Over the weekend I and 350 other State Association Leaders attended the 2010 Super Session where each year we meet to be brought up to date with the current challenges Classified employee’s face in Sacramento.
As always there are many inspirational moments and speeches, this year I felt it especially important to share with the Chapter, the remarks of Dave Low, CSEA Director of Governmental Relations, the following is a transcript of his speech to the super session.
Super Session 2010
In almost thirty years with CSEA I have seen good times and bad times. I have negotiated double digit salary increases and I have negotiated layoffs. I have worked in Governmental Relations under Governor George Deukmejian, Governor Pete Wilson, Governor Gray Davis and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I have lobbied for and gotten bills signed to increase pensions, provide binding arbitration for discipline, guarantee agency shop and stop outsourcing of classified jobs. And I have lobbied to kill bills to repeal outsourcing protections, roll back pensions, eliminate collective bargaining and make California a right to work state.
Such is the ebb and flow of politics in California. Sometimes the tide flows with us, sometimes against us. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.
But this year, this time, this election, is the most crucial in my career, and perhaps the most important in CSEA’s history. We face, in California, an incredible crossroad. We are coming out of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
We have gone from first in the nation to almost last in education funding. Just last week the US census reported that the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its largest margin in history.
At the same time that the richest Americans are getting richer, and the poorest are getting poorer, public employees and working families are under attack. If you believe the newspapers or editorials, public employees are to blame for the budget deficit, the economic recession, home foreclosures, the Gulf oil spill and H1N1.
Conservative author, Stephen Greenhut even published a book, titled “Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”
Meg Whitman has made her positions clear in her ads, interviews and in the debate. She hates public employees. She has stated over and over that she will lay off 40,000 state employees, eliminate defined benefit pensions for all public employees except police and firefighters, cut education funding by $7 billion and repeal collective bargaining laws for public employees.
In the debate, Whitman did not go three minutes without bashing public employee unions or illegal immigrants. Now we find that she illegally hired an undocumented maid and lied about the letter she received from the federal government. After declaring for Governor Whitman fired Nicky Diaz.
After Diaz spent nine years caring for Whitman and her children, she told her “From now on you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You have never seen me, and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?”
Diaz said, “she was throwing me away like a piece of garbage.”
One thing that makes Whitman different from Governors Deukmejian, Wilson and even Schwarzenegger is that she is a billionaire. She has the money, the motivation and the malice to fund ballot measures that will drain our treasuries, strain our resources and attack every core value, right and benefit we have fought for in our 83 year history.
Brothers and sisters, this is an election we simply cannot lose. It is not just about our pensions, our rights and our jobs. It is about our future and the future of our children and grandchildren.
What will the world that they grow up and grow old in look like? Will we reinvest in our public schools, or will we instead provide tax breaks for millionaires that will force more education budget cuts?
Will workers be able to retire with dignity, or will we make Wall Street brokers rich while forcing all new public employees to gamble their retirement savings in the stock market?
Will public employees be treated with respect and enjoy rights in the workplace, or will we return to the days of meet and beg, where management had all the power?
President Clark has challenged you to meet some very specific goals. These goals are the building blocks of our success. CSEA has joined with other labor unions to plan, fund and deliver a very aggressive campaign to elect Jerry Brown and pass Propositions 24 and 25.
Four years ago at this time we faced a very different race for Governor. Phil Angelides trailed by fifteen points, had no money and little name recognition.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a household name and had millions in the bank. Unions were acting with virtually no coordination or cooperation.
We learned some important lessons from that campaign. Despite the fact that Meg Whitman has broken the record for spending in her attempt to buy the Governor’s office, she trails Jerry Brown in the polls.
Unions have worked together and funded an aggressive ad campaign. Jerry Brown has enough money in the bank to be competitive, he has name recognition, he has experience and we have a clear plan, path and program to win this election.
In the recent Field poll 47% of union members were supporting Jerry Brown and 41% were supporting Meg Whitman. We know that historically, when union members are contacted by other union members, 65 to 70 percent will vote our way.
That’s why our union member to member program is so important. If CSEA and other unions contact members and make our case, we can move enough votes just among union members to carry Jerry Brown to victory.
In addition, unions are working together on a statewide independent expenditure campaign to targeted non-union voters for the first time ever in a Governor’s race. We are pooling our money, our resources, our staff and our volunteers to reach out to over two million voters who have been identified as friendly to unions.
We have raised over $2 million and created a campaign committee, called Alliance for a Better California or ABC 2010. The CSEA/CAUSE program has taken responsibility for 200,000 of these targeted voters.
These voters have been identified through extensive research, micro-targeting, polling and focus group testing. We know that if they receive our message, a majority will vote our way. But we need to get our message to them and we need to turn them out to vote.
That’s where you come in. The goals outlined by President Clark are designed to help CSEA successfully complete our internal member to member program and our external CSEA/CAUSE campaign.
If you meet your goals, CSEA will meet its goals. If CSEA meets its, goals we help organized labor and ABC 2010 meet their goals. And if organized labor and ABC 2010 meet their goals, we will win.
Our campaign began contacting voters only two weeks ago, and already we are making a difference. For months, Brown and Whitman have been dead even in the polls, despite the fact that Whitman has spent over $120 million trying to buy this race.
After only two weeks of union voter contact and Jerry Brown commercials, key voters are moving our way. Union voters are coming home. Women voters are coming home. Latino voters are coming home.
Thursday, the California Labor Federation released its first tracking poll. The results:
Brown 46%, Whitman 36%
Boxer 46%, Fiorina 33%
Chiang 38%, Strickland 25%
Harris 30%, Cooley 27%
These numbers can and will change over the course of the campaign. But the fact that for four months Whitman and Brown were dead even, and after only two weeks of union member to member and external voter contact Brown leads by ten points shows how we can make a difference.
We understand that what is being asked of you is not easy. But we know it can be done, and we know you can do it, because CSEA members have always risen to the challenge.
I sometimes feel like the last six years have been one long series of elections, budget fights, precinct walks and phone banks. I must admit, sometimes I get tired.
But I am reminded of a story about the 1968 Olympics, which were held in Mexico City. The high altitude and heat made it difficult to walk, much less run, and they staged one of the most grueling marathons in Olympic history.
More than one hour after the gold medal winner had been crowned, the last few hundred spectators were trickling out of the stadium, a lone runner from Tanzania entered the stadium.
As he slowly plodded into view some of the people began to laugh. Then, as the exhausted runner, legs wobbly, right knee wrapped in a now dangling bandage, and feet bleeding slowly moved to the last four hundred meters, the laughter turned to silence.
The stadium lights were turned back on, and as he took his last, slow, painful strides towards the finish line the crowd that mocked him a few minutes earlier began cheering him on. Others, seeing even deeper into the man’s spirit began to cry.
Years later, sports commentator Bud Greenspan interviewed this runner, who was now a track coach. He asked why he continued running the race, hours after it was clear he had no chance for a medal.
The now graying coach replied, “I come from a small, poor country. Many people made sacrifices for me to go to Mexico City and run the marathon. They didn’t send me there to start the race. They sent me there to finish it.”
Brothers and sisters, our union members, our families, our students are relying on us to finish this race.
There is simply too much at stake. We have the opportunity over the next 31 days to change the course of history in California. We can stand up and fight back against the demonization of public employees, the privatization and outsourcing of jobs, the erosion of education funding and the attacks on our pensions.
We can tell Meg Whitman that California is not for sale. We are not EBay and you cannot simply push the Buy Me Now button.
We can send a message to legislators. That we elect you to stand up for education, not sell out. We elect you to solve problems, not make them worse. And if you can’t do the job, we will get rid of you and elect someone who can.
We can once again be the labor movement that was at the forefront of civil rights, voting rights, creating a free public education system and the elimination of child labor.
So if you believe that the middle class makes America strong, and organized labor makes the middle class strong, Stand up and fight back.
If you believe in social change, economic justice and public education, Stand Up and Fight Back.
If you believe our students are our future, and we are responsible for their future, then Stand Up and Fight Back.
Don’t sit back. Don’t lie down. Don’t roll over. Don’t give up. Stand Up, Fight Back and Kick Butt in November.