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Jerry Brown betrays farm workers with veto of key legislation

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  • Steven L. Robinson
    [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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2011
      [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
      check' bill

      By Josh Richman
      Oakland Tribune
      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,
      Schnur said.

      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
      election, surely.

      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
      healing process."

      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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