SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Ironworker Ray Trujillo is on a mission: to reach every union family in California and convince them to vote “no” on the recall of Gov. Gray Davis Oct. 7.

An outgoing and energetic man nearing retirement, Trujillo is the Northern California regional director of the Building & Construction Trades, AFL-CIO. We met at the headquarters of the Sacramento Central Labor Council on the far outskirts of the city one Saturday morning where 25 or so union activists had gathered to go door to door urging voters to vote against the recall. The labor movement here is phone-banking evenings during the week and canvassing door to door on weekends to mobilize the 120,000 union households in the Sacramento region.

Trujillo invited me to join a team of ironworkers in canvassing a neighborhood in Sacramento. “Our democracy is at stake,” he said as we drove with ironworkers Brian Tracy and Mike Berry to our assigned precinct. “This governor was fairly elected by the people eight months ago. Eight million voted. Now you have the extreme right-wing Republicans in California trying to overturn it, trying to buy the governorship with 20 percent of the vote.”

He linked it to the Bush-Cheney theft of the 2000 election. “The Supreme Court shouldn’t have stepped in. Every vote should have been counted,” he said. Support for the recall has crested, he said. “Now we are getting our message out and opposition to the recall is already going up. This is a fight we can win.”

A couple of years ago, Prop. 226, the misnamed “Paycheck Deception Act,” had 76 percent support in the polls, he said. “We went to work and it was defeated by about 76 percent.”

Davis is California’s most pro-labor, pro-working families governor in decades, he continued. The monied interests have shifted blame from themselves to Davis for the energy crisis and rate-gouging that is the fault of his Republican predecessor, Pete Wilson.

“Davis brought us through the energy crisis. The lights never went out,” he said. “Davis built 26 power plants, every one of them under a Project Labor Agreement. Davis went up against Enron and Ken Lay and tried to get back the billions gouged from consumers in the energy crisis.” With their crony connections to Bush and Cheney, “not a one of those Enron executives has gone to jail.”

Billionaire Warren Buffett, who is bankrolling Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor, vowed that a power plant he was building on the Salton Sea would be constructed without union labor, Trujillo said.

“Davis sent the Director of Industrial Relations down and we came out with a Project Labor Agreement” guaranteeing union wages and benefits. That by itself was enough to enrage Buffett and the energy brokers into a drive to remove Davis, Trujillo said.

We arrived at our assigned neighborhood and fanned out on Sawtelle Street. A young mother with a baby on her hip answered the doorbell. “I haven’t thought about the recall yet,” she said. “It’s a waste of taxpayer money.”

“Yes,” Trujillo replied. “Whose paying for it? Taxpayers. This recall is not about Gray Davis. It’s about you.” He held up an AFL-CIO flyer with Pete Wilson’s head grafted on to Schwarzenegger, the “Terminator,” armed with an AK-47, hand grenades dangling from his bulging chest. She smiled and took the leaflet. “Do you remember Pete Wilson?” Trujillo asked. “He took away the eight hour day. Now he’s back. He’s the head of Schwarzenegger’s campaign. He wants to terminate the prevailing wage, terminate Family Leave.”

On Salmon Falls, a few blocks away, a woman who belongs to the Teamsters answered the doorbell. “The real recall is recalling our benefits,” Trujillo told her. “They want to recall prevailing wages, the minimum wage, health care.”

“That would mess me up real bad,” the woman said. “I always thought this recall was crazy. It’s costing a lot of money. I work for the Welfare Department. It’s going to affect a lot of the people I work with.” Trujillo nodded. “It could set a very bad precedent. Anybody with a million dollars, they don’t like who was elected governor, they just recall him.”

In a cul-de-sac, in a one-storey cottage with blossoming flower beds, we spoke with Stephen Smith, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers. “I’m a union man. Pete Wilson? He sucks. I’ll vote against the recall and so will my wife.”

Trujillo handed him a fistful of the Terminator leaflets. “Pass these out to your fellow workers. If you want to volunteer, there’s a phone number at the bottom.”

Trujillo was fired up. “You want to go with me to Contra Costa after lunch? We can work another precinct,” he said as we speeded back to headquarters. “You can see there are a lot of undecided. But the people are receptive too. We’ve got to reach all of them.”

The author can be reached at

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR