The people, united, will never be defeated! This age-old saying is more than just a union chant. It’s the core philosophy of the labor movement. . And that was on full display this week at California Labor’s 2012 Biennial Convention.
In one of our biggest conventions in recent history, upwards of 700 union delegates and leaders convened in San Francisco to learn, plan, vote and strategize on the November 2012 election and defeating Prop 32, the Special Exemptions Act.
The convention was packed with notable leaders, each one emphasizing the absolute necessity of defeating Prop 32 — not just for union members, but for the whole working class. National labor leaders from CWA, UFCW and SEIU, as well as Governor Jerry Brown and California Democratic Party Chair John Burton all addressed the convention to educate and motivate the delegates about this incredibly deceptive ballot measure.
California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski kicked off the convention Tuesday morning by drawing a parallel between millionaire funders of Prop 32 and GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former head of Bain Capital.
Pulaski said that unlike working people and their unions who innovate and create, Romney, like the wealthy anti-union forces behind Prop 32, is only interested in one thing:
Romney has no interest in building, creating or making things. The only thing he makes is money.
Democratic Chair John Burton:
Prop 32 is not campaign finance reform. It screws working men & women and protects corporations. It’s that simple. Our job is going to be to let people know, when they try to screw working men and women, they’re trying to screw everyone who isn’t a boss or corporate stockholder.
Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen:
Some will get confused on Prop 32. They’ll hear people say, “You don’t like Citizens United? Then vote yes on 32! And that confusion is stirred up by millionaires and billionaires that want to control every aspect of our lives! In fact, we do support repealing Citizens United — but it must be in a meaningful way where we stop the billionaires who dominate our lives — not working class people from having a voice!
Bringing jobs home by ending tax breaks for companies that send them overseas was another prevalent theme at this year’s convention. On Tuesday, the delegates joined labor leaders, elected officials and workers from across the Bay Area for an energetic Bring Jobs Home rally in Union Square. CWA President Larry Cohen talked about the devastating effects outsourcing has had on the economy and workforce, and he was joined by real workers shared their personal stories. Assemblymember Susan Bonilla addressed the crowd about the importance of passing Assembly Bill 2508, which would ensure that all call centers for state public services, such as CalWorks, are staffed here in California.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis made a special guest appearance at the rally, where she called on Congress to pass the Bring Jobs Home Act (which was blocked in the Senate last week) and other companion legislation that would eliminate the tax incentives that motivate employers to move jobs out of the country.
We don’t believe that providing special tax breaks for outsourcing will some how trickle down to folks that really need it. That just doesn’t work. Its time for our leaders to reward companies that choose to invest in our American workforce. Don’t outsource, insource those jobs! We believe in exporting products, not paychecks!
That evening, Secretary Solis joined the convention delegates at the Biennial awards dinner, where she talked about everything from her union roots to the remarkable work the Department of Labor has accomplished since she became Secretary in 2008. She also discussed how Gov. Brown’s commitment to investing in job-creating and emissions-reducing infrastructure projects, like high-speed rail, will put California back on the right track.
In other states like New York and New Jersey, they turned down hundreds of millions of transportation dollars, just to make partisan political point. They say they want to create jobs, but refuse to make the investments to do so. But their loss is California’s gain! Well put those dollars they turned down to use here in our communities — and we’re going to protect our environment and help travelers at the same time.
Indeed, high-speed rail was a focal point of the dinner. Gov. Jerry Brown discussed the project at length, discounting the notion that it’s “too expensive” by explaining the actual math behind the project, what it would cost and how much revenue it would produce.
High-speed rail is a bargain and here’s why — it costs just $65 billion to build, but would generate $2 trillion a year in revenue for the state. Even if the train only runs for 50 years — though in reality, it will probably run for 150 years or more — that’s $100 trillion. Divide that by $65 billion and that is just .0065 pennies on the dollar. That’s a bargain!
High-speed rail wasn’t the only thing on Gov. Brown’s mind. He also emphasized the importance of passing Prop 30 in order to stave off even deeper cuts to our schools and public safety by asking the wealthiest Californians to pay their fair share. Learn more about Prop 30.
Budget cuts are shredding the California Dream. Funding our schools and public safety is essential to rebuilding California and creating a healthier economy for the future. Prop 30 is vital to getting California back on track.
On Day 2, guest speakers Joe Hansen, President of UFCW, and Eliseo Medina of SEIU fired up the crowd by highlighting what’s at stake this election year.
Hansen has been on the front lines fighting back against attacks on unions in states all across the country. He detailed the connection between Prop 32 and the national fight to preserve workers’ right to have a voice.
Prop 32 will destroy unions and take away our seat at the table. It’s no different from attacks in Wisconsin and Ohio, just in a different form.
In addition to focusing on defeating Prop 32, Medina stressed the importance of California Labor continuing and expanding our commitment to reaching Latino voters. SEIU has been at the forefront of ensuring Latinos have a voice in politics, which is critical given the Latino community’s growing numbers in California.
50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month. By 2014, there will be 1.2 million more Latino voters!
After the speakers, delegates got down to the business of voting on Labor’s endorsements for the November election. In what could very well be the last truly democratic process we have in this country, representatives from hundreds of unions came together, contemplated and considered all options, participated in respectful but lively discussion, and ultimately voted on each of the statewide ballot measures and candidate races for State Senate and Assembly and U.S. Congress. Click here to view a complete list of California Labor’s endorsements.
This convention marks the beginning of California Labor’s coordinated statewide campaign to defeat Prop 32, pass Prop 30 and elect worker-friendly candidates to office. Over the next 14 weeks, tens of thousands of union volunteers across the state will be mobilizing to get the word out to their co-workers, friends and neighbors. You can be one of them – click here to join the campaign today!