Brown or Whitman? No contest

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Sidebar to The pummeling of SF Labor

Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman? Barbara Boxer or Carly Fiorina? For labor voters, the choice should be obvious.

All too often, we're faced with choosing between the lesser of two political evils, but not this time. Democrat Jerry Brown has proven throughout his long political career to be one of the best friends labor has ever had, and shows no sign that he'd be anything else if returned to the governorship in November.

I particularly recall the great political skill Brown demonstrated in convincing the State Legislature to enact what is still the only law outside Hawaii guaranteeing farm workers the collective bargaining rights granted most non-agricultural workers in the 1930s.

It's impossible to imagine Brown's Republican challenger having the will or the skill to do something like that. Whitman's position on labor is precisely the opposite of Brown. She has made union bashing, and especially the bashing of public employee unions, a major theme of her campaign.

On the national level, Democratic Senator Boxer has long been a solid labor supporter and surely merits re-election in November. Like Brown, she's in a contest against a mediocre Republican candidate, but one with many, many bucks to spend on her campaign.

Some of the nine initiatives on the state ballot would be good for labor, some not so good.  Prop. 25 is easily the best of the bunch for labor and just about everybody else. It would require a simple majority vote of the Legislature to adopt the annual state budget rather than the current requirement of a two-thirds majority.  The great difficulty of lining up two-thirds support has often resulted in legislative stalemates that have forced some state operations to be cut back or even temporarily shut down for days, sometimes weeks. No money, as they say, no service.

Prop. 23 is bad news. The measure, backed by Big Oil and other major polluters,  would suspend the state air pollution laws that limit  omission of greenhouse gases known to cause global warming until statewide unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or lower for one year, which – surprise! -  is not about  to happen. Not for a long time, anyway.

Corporate greedheads could lose big, however, with passage of Prop. 24. It would repeal $1.7 billion in tax breaks granted big corporations during last year's budget negotiations, or "backroom budget deals," in the impolite but quite accurate words of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT).

The CFT, an AFL-CIO affiliate, and the rival California Teachers Association  (CTA), an affiliate of the National Education Association, are both campaigning for the excellent Democratic candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Assemblyman and former State Sen. Tom Torlakson of Antioch.

They stress Torlakson's experience as a longtime high school science teacher and part-time community college teacher and his commitment to increasing badly needed funding for the state's schools, as shown by the bills he authored that have provided more than $3 billion in school aid.

-- Dick Meister