California Is Taxing the Rich… and So Can You

Yes on 30 Steve Rhoades

The Yes on 30 campaign won higher taxes for rich Californians, winning 55 percent to 45 percent. Even though polling showed that people were willing to vote for higher taxes on the rich, the governor kept talking about “shared sacrifice.” Photo: Steve Rhodes.

“There is no alternative to austerity,” insist the rich, along with their politicians, foundations, think tanks, and media.

They’ve been saying it for decades. “Taxes are bad,” they also claim. “Government doesn’t work. And public employees are greedy.”

Consequently, common wisdom had it that “you can’t raise taxes.” Even people who should have known better believed this—while the public sector slid down the tubes.

So how did Proposition 30 succeed? This measure, passed by voters last November, raises $6 billion a year for schools and services—in California, a supposedly “anti-tax” state. The money comes mostly through an income tax hike on rich people, along with a tiny sales tax increase of ¼ percent.

The story should be better known, because with the right preparation, you could make it happen in your state, too.

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Tax increase to fund schools and social services divides California unions

by Duane Campbell


DSC08551 (Photo credit: Berkeley Unified School District)

California, like most states,  needs additional revenue to fund schools and to invest in the future.  A tax plan known as  The Millionaires Tax has been   proposed by the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign to increase revenues to pay for vital services.   It was assigned the official title “Tax To Benefit Public Schools, Social Services, Public Safety, And Road Maintenance,” on Friday, Feb.2,   by California  Attorney General Kamala Harris.

A report of the California Budget Project notes that  “measured as a share of family income, California’s lowest-income families pay the most in taxes. The bottom fifth of the state’s families, with an average income of $12,600, spent 11.1 percent of their income on state and local taxes.  In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of $2.3 million, spent 7.8 percent of their income on state and local taxes.”

The Millionaires  Tax  plan, of  the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign would raise taxes by three percentage points on income above $1 million and five percentage points on income over  $2 million.    Analysts say the proposal would generate $4 billion to $6 billion annually.  Signature gathering for the plan will begin within weeks. Continue reading

Labor Occupies Wall Street, But Democrats Go in Reverse

by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw
As the grassroots campaign against Wall Street grows, Democratic politicians are moving in the opposite direction. President Obama has secured the House Republican support necessary to pass three trade bills strongly opposed by organized labor and most Democrats. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who like Obama was elected with huge labor funding and ground support, took a particularly hard public line against the state’s second largest public employee union for voting down a concessionary contract; Cuomo seeks to avoid charges that he is “too beholden” to labor unions. And then we have California’s Governor Jerry Brown. After being hailed at a recent labor event as the virtual second coming of Joe Hill, Brown vetoed a bill to facilitate the unionization of low-paid childcare workers. He also vetoed a measure that would have given San Franciscans the right to fund public services by voting to raise their own taxes. With “allies” like these, no wonder labor unions decline while Wall Street’s power grows.Amidst growing protests against Wall Street, leading Democrats remain more concerned with being viewed as “standing up to labor” rather than as boosting labor’s clout.

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Thousands of farm workers march on Sacramento on Sept. 4

by Duane E. Campbell

  Over 3000  UFW farm workers and their supporters marched on the California Capitol in Sacramento on Sept. 4 insisting on Fair Treatment for Farm workers Now.   The march began August 23 in Madera. The march was organized by the United Farm Workers to reach Sacramento on Labor Day weekend.  Marchers  are pushing for the enactment of the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act and the right to be paid overtime after eight hours.

As the farm workers reached the capitol an apparent agreement was reached among legislators  to pass improvements of the existing Agricultural Labor Relations Act.  Gov. Jerry Brown and pro farm worker legislators  have struck a deal to give state regulators new powers that could help agriculture workers unionize.

The new  measures, introduced in the Legislature on Friday, would allow the state’s Agriculture Labor Relations Board to certify a union if it finds that a grower has acted illegally to affect the outcome of a labor election. Currently the ALRB makes 5-10 decisions per year and few of the decisions  result in elections. The legislation would also accelerate the mediation process for workers in disputes with their employers.

The Governor would not agree to the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers legislation already passed by the legislature  which would have permitted card check verification to hold a union election.  Governor Brown  and Republicans argue that the ALRB, passed in 1976, needs more time to be developed before changing a fundamental issue such as elections.

Clearly the current  law is not working as it was intended.  Few organizing attempts can get to an election due in significant part to the  aggressive  campaigns and hostile election climate created by corporate growers.  And, for the few that have elections, election victories seldom  lead to union contracts.  Continue reading

California passes card check bill for farm workers on Chavez holiday

by Duane Campbell

Photo from Wikipedia

On March 31,2011, California and 10 other states honored  Cesar Chavez and his legacy.  Today in California the state Senate passed again SB 104 to allow card check for workers  as a route to secret ballot elections in the fields.

The bill passed on a party line vote.  All 24 Democrats voted for it, the 14 Republicans voted against it.  SB 104 will  allow workers to have a union by submitting petition cards to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.  The ALRB was established in 1976 the first time Jerry Brown was governor after years of effort by  Cesar Chavez and the UFW. California is perhaps the only state that that has a reasonable law permitting  farm workers to organize into  a union.  Agricultural workers were excluded from the National Labor Relations Act when it was passed.  Today’s bill was sponsored by the United Farmworkers Union.  Such legislation  has long been a major goal of the UFW. The bill also includes enhanced penalties for growers who seek to block workers from unionizing. Continue reading