News

Prop. 75 would silence workers, not protect them

Proposition 75, the union dues initiative, claims to stand for “fairness for
California workers,” and the ballot argument for the measure says it
“protects public employees…”

As a public employee, that sounds pretty good to me. I can use all the
fairness and protection I can get.

But a closer look shows that fairness is the last thing the backers of Prop.
75 want. Yes on 75 ads reveal the campaign’s true agenda by attacking public
employee unions for winning better wages and benefits and allegedly driving
up taxes.

Prop. 75’s proponents don’t want to protect workers; they want to shut them
up. They want to silence the nurses’ efforts to fight for better patient
care and the police and firefighters’ advocacy on behalf of stronger
public-safety programs.

The forces behind Prop. 75 are the same people who claim to protect workers
by preserving the right to earn less than $7 an hour and eliminating
burdensome bureaucratic requirements like daily lunch breaks and overtime
payments.

With friends like that, give me enemies any day.

The essence of true reform is fairness. But Prop. 75, while masquerading as
reform, would take an unfair situation and make it worse. Instead of
applying the same standards to all political stakeholders, it singles out
one group for restrictions that would apply to no others.

Nationally, corporations already outspend unions by more than 24 to 1 on
political activities, and Prop. 75 would tilt the balance even more heavily.
The San Francisco Chronicle got it right when it cited Proposition 75’s
“transparent aim to de-fund one side” and said it “fails the basic test of
fairness required of any genuine campaign-finance reform.”

The Yes on 75 ballot argument states that “hundreds of thousands of public
employee union members are forced to contribute their hard earned money to
political candidates or issues they may oppose.”

This is simply untrue. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no public
employee can be forced to join a union or to pay dues for political
activities.

More than 20 percent of the state’s employees currently choose to opt out of
their unions’ political activities. The right that Prop. 75 purports to
grant already exists — tens of thousands of workers exercise it every year.

The deceptiveness of the Prop. 75 campaign was illustrated when Lance Izumi
used this space last week to attack Assemblymember Alberto Torrico and Sen.
Richard Alarcon for their conduct of an informational hearing on the
measure.

I won’t dignify Izumi’s characterization of the Legislature as a “pit of
vipers,” but when Izumi wrote that Alarcon performed “a fine impersonation
of Joe McCarthy” in his treatment of Prop. 75 author Lew Uhler, the
statement was rich with irony on several levels.

First, Uhler is an admirer of McCarthy, the late red-baiting senator from
Wisconsin. The Sacramento Bee’s Andy Furillo recently described Uhler as “an
unapologetic McCarthyite


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