However, about 20 teachers from the Tracy Educators Association took to the intersection of Tracy Boulevard and 11th Street for two hours Wednesday, Oct. 3, to spread the word about California Proposition 32.
If passed, the measure, which appears on the Nov. 6 ballot, will ban political contributions to state and local candidates by unions and corporations; outlaw political donations by contractors to politicians who control contracts awarded to them; and eliminate automatic payroll deductions by corporations, unions and government employees that are used to support politics.
While the measure is aimed at stopping special-interest money from entering politics, Julie Escobedo, vice president of T.E.A., said that organized labor in California “will essentially be over” if Prop. 32 passes. The T.E.A. is the local chapter of the California Teachers Association.
Many of the participants Wednesday held red “Vote NO on Prop 32” signs, while others carried their own handwritten slogans. Similar rallies were held simultaneously in Stockton and Manteca by those cities’
respective teachers unions.
“It’s a union-cracking measure, because it’s a crippling measure that will leave us will no voice as a union,” Escobedo said. “All the public unions will be impacted. The kind of lobbying that CTA can do, they have guaranteed our retirement system, our working conditions and education rights, but if this passes, we would be reduced to nothing.”
Supporters of the proposition paint the measure as a broad stroke against special-interest power.
The official argument in favor of Prop. 32 quotes retired California Supreme Court Justice John Arguelles as arguing, “Prop. 32 ends corporate and union contributions to California politicians. Period. No exceptions. It goes as far as the U.S. Constitution allows to end special interest influence in state government.”
But Kimberly Smith, a sixth-grade teacher at Monte Vista Middle School, said teachers are already at a disadvantage, because of growing classroom sizes and dramatic cuts to district budgets.
According to Smith, she has spent about $500 since the start of the school year buying essential supplies for students because Tracy Unified School District allotted no money for classroom budgets.
“As soon as teachers lose their voice, we lose education and we lose the purpose of education,” she said. “They want to take away some of the union gripes so the union isn’t as strong. How are we going to advocate for students? With cuts and no money for a budget, we are already at a disadvantage. It will only get worse without a teachers union.”
Davida Bellomo, a first-grade teacher at Jacobson Elementary School, believes Prop. 32 “attacks the little man who becomes part of a union and says they don’t have the same voice as the super PACs (political action committees), which are all the rich guys.”
“The rich guys who own the corporations are exempt from all this, so they can keep pouring money into all the campaigns they want,” Bellomo said. “The little guys have to organize to have a voice, and we want to feel like that voice is going to be heard, even if we don’t always agree on everything.”
Bellomo is most concerned because she feels there is a national movement to eliminate organized labor.
“There are certain interests that want to keep us (organized labor) from having a voice,” she said. “In other states, I think they’ve sat back and said, ‘It couldn’t happen here,’ but it could, and I think we are seeing that here in California.”
Escobedo said the teachers simply hoped to “raise awareness.”
“It’s very important that people understand the facts before they cast a vote,” she said.