Among California labor councils getting a running start for the Nov. 8 special election is the Sacramento Central Labor Council, with affiliates in six counties stretching from the Central Valley into the Sierras. The SCLC started talking with potential voters in person and by phone on July 30.

Though Labor Day marks the traditional start of election activity, the council’s executive secretary, Bill Camp, believes that this year it is especially urgent to alert and involve working families early. “There’s such a huge stake in these horrible policies Governor Schwarzenegger is promoting,” he said.

“We believe the governor chose to hold the special election with a strategy to make sure working people don’t vote,” Camp said. With the ballot mostly about initiatives, and only a few local and relatively unknown candidates running for office, the governor is counting on a low turnout, hoping that “only those who vote with corporate interests at heart” will show up at the polls.

“The way to get working families to vote is to go out and talk with them,” he said.

The council is working with a broad alliance including religious, community and civil rights organizations, and is emphasizing outreach to occasional as well as regular voters.

The California Labor Federation is readying a broad get-out-the-vote campaign with emphasis on voting by mail, said Chloe Osmer, the federation’s communications organizer. The state’s labor movement is especially targeting Proposition 75, which would force public workers’ unions to get written permission yearly from each member for their dues money to be used for political action.

“I think people don’t realize just how deceptive the whole campaign for Prop. 75 is,” said Osmer. “The claim by wealthy backers of the measure that they are concerned about workers’ paychecks is absurd, since workers can already opt out” of having their dues money used for elections.

“The measure is backed by the same corporations that benefit from Schwarzenegger’s vetoes of minimum wage increases,” she said. “They are unhappy about the way public workers have spoken out and would like nothing more than for unions and workers political action to be crippled.”

Labor and its allies are also strongly opposed to Prop. 74 to weaken teachers’ job security and Prop. 76 to let the governor unilaterally slash the budget if revenue falls below expenditures.

Osmer said the federation supports a proposed initiative for the June 2006 ballot that would require corporations to list for shareholders all political spending for the previous year, and get majority shareholder approval for new political spending.

Both Camp and Osmer expressed confidence that the recent split in the AFL-CIO will not keep unions from working together to defeat the Schwarzenegger-corporate agenda. “Despite the setback it is for labor,” said Osmer, “there’s a tremendous level of commitment from union leaders that we will focus together on election issues.”

In other developments:

• In a 4-2 vote, the California Supreme Court restored to the ballot Prop. 77, Schwarzenegger’s initiative to place redistricting in the hands of retired judges. Attorney General Bill Lockyer had challenged the measure because the wording as circulated for signatures differed from the wording filed with his office.

• The California Teachers Association and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell filed a suit Aug. 9 to compel the governor to increase school spending by $3.1 billion — funds they say are due under the formula agreed when the schools accepted a $2 billion cut during the 2004-05 budget process.

• Schwarzenegger failed to report that American Media, publisher of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, gave $250,000 this year to the nonprofit California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, one of the governor’s pet causes. Until recently, Schwarzenegger had a multimillion-dollar second job with the magazines.

• State Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) said last week she will introduce legislation to make it illegal for statewide elected officials to have side jobs. In case the governor vetoes the bill, she said, she is introducing a parallel constitutional amendment that would go directly to voters.

• Among mega-donors to Schwarzenegger and his political allies is Roland Arnall, head of Ameriquest, an Orange County mortgage firm accused of deceptive lending practices to low-income homebuyers. Arnall and his wife have given $1.5 million each to the governor, groups backing his political efforts, and the California Republican Party, the L.A. Times reported.

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