California has a proposition on its November ballot. Proposition 75 requires that unions get the consent of its members before using political action funds for political purposes. In other words, if a union member wants his assessments to be used for the political activities of the union, no problem. On the other hand, if the union member decides that he doesn’t want his dues used for political activities of the union, then he can decline. In any event, the union needs the members consent to use his funds for political purposes.
The unions realize that will substantially reduce their political clout in California.
Because in the 1993 election for the recall of Governor Gray Davis, exit polls showed that 40% of union members actually supported the recall, but 100% of union political action funds were spent opposing the recall. A small group of union leaders are out of touch with their members.
Proposition 75 is popular not only with the population of the state in general, but also with union members, many of whom object to their funds being used in political campaigns they don’t approve of. One member of the teachers union in the last election ran for an office and was defeated because her union used her contributions to pay for a campaign to defeat her.
Proposition 75 will empower individual union members to decide how their funds are spent for political purposes rather than letting union bosses decide.
Because the unions recognize that if they lose 30 – 40% of their political contributions, they will be less effective in opposing legislation in California, according to the Los Angeles Times, unions have sent letters to corporations telling them that their union members will boycott their products if they financially support Proposition 75.
A key advantage for labor is money. Unions have collected more than $70 million to fight Schwarzenegger’s ballot measures — more than double the $28 million raised by the governor.
To maintain that edge, labor is trying to make it more difficult for Schwarzenegger to raise money for what he once vowed would be a $50-million campaign.
In a Sept. 21 letter to executives at Chevron, Bank of America, Safeway, Hewlett-Packard and several dozen other companies, four union presidents warned that their members, as well as voters, would soon be told which corporations back Proposition 75.
Labor leaders view the initiative as a severe threat. Backed by Schwarzenegger, it would bar public employee unions from using member dues for political donations without prior consent. Unions fear it would diminish their clout in Sacramento and enhance the power of big business.
Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said those who received the letter took it to mean unions “would somehow blacklist” the companies.
“The letter was clearly intended to intimidate businesses and threaten them,” he said.
Rob Stutzman, communications director of Schwarzenegger’s campaign, called the letter “complete thuggery” and predicted it would backfire. “It’s the modern version of 1930s coal-strike tactics,” he said.