imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

The Unions, the Millionaires Tax, and the Road to Success

by Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012 at 12:22 AM
sanfrancisco@workerscompass.org

This winter the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) sent tremors of hope through its ranks by announcing it was going to spearhead an attempt to place an initiative on the California ballot — appropriately called the “Millionaires Tax” — that would raise taxes only on millionaires (3 percent on those making more than million; 5 percent on those making more than million).

The initiative carefully specifies that the money it raises — if it gets on the ballot — will go to public education on all levels (36 percent for K-12 and 24 percent for colleges and universities), social services for children and seniors (25 percent), public safety (10 percent) and infrastructure (5 percent). To qualify for the ballot, somewhere in the order of 800,000 petition signatures are required.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it “typically costs between million and million to hire a signature-gathering firm.” (March 17, 2012) Consequently, CFT was hopeful that other unions would join the campaign so that the expenses could be shared. But that did not happen. The California Nurses Association endorsed the Millionaires Tax but failed to allocate money for signature-gathering. Few other unions endorsed.

Even worse, the California Teachers Association (CTA), a National Education Association affiliate and the largest teacher union in the state, ran a hit piece on the Millionaires Tax initiative in an email blast to its members that included lies and deceptive half-truths. It claimed, for example, that the Millionaires Tax included as a provision — and it pretended to quote directly from the initiative — that "none of the funds can be used to support programs primarily funded by the state." This was a blatant lie that CTA later admitted was inaccurate. Moreover, the CTA email claimed that the initiative did not close the current budget deficit, although the initiative never pretended to do this. And it claimed falsely that the initiative would not restore program cuts to essential services.

Why were so many unions either passive or hostile towards the initiative? The answer lies with the arm-twisting tactics of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who is promoting a counter initiative and does not want any competing tax initiatives on the ballot, particularly the Millionaires Tax that has consistently polled much higher than his own proposal. He has put intense pressure on union leaders to stay away from the Millionaires Tax. His own measure would increase taxes on people who make more than 0,000 by a mere 1 percent and those making over 0,000 by 2 percent. But he also included a regressive sales tax of one-half cent on the dollar in his measure, and the entire tax package includes an expiration date of 2016. The money it would generate has not been earmarked for any specific purposes.

Since Brown’s initiative raises taxes on both rich and poor, he has argued that it is a “balanced program,” or, as most people describe it, “shared sacrifice.” Not surprisingly, this argument overlooks the fact that during the past three decades the incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent of Californians grew by 81 percent while the income of the bottom 20 percent dropped by 11.5 percent (San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 2011). A “balanced” program would require that taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent be raised 81 percent while the taxes of the bottom 20 percent be cut 11.5 percent.

Why did Brown devise a tax revenue proposal that would fail to significantly curb these socially destructive trends in inequality? We got a glimpse into the answer when CFT publicly responded to CTA’s unconscionable attack on the Millionaires Tax. CFT wrote:

The same day that the CTA leadership issued its flier, the California Business Roundtable, representing PG&E, Chevron and other large corporations, came out in opposition to the Millionaires Tax. It stopped short of endorsing Governor Brown’s proposal, however. The reason? According to the Sacramento Bee (March 9), “Roundtable spokesman Kirk Clark said the business group was waiting to see whether Brown would come through with pension reductions as well as changing environmental laws and business regulations to make it easier for firms to operate in California.” The CTA leadership has now aligned itself with the most reactionary forces in California in opposition to the Millionaires Tax. CTA leaders are standing together with the 1%’s business lobby, which is actively working to undermine the hard-earned pension benefits of CTA’s own members, and seeking the destruction of public employee pensions as a quid pro quo for their endorsement of the governor’s tax.

In other words, Governor Brown tried to attract business support for his tax proposal by including a regressive sales tax. But the 1 percent wanted more: while firmly rejecting the Millionaires Tax, the 1 percent demanded that Brown agree to reduce public worker pensions before they would support his initiative. Under intense pressure from Brown, CTA and other unions such as SEIU, agreed to reject the Millionaires Tax and endorse Brown’s proposal, testifying to the inordinate power the 1 percent wields. The 99 percent, of course, are the losers. Poll after poll reported they overwhelmingly support the Millionaires Tax while offering only tenuous support to Brown’s proposal.

Buoyed by its polling, teachers and other supporters of the Millionaires Tax have been out gathering signatures with the hope that its success would reverse some of the crippling cuts to public education and social services. But just this week they suffered a stunning blow: CFT announced that it dropped its support for the initiative. In exchange, the union has endorsed a new “compromise” tax proposal brokered with Governor Brown.

The “compromise” includes the following provisions: the increase in sales tax – one-half a cent in Brown’s original proposal – has been reduced to one-quarter cent, and even this would expire after 4 years. Those individuals making over 0,000 would be taxed an additional 1 percent, over 0,000 an additional 2 percent, and over 0,000 an additional 3 percent. The money it would raise would go into the general fund, meaning it could be used for anything. And the entire package expires after seven years.

In defense of this abrupt about-face, Josh Pechthalt, CFT President, argued at an Occupation Education Northern California meeting (March 17, 2012) that CFT alone did not have the money to get the Millionaires Tax on the ballot. He pointed out that of the 300,000 signatures already gathered, only 10,000 were acquired by volunteers; paid signature gatherers got the rest. He further argued that this new “compromise” initiative was essentially progressive, since 8/9 of the revenue it would generate would come from raising taxes on the rich.

But, as one person at the meeting pointed out, many supporters of the Millionaires Tax are not simply focused on the money to save their own position; they are intent on creating a movement. And people will hardly want to join a movement led by teachers who pursue raising money for schools with a sales tax that includes in its scope taking money from the poorest people in the state. Teachers do not inspire when they support self-serving proposals that divide rather than unite working people. Moreover, the argument that the “compromise” proposal is progressive since it takes more from the rich than the poor fails to take into consideration the surrounding context where inequalities in wealth have been soaring. Although the measure might take a higher percentage from the rich than the poor,

the rich have so much money to spare they won’t feel the bite. The poor already don’t have enough money, and this will leave them with even less.

Despite Pechthalt’s pleas, those assembled at this meeting voted to reject the concept of shared sacrifice, reject regressive taxes, and reject the ploy of the “compromise.” They bravely plan to soldier on in their support of the Millionaires Tax.

One cannot help but wonder what CFT’s top leadership was thinking. While it has agreed to stop promoting the Millionaires Tax, Governor Brown is still actively trying to get his original regressive tax initiative on the ballot. And with only a month left to gather signatures for the new “compromise” proposal, the prospects of getting enough signatures are slim. In all likelihood, the new measure will fail to get on the ballot while Brown’s original proposal might well succeed, leaving CFT completely empty-handed, since it has now dropped the Millionaires Tax.

Why, after resisting Brown’s unrelenting pressure, did the CFT leadership capitulate? Why did it switch camps in order to stand with the 1 percent when it had previously condemned CTA for doing just that? In essence, it tried to pursue a radical policy by taking conservative steps, so its efforts were doomed to failure at the outset.

Today, unions are notoriously top-down (and that is why there is an uncomfortable and unstable alliance between the unions and Occupy). Top union officials, for example, make it a studied practice to keep their members in the dark about their political maneuvering. They give huge sums of money to politicians — mostly Democrats — without providing the rank and file a full accounting, let alone a balance sheet on how the politicians performed after receiving the money. If no one knows what union officials are doing, there can be no objections.

CFT leaders proceeded along similar top-down lines in pursuing the Millionaires Tax. They did not try to create a real grassroots movement. They could have collected email addresses of all the volunteers who participated in the signature-gathering campaign so that everyone could be kept informed on a regular basis about how the campaign was progressing. Using email blasts, CFT leaders could have inspired their volunteers by providing them with frequent encouraging reports. The leaders could have provided a means for volunteers to communicate among themselves about successful approaches to attracting signatures. CFT leaders could have created regional organizing centers so that efforts could have been better coordinated. And union leaders could have provided its volunteers with an in-depth analysis of why the top leaders of other unions were avoiding the Millionaires Tax. In this way CFT could have thrown a spotlight on the influence and power of the 1 percent and provided volunteers with possibly their first serious political education. Had all these tactics been employed, many more signatures could have been gathered.

Instead, CFT officials basically let the volunteers struggle on their own. Symbolically, when the CFT leadership decided to drop its support of the Millionaires Tax, the volunteers only found out by reading newspaper reports. And according to one CFT local president, top CFT leaders did not even consult with their local leadership, resulting in his blistering attack: “Locally, your AFT Guild leadership is sickened to learn of this back room deal.”

To make matters worse, when trying to justify his decision at the Occupy Education meeting, CFT President Josh Pechthalt admitted that from the very beginning he was trying to broker a deal with Governor Jerry Brown, giving the audience he was addressing — who had been vigorously promoting the Millionaires Tax — the impression they were simply pawns in a game that was playing out behind their backs: their efforts in support of the Millionaires Tax were really bargaining chips to be used to pressure Jerry Brown to adopt a slightly more progressive alternative to his original tax proposal.

It should go without saying that massively mobilizing union members to fight for their own interests runs dead against the current union policy of trying to win modest demands by supporting Democrats, who receive most of their campaign contributions from the 1 percent. But the accelerating growth in the inequalities in wealth during the past three decades highlights how disastrous the strategy of depending on the Democrats has been. Operating in this framework, unions are forced to accept only what is deemed permissible by the 1 percent. That has consistently meant lower wages and reduced pensions. And union officials’ defense of this approach as the only realistic alternative merely creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: as long as the membership is not inspired and mobilized, of course they do not represent another option to the reliance on Democrats.

Students, teachers, and social service workers in the Occupy Education movement are not wavering in their commitment to the Millionaires Tax. They have already succeeded in mobilizing thousands on March 1 and 5 in support of this measure. They are courageously shining a light on the way forward for the labor movement. It is only a matter of time that organized labor itself will have to follow their lead.

Report this post as:

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 4 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
the problems with Unions Union Yes Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Lets's see... PrionPartyy Friday, Mar. 23, 2012 at 12:32 AM
actually... Union Yes Friday, Mar. 23, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A13 12:39AM

lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

Change Links April 2018 A01 6:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Creative Destruction Hack Diamonds Windows/iOS/Android - Creative Destruction Generator S19 12:51AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Creative Destruction Hack Mod Generator S15 3:49AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Propagande de virus, virus de propagande S10 7:34AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

Sweatshop Lodge Ceremony Continues in US Fed Prisons Led by Inmates S08 6:17PM

Paraphysique de l'origami S08 7:11AM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Du réussissement putréfié S06 10:55AM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Log S06 4:25AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

Paraphysique de contextualité S05 8:29AM

Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism S03 3:39PM

Ex-voto de réification S03 10:24AM

Please Oppose Warmonger, Execution and Torture Supporting Bush Operative Brett Kavanaugh A31 10:45PM

Paraphysique d'exploitation occultation A31 10:24PM

Ryan Zinke Is Charging Taxpayers For A Trophy Hunters' Council A31 2:10PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy