From the Desk of Board Chair Bill Hall
The relationship between labor and the Civil Rights movement runs deep, from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, who fostered a new openness to unionization in black communities and spearheaded a far more aggressive approach to protest, to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56 and the role of trade unionist E.D. Nixon. These and numerous other unsung African-American and Union heroes are responsible for creating rights and freedoms that all Americans enjoy. As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s vital that we recognize and remember those who went before us as we fight to protect and extend those rights.
Our members are showing up in increasing numbers to our Bargaining Town Halls, where over 1,100 have energetically stood up — virtually and in person — to voice their needs, concerns, and recommendations for improvements to our contact. Given the State of California’s long-term record of underpaying their workers coupled with the current rate of inflation, a solid wage increase is the #1 topic. Equally encouraging is that many of these same members are stepping up to organize support for our Bargaining Team and recruiting their coworkers to do the same and join our ROC (Regional Organizing Committee) team.
Membership, engagement, and action will be key factors as we move forward to negotiate a contract. Our member’s ability to provide food, shelter, and security for their families is growing increasingly difficult, and there are more challenges ahead.
These include a new ballot proposition—already qualified with nearly a million signatures—that would require the Legislature to put any statewide tax up for a popular vote. Local governments would have to do the same.
Proponents of this and other initiatives mislead the public with terms like “waste” and “fraud” and point to public sector workers like us as part of the problem. This in turn causes the State to feel even more pressure to pass benefit costs onto the workforce. As a result, initiatives like this make it harder to bargain for better wages and benefits while threatening our pensions and our ability to retire with financial security.
The good news is we can beat dangerous propositions like these the same way we have in the past: by phone banking and precinct walking to get out the vote. But we need everyone to get involved early and help us build a team that will protect working families from those who seek to make our lives less secure.
Members stepping up to take action is the foundation for positive change, but there are more tools to make our political fight robust. Members, along with our legislative staff, are lobbying California’s lawmakers to reinforce our message and our value. And, through the voluntary donations of our members, we support candidates who share our values. COPE—our Committee on Political Education—marshals those contributions so that we have the financial resources to position us to win. You can learn more about COPE here.
Please take some time to educate yourself about these attacks and to read the articles below about limiting the ability to raise taxes, possible changes in tax breaks for corporations, and ballot initiatives aimed at limiting our potential revenue.
- Will California Leaders Take a Hard Look at Tax Breaks? – Capital & Main
- Another one for the 2024 ballot - CalMatters
- Initiative making raising taxes harder qualifies for November 2024 ballot – City News Wire
- Calif. Supermajority Tax Requirement Qualifies For 2024 Ballot – Law360 [subscription required]
- Californians to Decide Vote Threshold for Local Taxes in 2024 – Bloomberg Law [subscription required]
Each of these articles tells the same story: as a Union we have a lot coming at us. However, as we’ve done in the past, we can and will prevail by continuing to grow our membership strength, by increasing engagement, and by taking action.
Our next Bargaining Town Hall is in San Diego this Saturday February 11, 2023 between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (For more information, click here.) Be sure to come out and join us. We want to hear from you!
William (Bill) Hall
Board Chair, SEIU Local 1000