With Labor Day marking a new phase in the campaign to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s corporate-right wing agenda in the Nov. 8 special election, labor and people’s organizations are moving into high campaign gear.

The labor and community Alliance for a Better California, which has been combating the governor’s “reform” plans since the beginning of the year, will launch phone-banking and precinct walking Sept. 10 at all its regional offices, Alliance spokeswoman Robin Swanson said. “We’ll be talking both with likely voters and those who in the past have only voted occasionally,” she said.

Swanson said materials are being prepared in several languages, and the Alliance is seeking bilingual campaigners. “We can thank the governor for uniting a very diverse group of people against his agenda,” she added.

A Public Policy Institute of California survey of over 2,000 Californians last month, almost half of them likely voters, bore out Swanson’s point. Only 34 percent approved of Schwarzenegger’s job performance — a drop of 31 percent since last year — while 60 percent thought he should have waited until June 2006 to put his initiatives on the ballot.

Only 28 percent of likely voters supported the measure Schwarzenegger calls his key initiative, Proposition 76, which would give him unilateral power to cut spending. Prop. 77, his proposal to shift authority for redistricting from the Legislature to a panel of retired judges, was backed by just 34 percent of likely voters, while Prop. 74 to make teachers wait five years for tenure and weaken their job protection was backed by 49 percent.

However, Prop. 75, which would greatly curb public worker unions’ political participation, is currently backed by 58 percent of likely voters. Though Schwarzenegger has not publicly backed Prop. 75, it was placed on the ballot by his supporters.

The California Labor Federation warned that Prop. 75 “would make it a lot harder for workers to have a voice in the political process, but wouldn’t touch the governor’s big business contributors,” who already outspend unions 24 to 1. A similar measure started out ahead in 1998 but was decisively defeated after a concerted campaign by labor and people’s movement forces.

Also campaigning against the governor’s corporate agenda are many community organizations.

“Like everyone else, we believe the special election is unnecessary,” said Nativo Vigil Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). Lopez singled out the initiatives to let the governor unilaterally cut spending, and to curb unions’ ability to be active politically, as “attacks on labor and on education.” However, he said, at its recent convention MAPA voted to support the redistricting and teacher tenure measures.

In a development showing the need to curb drug companies’ greed, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit Aug. 25 accusing 39 pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories, of inflating prescription drug prices they charged the state’s Medi-Cal program for poor Californians.

Over a dozen other states have already sued drug companies over similar accusations, and California’s case may be consolidated with others.

An initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot would address a related issue, reducing prescription drug costs to many Californians. Prop. 79, initiated by the broad Health Access coalition and the Alliance for a Better California, would let the state use Medi-Cal’s purchasing power to negotiate a new state program to cut prescription costs for low- and middle-income residents.

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