California a right-to-work state? Stop effort now

There is a sneaky initiative on the November ballot that would put California on its way to higher poverty and lower wages. Dubbed the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act,” this initiative could increase the number of uninsured workers, double the wage gap, and cut your annual income by almost $6,000.

Also known as the “Paycheck Protection” initiative, the measure would put California on a path to becoming a right-to-work state, that is, a state that limits collective bargaining.

The initiative claims that it will remove “Big money Interests from politics” by banning unions and corporations from using “payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.” The deceptive part is that corporations almost never use payroll deductions to raise political campaign funds but unions do almost exclusively – sometimes in amounts as low as $1 a week.

This bill would hurt working people’s ability to fight antiunion bills, while corporations would be able to make their usual political donations through Political Action Committees and individual contributions by highly paid executives.

The initiative is backed by billionaire television tycoon A. Jerrold Perenchio and Californians Against Special InterestsRight-to-work states are most often states with higher poverty levels, lower wages and lower gross domestic product. For women, in particular, right-to-work laws result in a wider gap between the average earnings of women and the average earnings of men.

Last year, New Hampshire legislators rebuffed an attempt to pass a right-to-work law there. An Economic Policy Institute brief summarized why: “A right-to-work law could lower New Hampshire workers’ wages, reduce benefits, and threaten the state’s small business and health care sectors while doing nothing to boost job growth.”

Supporters of right-to-work laws say that by limiting collective bargaining and thus the power of unions, states will attract more business. This has not proven true since the economy has globalized. Companies looking for lower wages go to China, not Oklahoma.

Oklahoma adopted right-to-work laws and has seen one-third fewer corporations coming into the state while wages of nonunion workers have fallen 4.3 percent.

California can’t afford to follow in Oklahoma’s footsteps.

This initiative would open the door to worker-exploitative legislation in the future, according to Tony Alexander, political director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, the largest private sector union in Northern California. The proposed legislation would ban unions from political spending – and thus their members – but not corporations or corporate employees. Thus big business would have carte blanche to push laws that treat working people even more harshly. “Corporations currently outspend unions 15 to 1 on political contributions,” he said.

Christy Bouma, who has spent 12 years working on behalf of the California Professional Firefighters, calls the initiative a “corporate deception.”

Voters, don’t be taken in by the appealing suggestion to “stop special interest money.” Use your voice to stop this initiative so that the workers of California don’t lose theirs.

Here is what California (and many of the other states with similar bills in the pipeline) can lose if this initiative is passed:

— The average annual wage for non-right-to-work states is almost $6,000 higher than right-to-work states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

— The percentage of the population without health insurance of non-right-to-work states is 16.1 percent in right-to-work states, compared to 13.4 percent elsewhere.

— The poverty rate is 13.4 percent in right-to-work states, as compared with 10. 2 percent elsewhere.


This article first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle