Tag Archives: Unions

California Labor Unveils New Policy Platform to Boost Struggling Veterans

by Rebecca Band, California Labor Federation

“Thank you for your service.”

It’s a line we hear and say a lot around Veteran’s Day, especially in California, home to 1.8 million veterans, more than in any other state.

But if we really want to show gratitude for our veterans, then we need to do more than utter a simple “thank you.” We need to help these brave heroes find a middle-class life when they return from serving our country.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs annual survey of veterans, jobs are the biggest concern for our returning veterans, and for good reason — the unemployment rate for veterans of recent conflicts is an unacceptable 10 percent, and 1.5 million young veterans – many with families to support — currently live under the poverty line.

It hasn’t always been like this. According to Nick Berardino, Vietnam Veteran and General Manager of the Orange County Employees Association:

When we came back from Vietnam, they spit on us, but at least we could find a job. Today, veterans get a hand shake and a thank you, but a future that includes unemployment, low wages and no way for them to care for their families. We can and should do much better for our veterans.

Those who serve our country in uniform risk their lives to defend and protect the freedoms we all value. That’s why leaders from the California Labor movement and elected officials joined together with veterans in Sacramento today to unveil a new seven-point plan to put our state’s veterans on the path to good jobs and a middle-class life.

California Labor Federation Executive-Secretary Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Far too often, our nation’s veterans don’t receive the support they’ve earned or the services they need when returning home. California’s labor unions are taking the lead to change that. WWII veterans, along with their unions, helped build our nation’s middle class brick by brick. Veterans and labor unions are poised once again to partner to strengthen our economy and preserve the American Dream.

The seven-point plan focuses on:

1.    Creating and growing good jobs for veterans. Among states that receive grants for vets from the U.S. Department of Labor, California has one of the lowest rates of placing veterans in jobs. We must align our state resources – incentives, contracts, purchasing, hiring – to encourage and reward the hiring of veterans, who represent the best in possible employees.

2.     Matching training and skills to veterans. Veterans come out of active duty with significant skills that can be translated into a variety of careers. Too often, the language used to describe military job duties doesn’t match the language of those hiring in the civilian world. We support policies that capture and maximize the skills vets have acquired to gain them the best jobs in growing fields that pay living wages.

3.     Protecting jobs for veterans. Workers should be rewarded, not disadvantaged, when they go into active or reserve service. Vets should have guarantees that their jobs will be there when they return, that they be able to maintain their health care coverage, and that they will have recall rights should their jobs get eliminated.

4.     Streamlining veteran job services. According to multiple studies, California does not provide a coordinated, integrated system that streamlines employment-related services to veterans, and has failed to meet veteran employment goals set by federal grants. It’s time to streamline the delivery of job services to veterans and that tailor services to the special needs and skill sets of veterans.

5.     Providing more housing for veterans. Vets make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population and are significantly more likely than the general population to become homeless. No one should be forced to live on the street after serving our country, which is why we support policies and funding to build more housing, including rental units, for veterans.

6.     Ensuring veterans receive their benefits. California lags behind other states in the amount of benefits claimed by veterans. Even though veterans are eligible for federal pensions and health benefits, many California vets rely on public state programs rather than collecting the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. A 2013 Little Hoover Commission report estimates that California leaves between $500 million and $1 billion in federal dollars on the table due to veterans not signing up for benefits.  

7.      Providing services for diverse veteran populations. Currently, 70 percent of veterans in California are age 50 or over, but at the same time, large numbers of younger veterans — many of whom are women and minorities — are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Different groups of veterans will need different services for their transition to civilian life, which is why we support tailoring programs and policies to the needs of the diverse veteran populations in the state.

Yvonne Walker, U.S . Marine Corps Veteran and President of SEIU Local 1000:

We owe every man and woman who goes into service for their country a debt of gratitude. But gratitude isn’t enough. At the very least, they have earned the peace of mind that their jobs will be there when they return, that they be able to maintain their health care coverage, and that they will have recall rights should their jobs get eliminated.

In addition to the policy agenda, Labor groups also have identified needed projects and local opportunities where are coming together to provide service for veterans such as renovating, painting or improving the grounds at local VFW or American Legion halls; hosting food and supply donation drive to support veterans in need; and assembling care packages along with letters to be sent overseas.

Orange County unions led by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), along with veterans and community leaders, will hold a large Veterans Day special event to pay tribute to Veterans and their families following the “Day of Service” volunteer projects.

For more details on service projects and others actions taking place around the state, go to www.veteransandlabor.com

Three Things You Need to Know about the BART Strike

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

After months of negotiating in bad faith, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management last night left BART workers no other option but to go on strike. What a shame. It didn’t have to come to this.

With all the misinformation swirling about on the BART strike, there are a few things to clear up.

Here are the three things you need to know about the BART strike (h/t to Pete Castelli of SEIU 1021):

1) The strike is NOT about wages or benefits. BART workers made concession after concession on the economic proposals with the goal of averting a strike. BART workers and management agreed to a deal yesterday on wages, health care and pensions.

2) BART management pulled the rug out from under workers at the last minute by insisting on new workplace rules that infringed on the rights of workers. These new rules included changing the 8-hour workday and curtailing overtime pay and removing protections for workers from punishment and retribution when they report favoritism, sexual harassment and other problems in the workplace.

3) The new rules are NOT needed. BART became the top-rated transit system in America with its current work rules. BART increased ridership from 270,000 riders to 400,000 riders per day with its current work rules. BART management never focused on performance or efficiency issues during bargaining and repeatedly acknowledged that productivity in the system had increased. The fact is that the system is carrying more passengers than ever with fewer frontline workers than ever.

As unfair as the proposals were, the unions didn’t reject them out of hand. They asked for a neutral arbitrator to make the final decision on these new rules. Management flatly rejected that offer. As last night turned into this morning, there was no other option left for workers but to go off the job and onto the picket line.

This is BART management’s strike. They own it. And they can put a stop to it at any point in time by simply being reasonable. If management pulls its unreasonable demands on workplace rules or even agrees to let a neutral party decide on them, the strike is over. It’s that simple.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Today’s strike was not an outcome workers wanted. But it was the only outcome management would allow. The California labor movement will continue to support BART workers in their fight for a fair contract. We urge BART management to quickly negotiate a fair settlement that allows workers to get back to doing what they’ve done for years — serving the Bay Area community with professionalism, dedication and commitment.


Close of Legislative Session Brings Real Gains to California Workers

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future these days. Tea Party extremists are threatening to push our federal government into default. Federal immigration reform is on the back burner until the shutdown and debt ceiling messes are sorted out. In a host of states, anti-worker governors are hell-bent on gutting workers’ rights while giving more power to corporate special interests.

But in California, a decidedly different story is playing out. The end of the legislative session here brought huge gains to workers and their families that boost our state’s economy and bolster the middle class.

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25, Gov. Brown signed AB 10, taking California’s minimum wage to $10 per hour by January of 2016, a 25 percent wage increase for low-wage workers in the state. While immigration reform is stalled in DC, Gov. Brown signed a slew of bills to protect immigrants and ensure greater inclusion. We’ve tackled the underground economy. Promoted good jobs. Axed a boondoggle of a corporate tax break that wasted taxpayer dollars.

This all comes on the heels of the passage of Prop. 30 in 2012 (which funded our schools and stabilized our budget) and the election of Democratic super-majorities in both the State Assembly and State Senate, ensuring Tea Party extremists couldn’t hold California hostage like they’re doing with the shutdown and debt ceiling debacle in DC.

In short, California is accomplishing what few in Washington DC can even imagine these days: Progress for working people.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Labor led the way this year in bringing real equality and progress to working people in California. We reformed tax breaks that cost jobs, we won rights for domestic workers and car wash workers, we brought greater equality to hard-working immigrants, and we began the essential work of rebuilding the state’s middle class. With these new laws, there’s no question that California is the national leader in supporting workers and their families.

Among the notable legislative victories this year were the following bills Gov. Brown signed into law:

• AB 10 (Alejo/Steinberg): Increased the minimum wage to $10 per hour by January of 2016.

• AB 60 (Alejo): Expanded drivers licenses to all Californians, with key protections for immigrant drivers.

• AB 93 (Assembly Budget Committee): Reformed the wasteful Enterprise Zone corporate tax breaks to reward employers who create good jobs.

• AB 241 (Ammiano): Granted daily and weekly overtime protection to domestic workers who have been excluded from most labor laws.

• AB 263 (Hernandez)/AB 524 (Mullin)/SB 666 (Steinberg): Enacted the strongest protections for immigrant workers in the country to stop retaliation when workers speak out about unfair wages or working conditions.

• AB 537 (Bonta): Improved process for public sector bargaining to resolve disputes more effectively.

• AB 1387 (Hernandez): Protected car wash workers by preserving the car wash registry and increasing the bond to crack down on the underground economy.

• SB 7 (Steinberg): Raised wages for construction workers by incentivizing compliance with prevailing wage laws.

• SB 168 (Monning): Helped protect workers working for farm labor contractors by providing successor liability to ensure wages are paid.

• SB 400 (Jackson): Helped domestic violence survivors keep their jobs and promotes a safer workplace by asking employers to work with survivors to identify and minimize the risk of workplace violence.

• SB 770 (Jackson): Expanded paid family leave to include time providing care for parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.

Learn more about California Labor’s legislative victories in 2013

If America needs a path forward, it ought to be looking to California. Big things are happening here. And we’re just getting started.

Leadership Needed from BART Directors to Avert Strike

by Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation

Whether BART closes down this week will come down to one issue and one issue only: whether the BART Board of Directors shows leadership or continues to act to hold Bay Area transit riders hostage by using the same playbook a small minority of elected officials in Washington, DC have used to close down our federal government.

No one in the Bay Area-whether they ride BART or not-wants to see a BART strike. This is especially true of BART workers, who live in one of the most expensive regions in the world and do not receive a paycheck while they are on strike.

To demonstrate their commitment to reaching a deal before cooling-off period expires tonight, BART workers have put a proposal on the table that is fair and affordable and incentivizes BART workers to keep the system one of the nation’s best.

But while BART workers have made three new public proposals in the past 10 days, management has offered zero.  In fact, they haven’t put out a new wage proposal publicly for more than 50 days.  Here’s where negotiations stand:

Just last week, BART workers agreed to cut their wage demands in half and pick up additional costs for their pensions and health care coverage. BART workers reached a deal with management that would have workers contribute an escalating share of their pensions over the next four years. They also have offered to increase their monthly payments for health coverage by 15 percent.

BART workers also proposed linking future additional pay raises to increased ridership. Workers proposed an innovative plan to link future additional pay increases to projected increases in ridership. Daily BART ridership has increased from 270,000 riders in 1999 to nearly 400,000 riders today. At the same time, there are fewer BART workers in vital frontline positions serving more passengers. Under the new proposal, BART workers would receive a small fraction of a percent raise for increases in ridership over budget projections.

Finally, BART workers have proposed real-world improvements to key safety and service issues, like safer procedures for working on the third rail, better lighting on tracks and in tunnels and open restrooms in stations.

This issue is not a smokescreen. BART’s actions have put workers and riders at risk, and workers are justifiably angry.  For example, over the past 10 years, state safety regulators repeatedly fined BART for directing district workers without electrician training or certification to work near the electrified third rail. Instead of reforming its procedures, BART management responded by authorizing more than $300,000 for attorneys to fight state safety regulators.

This deal is smart, fair and will result in better BART service and BART directors should tell district management and negotiators to accept it.

At this point, the burden of leadership is on BART management to strike a deal that puts riders and workers first.

Those ultimately accountable for the situation-BART’s elected Board of Directors-must step in and act responsibly before it’s too late. The Directors can no longer remain silent as BART management and its negotiators dismiss fair and reasonable proposals because of their opposition to labor unions. It’s time that the Board of Directors lead as they were elected to do and to help bring a resolution to these drawn-out negotiations.

Take action to support the hard-working men and women at BART — sign the petition to the BART Board of Directors today!

BART Management’s Refusal to Compromise Will Have Dire Consequences for Bay Area

by Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation

Negotiating a fair contract is a complex process that involves hard work and commitment from both labor and management. When both sides bargain in good faith and share a goal of securing a deal, a deal eventually gets done. I’ve personally been involved in many tough negotiations that ended with a fair deal that both parties could live with. It takes patience and willingness from both sides to compromise.

In the BART negotiations, unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. BART management paid Thomas Hock, an out-of-state lawyer with a history of driving disputes to a strike, nearly $400,000 to lead negotiations. Hock and his company have been responsible for seven strikes, 47 unfair labor practice charges and nine discrimination lawsuits. Not exactly a history of committing to compromise in order to secure a deal.

True to form, Hock hasn’t been serious about negotiating a resolution at BART that would spare the Bay Area a strike. Instead, he’s taken several vacations since he’s been on board. When he has bothered to show up at the negotiating table, he’s stonewalled. And now Hock and BART management have stopped negotiating altogether and are preparing for a strike.

Even worse, BART is saying that it will run a number of trains during a strike operated by managers who lack the minimum requirements to safely get BART riders to and from their destinations. In essence, BART is willing to sacrifice the safety of riders by pushing this dispute to a strike so that they ultimately get their way. There’s no regard for workers. No regard for riders impacted by a strike. It’s BART management’s way or — literally — the clogged highway.

The BART unions have made significant compromises in recent days with the goal of averting a strike, including last week’s concession on wages. The unions have come to the table seeking honest, good-faith negotiations to broker a deal before the 60-day cooling off period ends. They’ve proposed a modest 4.5 percent wage increase over three years after a five-year wage freeze, while offering to contribute more to their health care and retirement. It’s a fair proposal given BART’s relatively strong financial position. The unions have also sought important safety protections for riders and workers including opening more restrooms and providing for more secure stations at night, only to be rebuffed time and time again by Hock and the BART management team.

There’s still time to come to a deal that would avert a strike and ensure the safety of BART riders isn’t jeopardized. But the unions can’t negotiate by themselves. It’s going to take a commitment from both sides to negotiate non-stop, if necessary, to get that done. If Hock and the BART management team continue to refuse to negotiate, there’s only one option: a strike. Elected officials and BART directors must demand that management joins the unions at the negotiating table for round-the-clock, good-faith negotiations until a fair settlement is reached.

There’s a lot at stake for BART workers and their families as well as the hundreds of thousands of riders that count on BART to get to work, school and other destinations. Workers want to continue doing the job they’ve done exceedingly well for years. Riders want the trains to keep running. The only thing preventing a deal from getting done is BART management’s unwillingness to compromise. To avert a strike, that needs to change.

California Legislature Passes Historic Minimum Wage Increase

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

California made history last night. With the support of California’s unions, the Legislature voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10, the highest minimum wage in the country. The wage will be implemented in two steps: an increase to $9 per hour in July of next year, followed by another one-dollar increase to $10 in January of 2016. Gov. Brown has agreed to sign the bill, AB 10, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo.

The wage increase will affect more than 2.3 million California workers, according the Economic Policy Institute. It means that single moms will have a little extra to support their families. It means seniors who’ve been forced to re-enter the workforce will have a little more to help pay for prescription drugs. And it means that all low-wage workers have received validation that their work is worthy of dignity and respect.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Raising the minimum wage isn’t just an economic necessity. It’s a moral imperative. For far too long, low-wage workers have toiled for far too little.

The minimum wage deal came together with the strong support of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders.

Gov. Brown:

The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs. This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.

The wage increase is expected to provide a significant economic boost to California. By providing an estimated $2.6 billion in additional wages to the state’s lowest-paid workers, California will reap $1 billion in new economic growth as workers spend their increased wages. Job growth will expand as businesses hire to meet the increased consumer demand.

Even at $10, low-wage workers will still struggle. We must continue to do everything possible to decrease economic inequality and provide opportunities for low-wage workers to move up the ladder. But the wage increase that passed last night establishes California as the national leader in supporting low-wage workers. That’s exactly where we should be.

Senate President pro Tempore Steinberg:

For millions of California’s hard-working minimum wage employees, a few extra dollars a week can make a huge difference to help them provide for their families. They deserve a modest boost and after six years; an increase in California’s minimum wage is the right thing to do.

Check out our Top 10 Reasons to Support a $10 Minimum Wage.

SF Chronicle Op-ed Scapegoats BART Workers, Ignores Real Problem

by Steve Smith

I’ve seen some pretty outrageous anti-worker opinion pieces written about the contract negotiations at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) over the last two months. But nothing I’ve read is as infuriating as today’s San Francisco Chronicle op-ed from Chuck and Barbara McFadden.

In short, the McFaddens assert that workers like those at BART are not deserving of the middle-class wage their unions negotiate.  To make their point, they use an argument that’s all too common today — private sector workers are suffering so public sector workers should too. What’s so absurd about this logic is that the very reason so many private sector workers are struggling is because most don’t have the ability to bargain with their employer for a decent wage in return for a hard day’s work.

Workers should be able to negotiate with their employers over wages and benefits like health care and retirement security. In BART’s case, workers are coming off a four-year wage freeze. No question, our state has been through some hard times over the last four years so a wage freeze may have been reasonable at the time the last contract was negotiated.

But now, ridership is up and so is revenue. BART is running a surplus. Yet, BART’s proposal this year is to make workers pay more on the benefits side while only giving a minuscule wage increase. End result? Workers take home less to their families. BART also refuses to negotiate over rider and worker safety, critical issues for the unions.

That’s not a fair proposal given the situation. So workers are standing up to management with their union. And while a strike is an absolute last resort, it remains possible if management continues to refuse to negotiate in good faith.

Now let’s take another example. A worker at Walmart makes poverty wages and can’t afford health insurance. There’s no negotiation on these issues. It’s a “take it or you’re fired” kind of offer. It doesn’t matter that Walmart is the most profitable company in the U.S. It doesn’t matter that Walmart could easily afford a modest wage increase or affordable health care. It doesn’t matter because workers have no leverage. They are not able to stand together to bargain for a middle-class wage, so they won’t ever get it. And many private sector workers today find themselves in that same sinking boat.

So, there are two ways to go from here. We could, as the McFaddens suggest, lower standards and cut take-home pay for those workers who are still able to earn a middle-class wage for a hard day’s work. Or we could chart a new course. How about, instead, we stand together as public- and private-sector workers to demand that corporate America, whose profits have soared while the rest of us suffered, start doing right by their employees?

Big corporations and the politicians they bankroll like the first option. They want to turn workers against each other. “Let them fight for the crumbs while we enjoy the pie,” they say. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with that. Those at the top have had it too good for too long at our expense. It’s time workers shared in America’s prosperity again.

It’s no coincidence that the zenith of the American middle class coincided with the peak in union density. Workers were able by homes and cars with the wages they earned. Families thrived. The economy hummed. That was a result of workers being able to bargain for a share of the pie, just like BART workers are trying to do today.

The problem with America’s economy isn’t that there are too many workers – like those at BART – who have the ability to stand together to bargain with employers for better wages and benefits.  The problem is far too few workers have that opportunity today.

And until we recognize that, we’re doomed to a future of increasing income inequality and a shriveling middle class. I doubt that’s what the McFaddens are angling for.  

Safety of BART Employees and Riders At Center of the Current Dispute

by John Logan, San Francisco State University

For several weeks, BART management has run a sophisticated media campaign telling the public that the lack of real progress in negotiations is solely the fault of the unions’ unreasonable and uncompromising economic demands.

When it comes to wages and benefits, however, management has presented a highly misleading picture: it has failed to mention the enormous concessions that BART workers accepted in 2009 at the depth of the economic recession. BART President Thomas Blalock stated that he was “extremely pleased” with that cost-cutting agreement. BART employees were much less pleased, of course, but they recognized the need for significant sacrifice in the dismal economy.

Under the guidance of their highly paid, out-of-state chief negotiator, Thomas Hock, BART management is misrepresenting key economic and safety issues. Hock has an outstanding reputation for driving down employees’ wages and benefits, but a dismal one for resolving disputes without disruptive strikes. By characterizing its bargaining position as fair and generous, BART management has failed to explain that, under its most recent written offer, most BART employees would barely stay in place, while many on the lowest incomes would likely fall even further behind. Nor has management explained how top management, not frontline workers, enjoy some of the system’s most expensive and wasteful job perks.

BART management has also consistently misrepresented several key safety issues that are at the heart of the dispute.  BART management has, for the most part, failed to resolve the unions’ concerns on worker and rider safety.  Indeed, State Controller John Chiang, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones wrote to management recommending that they “treat frontline employees-many of whom have raised numerous valid concerns about worker and rider safety-as partners in creating a safer system.” Thus far, BART management has failed to heed their wise advice.

The figures on safety for BART employees speak for themselves. Since 2009, BART management has cut the system’s operations staff by 8 percent. During the same 4-year period injuries that BART reported to Cal-OSHA have increased by a whopping 43 percent. Hundred of BART workers are now injured on the job every year. And as a result of BART’s dysfunctional and inefficient workers’ comp system, many injured workers are involuntarily forced out of their jobs for weeks or even months at a time.

BART workers also face the threat of physical violence on a regular basis. 30 BART station agents were assaulted at work in 2009, while the same number were assaulted during the first four months of 2013. Recent incidents have involved an agent being attacked with a knife, an agent being punched in the face, an agent being thrown down stairs, and an agent being attacked by a group of five teenagers. As a result, several BART station agents have ended up in hospital with serious injuries. Other BART agents have had to deal with fatal shootings or horrific suicides in or around their stations. Yet BART management has thus far refused to do what is necessary to ensure worker and rider safety throughout the system.

BART management needs to spend more time engaging in real discussions at the bargaining table and less time trying to win the battle of public opinion through its sophisticated media campaign. Negotiating through the media may be easier than doing it face-to-face, but it won’t resolve this dispute.

And neither will management’s misrepresentation of the key economic and safety issues at the heart of the negotiations.


Unions Celebrate Supreme Court Rulings on Marriage Equality

by Rebecca Band

Today’s historic Supreme Court rulings supporting marriage equality marked an important step forward for justice for all workers. Labor unions in California and across the nation have been strongly united for marriage equality for years. In fact, the California Labor Federation and 50 other labor organizations signed on to an amicus brief in support of marriage equality back when the challenges to Prop 8 first began nearly five years go.

Tim Paulson of the San Francisco Labor Council, which was one of the most vocal parties to the amicus brief, celebrated the announcement, which happens to coincide with the 43rd annual San Francisco Pride celebration that kicks off this weekend.

Here in San Francisco, where it all started, workers are celebrating this great civil rights victory. As we say, ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’ Now all of our LBGT members and their partners can be treated with equal respect. There will be a lot of celebrating in San Francisco tonight!

Paulson’s sentiments were echoed across the Labor Movement. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski points out that this victory puts us on a new path, but the fight for equality is far from over:

Today’s Supreme Court decisions in support of marriage equality were decisive victories that offered a historic, yet long-overdue, recognition of respect and justice to California’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. Prop. 8 was an unjust law that stripped Californians of a fundamental right — the right to marry the person they love. We’re thrilled all California couples will be afforded the fundamental right of marriage equality. With today’s rulings on the DOMA and Prop 8, all California’s workers can celebrate that a measure of justice has been restored.

But the pursuit of equality doesn’t end today. We have a long way to go to ensure all workers are treated equally, and with the respect and dignity they deserve. While we are pleased with today’s decisions, the California labor movement remains committed to ensuring that injustice is rooted out and overturned wherever it exists.

United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals  (UNAC/UHCP) Executive Vice President Denise Duncan BS, RN:

UNAC/UHCP applauds the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, invalid, and discriminatory. This decision will allow same sex spouses to receive the same benefits other married couples have access to under the law, including the ability to share health care, Medicare, Medicaid and COBRA benefits with their spouses. UNAC/UHCP supports equal and expanded access to health care and a state where two people wanting to marry can be recognized as spouses under the law.

California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel:

The U.S. Supreme Court decisions can go down as a major teachable moment of the past 50 years. CTA believes all people should be allowed equal protection under the law and that the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage and civil unions belong to all adults regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion or socio-economic status. We celebrate the decisions handed down today. I am moved because our gay brothers and sisters who have taught alongside us are now recognized by our government as equals. In order for us to move forward as a united nation, we must continue to engage in the fight for social justice, protect civil rights and ensure equality for all.

National Nurses United (NNU) Co-President Deborah Burger, RN:

Today’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are an important milestone in our society’s quest for equal rights under the law for all Americans. These decisions are a testimony to the years of work of individuals and organizations that have fought for full equality for lesbians and gay men that has now been embraced by the majority of all Americans. The Court decisions today, while crafted in the most narrow fashion, is a welcome acceptance of the popular will.

LA County Federation of Labor’s Maria Elena Durazo:

The labor movement opposes divisive laws like the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that make distinctions between workers’ benefits and civil rights based on their sexual orientation. Just like we can’t tolerate immigrants being treated as second class workers, we will not support any provisions that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision and will stand with the LGBT community in their continuing fight for equality.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka:

The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW):

The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the LGBT community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes-marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel:

What we have witnessed today is a major milestone in American history-a monumental decision and a huge step forward for civil rights. As an educator, I cannot help but be moved by the thought of all of the children and students we serve whose families will now be made whole. I am reminded of the struggle, and I think of how far we, as a society, have come to let love overcome hate and bigotry. At the same time, today’s victory is tempered with the reality of yesterday’s decision, which dealt such a horrible blow to the progress we’ve made in our journey to achieve racial equality.  The fight for social justice goes on, and because of what we do and who we serve, we will always be on the frontline of this battlefield.

The Communications Workers of America issued the following statement:

Today’s decision that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits opens the door to ending all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Similarly, the Supreme Court determined that a California court’s ruling on “Proposition 8,” the law that had restricted marriage to opposite sex couples, should stand. That decision restores marriage equality as the rule in that state and means that same sex couples will be able to cast off the second class status that some have sought to keep in place. It’s the 21st century. It’s past time to shed the prejudices that harm our society. Today’s decisions are a good step in that direction.

Pride At Work Executive Director Darren Phelps:

Marriage equality is about treating all couples with respect, but it also has major financial and legal impacts that will allow more same-sex couples to more effectively support their families. We will continue efforts to win marriage equality in more states, but there are also vital issues remaining for the LGBT community-our lives are about more than marriage … All of our communities must and will continue working together for the rights of all people, be it voting rights, marriage equality or continuing the fight to end employment discrimination.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry agrees:

Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.

Vote No on Proposition 32: Union-busting

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

What Does Proposition 32 Do?

It kills unions.


More below.

It’s pretty simple. Proposition 32 is mainly aimed at weakening unions. It’s billed as a campaign-finance reform proposition, but it’s pretty clear that the main target is labor unions.

One facet of Proposition 32 aims to permit “voluntary employee contributions to employer-sponsored committee or union if authorized yearly, in writing.” California unions mainly depend on automatic union dues. By making those automatic union dues voluntary, this clause would greatly weaken unions. That is, of course, the point of the proposition.

Another part of the proposition prohibits funds deducted from payrolls to be used for political purposes. As it turns out, about the only organizations that use payroll-deducted funds in politics are unions. The legislative analysis states that, “Other than unions, relatively few organizations currently use payroll deductions to finance political spending in California.” Corporations don’t use them. So while Proposition 32 supporters state that both union and corporate political spending will be limited by the proposition, in reality only unions are affected.

There are reasonable-sounding parts of Proposition 32. It limits, for instance, political donations by government contractors, which seems to make sense. Although the legislative analyst notes that those government contractors could be “public sector labor unions with collective bargaining contracts.” So perhaps that clause is just another way to gut unions.

Even If You Don’t Like Unions, You Should Still Vote No on Proposition 32

Most people reading this post, I suspect, are highly in favor of unions. Still, even a person who isn’t a big fan of unions ought to vote no on this proposition.

It is true that there’s a lot to complain about with respect to unions. Unions are very powerful in California, and it’s understandable when conservatives dislike that fact. State pensions seem to have some hard-to-defend practices, for instance (which this proposition doesn’t address). In researching for this proposition, I was shocked to discover that some workers (such as teachers) have to pay union dues even if they hate their union.

But there’s a time and place to address these grievances, and that’s not the proposition system. Propositions are meant for egregious wrongs and things which can’t be fixed by the normal system. This purpose unfortunately has been subverted in recent years by the explosion of senseless propositions. Unions may be bad, or they may be good. But even if they do more harm than good, the proposition system isn’t the place to kill unions.

So even if you’re not the biggest fan of unions, like me, you should still vote against Proposition 32.