At least one northern California labor council has already started its special election campaign activity. On July 30, precinct walkers gathered at the South Bay Labor Council’s San Jose headquarters before fanning out to talk with union families about what’s at stake in the Nov. 8 special election called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Precinct walking continues on weekends, and phone banking started Aug. 1.

“One reason we are starting early is that many activists are excited about getting out and starting to talk with people now,” SBLC Political Director Philip Bump said in a telephone interview. “The issues on the ballot are not ones that real people think of as reforms — real issues such as health care,” Bump said. “We are also emphasizing how unnecessary this election is, with its $50 million-plus cost, and people generally understand this.”

He highlighted two measures the labor movement considers especially harmful — Prop. 75, to force public workers’ unions to get written permission yearly from each member for their dues to be used for political activity, and Prop. 76, to let the governor cut the budget if spending exceeds revenue.

While Schwarzenegger has not yet publicly endorsed Prop. 75, his backers put it on the ballot. Bump pointed out that nurses, firefighters and teachers have “hounded” Schwarzenegger to protest the barrier the measure would pose to their political participation. He said the governor and his allies have met with “absolutely no success” in their efforts to create a phenomenon of anger against teachers and other public workers.

“We’re also very concerned about Prop. 76,” Bump said. “The governor has already reneged on his promise to fully fund education. Prop. 76 would result in unilateral cuts to both education and health.”

The 5-month-old STOP coalition — Standing Together to Protect our Families — is bringing community and labor forces together, he said.

In other news:

• Prop. 80, to reregulate the state’s electricity market, was restored to the ballot after its labor and community backers won their appeal.

• Schwarzenegger will return a $50,000 contribution from a partner in a tribal casino project, The Associated Press reported Aug. 4. The AP had questioned the donation because during the 2003 recall campaign, the governor promised not to accept campaign donations from groups negotiating directly with his office, including Indian tribal gaming interests.

• The nonpartisan California legislative counsel ruled Aug. 2 that Schwarzenegger can cancel the special election any time before voting begins. Assemblyman John Klehs said he will introduce legislation urging the governor to do just that.

• The labor-community Alliance for a Better California (ABC) said it is sponsoring an initiative for the June 2006 ballot that would require any corporation seeking to donate or spend money on political campaigns to list for its shareholders all political donations and spending for the previous year. New political budgets would require majority shareholder approval. Signature gathering is expected to start next month.

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