California special election heats up

LOS ANGELES — “If you don’t vote, people like Bush get elected,” proclaimed a protest sign at a recent antiwar rally here. With his poll numbers slipping, people not voting is what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is banking on.

Several bills vetoed by the governor last week indicate just how anti-worker he really is.

Assembly Bill 48 would have raised California’s minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.75, followed by adjustments for increases in the cost of living thereafter. “Wealthy companies set new records in political contributions to buy this veto,” said Art Pulaski, executive secretary of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. According to the federation, one in ten private sector workers earns less than $7.75 per hour and would have received a pay raise.

Roughly 60 percent of these workers are Latinos. Fabian Nuñez, speaker of the California Assembly, said Schwarzenegger “decided to throw sand in the eyes of poor people, kick ’em in the teeth, and ... put his foot on their throat.”

Schwarzenegger also vetoed AB 849, which would have legalized gay marriage in California. Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said the governor “cannot claim to support fair and equal treatment of gay people and veto the very bill that would have provided it to them.”

Schwarzenegger’s veto of AB 875 at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the California Restaurant Association, protected the corporate tax evasion and labor law violations which thrive in California’s vast underground economy.

How will all this play out Nov. 8? Expect a big defeat for Propositions 73 through 78, as voters begin to understand what special interests Schwarzenegger is beholden to. Prop. 73 would require parental consent for teens to receive pregnancy counseling or treatment. Prop.77 would take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and place it into the hands of retired judges appointed by the governor.

Prop. 75 would silence public employees’ unions by requiring written permission from each member before unions could spend money on political lobbying and campaigning. Once the union member signs such an authorization card, the employer is free to disclose private information about which causes the employee supports.

Two of the ballot education measures that the governor is campaigning hard for are Prop. 76, which would cut school funding, and Prop. 74, which would increase the amount of time teachers need to achieve permanent status.

Rounding out the ballot are two initiatives on prescription drug sales in California, one good (Prop. 79) and one bad (Prop. 78). Prop. 78 is sponsored by the drug companies. The initiative that receives the higher vote total will become law, so voters must not only vote Yes on 79, but also No on 78.

Prop. 80 would enforce oversight of California’s energy producers, ensuring cleaner, more affordable energy for all Californians. This bill has the support of the California Labor Federation.