Partisan Number 21
Proposition 75 is an attack on all working-class people
Enemies of working class people have come up with a plan they claim will "protect" workers from the only significant working class organizations in this country. In reality, it is intended to protect big business from the danger of democracy.
Proposition 75 requires unions representing public employees to obtain the written consent of a union member in order to use any portion of his or her dues for political campaigns. If the member does not sign up repeatedly every year, the dues must be reduced by the amount which would otherwise be spent for political purposes.
This is a new version of Proposition 226, which would have imposed similar restrictions on all unions and which was overwhelmingly defeated by California voters in the June 1998 primary election.
No friends of working people
Those who paid to put Proposition 75 on the ballot and who now support it are not friends of working people. This is not an attempt to "protect" members of public employee unions. Rather, it is an attempt to destroy organized working class political power.
In the United States, unions represent the only significant force which is genuinely based in the working class. One becomes a union member by being a worker; being a liberal, or a progressive, or even a socialist does not lead to union membership. Only the status of being an employee working for wages results in union membership. Unions are the only significant bodies in this country whose purpose for being is promotion of working class rights and working class interests.
It is true that most unions betray their own interests by supporting Democratic Party politicians instead of building a party which represents workers. But the solution is to organize within the unions, elect new leadership, and promote a new political direction. The solution is not to destroy the political power of workers' organizations. But that is the goal of the proponents of Proposition 75.
Not all union political activity is about backing politicians. Recently, teachers fought to restore funding the state borrowed from our public schools, but never repaid. Nurses battled against reductions in hospital staffing to protect patients. Police and firefighters fought against elimination of survivors' benefits for families of those who die in the line of duty.
Now public employees, particularly the California Teachers' Association, are fighting ballot initiatives which will hurt public services, hitting schools the hardest.
Unions in California and in other states where ballot initiatives are an important part of the legislative process generally take positions which are consistent with the interests of everyone who works for a living. It is union political activity around ballot initiatives which form the major impetus for the attack on the working class represented by Proposition 75.
Those behind Prop 75 recognize that it doesn't really make all that much difference whether Democrats or Republicans are elected; when the chips are down, the politicians of both parties stand ready to attack the working class to help the tiny few who own the economy. But they recognize the real threat posed to their economic well-being by the power of the people to enact legislation through the initiative process, and that's why they want to undermine the political power of the unions.
Proposition 75's lead sponsor is Lewis K. Uhler, a former activist in the ultra-rightist John Birch Society and longtime opponent of public schools. If he and his cronies really believed in fairness, they would extend Prop 75's provisions to corporations. They would prohibit corporate expenditures on any political campaigns not approved by the workers whose labor creates the values which lead to corporate profits. But they wouldn't dream of such an idea, for in their ideal world only the corporate elite would be able to make significant political expenditures.
Protect the political power of the working class and the ability of working-class people to act through our organizations.
Vote NO on Proposition 75.
Bob Evans is recording secretary of the Peace & Freedom Party and an elected member of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.