Dick Meister: Labor's big day

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Now that the election dust has settled, it's clear that organized labor was a big winner locally, statewide and nationally.

In San Francisco, more than half the winning candidates for local office had labor backing, as did all local candidates for state office and all but two of the winning city propositions.

Labor did as well statewide, with voters soundly rejecting State Prop 32 that would have greatly diminished unions' political strength.  Defeating the proposition was by far labor's most important election goal.

Almost as important was Prop 30, which will provide badly needed increases in funding for education and other local services and reduce the state budget deficit.  Funding will come primarily from higher taxes on the wealthy.

Prop 38, which labor successfully opposed, would have provided only increased education funding and that wouldn't even have included funding for the community colleges that provide vital job training. Funds for Prop 38 would have come from taxes on everyone, including the poor. 

Labor's campaigning nationally was done largely – and extensively – for President Obama and Democrats who had hoped to substantially increase the party's narrow margin in the Senate and even regain control of the House.

But though they failed to elect more friendly congressional Democrats who would back labor's political agenda, unions can correctly assume that Obama will be as friendly to labor in his second term as he was in is first four years in office.  Pro-labor measures that unions might fail to push through Congress could very well be enacted through presidential executive orders, if not through presidential pressures on Congress.

Labor's election victories included increases in the minimum wage rates in Albuquerque, San Jose and Long Beach, and the defeat of anti-union measures in several states.

Labor Notes' Samantha Winslow reported, for instance, that unions helped defeat a measure in Illinois that would have changed the state constitution to require a three-fifths majority vote by the legislature to increase public employee pensions, while requiring only a simple majority to make pension cuts. It would have superseded collective bargaining over pension improvements at the state and local levels

Unions also played a major role in helping groups fighting voter suppression in Ohio and elsewhere, and in the successful re-election campaign of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of the Senate's most labor- friendly members.

Labor's political efforts obviously aren't going to end with the election over. Unions already are planning drives to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts.

"Some legislators and their backers on Wall Street are already set on reaching a 'grand bargain' in the next eight weeks," says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He says they're aiming to raise the retirement age for Social Security and the eligibility requirements for Medicare and Medicaid.

Trumka has a better idea.  He says "Congress must let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2 percent and make no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid."

Those are among the most important of the many tough political issues now facing unions and their supporters in San Francisco, and throughout California and the rest of the country. As the election proved beyond doubt, unions have what's needed to seriously challenge their opponents and in the process provide important help to us all.

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Comments

sclerotic public sector. Progress is rarely continuous, and relapses occur from time to time, But the trend is clear enough - organized labor is a 20th century throwback and increasingly irrelevant in a modern, knowledge-based economy. Enjoy your delusion of relevance; few others will even notice.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

...even less will notice...your sorry ass...

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 9:44 am