Calif. gov seeks re-election by stomping labor

Whistling past months of sinking poll numbers, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week announced he will run again for governor in 2006. At the same time he made public his longstanding support for Proposition 75, on the ballot in this fall’s special election, which would greatly restrict labor’s political participation.

Opponents said they are more determined than ever to defeat Schwarzenegger’s right-wing, corporate agenda in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. They said the governor’s announcements would help mobilize campaigners for a “no” vote on his four key initiatives.

“The governor’s public endorsement of Prop. 75 makes our job easier, because it reveals his hidden pro-corporate agenda to more voters,” said California Labor Federation Communications Organizer Chloe Osmer. The labor federation looks to its experience with the similar Prop. 226 in 1998, Osmer said, “because we found then that the more voters knew about it, the less they liked it.”

Prop. 226 started out ahead, but was decisively defeated on Election Day.

Osmer said Schwarzenegger’s announcement will energize union members “because it validates what we’ve been saying, that he is targeting teachers, nurses, firefighters and other key public workers and trying to silence key working-class constituencies.”

Cautioning, “we can’t take anything for granted,” Osmer said the federation will step up its work to mobilize the greatest possible participation by union members and supporters in the campaign.

Though Schwarzenegger’s announcement that he’ll run again is aimed at raising more money for his special election measures, “the issues are still bad, the governor is still unpopular and still unwilling to listen to the people of California,” said Robin Swanson, spokesperson for the labor-community Alliance for a Better California.

Schwarzenegger had to create a scripted “town hall meeting” to announce his re-election bid, Swanson said, while the real town hall meeting was held outside by hundreds of protesters.

Field Poll figures released earlier this month show 56 percent of California voters don’t want to re-elect Schwarzenegger as governor next year, and only 36 percent favor his re-election — a complete reversal from February. A 57 percent majority, including 29 percent of Republican voters, would support calling off the Nov. 8 special election.

Meanwhile, three initiatives the governor supports continue to lose ground. Prop. 74, which would make teachers wait five years for permanent status, is now favored by only 46 percent of likely voters, down from 61 percent in June. Approval of Prop. 76, to cap state spending and let the governor cut the budget, has sunk to 19 percent, while Prop. 77, to shift redistricting from the Legislature to retired judges, is backed by only 32 percent.

Only Prop. 75, which would force public employee unions to get yearly written consent from every member to use dues money in political campaigns, is running ahead, at 55 percent, virtually the same as in June. Opponents point out, however, that union members already have the right to opt out.

The Los Angeles Times noted Sept. 16 that, despite an enormous fundraising drive that has taken the governor to events around the U.S., his campaign accounts are actually in the red at the moment. Times staff writer Michael Finnegan quoted analysts as saying the governor’s rapid campaign spending, and his need to raise millions more in the coming weeks, support opponents’ claims that he favors corporate allies over working Californians.

mbechtel @ pww.org