Building Trades Sets Up Ambitious 2013 Agenda

Robbie ColumnDecember 2012 - When all the ballots were finally counted from the November 6 election, it was clear that because of the incredible tenacity and unity of California’s building trades workers, we had earned greater success at the polls than we could have imagined. Now, we face the challenge of parlaying 2012’s election victories into policy accomplishments in 2013 and beyond that will enrich workers’ quality of life for years to come.

That makes this a good time to look back on what we have accomplished, and to look forward to what happens next.

Our greatest priority in the November 2012 election was fighting to protect our political lives and voices by defeating Proposition 32. We did, resoundingly, by a 12 percent margin – an even greater margin than our defeats of its predecessors, Proposition 226 in 1998 and Proposition 75 in 2005. 

Additionally, we strongly supported Proposition 30, Governor Brown’s tax measure to fund schools and protect infrastructure funding. In large part because of our efforts, voters agreed to tax themselves to protect essential government services and public works funding. Further, we helped pass Proposition 39, to close an unfair corporate tax loophole and fund job-creating clean energy projects. 

Our success in state Senate and Assembly races was truly stunning, as we helped elect two-thirds Democratic supermajorities in both houses, the first supermajorities in both houses at the same time since 1933. This disarms the Republican obstructionists who have caused workers so much harm in the past by using their one-third minority status to impose delay and gridlock on the majority of Californians, and who used the budget process to try to extract anti-worker policies they could not otherwise achieve.

Notably, Republicans made defeating Democrat Cathleen Galgiani, in the Central Valley’s fifth Senate District, their highest priority, slamming her for her outspoken and courageous support of high speed rail. Even though she trailed on election night, when all the ballots were counted, Galgiani was victorious, and her championing of our vital rail project was validated by the voters.

Significantly, we swept away all three ABC-backed efforts to convert general law cities to charter cities in order to avoid prevailing wage. Election night counts showed charter efforts in Costa Mesa and Escondido losing, while in Grover Beach, a lengthy count resulted in that charter measure finally losing by four votes out of approximately 4,500 cast, demonstrating that every vote matters. 

We also passed dozens of school bonds and local revenue measures worth billions of dollars around the state, which will combine to create hundreds of thousands of hours of construction work in the foreseeable future.

Let me reiterate again, you made these wonderful results happen. Together, with hard work and unwavering unity, the state and local building trades councils, affiliates, and the men and women of the trades won these victories.

Now, the question facing us is how to most effectively use this political success to affect policies in ways that will most greatly benefit building trades workers in California.  Our legislative team will be working closely with the leaders of the Legislature to formulate these changes and to bring them about.

We will support legislation that re-creates tax increment funding for infrastructure projects. A Supreme Court decision eliminated redevelopment funding.  That left cities without a dedicated funding source for needed economic development projects. We want to find a way to fill that void in a manner that will allow union contractors to bid on and win contracts, and ensure that this important work is done the right way.

A major focus on legislation in 2013 will be to incentivize local governments to pay prevailing wage, and halt ABC attacks at the local level. This may be patterned after our success in 2011 with SB 922, which motivated local governments to consider PLAs by removing state public works funding for those entities that banned PLAs.  

Our Democratic supermajorities in both houses may help bring these and other worthy goals to pass. But we also hope that at least some Republican politicians will be more labor-friendly in the future. The new independently drawn legislative districts, along with our new top-two primary system, have created motivations for Republicans to seek more support from Independents and Democrats. Maybe that means more bipartisan success for the Building Trades. That is a goal we’ll pursue.

Congratulations again, brothers and sisters, for your incredible work in 2012. Let’s build on those successes in 2013.

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