United Public Workers for Action

CA Governor Brown Imposing
“Draconian” Budget Cuts
And Demos “Fine Tuning” The  “Amputation”
Following the Obama Agenda

By George Wright

Faced with a growing budget deficit in California now at $25.4 billion and growing, the Democratic governor elect Jerry Brown has introduced a budget at his inauguration that he himself said was “draconian”. The budget would increase unit fees to $36 for the community colleges and force out 200,000 students according to Marty Hittleman, president of the California Federation of Teachers CFT. It would also devastate the lives of millions of poor Californians. There would be massive cuts in Cal-Works that provided day care for low paid workers forcing mothers out of the workforce. This budget, if passed, would lead to a major increase in child poverty and deprivation. It would put increased premiums and fees for millions of indigent workers healthcare meaning that they would no longer be able to afford healthcare and also a time limit for benefits whether or not you need healthcare.

Home care workers would face a cut of their pay by 20% forcing them on welfare as well and forcing their clients either to go into nursing homes or dying at their homes.

Another scheme of Governor Brown is to shift the responsibility of these public services to local and county districts. They were initially local responsibilities before Proposition 13 but then shifted to the state after it passed and prevent local and counties from raising taxes.

Brown’s New “Guru”

One of the big supporters of this plan to shift public service responsibility to the cities and counties is Brown’s new budget guru Nicolas Berggruen, Berggruen a “new age billionaire wants to “save California”. “He also used $100m of his money to create a think-tank, the Berggruen Institute, which promotes fresh debate about politics and constitutional reform. Then, four months ago, he used $25m to launch a more specific campaign to "save" California, a place where he spends several months each year, usually living at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The institute is now promoting radical fiscal measures to tackle the state's ballooning debt burden and to implement longer-term structural reforms, under the rubric of the "Think Long Committee for California". Berggruen has so much clout that his committee is now backed by a formidable array of political and business heavyweights, such as Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state, Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, and Gray Davis, former governor of California.”


At the same time Brown is attacking state workers demanding that they all continue to take pay cuts. SEIU 1000 and other units have already had 15% pay cuts through furloughs supported by their union leaderships. Many state workers have even lost their homes as a result of this major pay cut.

Governor Brown along with former Assembly leader Willie Brown were in part responsible for Proposition 13 decades ago when they allowed a shift in California taxation from the corporations to homeowners. This tax shift was forcing people out of their homes and Jarvis Gann used this economic crisis for working class homeowners to successfully pass Proposition 13. During the past election in fact Brown pledged not to tinker with the 2/3 requirement to raise revenue. “"I'm not going to advocate messing with 13. That's a big fat loser."


Governor Brown is also refusing to introduce an oil depletion tax despite the fact that California is one of the few states in the US that does not tax the removal of oil from state lands.

In the face of these brutal anti-working attacks, Lenny Goldberg, director of the California Tax Reform Association at a San Francisco Labor Council conference on “progressive taxation” that was held on January 15, 2011   told the audience that Governor Brown did not want to include this tax because the oil companies would spend tens of millions of dollars against any increase in their taxes.

Governor Brown budget has also been attacked by the Republicans in the legislature for having faulty estimates on the state of property assessment and they are right. According to Governor Brown and his advisors, the budget will be balanced because house price assessed values will increase thereby increasing revenue. This however is absolutely not the case in California as home prices continue to decline and therefore income to local, regional and state governments based on the assessed value will continue to decline and not increase.

This means that it is even more likely that the state will be forced into bankruptcy which is what open Republican right-wingers want in order to butcher union contracts and unilaterally re-write the pension plans of California state workers.


Brown is helping to set up this scenario since he refuses to go after the wealthy directly in California

“Fine Tune The Amputation”

Democratic East Bay Democrat Loni Hancock agreeing with Governor Brown’s cuts said that their job now was to “fine tune” the “amputation” to save programs and people in California at a Senate hearing with Governor’s Browns Department of Finance. Many of these people are the same people under former governor Schwarzenegger.

In fact, this line is being supported by Art Pulaski, the president of the California AFL-CIO who has told workers of California "while Gov. Brown's proposal isn't perfect, it at least strikes a much-needed balance between cuts and revenues." The same line was taken by CA SEIU State Executive Director David Kieffer who said that Brown’s budget was  "far from perfect.” but made no demands to force the billionaires and wealthy to pay for the crisis and no plans for mass labor protests or mobilization.


Labor Supported Democrats And “Draconian Cuts”

The labor supported Democrats in California are now leading the attack on public services and public pensions and the complicity of virtually the entire California trade union officialdom in going along with these “draconian” cuts is striking. California has 1.5 million public workers yet there has been no united education and mobilization campaign against the 24-hour propaganda political blitz against public workers and their pensions and conditions.

California which is the 8th largest economy in the world and has many of the richest people in the world with 81 billionaires has a labor supported political party which is now proposing a budget that will destroy the right to education of hundreds of thousands of young people and will cause the deaths of tens of thousands of sick and disabled poor workers.

Not surprisingly the New York Times has lauded the $12.5 billion attack on California public services by Governor Brown including major regressive sales tax increases, which Brown is now pushing the unions to get behind.


AFL-CIO Cowers Before Corporateer Obama

This is not only a California phenomenon but is precisely the case with the AFL-CIO leadership and their relationship with President Obama. When Obama pushed a budget deal with the Republicans that attacked social security through a cut in Social Security taxes and continued the Bush tax cuts to billionaires. Trumka reported "We had a good conversation with President Obama about the economic crisis and the importance of the labor movement in rebuilding the economy and the middle class," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said after the meeting.”


This was also after Obama pushed the anti-labor Korea-US KORUS Free Trade Agreement and froze the wages of millions of Federal workers agreement with the agenda of the privatization program of his hand picked Social Security Commission led by privatizer Alan Simpson and Erskine “I also work for Morgan Stanley” Bowles.

This also follows the silence of the AFL-CIO tops about the same bankers like Treasury Secretary Geithner and Summers who were involved in the banking crisis. In fact the appointment of pro-NAFTA operative William Daley as his chief of staff. This, of course, was greeted by the US chamber of commerce as “a strong appointment”


The complicity of both the national AFL-CIO leadership and the California AFL-CIO leadership in refusing to fight these frontal attacks on public workers and the working class as a whole require a new fight back program and the building of a real working class political alternative to these parties of capitalist America.

The need for a political education campaign and beginning the mobilization of all 1.5 million public workers along with the millions of education students and users of public services is crucial. This is the only way that the present dynamic can be reversed and the lessons of the struggles in Tunisia and Egypt are that regime change is overdue.

United Public Workers For Action www.upwa.info is an organization, which has formed in 2008 to begin this education, political work and also to develop a political mobilization of the public workers.