Northern California Carpenters Political Action
Paul Cohen, Director of Public and Governmental Relations Northern California Carpenters Regional Council
Carpenter politics is about jobs. We focus on measures that create good construction jobs, and we support candidates and elected officials who support us. That means electing people who support prevailing wages on construction projects, and who understand that investing in infrastructure like schools, roads and bridges, and transit projects boosts our economy and creates good middle-class jobs. Every month, sometimes every week, we have another success to report. Carpenters in Action (CIA) members have been very effective in urging elected officials to support good projects, and to create jobs throughout Northern California.
When those elected officials support us, we have to support them. It won't do any good for CIA members to show up at a hearing if none of the elected officials care about our issues, of if they think they'll be run out of office at the next election by anti-union forces. That's why we have an active political program – to support good jobs and the elected officials who make them possible.
Projects like the Oakland Airport Connector, and victories like the Project Labor Agreement covering another $1 billion in construction work at the San Francisco International Airport came about through political action. Our victories in defending payment of prevailing wage in local communities like Redding and Folsom are ultimately political in nature. Throughout the Regional Council, carpenter politics is delivering results, and putting people to work. Our opponents are getting tired of losing, and now instead of fighting us on the facts or the policy, they want to silence us altogether.
DON'T SILENCE OUR VOICE
In November 2012, for the third time in 14 years, California voters will be asked to vote on an initiative that will severely limit the ability of labor unions to participate in politics. Even though both previous efforts failed (and a fourth attempt failed to even qualify for the ballot), the sponsors seem to think if they keep repeating lies, sooner or later they will succeed. This time, the authors are cynically trying to tap into an issue already out there in the public consciousness: corporate influence. They claim that this initiative would get 'special interest' money out of politics, and that it would affect unions and corporations equally. There's only one problem with this claim: it's simply not true.
The initiative would ban direct political contributions by both unions and corporations to elected officials. But the initiative also bans raising money for political contributions through payroll deductions, a method that is used by almost every labor union in California, and by no corporations. Due to recent Supreme Court decisions, corporations would still be able to spend unlimited amounts of money through "Super PACs" and shadowy front groups. Apparently the fact that unions are outspent something like 15 to 1 by corporate interests isn't good enough for the authors, and they'd like to make it 15 to 0.
This initiative applies to all unions, public and private, and all union members in California will need to respond to this attempt to silence our voices. Many of us are frustrated and fed up with the partisan bickering that dominates Sacramento and Washington DC. But the solution to that is not to take the only voice for working people out of the debate. Don't forget, not only are unions massively outspent by corporate interests, the super-rich (remember Meg Whitman?) can still spend millions of their own money.
We cannot, and will not, let them silence our voice. This November, we will fight back, and win again, so that we can continue to stand up for good jobs. That's carpenter politics.