripped from the middle class and forced into low-wage jobs or, even worse, long-term joblessness.

It’s imperative for our representatives in Congress to withstand significant political pressure to pass Fast Track and uphold their duty to the represent hard working families who voted them into office. Pulaski underscores the need to reach out to your elected representative and insist they vote no on Fast Track:

We must do better. Stopping the outsourcing of good, American jobs should be a top priority for our nation’s leaders. It’s time to reform trade negotiations so that workers in California and around the country are no longer getting the short end of the stick. Fast track needs to be replaced with a new process for negotiating and approving trade deals that increases congressional and public oversight so we can harvest the benefits of expanded trade without gutting the middle class and undermining basic tenets of American democracy.

We urge Reps. Doris Matsui and Ami Bera and all members of Congress to reject fast-track authority so that future trade deals help, not harm, California’s economy.

Click here to tell your member of the House of Representatives you oppose Fast Track, or dial 855-712-8441 and we’ll connect you. Learn more about Fast Track here.

Speaker Atkins Unveils Critical Plan to Rebuild Transportation Infrastructure, Create Good Jobs

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

About 1/3 of all the bridges and overpasses in our state are showing signs of deterioration (i.e. crumbling). Seventy percent of our urban roads and highways are congested. California has the second-highest share of roads in “poor condition” in the nation.

Given the amount of commuting and traveling Californians do, these are pretty alarming stats. But you get what you pay for. And, quite frankly, California’s lack of infrastructure funding is embarrassing, and downright dangerous to all of us who spend so much time on the road every week.

Today California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) announced a long-overdue proposal to rebuild our run-down roads and bridges, ease traffic congestion and create a lot of good, middle-class jobs doing it.

Speaker Atkins:

California cannot have a strong middle class or a thriving economy if our roadways are congested and people and goods cannot move efficiently throughout the state. The Assembly is stepping up and proposing $10 billion for transportation infrastructure-$2 billion per year over the next 5 years-starting in 2015-16.

Labor has long been sounding the alarm on the need to fix our eroding infrastructure. It’s a no-brainer. We can create tens of thousands of jobs by upgrading our roads, bridges and transportation system. And fixing our infrastructure makes California more competitive, which creates even more jobs.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Years of neglect have rendered many of our roads and bridges unsafe, leaving California families at risk. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure would create good jobs that strengthen our middle class and spark our economy. It’s time we invest in a transportation system that makes us safer while supporting workers, small businesses and all California families.

Robbie Hunter, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California:

California is paying a heavy price for having underfunded highway and bridge infrastructure for decades. Years of massive budget deficits resulted in billions of transportation dollars being diverted elsewhere. California’s growing population and economy depends on the efficient movement of people and goods from our factories and ports throughout the state.  Investment in repairing and re-building our roads is critical to our economy and quality of life and also creates tens of thousands of good new construction jobs.

The Assembly plan includes:

• $1 billion per year by returning truck Weight Fees to transportation instead of using them to repay general obligation debt.

• $200 million per year for transportation funding by accelerating repayment of transportation loans.

• $800 million per year in new net funds for transportation by establishing a new Road User Charge.

The Road User Charge is estimated to be only about $1 per week for most drivers. A pretty small price to pay for keeping our families safe on the roadways.

Speaker Atkins:

This is the right proposal at the right time. California has overcome a dangerous recession in our very recent past, the present is fiscally stable and looking stronger every day, so now we need to look ahead and help fix the future. And addressing transportation funding so we can have better, safer, and faster infrastructure is a key part of fixing the future.

The Speaker has shown real leadership in proposing this bold plan.  If we’re at all concerned about the future, we need to turn this proposal into reality.

California Judges barred from Boy Scouts

According to an article in today’s (26 Jan) Los Angeles Daily Journal, the California Supreme Court has voted unanimously to bar judges and justices in the state from being a part of the Boy Scouts, because of that organization’s discriminatory practices and policies.

The article (behind a paywall,of course), notes that this was first suggested some 13 years ago, but the idea went down in flames.  It has been raised several times since then, but has always had opposition from the far right. And more opposition is expected to this latest ruling. No statement or rationale accompanies the ruling.  The chair of the Ethics committee,Justice Richard Fybel of the 4th District, who recommended the measure, said it was “the right thing to do.”

The right wing, of course, has slammed the decision as ‘tyrannical’.  they are the same ones that claim this will forbid judges from being members of churches.  Purest hyperbole, though, has not won this time, and it’s about time.

New Economic Policy Institute Report Details Economic Challenges Facing UC Workers

By Jason Rabinowitz, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 2010

More than 80 percent of University of California (UC) support staff employees are paid wages too low to provide the basic necessities of life in the areas where they live and work, according to preliminary findings of a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute.  

As Governor Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano meet to discuss the financial future of the UC, it’s imperative that they recognize the dire financial situation of many UC employees. The UC is the third largest employer in California, employing nearly 200,000 workers, directly creating 1 in 46 jobs in the state, and generating $46.3 billion in economic activity annually. The 14,000 administrative and essential support services workers in the UC system are 81% female and over 50% people of color, and include administrative assistants, collection representatives, childcare assistants, and 911 dispatchers.  

Between 2007 and 2011 these essential support workers received no pay increases, while student tuition skyrocketed. The workers have also fallen behind due to substantial increases in costs for retirement and healthcare, parking fees, and inflation.  During the same period, the state slashed funding to UC, and currently contributes $460 million less per year in funding than it did in 2007. On a per-student basis, state funding for UC has decreased by more than half since 1991.

“Our voices have been silenced for too long, and need to be heard,” said Catherine Cobb, President of Local 2010 and former employee at UC Irvine. “The answer is not more pay-cuts and tuition increases. The time has come for the state to fund the University of California.”

Elise Gould, Senior Economist with EPI explains:

The Economic Policy Institute has calculated basic family budgets for every area of the United States for over a decade now. Our methodology is so respected that the family budget data has been used and cited by groups ranging from living wage advocates to private employers to academics to policymakers. These basic family budgets measure how much it costs various representative family types to have an adequate but modest standard of living in over 600 local areas across the country. Applying the basic family budget data to the reported wages of University of California union workers indicates that 82.5 percent of University of California support employees in the clerical and related classifications would not earn enough from their wages, even if they worked full-time, to exceed the basic family budget for a family with one adult and one child in their respective metropolitan areas.

It’s unfortunate that the University is contributing to the national problem of declining middle-class wages and increased income inequality. The UC is one of the leading economic forces in California, and has a tremendous impact on the economy of our state.  We need UC to be a force for good jobs in our communities and a fair economy. The Legislature and the Governor must renew California’s commitment to adequately fund higher education.

Was (Is) Six Californias a Trojan Horse?

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

[Even though I was planning to take a break from blogging for a while, something has been nagging me at the back of my mind about Six Californias. Since a brief email exchange I had with Mr. Draper indicates he may try again – which is why I have “Is” in the title – I decided I should post my concerns.]

According to the story of the Trojan Horse, the Greek army wanted to invade Troy but couldn’t breach Troy’s well-defended walls. So they pretended to give up, and built a giant wooden horse as an appeasement gift. The Trojans saw the Greeks sail away, leaving the wooden horse just outside the walls, so in their joy at their apparent victory the Trojans opened their gates and brought the horse inside.

Unbeknownst to the Trojans, the Greeks had left a small band of their best soldiers inside the horse. In the middle of the night, as the Trojans, exhausted from their day-long victory celebration, slept soundly, the Greeks left the horse via a trap door  and opened the gates so that the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back, could enter Troy and take the city.

Thus the expression “Trojan Horse” refers to anything that looks attractive but has something malevolent buried inside.

(The incident also gave birth to that other expression, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” However, it is not related to the expression “Never look a gift horse in the mouth“; that has a different origin.)

Attractive free software that contains malware is a modern-day example of a Trojan Horse. But so are initiatives that seem to do one thing but have something else buried inside of them.

I’m referring to Section 4 of Six Californias, that would add Section 4.5 to Article XI of the California Constitution:


Article XI of the California Constitution is amended to add section 4.5 to read:

Sec. 4.5(a) Upon enactment of this section, it shall be competent in any county charter to provide that the county governed thereunder may make and enforce all ordinances and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to restrictions and limitations provided in their several charters and in respect to other matters they shall be subject to general laws. County charters adopted pursuant to this Constitution shall supersede any existing charter, and with respect to municipal affairs shall supersede all laws inconsistent therewith.

(b) A county charter may provide for the delegation of authority in respect to municipal affairs, by way of compact, or other agreement, to a regional association of counties, consisting of the other counties within the boundaries of the new states provided for in section 2.5 of Article II, during the interim period of time before Congressional approval of the new states.

(c) For purposes of this section, any law intended by the Legislature to be a general law or matter of statewide concern that supersedes the authority of a county over its municipal affairs and also requires an annual subvention of funds to reimburse the county for the costs of the program or service pursuant to section 6 of Article XIIIB, shall require an annual transfer of funds from the state treasury to a county treasury, as needed, and in the absence of such reimbursement, the county shall have no obligation to enforce the law. The state shall have no power to incur debt owed to a county pursuant to this subdivision.

This amendment to California’s Constitution would have gone into effect if Six Californias had made it to the ballot and was passed by the voters, and would have remained in effect even if Congress never approved the division of California into six new states. I suppose one could call it the initiative’s “Plan B”, but since (as far as I can tell) most political observers expect that Congress would never approve of such a division (and Mr. Draper must know that) perhaps it is the initiative’s true “Plan A”?

I do note that the initiative is upfront about Section 4; Section 2(A)(5) even says one purpose is to “Provide interim relief to the people by empowering local government and promoting regional cooperation in recognition of the new states proposed herein.”. But note its use of the word “interim”, implying something temporary, not permanent. In some sense Section 4 is “hiding in plain sight“, and for that reason the initiative may have been a Trojan Horse.

After all, a ballot measure to establish regional governments, or at least allow for them, is pretty boring. It’d be hard to get people to sign such a petition, and it’s so wonky that it might be difficult to get people to vote for it. But a measure to divide the state six ways, now that’s sexy! That will generate buzz, and no one will notice the wonky little provision tucked into the fine print.

Note that I am not taking a position on the merits of the proposed Section 4.5 of Article XI. Perhaps it would be good for California, perhaps not. But I’m sure that, if Six Californias or a future incarnation of it appeared on the ballot, most if not all of the media attention would be given to the debate about the division into six states, and little or none would be given to the implications and lasting effects of Section 4.5 of Article XI. And that does make me suspicious of it.

–Steve Chessin

President, Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER)

The opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of CfER.

Report #18 (and the last one) on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

You’ve probably heard by now that Six Californias failed to qualify for the ballot. You can read about it on the SoS website temporarily here and here, and more permanently here. The official announcement that went out to the County Clerks and Registrars of Voters can be downloaded from here.

Given all that, this will be my final report on the signature qualification effort of Six Californias. It will contain more information than you will read in the media.

The last five counties reported their random sampling results in Friday’s final update: Inyo (validity rate 80.7%; they did a full count), Los Angeles (61.4%), Mariposa (67.0%), San Benito (63.1%; full count), and Trinity (66.7%). Raw counts were changed for Plumas County (an increase of 33) and Trinity (a loss of 15), for a net increase of 18 signatures, bringing the final raw count to 1,137,844 (was 1,137,826). In addition, Yuba corrected their duplicate count from 2 to 8, reducing their validity rate from 58.8% to 51.1%.

Also, the date in which Alpine County submitted their random count was corrected to August 4th (was incorrectly reported as August 14th), and the typo I reported in Report #8 in Ventura County’s random count submission date was corrected to August 15th (was July 18th, before the July 30th date when they submitted their raw count).

The overall validity rate went down to 66.15% (was 67.96%), for a projected valid signature count of 752,685, a whopping 14,550 short of what was needed to qualify for a full count. (Another way of looking at it is they had 93% of what they needed for the ballot, not the 95% needed to qualify for a full count.)

As I stated in my previous report, if Los Angeles came in under 65.7%, Six Californias would not qualify. Los Angeles came in at 61.4%, and the initiative did not.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I had fun writing it. (To those of you who suggested I go into journalism, thanks, but no thanks. I’m keeping my day job.) I’ll respond to comments to this and previous diary entries as time permits, but I have no plans to do this sort of thing again, at least not until another initiative catches my interest.

I do invite you to check out Californians for Electoral Reform. We are a non-partisan (more accurately, multi-partisan) organization that does educational and advocacy work around instant runoff voting and proportional representation, as we believe these electoral reforms will result in better representation for all Californians than top-two primaries in single-member districts with independent redistricting can provide. We are an all-volunteer organization (no paid staff), so our strength is in our membership (dues are only $25/year). You might enjoy reading the answers to our questionnaire submitted by all the Secretary of State candidates prior to the June primary. Of course, you’ll be most interested in the answers of (in alphabetical order) Alex Padilla and Pete Peterson.

–Steve Chessin

President, Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER)

The opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of CfER.

Report #17 on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

Two counties reported their random sampling results in Wednesday’s update: Fresno (validity rate 75.1%) and Tuolumne (73.3%). In addition, Tuolumne (which actually did a full count, not a random sample) found an additional 29 raw signatures, bringing the total raw count up slightly to 1,137,826. The overall validity rate is up slightly to 67.96% (was 67.58%, for a projected valid signature count of 768,923, a comfortable 1,688 more than needed to qualify for a full count.

Five counties still have to complete their random sampling. They are (in order of the number of raw signatures they reported) Los Angeles (311,924 raw signatures), Mariposa (945), Trinity (779), Inyo (616), and San Benito (350). Los Angeles has to check 3% of their signatures and San Benito has to check all 350; the other three have to check 500 (unless they want to check them all).

With the Fresno and Tuolumne numbers in, Los Angeles only needs to have a not unreasonable 66.6% validity rate for Six Californias to qualify for a full count without reports from the other four counties. On the other hand, if Los Angeles has less than a 65.7% validity rate, then Six Californias will not qualify for a full count no matter what the other four counties report. This substantially narrows the range where the reports from Mariposa, Trinity, Inyo, and San Benito would matter.

Thirty-three counties had a validity rate of 66.6% or greater, while only seventeen had a validity rate less than 65.7%. We won’t know if Six Californias will qualify for a full count until Los Angeles County reports their numbers; when they do, we’ll also know if we need to get the reports from the other four counties.

–Steve Chessin

President, Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER)

The opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of CfER.