Brown or Whitman? No contest

Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman for California governor? Barbara Boxer or Carly Fiorina for the Senate? For California’s working people and their unions, the choice should be obvious. And it’s a choice that should have national impact, given California’s prominence as a pace-setting state.

All too often, we’re faced with choosing between the lesser of two political evils. But not this time. Jerry Brown, currently state attorney general, has proven throughout his long political career – including two terms as governor between 1975 and 1983 – to be one of the best friends labor has ever had. And he shows no signs that he’d be anything else if returned tithe governorship in November.

I particularly recall, from my days as a labor reporter, the great political skill Brown demonstrated in convincing the State Legislature to enact what’s still the only law outside Hawaii guaranteeing farm workers the collective bargaining rights granted most non-agricultural workers in the1930s.

It’s impossible to imagine Brown’s Republican challenger having the will or the skill to do something like that. Whitman’s position on labor is precisely the opposite of Brown’s. Whitman, former CEO and president of eBay, has made union bashing, and especially the bashing of public employee unions, a major theme of her campaign.

Democratic Sen. Boxer, who’s running for a third term, is another strong labor supporter. Like Brown, Boxer is in a contest against a mediocre anti-labor Republican candidate, in her case former Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina, who has many, many bucks to spend on her campaign.

Some of the nine initiatives on the California ballot would be good for working people, some not so good. Prop. 25 is easily the best of the bunch for labor and just about everybody else. It would require a simple majority vote of the Legislature to adopt the annual state budget rather than the current requirement of a two-thirds majority. The great difficulty of lining up two-thirds support has often resulted in legislative stalemates that have forced some state operations to be cut back or even temporarily shut down for days, sometimes weeks. No money, as they say, no service.

Prop. 23 is bad news. The measure, backed by Big Oil and other major polluters, would suspend the state air pollution laws that limit omission of greenhouse gases known to cause global warming until statewide unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or lower for one year, which ¬ surprise! ¬ is not about to happen. Not for a long time, anyway.

Corporate greed heads could lose big, however, with passage of Prop. 24. It would repeal $1.7 billion in tax breaks granted big corporations during last year’s budget negotiations, or “backroom budget deals,” in the impolite but quite accurate words of the California Federation of Teachers.

Image: California Attorney General’s office


Dick Meister
Dick Meister

Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based writer who has covered labor and politics for a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Contact him through his website,