For our health and our children, No on 32, Yes on 30

Also posted on Daily Kos
National Nurses Movement Follow

By: Zenei Cortez, RN, co-president, California Nurses Association

California may not see much action in the Presidential race this fall, but there are some critical issues on the state ballot, expecially Propositions 32 and 30.

Nation political columnist John Nichols, author of “Uprising,” a great account of the Wisconsin workers mass movement last year, calls Prop. 32 the most important labor battle nationally in this year’s November election. That’s also reflected in recent reports in the New York Times, and others in the national press.

Proposition 30 will leave a significant imprint on the future of California, whether big budget holes will prompt continuing on a debilitating path of more cuts in education, healthcare and other vital programs that are intrinsic to a humane society, or whether those who have benefited the most from income disparity will be asked to pay their fair share.

Prop. 32, a threat to patient care

Every day in Sacramento our legislative advocates encounter a daunting phalange of hospital, insurance, pharmaceutical, and other corporate healthcare lobbyists who already hold enormous sway over legislation and regulation in California.

We have to battle continually to defend critical patient protections, such as safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, limits on hospital, insurance and nursing home abuses, pushing hospitals to adhere to seismic safety laws, as well as protect the rights of nurses and others who provide hands on care to take needed meal and rest breaks and not be forced to work dangerously long overtime hours.

Multiply that by every other corporate sector, and the hefty influence of its main lobbying arm, the California Chamber of Commerce which every year produces a “Jobs Killer” list of bills it invariably succeeds in getting killed, and you get a picture of what Sacramento is like. Now.  

And that’s before Prop. 32, the most recent in repeated efforts by corporations and their far right allies to stifle any opposition to their agenda by seeking to bar unions from using the collective voice, and money, of their members to counter the power of the corporate elite in public policy.

Since the last two California initiatives targeting unions were roundly rejected by voters, this time they tried to hide their true intent by pretending to impose equal restrictions on corporations and unions under the façade of being genuine campaign finance reform.  Except, of course, it is not.

Their main claim of “balance” is that they bar corporations and unions from using payroll deductions for politics. Except, that’s only how unions mostly engage in campaign spending since individual union members can never hope to match the massive wealth those of giant corporations, who spend directly out of their profit margins, or the billionaires who so openly buy our elections.

Further, Prop. 32 wrote in special exemptions for corporate-linked super PACS, a point well made by the League of Women Voters in this ad.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence is who is bankrolling the Yes on 32 campaign, billionaires, like Thomas Seibel who has hosted fundraisers for Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, and Charles Munger, Jr., who alone has given over $11 million to the campaign, Wall Street investors, and the American Future Fund, which is directly associated with the Koch brothers.  

The Koch brothers are well known as major funders of the national drive to roll back rights for workers across the U.S. Their presence symbolizes the national stakes in this fight, and a reason we dare not lose as it would give a huge boost to the agenda of the Koch Brothers and allies like the American Exchange Legislative Council to nationalize their anti-union program.

Prop. 30 – the future of education and healthcare is at stake

Prop. 30 is Gov. Brown’s initiative to help repair our broken state budget, still recovering the disaster left by that cartoon action figure who held the governor’s office for the prior seven years.

It would generate billions in additional revenues for public education and other basic needs, mostly by raising the tax rates on upper income Californians, with the highest percentage increase, 3 percent, on those with annual incomes over $500,000. There’s simple tax fairness in asking them to pay. One-third of income gains in California the past two decades went to the richest 1 percent.

Our schools would be the principle beneficiary of the new funds, and it’s about time. California schools are shamefully underfunded which is a moral question for us all. Quality public education is central to the notion of a more just, equitable society.

But it is essential for our healthcare safety net as well. As nurses we see the painful impact of too many years of state cuts in health programs, especially those that provide care for the most vulnerable in our population. Some $15 billion has been cut in state health and social service programs the past three years, according to a report from the Health and Human Services Network of California.

Without Prop. 30, and the boost it will provide to the state’s general fund, we can expect even more devastating cuts to healthcare, as well as to our schools, libraries and other essentials we all count on.

We know that our families, too, can not succeed unless our schools have teachers, unless colleges are affordable, unless health care is obtainable, unless libraries stay open, and unless neighborhoods stay safe. Prop. 30 puts the state’s priority back on what matters: our future, our families, our neighborhoods.

Please help us get the word out. No on 32, Yes on 30.

-- A message from Zenei Cortez, RN, co-president, California Nurses Association