Union and community campaigners gathered at sites around California Sept. 10 to launch their drive to defeat a series of anti-people propositions placed on the Nov. 8 special election ballot by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his corporate allies.

In Los Angeles, the traditional unity handclapping of the United Farm Workers opened a spirited rally of 500 union members at the headquarters of IBEW Local 11 in the Westchester neighborhood. The rally kicked off the Southern California labor movement’s Get Out the Vote campaign.

“We are here today to begin the campaign to terminate the gubernator,” said newly elected L.A. County Federation of Labor head Martin Ludlow, referring to Schwarzenegger.

The Alliance for a Better California (ABC) and the Los Angeles labor movement are targeting the 53rd Assembly District, where a special election will fill the vacancy left by Mike Gordon, who died earlier this year. Labor is backing Ted Lieu to fill the remainder of Gordon’s term.

Joining labor leaders and fellow Assembly members was Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez. “Governor Schwarzenegger did something right,” Nunez told the crowd. “He lit the fire and got us out and we’re out there and we’re going to stay out there and do what we need to win back California.”

Challenging Schwarzenegger’s claims that unions have too much power, Nuñez continued: “The governor keeps saying that the unions are running Sacramento. That would not be such a bad thing, perhaps. But let me tell you how the world would be if the unions were really running Sacramento … gay marriage would be in effect … the minimum wage would be $15 to $20 an hour … teachers would make a decent wage and that profession would be the most important profession in the state.”

The Alliance, a coalition of nearly 2.5 million firefighters, nurses, teachers, police officers, and other working Californians and community members, opposes the governor’s initiatives. It is working to defeat Propositions 74 through 78, it says, because they are phony reforms that hurt public schools, threaten quality health care, cut funding to local law enforcement, and are designed to shift power to the governor and his corporate allies to make things worse for the average Californian.

In Northern California’s Alameda County, hundreds gathered at the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland to hear union members tell why they oppose the Schwarzenegger-corporate initiatives before fanning out to talk with thousands of East Bay voters.

Joe Pulido, a maintenance workers for 27 years at the University of California–Berkeley, warned of the dangers of Prop. 76, which would let the governor unilaterally cut spending. “Schools have it hard now,” he said. “Let’s not make it harder.”

Speakers also emphasized the danger of Props. 74, which would curb teachers’ rights on the job, and 75, which would silence public workers’ voice in the political arena.

“We’re here to let Schwarzenegger know we’re a strong group that won’t let him take away jobs, education and benefits,” Linnie Cobb, a member of SEIU 616, told the crowd. “I’m a homecare worker,” she added. “The people we care for must not be neglected because he can’t see they need the help we give them.”

San Francisco campaigners gathered at the African American Art and Culture Complex in the Western Addition neighborhood to hear union and community leaders and elected officials underline the urgency of the issues involved. Mayor Gavin Newsom emphasized that the governor’s ballot measures are about consolidating his power, silencing the political voices of ordinary working Californians and cutting vital services.

San Francisco State University students warned of the threat Prop. 76 poses to state university funding and to affordable tuition for at-risk students.

Joseph Hancock, Martha Hancock and Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this article.