Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
It’s been great to see CTA stepping into the fight on California’s budget. With 9,000 teachers marching to the Governor’s office in San Diego, or joining our sister Unions in the series of rallies on Wednesday at the Governor’s five regional offices, there is finally something to cheer about. CTA’s website is also becoming a little more user-friendly for writing a letter to the governor and state legislators about the state budget.
Of course, news from Sacramento is still deeply disturbing. If the only question is whether or not to suspend Prop. 98, we’re still going to lose. Status quo keeps us behind. For the future of California schools, we have to lend our voices to efforts to close the Prop. 13 loophole, end the two-thirds budget approval mandates, and build a progressive tax system. Ultimately, we won’t win the state budget fight unless we bring it home into our local communities. Legislators need to feel the heat from the people who will work to re-elect or un-elect them.
This is the time of year when our local CTA activists are planning their Union activities. We all know the strategies that work when we fight our districts for our contracts. We use these strategies because they work, so we should use the same strategies for fighting our legislators that we use when we’re fighting for fair contracts. Here are a few grassroots strategies that CTA locals can use to have an impact in the budget fight:
1. Letter writing/ Phone campaigns (Very Easy): Use leadership meetings and site meetings to write letters to legislative leaders and local media. Start with a sample letter and addresses. Then encourage each of your leaders to repeat that activity at their school sites.
2. Picket/protest/lobbying meeting at your legislators’ offices (A little more planning): Host a picket/protest at your legislator’s home office. Democratic legislators should be encouraged to harden their stance on the need for more revenue. GOP legislators should be cajoled into giving up their “no-new-taxes” pledge. Invite the local newspaper, radio station, TV station or blogger.
3. “State Budget Crisis” forum (More planning… but really effective): Invite teachers, parents, media, community leaders and legislative staff. Find a few teachers for the “panel” to talk about how budget cuts have already hurt “our” school and “our” community. Make the case that more budget cuts will hurt more. End the meeting by recruiting audience members to get involved with ongoing campaigns coordinated by CTA, the California Labor Federation, Close the Prop. 13 Loophole, and your local Union efforts.
4. House Parties: Find members to invite neighborhood folks into their homes. Share local stories about how the cuts have hurt our students so far. Show CTA commercials and UTLA radio spots. Raise money that can be used to air these ads in cities with targeted legislators.
Ultimately, the fight has to be fought at home. The only way that legislators will move is when they feel the heat from their local community members. But our locally fought efforts will be more productive if they are coordinated by a strong state organization.
Friday, July 10, 2009
The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that Governor Schwarzenegger believed the people were standing behind him while he worked to destroy California; and he would continue to dismantle schools and social programs. It looks as though his days as a steroid-popper have created some deeply delusional side effects.
The Governor claims now that “fixing” California is why he was elected. He conveniently forgets that most of California’s debt comes from his revoking of the vehicle license fee, the debt from his bond measures, and California’s ever-increasing prison costs due to mandatory sentencing. He’s also forgotten that the only real reason that he was elected is because he is a rich movie star. We didn’t know that “Terminator” would be more than science fiction.
Unfortunately, the Governor has stayed in character far too long. He can’t discern fact from fiction. The November elections saw gains for democrats in both houses of the state legislature. Sixty percent of the legislative districts in California voted against Republicans because the “let’s burn down the state so our rich friends don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes” message wasn’t working for them.
And he’s listening to the wrong people. The anti-taxers always complain that the tax rates are too high, but they fail to mention that the loopholes for California’s biggest corporations are even bigger. More than 40 California corporations with income of more than a billion dollars pay less than $1,000 in taxes each year. That’s less than you and I pay.
His aides talk about “the nuclear option” of suspending Proposition 98’s minimum guarantee of subsistence education. Those 9,000 teachers who showed up at the Governor’s San Diego office last week weren’t there to express their support. CTA’s raucus action in defense of Prop. 98 voiced the outrage felt by millions of Californians who are at risk of losing schools, community centers, libraries, senior care and community health centers.The real legal roadblocks to a functional state government are Prop. 13 and the two-thirds budget approval mandates etched into the state’s constitution. The majority of Californians don’t want to see their communities dismantled. Can we please, for once, try to fix the real problem.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Finally. Someone is taking on Proposition 13. Led by San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting, a new organization called “Close the Loophole” packed the house with more than 100 activists for its first organizing meeting in San Francisco last night.
The Close the Loophole campaign seeks to change Prop. 13 so that corporate land owners are forced to pay their fair share in taxes for the first time in 31 years. The idea is to split the property tax roll so that grandma next door isn’t taxed out of her house. But land owned by old monster corporations who never sell and never die will be reassessed so that they are forced to pay taxes at a level which is fair in 2009 dollars.
It has almost become monotonous to talk about the impact of California’s budget crisis, but the devastation of our social programs has already begun. The Split Roll change would raise at least an additional $7.5 Billion every year for California public services, which is a step in the right direction.
Many important Unions were there, including CNA, AFSCME and SEIU. There were also a lot of community organizations. And while there were a number of teachers in the crowd, California Teachers Association was notably missing.
While teachers and students across the state are sweating out yet another devastating budget, CTA is still waiting to jump into the fight. The good news is that there are a lot of allies who recognize the need to change California’s unfair tax policies, and they’re already doing the groundwork. All CTA and its local leaders have to do is get on board.
Like all historic movements, it looks like this one has to start at the grass roots. So, local Union activists, go to www.closetheloophole.com, and sign up. Get the word out to the members in your local. Facebookers can get recruit their friends by becoming a fan at www.facebook.com/ClosetheLoophole. Then, encourage your CTA staffers, board members and state council representatives to take up this fight on a statewide level!
Many of you remember how powerful CTA was when working with the Alliance for a Better California to stop the Governor’s attacks on public services. If so, you can imagine the incredible impact that we could have with a coordinated statewide effort to plug our members into this campaign. It’s the right fight, and with 27,000 RIFs looming, it’s time to jump in.