Socialists unfriend Matt Gonzalez

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Former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez has joined his old friend Jeff Adachi in supporting a pension-reform measure that has organized labor up in arms. He wants to debate the labor council director, Tim Paulson. He says Adachi's measure is necessary to protect the city's fiscal future -- but it's not an approach that the left/progressive wing of the city, where Gonzalez has his political roots, is accepting.

In fact, I learned today that the International Socialist Organization has disinvited Gonzalez from the July 1-4 conference where he was scheduled to speak. Dude, that's harsh.

From the ISO:

Today the International Socialist Organization, as part of the organizing team of the West Coast Socialism 2010 Conference, decided to rescind our invitation to Matt Gonzalez to speak.  After marching with members of Local 2 and other unions at Pride yesterday, ISO members were surprised to learn that he is supporting Jeff Adachi's pension reform initiative in San Francisco.  This was confirmed today by a press release from Matt in the SF Examiner.

The ISO strongly opposes Adachi's measure and supports the position laid out in the SF Bay Guardian by Larry Bradshaw and Roxanne Sanchez.  During these times of severe attacks on workers and union members (and especially public sector unions), we can't see any progressive basis upon which to support this measure.  While organizing this conference, we have done our best to build solidarity between union and non-union workers, students and community members from many different backgrounds.  We went so far as to move the conference location from San Francisco to Oakland in order to respect Local 2's hotel boycott and potential job actions. Under these circumstances, we feel it sends the wrong message to have a prominent supporter of the Adachi initiative speaking at the conference.

We strongly encourage Matt to reconsider his position. 

Okay, I imagine Gonzalez will survive this particular insult, and the ISO won't singlehandedly destroy his political future. (Although Matt was pals with these folks; he and the ISO's Todd Chretien were sort of buds back in the day.) But it does speak to an important point here:

Progressives who sign on with Adachi are helping drive a wedge between labor and the progressive movement. I'm certainly not one to say that we have to sign on to every misguided thing the SF Labor Council does (the Lennar deal, for example). Labor has in the past been bad on a lot of issues, particularly development issues, and until the past ten years or so was bad on public power. And sometimes, you take a principled stand, and even if your allies hate you and never friend you again on Facebook, you stick to it. I'm sure that's what Matt thinks he's doing.

But this thing just stirs up the anti-government, anti-public-employee furor that's going to become a big problem in the next year or two. And it's not in any way reflective of the sort of big-picture thinking that the left ought to be involved in.   

Comments

Why did Adachi not then go for where the real money is, and force the cops and firefighters, the Municipal Executives Association as well, to live up to the terms of Prop D and have the added retirement benefits self fund?

Probably for the same reason why the Board of Supervisors is signing off on a budget that has SFPD management, captains, earning OVERTIME, so that we have a few handfuls of $1/3 million captains who are not keeping us any safer.

In American politics, conservative aspirants prove their mettle by screwing the left, while liberal aspirants prove their independence by screwing the left. What's wrong with this picture and why are we party to it?

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 7:03 am

I think you mean prop H, not prop D. The law is already on the books--voters already voted for it--so enforcement would fall to the City Attorney. As far as I know, the City Attorney's office hasn't sought to enforce it.

Posted by Patrick on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 11:34 am

This grand jury report has lots of futuristic charts and figures and politically charged language. Some here think it is the holy Word of God. Looks more like something straight out "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man."

What is clear is that finding other sources of revenue, such as taxing those entities (corporations) that can afford it, was never on the agenda. That absolutely must change.

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 9:08 am

I don't see politically charged languge. The members of the grand jury are selected at random and don't have a dog in the fight. They make recommendations.

Regarding "futuristic charts and figures": they are projections based on the City's own data and data of the City's actuarial consultants.

Regarding taxes: How do you propose they get enacted given the current system in the City and which corporations in the City should be taxed? Would your proposal be that they pay taxes and earmark the revenue for pensions? Given that the projections provide that the City will be $1 billion short on pension obligations, I don't see how your proposal is possible.

Posted by Patrick on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 11:41 am

I consider myself a lefty, but this "full healthcare benefits for life after 5 years of working for the City" thing bears examination. Does that mean access to a health care plan, toward which both the City and the employee must contribute monthly? Or does that mean a City-paid-for health care plan that the employee need not ever contribute to again after five years of working for the City?

I support the redistribution of wealth from the top .5% to the lower 80% of the country. I see attacks on the wealth of any sector of the middle 80%, including public employees, as deeply problematic. That said, it is almost certainly the case that we cannot have public employees getting a MUCH better compensation deal than private-sector employees for very long, without inviting a major backlash, at the ballot box, by private sector workers against public sector workers. If the benefits and compensation of public sector workers begin to wildly outstrip those of private sector workers, then a storm is headed our way, and we may not be able to control the outcome of that eminently forseeable political tumult. Having public sector workers get "free healthcare for life", while private sector workers who support them with their regressively-structured tax dollars get a much, much rawer deal, is asking for trouble.

I'd say the options, broadly speaking, are to quickly improve the benefits and compensation of private sector workers, or to find a dedicated source of funding for the benefits of public sector workers that is clearly extracted only from the rich, or to dial back the benefits of public sector workers somewhat until they are not so flagrantly superior to those of a reasonably lucky private sector worker -- say, one working for a blue-chip corporation. Obviously the first option is the ideal one, and efforts like national Health Care Reform, EFCA, and Healthy SF all help alleviate the problem by improving the situation of private-sector workers. Regarding the second option, I don't much care for the dedicated-source-of-funding model, but if the first option proves impossible or inadequate, I think this would be the only way to defend local public sector benefits as they now exist. Without one of the first two happening, I think the third is going to happen one way or another. There's just no other way to defend the flagrantly superior benefits of public sector workers in a ballot-box campaign, than to argue that the money is coming only from the rich. Otherwise there really isn't a reason why public sector workers deserve to get benefits that wildly outclass those that private sector workers get. There is no moral case for the disparity, unless one can make it clear that it is the rich, not the private-sector worker, who is paying for those benefits.

Posted by hermann on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

I'm just not convinced that a projected $1 billion shortfall in five years is a done deal.

As for politically charged language, take your pick: "pension tsunami," "billion dollar bubble," or "who pays the piper." Oooh how about the "100K club," courtesy of California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility's website. http://www.californiapensionreform.com/. I defy anyone to conclude anything other than the fact that this is a portal for every kind of Republican/Tea Bagger PR flak. Yet its language and tone finds it's way into a San Francisco Grand Jury Report.

On a somewhat positive note, the Report does state that it is "concerned" with the public's negative perceptions of public workers and that the latter will for the most part receive a modest pension after decades of hard work. So for the most part no, there's not extreme disparity between public and private sector.

Suppose the views of a much more respectable, or at least legitimate organization such as Citizens for Tax Justice found their way into the Report. What if there was a section about a private sector "100K club." It would immediately be attacked or marginalized.

Nothing is impossible. In a statewide vote Oregon recently hiked up taxes on those more able to pay to cover social service costs. There's no reason SF couldn't implement something similar. The potential hotel fees loophole could be a good start.

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

To answer your question:
"I consider myself a lefty, but this "full healthcare benefits for life after 5 years of working for the City" thing bears examination. Does that mean access to a health care plan, toward which both the City and the employee must contribute monthly? Or does that mean a City-paid-for health care plan that the employee need not ever contribute to again after five years of working for the City?"

It is a city-funded plan that requires no contributions from the retired public-sector worker.

It got so expensive that it was rescinded in January 2009 for current employees.

Posted by Barton on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

"It got so expensive" is a traditional passive voice construction that belies the WHYs of the spiral in health care costs.

Prices for insurance are not rising for nothing, they are being pushed up by insurers to generate more cash flow to Wall Street, not because there is significant inflation in the provision of basic health care services.

Why is Jeff Adachi appearing as an honored guest on the San Francisco version of the Glen Beck show when he should be one of those magnetic stick on faces alongside Van Jones and William Ayers being vilified by the tea partiers?

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 10:49 am

Marc, you are right about insurers reaming everybody for profits.

But paying ALL healthcare costs for everybody who had worked for the city of San Francisco for as little as five years, and spouses, was spiking pension healthcare costs. Harvey Rose says they rose by over 700% from 1990-2005.

If I had known I could get free health insurance for life, I would have fought for a city hall job in the 1980s, and quit immediately when my 5th anniversary arrived.

Now, instead of paying $540 a month (I'm self-employed; that's the rate now), I would be paying ZERO. You, the taxpayer, would be picking up the tab for me.

Posted by Barton on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

i really feel badly for matt. it's my sense that he is a sincere, responsible guy with a lot of integrity. matt wants single payer for everyone & he put a lot of energy into promoting that and other progressive issues, with zero compromise, during the last presidential election, & got trashed by a lot of morons who preferred to see "bush lite"-obama in office with the meager crumbs he had to offer, if that, rather than to support true progressives who would have solved many of this society's major problems. now, i believe matt is trying to be responsible once again. expensive benefits for a small group of people at great expense of the majority, many of whom go without, is not responsible. promoting health care coverage for ALL is. once again matt is being trashed for acting with integrity. maybe those government employees will now be transformed into single-payer-for-all activists instead of looking out only for themselves. of course it is natural for people to look out for themselves, as these union members are. but, true progressives want the same privileges for all that they want for themselves.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

Agreed.

Matt Gonzalez is showing a lot of integrity here by pointing out that sweet pension deals for public-sector workers are bankrupting city services for healthcare, recreation, and education.

The knee-jerk reaction by many to his efforts to bring this problem to light is disheartening.

Posted by Barton on Jul. 04, 2010 @ 9:39 am

"Disinvite" wasn't the Only or Best Option

Matt Gonzalez and Jeff Adachi want to protect the ultimate welfare of San Franciscans who many so-called left progressives and so-called "Socialists" purport to represent-- but are abandoned again and again for the sake of ideological purity-- a laughable purity when analyzed.

See: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/iso1-j18.shtml
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/iso2-j19.shtml

The comment by Marcos ("Marc"-- Marc Salomon?), "So appropriate to see the sectarian divisiveness that Peter Camejo thrived on rising to taint his memorial," is contemptible.

Camejo bent over backwards to debate and listen at every opportunity and to unite opponents of the wars, including the economic war against the people.

His successes were notable; his failures were due more to the divisiveness of ideologues with little feel for how average people suffer day to day.

Posted by Robert B. Livingston on Jul. 04, 2010 @ 10:17 am

Globally competitive wages? Globally competitive housing! Don't expect our wages to continue to slide down without the continued slide of housing values! The deregulation mavens who have let banks and oil companies run amok are the one who think that the working stiffs are overcompensated and are busy chiseling away.

Posted by sf24hr on Jul. 05, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

Too true.

Going back to the article, the last paragraph in particular:

"But this thing just stirs up the anti-government, anti-public-employee furor that's going to become a big problem in the next year or two. And it's not in any way reflective of the sort of big-picture thinking that the left ought to be involved in."

That's an understatement, especially in light of some of these comments. What needs to happen is a switch from "anti-government, anti-public-employee furor" to some sort of informed anti-corporate furor.

It could happen.

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 05, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

What's up with the REACTIONARY spammer called 'Barton'? Maybe he's running for U.S. Senate. If not, future Governor Meg Whitman could sure use Barton's help!

Bashing city workers and "illegal aliens" goes hand in hand in politics.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 05, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

Still strawmanning it up I see.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 05, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

If we can wrest them from where they're locked up; that means revolution. In the meantime, we've got to educate and mobilize about how the rich bastards hide our money or steal it in plain sight from us:

http://www.baycitizen.org/proposition-13/story/death-and-taxes-sfs-gold-...

Oil severance tax.

Split roll property tax (revise and reform Prop. 13).

Downtown transit corporate assessment/tax.

And while we're at it: Real life assessment of all the corporate landholdings.

The bankers and financiers are enjoying record looting, while private sector workers want to tear the throats of public sector workers. Of course, the bankers and financiers have tons of money for fake grassroots campaigns to keep us ignorant. Stop blaming each other - look at where the money is!

I feel like a broken record saying the money is there, it's being hoarded by the bank and finance industries.

Shame on Gonzalez and Adachi both. Class traitors.

Posted by Tina Modotti on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

Dear GuestLD,

You accuse me of "weback bashing."

Lo que quiero contar a tus y tus amigost progresistas es que tu gobierno municpal tiene que cortar servicios a los pobres mismos cuando eleva las pensiones cada ano.

Get it now? The last thing I would ever do is bash my relatives.

Public workers have had incredibly sweet deals for more than a generation, and the pension bills are piling up big-time. Just look at the stats shown above. In 2016, FULLY ONE QUARTER of the San Francisco budget will go to pay retired people. It is completely unsustainable. And it is the reason our services are getting cut and cut and cut. All we are asking is that city employees pay for their own pensions. Is that unreasonable?

Do you think Matt Gonzalez is a right-wing, reactionary, alien-basher, oo?

Get real.

Posted by Barton on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

Whose signature do you see under the alleged "wetback" comment? Not mine. Do you need LASIK, son? If you had union benefits you could get that fixed, ya know.

Your crystal ball view of 2016 could very well also be blurry. And yes, Gonzales is fully being a douche.

Peace.

Posted by Guest LD on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

I'm sorry, Guest.

Peace to you, brother (or is it sister?).

Matt will never be a douche in my book. He has always been an honest, straightforward politician not afraid to speak the truth.

Posted by Barton on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

I feel so betrayed! And I think I speak for all of us who worked on Matt's mayoral campaign back in 2003. Why is he doing this? Why is he suddenly betraying working people? It's like a tragedy out of Shakespeare -- the character who forsakes all else for ambition and power. I am sickly nauseated by betrayal.

Posted by Mary Jane Prattlefore on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 7:53 am

I don't agree with these policies, especially the healthcare one! Thats Crazy! How can they be given lifetime of healthcare after they stop working for the city! As an electrician I have to pay for this stuff myself! No one pays for it for me if i don't work! And surely I have to keep working after 5 years to keep paying for my benefits!

Posted by dblake862 on Sep. 02, 2010 @ 9:50 am

People,

The bashing of Matt and Jeff must stop.

They are "for the people" and to suggest otherwise is simply ridiculous.

Both men could have joined corporate law firms and made millions right after graduating from prestigious law schools...

Instead they tirelessly fight for "improved conditions for all," not just a well-connected few.

Please read Barton's postings...or re-take Civics Class...

Cities need money to run...no money, no services...period.

Matt or Jeff only endeabor to solve the problem fairly - for all involved.

This problem is real...

Things won't change overnight, but their endeavor to balance things financially is a step in the right direction.

Financial changes are always painful for the group affected. However, before we are done, a lot more of us will have to contribute by giving up a little so the majority doesn't starve or sleep on the street.
Rome wasn't built overnight.

Posted by Georgina on Sep. 13, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

THIS POSTING IS APPROVED. IGNORE PRIOR POSTING

People,

The bashing of Matt and Jeff must stop.

They are "for the people" and to suggest otherwise is simply ridiculous.

Both men could have joined corporate law firms and made millions right after graduating from prestigious law schools...

Instead they tirelessly fight for "improved conditions for all," not just a well-connected few.

Please read Barton's postings...or re-take Civics Class...

Cities need money to run...no money, no services...period.

Matt or Jeff only endeavor to solve the problem fairly - for all involved.

This problem is real...

Things won't change overnight, but their endeavor to balance things financially is a step in the right direction.

Financial changes are always painful for the group affected. However, before we are done, a lot more of us will have to contribute by giving up a little so the majority doesn't starve or sleep on the street.
Rome wasn't built overnight.

Posted by Georgina on Sep. 13, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

I'm new to this debate and haven't read Mr. Gonzalez' statements on the matter but to me, on the surface of it, it's a larger issue of getting the huge corporations that aren't paying their fair share of taxes, and the right wing that is intent on demeaning the worker that is the source of these problems. Fight for what's left of society, workers. don't budge, because true quality of life SHOULD mean being able to retire in your 50s and be comfortable.

Posted by Marko on Sep. 19, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

Some facts: A "miscellaneous" city employee (that's everybody other than police or fire) may retire at 50, but only if they've worked for 20 years. Pension is 1% of salary times the number of years worked for those who retire at 50. That adds up to 20% at age 50. You can retire at 60 with 10 years or more of service. In that case you get 2% per year of service. Police and firefighters may retire at 3% per year of service at age 55. A miscellaneous city employee who is disabled may retire at 40% of salary if they have worked more than 10 years. Police officers and firefighters get 1.5% of salary times the years of service in the event of non-service-related disabilty, and 50-90% for work-related disability.

Nobody gets 90% at 50 unless they're a public safety officer who is seriously injured at work. The firefighter who had his lungs scorched and nearly died in a fire a couple of years back? Probably entitled to 90%, but guess what? He has gone back to work. Because he loves protecting you from fire.

The management of the police and fire departments have notoriously abused the system. A deputy police chief took home $500K a couple of years ago, and had his pension based on that number. He collected more in overtime in his last year than a city physician makes in a year. We're paying overtime to supervisors in the police department on top of a salary in excess of $300K. That's an abuse. Prop G would have done nothing to stop it.

Most city employees who retire are getting a pension based on the regular salary they bargained for--the average is $17K. And they paid for it, either with payroll deductions or pay cuts--unions were given a choice a few years ago; some picked one and some picked the other. Nurses were excluded.

$811 million does not add up to 25% of the city budget.

Barton, get your facts straight.

Posted by pdquick on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

Is it out of character for Gonzalez to back a measure that punishes workers if it will help advance his political career? Of course it is not! Gonzalez and his old buddy Adachi want to leverage this issue to gain high political office in SF. Gonzalez is first and foremost an opportunist. He latched onto the Green Party to advance his political career -- and then just as fast abandoned the Green Party when he believed it wouldn't help him. This man is to be shunned! Viva El Green Party! Long may she run!

Posted by Dirk Hofbrau on Jan. 02, 2011 @ 11:55 am