Prop. 32 protects no one, only harms

[Alyssa Martin]

The California school system is supposed to be al about the students. So why is it that we community college students often feel that we have no voice in Sacramento, where daily decisions are made about our futures?

Prop. 32 aims to quiet unions like the California Teachers Association—the loudest voice advocating for students—by crippling the ability of unions to support political parties and candidates.

The final ballot label of Prop. 32 “prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Applies same use prohibition to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors.”

That “if any” is a sneaky little five-letter loophole, thanks to the rapid growth of the political action committee.

A 2010 Supreme Court case that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts for political causes through PACs. As a result, big businesses don’t use payroll deductions to finance their political agendas because they don’t have to. It’s easier to take tons of money from profits and move it into super PAC funds that are exempt from contribution limits.

For example, billionaire business moguls Charles and David Koch  heavily contribute to PACs. The largest, Americans for Prosperity, spent more than $30 million in 2010 and has 31 chapters nationwide. The Koch brothers are also supporting the America Future Fund, which has provided most of the financial support for Proposition 32.

If you’re trying to figure out why a pair of billionaires (possibly trillionaires) would back a measure weakening their political power, don’t hurt yourself—it doesn’t. Prop. 32 will have little-to-no effect on the way corporations push their political agendas. It’s a smart bomb, designed to eliminate the power of unions while leaving corporations untouched.

Labor unions in California are supported by dues from paid by each of their members. Portions of the union dues are then used to pay lobbyists and contribute to the union’s political party or candidates of choice.

The California Teachers Association is widely regarded as the most powerful union in the state, boasting a membership of more than 325,000 educators. In 1988, they played a major role in passage of Proposition 98, which guarantees that the state spend at least 40 percent of General Fund revenue on K-14 schools and colleges.

Supporters of Prop. 32 say politicians take millions in campaign contributions from corporations and labor unions, then vote the way those special interests tell them.

That’s true, but it’s tough to understand why that should be a problem. The real problem comes when California’s economy has failed to the point that education is viewed as a “special interest.” If it weren’t for the massive political influence of the CTA, it’s easy to see how the state of California’s education system could be even worse off—community colleges alone suffered $564 million in budget cuts for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

And Proposition 32 would allow these large-scale political contributions to continue—just not on the union side. Prop. 32 would stifle the political voices of groups like teachers, firefighters, police; and by proxy, the students and citizens they serve. Now more than ever, we students need a strong voice in Sacramento.

So on Nov. 6, side with your professors, or even that police officer that let you out of a ticket. Vote “NO” on 32.