Jerry Brown betrays farm workers with veto of key legislation
- [The final sentence of this article says it all: "And where are the
unions going to go? ... He's not really risking a whole lot." SR]
Analysis: Brown hedges his political bets with veto of farmworker 'card
By Josh Richman
July 2, 2011
Some Democrats say Gov. Jerry Brown checkmated their hopes Tuesday with
his last-minute veto of the "card check" bill for farm workers, but
analysts say he's playing a bigger game of chess.
The United Farm Workers, whom Brown courted last year by reminding them
of his ties to founder Cesar Chavez, saw him as their best hope for
passage of their longtime top legislative priority: letting unions
bargain for employees without an election, by just gathering signatures
from a majority of workers affirming they wanted to be represented.
Brown this week sounded as sympathetic as one can in a veto message.
"SB 104 is indeed a drastic change and I appreciate the frustrations
that have given rise to it. But, I am not yet convinced that the
far-reaching proposals of this bill -- which alter in a significant way
the guiding assumptions of the ALRA -- are justified," he wrote,
referring to the Agricultural Labor Relations Act he signed into law in
1975. "I am deeply committed to the success of the ALRA and stand ready
to engage in whatever discussions -- public and private -- that will
accomplish the appropriate changes."
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, SB 104's
author, said Brown had "missed a historic opportunity to help the
hardest working people in California improve their standard of living
and working conditions. I will continue to fight for their cause."
So might Brown, experts say -- just not now.
"It's sort of like Obama on same-sex marriage: 'Hang in there, I'm
coming closer,' " said Dan Schnur, a longtime Republican political
strategist who now directs the University of Southern California's Jesse
M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
"Every political leader has two competing simultaneous imperatives,
persuading the undecided and motivating your supporters," he said.
"Labor is not going to switch sides and go Republican in the next
election, although (Brown) needs to make sure they're sufficiently
motivated to turn out on behalf of the things that are important to him."
With three years to go until Brown seeks re-election, assuming he even
wants a second term, he has three more chances to sign a bill like this,
But among this bill's biggest foes was the California Chamber of
Commerce, whose president in March broke from the Republicans with whom
he's often allied by agreeing with Brown that the state budget should
include tax extensions as well as spending cuts. Brown's "card check"
veto pleased the chamber enormously.
"The governor certainly recognized that we must all work to create
certainty for employers and protect our economy, particularly in light
of a state budget that relies on revenue materializing, in his veto of
this job killer bill," Chamber President Allan Zaremberg said.
Brown had no reason to alienate the business community before he needs
its support -- or at least its neutrality -- as he tries to convince
voters next year to restore higher tax rates, Schnur said. "Having the
business community on his side for that special election is going to be
critical if he wants to succeed next year."
"The only reason to sign it now is because he thinks it's a good idea,"
agreed Corey Cook, director of the University of San Francisco's Leo T.
McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. "It's hard to
imagine an explanation for this other than his concern with medium-term
political interests and how he can move the states on some of these
other things -- he absolutely needs business support."
So what does Brown lose? The respect of some of who supported his
In a post to the Calitics blog entitled "Shame," liberal activist Robert
Cruickshank of Monterey wrote,? "Brown pulled (stuff) like this all the
time when he was governor in the 1970s and 1980s, vetoing or opposing
legislation that his allies strongly backed. It infuriated Democrats and
helped give an opening to the right. More of that "... is the price we
paid for beating Meg Whitman.
"If all-cuts budgets and vetoing labor legislation is what we're going
to get from Governor Brown, let's hope he decides on only one term, and
lets California move on to better leadership in 2014," he wrote.
But if he doesn't? It's not as if the UFW and other unions, or Latinos
-- who sided overwhelmingly with him in 2010 over Republican Meg
Whitman, who had Latino issues of her own -- are likely to abandon him
and flock to the GOP on this or other issues.
Meanwhile, he gains newly burnished credentials as a governor who's
willing to buck his party and his party's prime patrons when he sees the
need. "(T)hank you for saving valley ag by vetoing card check! I know it
took courage to buck your party," Assemblywoman Linda Halderman,
R-Fresno, posted Wednesday on Twitter.
"Brown is touting himself as somebody who travels the middle road and
who as a result of that has the best potential for bringing together the
polarized elements," said San Jose State University Political Science
Professor Larry Gerston, who noted the budget process this year has been
acrimonious and "this was an opportunity for him to build his
relationship with Republicans "... an opportunity for them to begin the
In fact, Gerston opined, Brown probably has talked more with Republicans
in his first six months than former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in
seven years. "He's wise enough to know that relationships are built on
much more than a single vote or a single issue. You just don't want to
slam the door when there are so many more opportunities for people to
walk through it."
Brown could better have finessed his labor and Latino allies, said
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior scholar in the University of Southern
California's School of Policy, Planning and Development. "I can't
believe he didn't talk this over with the labor guys before the veto
came down -- he's too smart to blindside his allies."
But "this is a way for Jerry and the business community to come to some
sort of an agreement on where this goes next," she said. "And where are
the unions going to go? "... He's not really risking a whole lot."
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