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Prop 32: Silencing the Voice of the People

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By Doug Moore

OP-ED

The backers of Proposition 32, a measure that would give corporations yet another political advantage over California working men and women, claim it’s about political reform. The backers of Proposition 32 are being dishonest.

The billionaires who are doing much of the backing know that the measure going before voters on November 6 is really about keeping working men and women – and the unions that represent them -- from having a say in politics.

The facts speak for themselves.

Prop 32 would prohibit unions from using members’ dues to fight for ballot measures and candidates they support. It would also ban union members from having dues deducted from their paychecks for this cause. But corporations? They’d still be free to give as much as they want to their causes and candidates.

Even though Prop 32 supporters claim that unions and businesses would be treated the same under the initiative because it applies to both, most California corporations don’t use payroll deductions for political giving – they use profits. So in fact, businesses and their super PACs would be exempt from Prop 32’s controls, free to spend unlimited amounts of money to force their agenda on the rest of us. At the same time, the voices of Homecare providers, sanitation workers, teachers and firefighters, to name just a few, would be silenced across the state.

Let’s take a look at who is pushing Prop 32: oil companies, super PACS, Wall Street firms, hedge funds, real estate developers, and insurance companies. And now let’s take a look at who is exempted from Prop 32’s provisions: oil companies, super PACS, Wall Street firms, hedge funds, real estate developers, and insurance companies.

And why wouldn’t they be pushing it? Consider this: Unions are already at a huge disadvantage when it comes to playing a role in politics. For every $1 a union member spends advocating for her rights politically through her union, businesses spend $15. Prop 32 is an unbalanced and unfair piece of gimmickry that will widen that gap immeasurably, because it restricts unions and their members, but does not similarly restrict corporate special interests. That will create a political system that is even more skewed toward the wealthy and well-connected than it already is.

Unions – in particular, public employee unions – have historically created a route to the middle class for black and Latino Californians. Anything that significantly weakens the power of unions and limits unions’ ability to have a say in the political process – which is exactly Prop 32’s purpose – has a disproportionately harmful effect on these workers.

Prop 32 also belies the notion of “reform.” True reform improves a system so that it works better for everyone. It doesn’t create a system that works well for one group but puts others at a disadvantage. That’s discrimination, and there is no place for it in our state or our nation.

If Prop 32 passes, it’s not hard to predict what workers in California can expect from this corporate power grab: laws that threaten jobs, overtime pay, retirement security and the very right to form and join unions. In short, laws that upend decades of progress in workers’ rights.

Ultimately, Prop 32 is about fairness. Rules should apply equally to everyone, no group should be exempted from real campaign finance reform, and as citizens, all of us should have the same ability to impact our democracy.

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