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PORTSIDE  December 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE December 2011, Week 1

Subject:

California Unions Choose Tax Plan Backed by Brown, Corporations over Millionaires' Tax

From:

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Date:

Mon, 5 Dec 2011 21:41:22 -0500

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (221 lines)

California Unions Choose Tax Plan Backed by Brown, Corporations
over Millionaires' Tax for November 2012

by Randy Shaw, 2011-12-05 

http://quartz.he.net/~beyondch/news/nucleus/plugins/print/print.php?itemid=9737

SEIU, AFSCME and likely the California Teachers
Association are joining with Governor Brown and big
corporations to back a November tax initiative that
sunsets in 2016 and bypasses a straight tax on
millionaires in favor of taxing those with lower
incomes. Despite the expected huge Democratic turnout,
the state's largest unions are supporting a corporate
backed plan that is less progressive than the
grassroots millionaire's tax, produces less revenue,
and earmarks nothing specifically for education. Even
worse, it is only temporary, with voters having to
approve an extension in four years. Why would labor
back such a flawed plan that polls show is less popular
than the straight tax on millionaires? Because Brown
convinced labor leaders to side with him and his
corporate allies, rather than with the Courage
Campaign, the Alliance of Californians for Community
Empowerment (ACCE), the California Federation of
Teachers and other grassroots groups seeking to raise
$6 billion annually by raising taxes on millionaires.

When I heard that most of organized labor and likely
the state Democratic Party would be supporting Governor
Brown's corporate-backed, temporary-tax initiative
rather than the long planned millionaire's tax, I found
it hard to believe. But my information was then
confirmed by news reports.

Despite all the activism around Occupy, the state's
leading unions will be putting all their money and
troops behind an initiative that raises taxes on people
of all incomes, rather than targeting millionaires.
This initiative also requires another ballot struggle
in what could be a far less favorable political climate
in four years.

Instead of targeting the 1%, the labor-backed
initiative raises billions of dollars from a sales tax
hike. I'm sure the Howard Jarvis anti-tax folks can't
wait to run ads about AFSCME's running a $400,000
campaign in San Francisco attacking sales tax hikes as
part of its campaign against Mayor Ed Lee, yet now
urging state voters to back such a measure.

Labor, Democrats Betray Students

Despite the renewed campus activism throughout
California that has emerged around the Occupy movement,
the labor-Brown-corporate backed initiative earmarks
nothing specifically for higher education. In contrast,
the millionaire's tax guarantees an additional $3.6
billion annually for this vital need.

Cheryl Deutsch, President of UAW 2865 - UC
student-workers, the union that represents 12,000 TAs,
readers, and tutors said, "We've been beaten and
pepper-sprayed for telling the millionaires and bankers
on the boards of our universities that they and their
peers need to pay more in taxes for public education
and essential services. Rather than siding with us, the
Governor's initiative sides with those same
millionaires and bankers by increasing sales tax on the
rest of us."

Charlie Eaton, Financial Secretary of UAW 2865 added,
"The Governor's initiative makes students and workers
pay more in sales taxes and doesn't devote any of the
new revenue to our state's higher education system. We
need the Governor and Sacramento union insiders to side
with us by supporting a progressive initiative that
will do that."

The grassroots groups behind the millionaire's tax were
working closely with various SEIU locals, and were
hopeful of getting the SEIU state council to support
the measure. But intervention by Governor Brown shifted
the union's stance, with the large statewide SEIU-UHW
local leading the fight to support the politicians'
plan.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry can get arrested at
Occupy events, and her union can put out press releases
and give speeches about targeting millionaires, but
when the rubber hit the road in California, SEIU sided
with the political and corporate elite against the
grassroots groups mobilizing for the 99%. Labor had a
great opportunity to make common cause with grassroots
activists in California, and instead chose the more
politically safe course.

Contrary to media reports, CTA has not yet made a final
decision to back the Governor's plan over the community
measure, but it appears imminent. The only reason I can
think of that the California Teachers Association would
back a plan that does not guarantee a dollar beyond the
legally mandated Prop 98 allocation to K-12 schools is
because the Governor has sweetened the pot in some side
deal.

The Safe and Secure Path?

California labor unions are typically cautious about
ballot measures. When they get behind an initiative,
such as the state minimum wage hike, they pick an
increase amount that is overwhelming favored in polls.
This results in smaller victories, but triumphs
nonetheless.

But in polling done for the proposed tax measures, the
most popular idea was that the richest Californians
should pay their fair share to restore funding for
schools and services. According to pollster Ben Tulchin
"Extensive recent public and private polling show that
California voters strongly support a progressive
approach of raising taxes on the rich to fund education
and other essential services that have been cut in
recent years."

So did labor take a more risky course in going with the
Governor and his corporate allies?

The Governor likely argued that polls taken a year
before elections do not mean squat. He likely argued
that the millionaires' tax would bring in tens of
millions of opposition funding, while corporate
California has already signed off on the measure
including the sales tax hike. Brown offered labor a
bird in the hand, which the largest unions accepted

Brown did not have to tell union leaders that he would
be the Governor at least until 2014, and would have the
opportunity to repay labor in other areas if they
joined his 2012 initiative team. That's understood.

Also understood is what Brown gave to corporations in
exchange for being part of his coalition. Corporations
likely demanded the sales tax hike and avoiding a tax
on millionaires, as the last thing they want is to deal
with a ballot initiative whose 1% v. 99% stirs up the
passions of the Occupy movement.

Competing Measures No Obstacle

The lack of support from large unions makes funding the
millionaire's tax measure much more challenging. The
Courage Campaign in particular has had success raising
money online, but SEIU, AFSCME and CTA could have
easily provided enough money to virtually guarantee
victory.

Now these unions will be putting millions of dollars
into a tax measure not even opposed by the state's
large corporations or the wealthy. Meanwhile,
grassroots groups and some smaller unions will be
working to pass a tax on those earning $1 million and
up, restoring an estimated $6 billion annually for
education, essential services, public safety, and road
maintenance, with about $3.6 billion going to K-12 as
well as higher education.

Three other measures have also been filed, including
one filed by billionaire investor Nicholas Berggruen
that is supported by the head of Google, Eli Broad,
Willie Brown and other luminaries. On first glance even
this measure appears preferable to the Brown plan, as
it raises $10 billion largely for education without a
sunset clause.

The multiple measures led the San Francisco Chronicle
to conclude that "Voters have rejected the last seven
tax-raising measures put before them, and history shows
that when Californians see similar-sounding measures on
the ballot, they vote no on all of them."

Not quite. The closest example to what voters could
face in 2012 occurred in 1988, when multiple insurance
reform measures resulted in voters defeating nearly all
but passing Prop 103, the most progressive of the
bunch. Measures without grassroots support and
dependent on television advertising have problems in a
crowded market; a millionaires' tax backed by a
grassroots campaign can emulate Prop 103's success.

California's leading unions have again put their
interests in the hands of Jerry Brown, a politician who
has shown mixed loyalty to their cause, and even to the
Democratic Party. The campaign for the millionaires'
tax (formally known as the California Funding
Restoration Act) offers a different vision for
achieving social change, one that is more in tune with
the spirit of the Occupy movement.

Randy Shaw is author of The Activist's Handbook and
Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the
Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. 

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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