L.A. Latino Leaders, Workers &amp; Community Urge Voters: “Voten NO en la Proposición 32”

Latinos are among the fastest growing groups of the electorate. About 5 million more Latino voters are eligible to vote this year than in 2008 —  but historically, voter turnout among Latinos hasn’t been particularly strong. In 2008, only 50% of eligible Latino voters showed up to the polls (according to the LA Times). But that’s all going to change this year in California, as more and more Latinos are discovering what’s really at stake in the upcoming election if Prop 32 becomes law.

There’s no doubt that Prop 32 would drastically impact California’s Latino community. It would essentially eliminate the ability of unions to fight for worker health and safety, good schools, a living wage and economic justice for all workers.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Latino community united in Mariachi Plaza to kick off a host of Latino community events across the state to oppose the fraudulent Prop 32. Labor and elected leaders and activists spoke out against the engañosa (deceiving) measure, vowing to stop those behind Prop 32, including Big Oil, Wall St. and secretive out-of-state Super PACs run by the oil billionaire Koch Brothers and George Bush’s Karl Rove, from taking away their voices.

Mayor of L.A. Antonio Villaraigosa, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta and L.A. labor leader Maria Elena Durazo joined with immigrant rights activists, DREAM Act students, firefighters, teachers, janitors, farmworkers, L.A. county workers, carwasheros, airport workers, local elected officials and others to tell all voters, but particularly Latino voters, “Salgan a votar y voten NO en la proposción 32!” which means “Get out and vote, and vote NO on Prop 32!”

Maria Elena Durazo of the L.A. County Federation of Labor kicked off the rally by telling the Latino community how the labor movement fights for all workers, for all Latinos, for workplace safety, social issues, and anything affecting everyday Californians:

When we fight for changes in laws, whether they are health and safety, whether it’s for a cleaner environment, whether it’s for the rights of the LGBT community, in anything that affects social issues that affect your community, the labor movement is there. We change laws to make sure that all workers are protected, that all workers are respected, because we believe that all workers have dignity.

At the rally, Mayor Villaraigosa called Prop 32 “the most deceptive measure that I’ve ever seen” and said that if passed, it would “throw California back to the political stone age” by allowing Super PACs and secret money to completely dominate our political process. Prop 32 would give corporate special interests even more power in Sacramento, banning workers from having a collective voice— which the Mayor calls “the last best tool that working men and women have in this state to make their voices heard.” And, as the Mayor noted: corporations don’t ask their shareholders for consent when they bankroll political causes, whereas union members can: 1) Opt out of having this percentage of their dues go to politics or 2) Take part in the democratic union process to vote for which issues and candidates Labor will support.

Mayor Villaraigosa:

Prop 32 proponents are hoping Californians will just look at the fancy packaging and not read the fine print. Californians, please, read the fine print. Prop 32 isn’t reform, prop 32 is a fraud. The real aim of Prop 32 is to silence the voice of hard working families like the ones standing here beside me. Not just here, but all along the Golden State…This isn’t reform, it’s a sham. It limits janitors and farmworkers but leaves the special interests that crashed Wall St. untouched. Californians, don’t be fooled, the American Dream is for everyone, not just those people with deep pockets. Don’t let corporations take away your voice. On November 6th, vote NO on Prop 32.

He translated all of this into Spanish, then called up “the gran dama,” Dolores Huerta, Latina labor leader, civil rights activist, and the great champion of campesinos who co-founded the United Farmworkers (UFW) with César Chávez in 1962. Dolores Huerta, connecting with the crowd in her native Spanish:

Primeramente nos tenemos que acordar. Todos los beneficios que tienen la gente aquí trabajadora de California vienen por el trabajo de los sindicatos laborales. Todos lo que tenemos—seguro social, el día de ocho horas, seguros en el trabajo para que nos trabaje bien, compensaciones por desempleo— todo lo que tenemos es por el trabajo de los señores. Ésta proposición, treinta y dos, quiere quitar la influencia de la gente trabajadora.

[First we need to remember, all of the benefits that the working people have here in California come from the work of unions. Everything that we have—Social Security, an 8-hour day, workplace safety, unemployment benefits—everything that we have is thanks to their work. This proposition, 32, wants to take away the voice of the working people.]

Huerta went on to call Prop 32 una engaño, a deception, and urged all Latinos to knock on doors, make phone calls, talk to co-workers, and most importantly, get out and vote on November 6th to fight back against this deceptive attack on workers.

Freddy Escobar, an L.A. firefighter, and Mary Rose Ortega, an L.A. elementary school teacher, detailed what’s at stake for education and public safety with Prop 32. Freddy Escobar:

If this passes, there will be less police, less people working the city…We will have no voice at the table.

Mary Rose Ortega:

The corporations are trying to silence the voice of teachers like me, who advocate for a strong public school system and things like school safety, adequate school funding, and smaller class sizes so that our students, your children, can learn.

Prop 32 will not only affect Latino workers; it will affect the entire immigrant and minority population of California. The labor movement continuously fights for this community— getting out the vote of young Latinos and teaching them how to fight for social change, advocating for the passage of the DREAM act and fighting against the anti-immigrant polities of Pete Wilson by restoring the safety net for those who needed it most – to name a few examples. The Labor Movement stands behind the immigrant and minority community, whereas the proponents of the two-faced Prop 32 are not in favor of opening up the middle class to more people, including immigrants and minorities..

Angelica Salsa, Executive Director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in L.A. (CHIRLA) and DREAM Act student Edna Monroy, spoke about the connection they feel to the Labor Movement, and the need for all workers to have a voice so we can fight together for fair treatment, decent wages and comprehensive immigration reform that gives everyone the right to pursue an education and the American Dream.

And when I got a chance to talk to some of the Latino workers in the crowd, they all expressed a solid understanding of the phoniness that is Prop 32. I spoke with Isabel, a farmworker who picks roses and pistachios, about why she came out to the rally and why she is going to vote NO on 32. She told me how she supports part of her dues going towards UFW’s political work, because she knows the money goes directly back to improving her working conditions.

They use that money to support the Farmworkers, like giving us shelter to cool off when it’s too hot. We’ve had 12 people die of too much heat throughout the years and we can’t have that. We’re people, we’re not animals.

In an election where the Republican Presidential candidate admits that he would  veto the DREAM Act, and a handful of Wall St. executives and big oil tycoons are seeking even more power through Prop 32, we need to get out there and make sure Latinos are voting. So the next time you see your Spanish-speaking peers, make sure to tell them that Prop 32 is engañosa and voten NO en la proposición 32.

 View pictures from the event.