District Council 57

Wisconsin Comes to California

By California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski

Think Wisconsin-style attacks on workers’ rights could never happen in California? Think again.

Much like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, City Councilman Jim Righeimer (notorious for his role in the Prop 226 campaign to silence our voice) is using the budget as an excuse to go after public sector workers’ jobs, pensions and unions in the Orange County town of Costa Mesa. His plan is to fire half of the city’s workers and outsource their jobs to private companies – leaving hundreds of working families high and dry, and putting even more taxpayer money directly into the pockets of wealthy corporations.

In May, the Costa Mesa CEO (yes, their city bureaucracy strongly resembles a corporation) presented a smorgasbord of no-bid spending to private companies that wouldn’t save the city a dime – in fact, it would increase the City's budget deficit by $150,000.00. To add insult to injury, the City actually boosted the amount of one no-bid contract from $25,000.00 to $145,000.00. It seems these “spending cuts” apply to workers’ salaries and benefits, but not to the city leadership. At the same time they’re trying to fire half of the city’s workers to supposedly save money, they hired a $3,000-a-week spokesperson, and they’re spending more than $7 million to pay for cosmetic upgrades to City Hall. And they’re not stopping at Costa Mesa.

Righeimer and his cronies are part of a national strategy to dismantle collective bargaining, city by city, if necessary. Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh boasts that his anti-worker campaign puts him on the cutting edge of Republican politics, and says Costa Mesa is “ground zero” for other cities. It’s certainly no secret that the OC GOP is committed to spreading the Costa Mesa model to other cities -- their website refers to labor leaders as “Obama’s union bosses” and claims retirement security that people work for their whole lives is a “taxpayer rip-off.”

And while the conservative right has been leading the anti-worker charge, some Democrats have even gotten in on the union busting. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is pushing a “fiscal emergency” measure that would gut workers’ collective bargaining and sharply reduce retirement security. Reed’s measure isn’t at all necessary. In fact, San Jose unions have come to the table to negotiate concessions with the mayor to help ease the city’s fiscal crisis. Instead of working with city workers, Reed adopted a sleazy political tactic to strip workers of their ability to come together to advocate for decent wages, working conditions and benefits.

These attacks aren’t about jobs or pensions. They’re about politicians trying to eliminate our basic right to have a union. If the anti-worker forces succeed in stripping collective bargaining away in Costa Mesa and San Jose, you can be sure it won’t be long until they come to your town.

That’s why it’s important that we all stand together to fight back. In the labor movement, we are one. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the public sector or private sector or whether we’re teachers or truck drivers. Our power comes from unity. Our strength from solidarity. Together, we must beat back these attacks, no matter where they arise.

Learn what you can do to support workers in Costa Mesa at www.repaircostamesa.com. 

Sign the petition to oppose attacks on workers in San Jose at http://bit.ly/lQnL9q. 

For other ways to join the fight to protect workers in your area, contact your local Labor Council at


Keep up with the latest news and updates about attacks on workers’ rights throughout California and find ways that you can help by joining us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CaliforniaLaborFederation and following us on

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