Everyone has heard the negative rhetoric aimed at public employee unions, especially the teacher’s union CTA. Local AM Radio station KFI 640 has daily rants from its afternoon talk show hosts, reviling teachers as some of the worst scum feeding at the teat of the state. Even a liberal rag like LA Times posted an article on August 18, 2012 bemoaning the influence of the powerful teacher’s union CTA in state government. People in the state are clamoring on Facebook and around the water cooler. You’ve likely heard these comments: The unions are breaking California’s checkbook. Unions drive jobs out of California. Why should I pay more taxes just to have the state give money to unions? Unions suck.
What I don’t quite get, and what the negative rhetoricians would have us believe, is the idea that corporations and private money have no influence in Sacramento.
Proposition 32 claims that it will level the playing field between unions and corporations by “Prohibiting unions and corporations from deducting money from employee paychecks for political purposes without permission, making all political contributions truly voluntary” (http://ballotpedia.org).
The Yes on 32 movement claims that voting yes will stop special interest money from influencing the electoral process. So let’s discuss the money going into the Yes on 32 campaign. As of November 3, 2012, the following twenty-three people and PACs have contributed money to the yes vote:
Charles Munger, Jr.
Americans for Responsible Leadership
American Future Fund
Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr.
Thomas M. Siebel
New Majority California PAC
William Bloomfield, Jr.
John Murray Pasquesi
Citizen Power Campaign
B. Wayne Hughes
Lincoln Club of Orange County
Protect Prop 13 (HJTA)
Frank E. Baxter
Timothy C. Draper
William L. Edwards
Charles B. Johnson
The Yes on 32 campaign has twenty-three individuals and/or PACS donating a total of sixty million dollars. They have a special interest. A special interest in union-busting. CTA has only contributed $21.1 million to the No Vote coffers. They represent 290,000 teachers. The rest of the money comes from other union members in other unions like the California Professional Firefighters, SEIU, and California Labor Federation. The unions represent about millions of workers, each of whom has donated roughly $18 to the No campaign. It took millions of union members to equal the money of twenty-four individuals and/or PACS. Where is the fairness in that?
Charles Munger, the largest bank roll behind this campaign, is the brother of Molly Munger, whose prop 38 initiative is trailing behind Governor Brown’s prop 30 tax measure. Charles Munger is a renowned businessman, and is vice-chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, Warren Buffet’s investment corporation. The other donors are all businessmen and women in their own rights. The various PACS support anti-tax stances and business interests. Whenever I see a businessman of Munger’s stature trying to limit a union’s bargaining power, I have to wonder at the ulterior motive, and usually when business is involved, that motive is profit.
See, the point behind 32 is to limit campaign contributions by unions and corporations to the political process. In the list above, none of these men and women or PACS would be affected by prop 32. If prop 32 should pass, they are still free to donate another sixty million or so to whatever campaign they see fit. Also, corporations do not generally have unions, although some do, but not to the extent that teachers, firefighters, nurses, and police rely on unions. This law is really about limiting a union’s voice, not a corporation’s voice. It's about removing an obstacle to business--the union obstacle.
Unions act as a check and balance to corporate desire. Unions maintain that corporations treat employees fairly, provide reasonable wages and benefits, and a reasonable work week. Does that mean that unions are perfect entities? Absolutely not. They need reform, but removing their voices from the equation does not level the playing field, as prop 32 backers would have everyone believe.
The political climate in this country currently does not favor unions. It does favor giving the edge to business. Even the Supreme Court of the United States has legalized a corporate entity’s right to be considered an individual.
Voting Yes on 32 is a mistake. A yes vote will not equalize money in politics. What it will do is give corporate donors all of the power in a state the desperately needs a voice that is willing to stand up to the real political influence.
Vote no on 32.