The Orange County Labor Federation sent out a beautiful message this past Saturday morning — one worth sharing even after their annual Labor Day weekend picnic. I’m highlighting some of the good parts in bold.
Many of you will be joining us today for our annual Labor Day Celebration at the Santa Ana Zoo along with hundreds of union and community members. We’re celebrating our movement and workers standing together, fighting for good jobs, bargaining to uplift workers and our communities.
This Labor Day, it is important to remember that the fight continues for basic workers protections. We’re fighting for a seat at the table, fighting furloughs and layoffs, tax breaks for corporations and [for] earned paid sick leave. We’re standing for immigration reform and legislation to protect immigrants from exploitation. The list goes on.
When workers stand together, anything is possible and that is why we’ve got to show our strength as we go to the polls this November and support candidates that will work hard on behalf of working families. The Committee on Political Education (COPE) met last week and interviewed candidates for local city councils and school boards. The committee then recommended candidates for endorsement to the Executive Board and Delegate body and were voted on this past Thursday. [A list of those endorsements appears at the end of this post.]
That’s the labor movement that I love. Fighting for fair treatment, fighting for worker protections (such as for whistleblowers — which every union can and should provide), fighting powerful figures who try to save balance budgets on the backs of workers while leaving cronies and middlemen untouched, banding together to fight against giveaways and boondoggles and for basic workers’ rights and cost effective workers benefits like paid sick leave, fighting against the use of foreign workers — who will inevitably be part of the country — to lower wages. THAT is something to celebrate.
Nick Berardino, now in his last yer at OCEA, has this to share:
Each year it seems Labor Day is less a day of rest and more a day to reflect on the past and the future.
Workers throughout our nation continue to be subjected to the largest shift of wealth in our nation’s history. American corporations and employers continue to show little concern for the well being of their workforce. In fact, the idea that employers have a social responsibility to create and maintain a middle class is seen as some kind of socialist platform. Meanwhile both parents are forced to work, sometimes multiple jobs even, leaving children in many cases to fend for themselves. Buying a home is almost a forgotten dream for many hard-working Americans.
But we in the Labor movement are positioned to continue to fight for equity, dignity and reestablishing the middle class.
So, this Labor Day, reflect upon what you can do to help bring back justice to all of us who work and struggle to provide for ourselves and our families. Gain strength and energy from the struggle and stand proudly in our union rank and file.
There again, the labor movement is at its best a vehicle for introducing concepts that would otherwise be ignored — the idea that middle class consumers (rather than wealthy art-collecting and money hoarding capitalists) are the engine that drives the economy and that social policy to promote the middle class is not just reasonable, but deeply and fundamentally wise. Unions are one of the few sources that can stand against the sucking up of public wealth by the 1% — and in Orange County, a good part of the time, they do. Local unions have been contention at times — and that’s because that’s what’s been called for.
Orange County — truly and improbably — has some of the best labor organization in the country. That’s why former OC Labor Federation head Tefere Gebre was tapped by the national AFL-CIO to become its local Vice-President — because he has figured out, better than anyone else in the movement, how to advance into an economy with increasing immigration and increasing concentration of wealth.
Even OC’s not-so-good labor organization isn’t really bad most of the time — it’s just more like … weak and pathetic. So let’s consider that on Labor Day as well — because the weaker and worse parts of the movement are setting themselves against the better and stronger. (The failure to endorse Dr. Jose F. Moreno for City Council, in part because he’s not a big cheerleader for boondoggle that take money away from neighborhood services and give it to bond financiers, is the starkest current example.)
Some example: the more conservative parts of the OC Labor movement were the last die-hards — other than Southern California Edison itself, of course — to oppose decommissioning of San Onofre, despite the clear and worsening dangers it posed to all of Orange County, because that meant losing some union jobs.
How do you look the public in the eye on Labor Day and ask for their support when you were recently telling them that THEY had to face radioactive leaks because YOUR few unionized workers on site need their jobs? Why go out of your way to make enemies with the public like that? Giving those few workers good salaries doesn’t even make a dent in overall efforts to protect the middle class, which was the rallying cry for the ripoff. It didn’t even make sense for the unions, because decommissioning of San Onofre will create more jobs in the short term that continuing to run it on those few days when it was deemed safe to operate. It made sense only for So Cal Edison — which, if they could have gotten the reactor up and working again on even a test basis, could have argued more persuasively its ratepayers, rather than itself, were on the hook for the entire cost of its failures.
Now the Building Trades, led by doe-eyed IBEW Political Director Doug Mangione have been at the forefront of supporting the DEEPLY UNPOPULAR imposition of toll lanes on the 405 — I like to call them the “Middle-Class Bypass” — to make it easier to drive from Newport Coast to downtown LA without being slowed by the traffic from poorer people. The semi-coherent leader of the local Teamsters, Patrick Kelly, has a cockamamie theory that we need to give the privilege of a rich-people’s-royal road to the wealthy of South County so that we can make money from tolls and hire bus drivers. HERE’S an alternative idea: out-organize them rather than catering to their 1%er privilege! That way, among other things, unions don’t get the blame (that they seem out to earn) for the construction of toll lanes. And while we’re talking about bus drivers, trade union leaders and Teamsters could support the use of flexible-route bus lines (which can always be redirected to meet needs) rather than expensive fixed-route streetcars proposals in Anaheim and Santa Ana — but they don’t, because the latter brings in money for construction companies even if its to the detriment of worker interests.
Then we have the Poseidon Desalination plant — like toll lanes, one of the first questions prospective candidates get peppered with when going into interviews with the Trades-dominated Labor Fed Board. Poseidon makes no economic sense to consumers and its will screw up the already fragile ocean environment — while enriching its investors who get to pawn off outdated technology onto OC — but the trade unions want it because it creates construction jobs. And by the time the public catches on to the ripoff, and OC’s smarter Republicans figure out to lay the blame onto the unions, the present batch of union leaders may already be retired — so there’s no real cost to pushing Poseidon right? Public policy is easy if you keep your eye on a short time horizon.
The illegal Anaheim Convention Center expansion — an illegality about which they just don’t care — well, that calls for its own separate story.
I shudder to think of what Samuel Gompers would say about this group of “leaders.”
Here’s my own Labor Day message:
For the record: Orange County has HUGE problems with income disparity; homelessness; failures to control both public and private corruption; excessive use of police force; turning a blind eye to consumer ripoffs; environmental despoilation; and subordination of the BEST aspects of the Labor movement, the ones working for social justice, to the WORST aspects of that movement. The worst aspects of local unions are completely short sighted, seeking to work hand in glove with the commercial sectors that pay them to bleed the public for products and services that they don’t want or need, in hopes that SOME of the benefits going to wealthy Republicans will trickle down to workers.
In a county where we have to focus on preventing busting of teacher’s unions and drives to outsource services best provided by unionized workers and preventing cities from using the threat of ANOTHER bankruptcy as a way of reneging on pension oblications, signing onto boondoggles is not a good long-term plan to create jobs — it’s a good long term plan off to piss off the public at the labor movement for being willing to sacrifice the public good to limited short-term gain. (Great example: San Onofre!) And it drags down the parts of the movement that have the hardest and most worthwhile fights — largely public sector employee unions — who get lumped in with union leaders whose idea of promoting workers’ rights is to go along with whatever rapacious business interests wants so long as the union gets its small slice of the deal.
When it doesn’t cost them anything but a little extra ink on paper, even the worse aspects of the OC Labor Movement are happy to support Democrats, after first trying to beat them down into supporting these self-serving and consumer-unfriendly boondoggles. They have a good list below and with only a few exceptions I hope that readers will follow their suggestions. If readers don’t, I wonder how much of that can be laid on the failure of the worse parts of the local labor movement to support the innovation and creativity and hard work of the better part.
Happy Labor Day — too bad it’s not an even happier one.
Orange County Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Committee On Political Education (COPE) Endorsements
November 2014 Elections
STATE AND FEDERAL OFFICE
(DISTRICT, THEN CANDIDATE)
CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY
65 Sharon Quirk-Silva (D)
68 Anne Cameron (D)
69 Tom Daly (D)
72 Joel Block (D)
73 Wendy Gabriella (D)
CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE
34 Jose Solorio (D)
UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
39 Peter Anderson (D)
45 Drew Leavens (D)
46 Loretta Sanchez (D)
48 Suzanne Savary (D)
49 Dave Peiser (D)
Costa Mesa Sanitary District
Municipal Water District, Division 5
Buena Park City Council
Costa Mesa City Council
Garden Grove Mayor
Garden Grove City Council
Huntington Beach City Council
Irvine City Council
Santa Ana City Council, Ward 2
Santa Ana City Council, Ward 4
Santa Ana City Council, Ward 6
Stanton City Council
Tustin City Council
SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES
Anaheim Union High School District, Area 1
Anaheim Union High School District, Area 2
Anaheim City School Board District
Centralia School Board
Coast Community College District, Area 5
Fullerton Joint Union High School District
Huntington Beach Union High School District
Irvine Unified School Board District
La Habra City School District
Magnolia School Board District
Newport Mesa Unified School District, Area 7
Oceanview School Board District
Orange Unified School District, Area 5
Rancho Santiago Community College District, Area 4
Santa Ana Unified School District
Westminster School Board District
YES on Measure L (Anaheim), By-District Elections
If adopted, commencing on November 2016, the City Council shall be residents of their respective districts, and be nominated and elected only by the voters in their respective Districts.
YES on Measure M (Anaheim), Increase of Council Members to Six:
If adopted, the City shall consist of a Mayor and six City Council members.
The City Council members will serve a term of four years until their respective successors qualify.
NO on Measure O (Costa Mesa), City Charter:
If adopted, the City of Costa Mesa will stop being a general law city and become a charter city.
If passed, Measure O will establish home rule so that the City controls municipal affairs.
YES on Measure V (Irvine), Fiscal Transparency & reforms for the Orange County Great Park:
If adopted, this measure would require an annual audit of Great Park funds, prohibiting expenditures recommended by the Great Park Board of Directors until they are approved by the City Council. It would establish whistleblower protections for city staff or vendors who report waste, fraud or abuse of Great Park funds. It would require that the Corporation Board consist of members of the Irvine City Council.