California Labor in the Time of Trump With Historian Fred Glass

California Labor in the Time of Trump With Historian Fred Glass


sisters and brothers thank you so much for
coming out on this cold wintry night i’m really glad to see you here
i want to thank both Sacramento DSA and Sacramento Central Labor Council for cosponsoring this
event. Labor and socialism separated at birth in
America but now they’re coming back together again perhaps. I’m really glad to see that kind of harmonic
convergence taking place. It’s a long time coming. I want to thank Peter Brogan of both DSA and
the Labor Council for helping to put this together. I’m going to talk for about 30 minutes. Interspersed in there is about 10 or 12 minutes
of video. Dean mentioned that I make videos and there
was a California Labor History Series that I produced for Californian PBS about 20 years
ago and you’ll be seeing clips from that and then we’ll have time for discussion. So, that’s the program. Hope that meets with your approval. I’m going to talk about a few events from
California’s history and compare and contrast what the standard California history narrative
has to say against the perspective offered by labor history. I hope to shed some light from these examples
of what we’re facing today in the current political context as a labor movement, and
I also hope to be provocative about that. So let’s start the provocation with a question
that I’ve heard many people asking: “Is the current administration in Washington DC simply
a run of the mill right-wing Republican anti-labor pro-corporate administration along the lines
of Reagan’s and Bush’s, albeit with a dangerous lunatic at the top? Or are we actually facing the onset of fascism
in America?” I don’t mean this as an insult or a swear
word, I mean it in relation to how fascism has appeared historically and its common structures
over time. Is this the real thing? People have developed checklists to figure
this out, I’ll share one with you presently and you can go down that list and make your
own determination. Trump’s campaign and the rhetoric and actions
coming out of him since his election point in the direction that he may well be a fascist
and the regime he is building brick-by-brick is a fascist regime. While we don’t have time to go into this fully
here, I want to draw your attention to an interesting historical parallel before we
move into talking about California labor history proper. It’s pertinent because labor history is all
about looking to the past for tactics and strategies developed by working people to
defend their common interests and those common interests are deeply opposed to and threatened
by fascism. Everyone understands that Trump employed a
crude racism, misogyny, and xenophobia along the way while singing his nostalgic “Make
America great again” song, but it’s how those elements fuse with others in an extreme reactionary
nationalism and profound disrespect for democracy that makes his actions and rhetoric potentially
fascist. Another important element is economics, a
fake anti-capitalism, a funhouse mirror image of Bernie Sanders’ socialist ideas although
without the fun part. Sanders ran a socialist campaign and named
it, he proposed to address growing economic inequality by taxing the rich and creating
public programs funded by those taxes to serve the interest of the 99%: universal healthcare,
free college, rebuilding public infrastructure, reforming labor law so that organizing is
once more possible in the private sector. He won 13 million votes and significant working-class
following with a mildly anti-capitalist or social democratic program. He named the real problems, especially economic
inequality, name the real enemy—the 1%, the big banks, out of control corporations—and
an explicit set of solutions meaning to unify middle class and working class voters. And by the way, Sanders won the largest vote
ever officially tabulated for the president of the united states by a socialist. Gene Debs, who I’ll talk about again in a
moment, in 1912 got 6% of the vote. Bernie’s primary vote was equal to about 10%
of the final electorate. Trump, on the other hand, ran a fascist campaign
although he failed to mention the fact. That’s typical of fascism in its post WW2
incarnation when the term became officially unpopular. His economic appeal to workers was based on
the improbable idea that he would bring back manufacturing jobs. Hence the nostalgic “Make America Great Again”
and the slogan “America First” lifted from the xenophobic right-wing of the 1930s. We saw right away with the Carrier Company
how he actually plans to do this. Claiming the minority of jobs the company
was already planning to keep as his victory. When the president of the steel workers local
of the plant pointed this out he earned Trump’s bullying tweets and a flood of violent social
media threats. The German communist leader Clara Zetkins
said something of note in 1923. In the wake of World War I, in addition to
the Russian Revolution, several other European countries witnessed powerful left-wing workers’
movements, some of which came close to socialist revolution. All were eventually put down. Surveilling the rise of fascism in Italy and
Germany Zetkin observed, and this was 1923—very early on here in the rise of fascism, “fascism”
she said “Is the punishment inflicted on the European working class for not having continued
the revolution begun in Russia.” The parallels are not precise, but i’d suggest
something similar is going on here recently. The moment of the presidential election in
2016 was ripe for a direct economic appeal to a chunk of America’s unhappy white working
class and we want to be careful with our definitions of working class here. People such as, but not inclusive, former
manufacturing workers who consider themselves “middle class”, but found themselves drifting
downward toward or into the ranks of the poor. With the failure of Bernie’s socialist crusade
we lost the solidarity message in which unity of the working class, white workers and workers
of color, women and men, immigrant and native born, might have been the key to putting in
place policies to roll back the power of the billionaires and economic inequality. This would have been a natural, effective,
and inclusive message to sympathetic working class ears and I think it would have won especially
in places like Michigan and Wisconsin. Instead, the fake working class message of
Trump was able to rush into the vacuum created by Bernie’s fall and Clinton’s refusal to
pick up that banner. We can adapt Zetkins’ astute observation from
nearly 100 years ago and propose that Trump’s fascism is the punishment inflicted on the
American working class for not having extended Sanders’ social democratic message into the
presidential election. Now let’s look at the checklist: racism, extreme
nationalism, xenophobia and scapegoating, a fake socialism, assault on civil liberties,
continuously delegitimizing the media and the courts while packing the courts with far-right
wingers, and a build up of the war machine, not to mention the everyday misogyny and assaults
on unions moving through the courts and congress, suppression of voting rights, oh and the sprouting
up of violent street gangs of the right wing. In addition, a true fascist regime doesn’t
just get elected, it needs a movement on one side of it and willing coalition partners
among the more traditional conservative elites on the other side with their desire for the
tax cuts on the rich and corporations, rolled back social programs, and deregulation of
the economy and environment. This is precisely what Mike Pence and his
joined at the hip connection, the Koch brothers, represents. Along with the billionaires in Trump’s cabinet
and at top government agencies and congressional republican leaders. Having made the case this might indeed be
fascism we’re watching be put together here let me take a step back and say “maybe it’s
not.” Maybe it’s really a bad anti-labor anti-immigrant
administration with strong tendencies toward corruption and authoritarianism. In either case, it looks as if it is attempting
to dismantle a couple hundred years of admittedly imperfect American experiment in democracy. And whether it’s fascism per se or some other
form of authoritarian rule, may ultimately be a less important distinction than figuring
out how to fight it. Let’s just bear in mind that contemporary
American fascism won’t look superficially like the fascisms of the past. Trump probably won’t grow a little mustache,
the military will not begin goose-stepping during parades, red white and black swastika
banners won’t begin appearing in the background of press conferences so we just have to be
alert. What is heartening is that since the election
a lot of people have gotten active, figuring out how to turn this around, finding out where
we stand and fight and getting into the streets. The growth of DSA is a perfect example of
that, you know explosive growth from 7,000 or 8,000 in 2016 to the 30,000 today. That’s really significant. My view is that we must offer information
useful to working people who want to fight and provide more ways for working people who
don’t know where to turn to get the information to do that. I will offer one doorway tonight: labor history. And the fact that I’ve recently come out with
a book on California labor history and I’ll be selling it after my presentation at that
table is purely coincidental. Just a bit of background, Dean mentioned some
of it, I’ve had the great privilege for the last 20 years teaching a course in California
labor history at City College of San Francisco. That class, one night a week, has given me
the space to ponder how best to reach working people with their own hidden and really suppressed
history. The class also created the imperative to find
something my students could read. When I realized there wasn’t anything suitable,
the last book of this sort was written in the 1960s way behind the times here, I set
out to write it myself. And I wrote it because California’s history
is rich in how ordinary working people can achieve a level of justice when faced with
injustice. As the labor movement has declined, and its
density has dropped now to a third of its peek in the 1950s, virtually no one knows
the stories anymore behind the victories working people have won. My book recovers those stories so that my
students, union leaders and activists, and the interested general public can figure out
where our rights as workers came from, what it took to win them, and what we stand to
lose if they are taken away. There are two inescapable things about California
history: immigration and the Gold Rush. They’re at the center of the mainstream narrative
about California which can be boiled down to four words: “come here, get rich.” It’s pretty much the same thing as the American
Dream only more concentrated. The Gold Rush was a validation of these ideas
though few people actually became rich from the Gold Rush, or at least from gold mining. But some did and some became rich in each
of the successive gold rushes that the state has experienced. Wheat farms, oil, Hollywood, the World War
2 defense industry, and today Silicon Valley and the digital economy. All these gold rushes drew people from across
the country and indeed the world. And when some people prospered and their stories
were publicized it further fed the mainstream narrative of “come here, get rich.” But if one side of the coin is gold, the other
is not. Each gold rush also produced many more workers
who did not share much of the wealth that they created with their hands. Labor history is about those people. Out of the original Gold Rush emerged the
railroads and the individuals often described in standard history as the people who “built”
the railroads. Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, Leland
Stanford, Mark Hopkins. They were failed miners, they became wealthy
by mining the miners selling foods, supplies, and clothing to them and receiving huge subsidies
from the US government to hire the workers who actually built the central pacific railroad. These men amassed gigantic fortunes, they
were the poster children for the enormous economic inequality that arose during the
gilded age following the gold rush. When a terrible economic depression devastated
working class communities in the 1870s there was a backlash and it wasn’t pretty. San Francisco’s two largest population groups
were Irish and Chinese immigrant workers. Out of the fear and anger caused by the economic
depression, which threw over 20 percent of the labor force out of work, emerged the Workingmen’s
Party of California which briefly swept to power in local offices across the state. It was a progressive party in some respects. It had a trade union wing that called for
working class unity, for free public education, taxing the rich, and curbing the power of
the railroad corporations. But the main impact of the Workingmen’s Party
of California echoed the words of Irish immigrant Dennis Kearney, who preached an anti-Chinese
ideology. The party adopted his slogan “The Chinese
must go.” The only lasting effect the party had was
the Chinese exclusion act of 1882 which banned Chinese immigration for decades. No part of the progressive program, the economic
program of the Workingmen’s Party that might have benefited all workers, was enacted. Diverted instead by demagogs instead into
division and xenophobia. I want to underscore though that even in movements
like this there’s always choices for working people and their leadership: to be inclusive
instead of exclusive, to seek broad unity on behalf of common interests, or allow the
employers to divide us by race, ethnicity, language, or national origin. There are also always opportunities produced
by worker movements for individuals to act with creative and courageous approaches to
solidarity that in turn can grow that movement. Let me offer one example that took place here
in Sacramento during the national Pullman’s Strike of 1894. The workers who built the luxurious Pullman
railroad cars near chicago went on strike shortly after affiliating with the brand new
organization the American Railway Union or ARU. Unlike the way things had typically been done
previously by railroad workers who organized themselves into many different skilled worker
unions, craft unions, the ARU had industry-wide orientation. Its outstanding leader was Eugene Debs a locomotive
fireman who believed that all railway workers should be in one big union enabling them to
act in solidarity with on another. Consequently, when the Pullman workers asked
for restoration and Pullman refused the ARU, some 150,000 workers and eventually a quarter
million, went on strike all across the country on their behalf. Here’s what happened on independence day in
Sacramento. I will now read from my book for just a moment:
“In Sacramento a tense confrontation between a few thousand strikers and a thousand militiamen,
on July 4th, ended bloodlessly with the retreat of the militia. The impressive solidarity of the workers and
community was for the moment holding fast and it was contagious. The San Francisco Chronicle reported: “After
the troops fell back from the depot this afternoon two companies were ordered to take a gatling
gun and move to the American River Bridge for the purpose of guarding it from possible
destruction. As the men had already walked a considerable
distance they were glad to avail themselves of an electric car that ran as far as 28th
street. Orders were given to hitch the gun to the
rear end of the car, the conductor objected, but without avail. For the first ten blocks the street are paved
with asphalt and the gun ran without a jolt, but the motormen who was interested in the
strikers’ cause bided his time and when the car approached 11th street where the smooth
pavement ends and cobblestones commence he threw the level to the top notch and the car
sprang forward at full speed. The result was that the gun was so badly damaged
that it will have to go to a machine shop for repairs.” *clapping* The national strike was beaten
when overwhelming government fire power and court injunctions were deployed on behalf
of the railroad corporations. Debs was sent to jail for 6 months during
which time, pondering the events of the strike, he became a socialist. A decade later in Oxnard in 1903, a better
outcome emerged from elements similar to the ones surrounding the Workingmen’s party and
its reaction to immigrant workers. Sugar beats were an important crop in California
around the turn of the last century. After the Chinese Exclusion Act beet farmers
had difficulty getting enough workers especially temporary seasonal laborers. There were two types of farm labor, year round
and seasonal, the secure and gig economy workers of their time. In Oxnard white workers were the majority
of year-round employees. They generally stayed away from seasonal work
if they could so the growers imported workers from other countries to do the temp work. By the early 1900s, that meant mostly Japanese
workers about 75% of the seasonal workers with around 20% Mexican as well as a remnant
of about 5% Chinese. Despite the obstacles of race, culture, and
language differences that they faced these workers put together the Japanese Mexican
Labor Alliance or JMLA, the first union in California’s fields, and it prevailed through
a well-organized strike. Although not before one striker Luis Vasquez
was killed by gunmen hired by the growers. Here’s a videoclip to show what happened. Due to its socialist leadership the Los Angeles
Council of Labor is way ahead of the rest of the labor movement in extending its hand
to workers of color. When farm workers reach their hands across
barriers to form the Japanese Mexican Labor Alliance, Fred Wheeler convinces the all-white
labor council to support them in creating the first union in California’s fields. Wheeler travels to Oxnard just North of Los
Angeles. He finds a small town. Its stores and services support the famous
Southern California citrus industry. But Oxnard is also surrounded by extensive
sugar beets farms beneath the shadow of a massive factory. Built in 1897, the second largest sugar works
in the United States, its owned by the Oxnard family just one of whom lives within a thousand
miles of Oxnard. The Oxnard treat the factory managers well
providing them with large houses and nice parties. Oxnard workers are treated less well, especially
the farm workers brought by labor contractors from Mexico and Japan to work in the beet
fields and they live in places like these. They pay inflated prices for their food and
supplies in company stores and work long hours planting, thinning, harvesting, and transporting
the sugar beets. Early in 1903 the growers, in an attempt to
eliminate the middleman, form their own labor contracting company. The Japanese and Mexican contractors lose
business and workers wages are cut. Anger helps them to form a union and go on
strike. Despite grower initiated violence reported
as a “labor riot” in the local newspapers, the farmworkers stand firm for two months. Few sugar beets make it into the mill, finally
the bosses back down. With some help from Wheeler, JMLA president,
Kosaburu Baba, shown here in a photo taken years later, negotiates a settlement restoring
workers pay and giving Japanese and Mexican contractors back their business. Against all odds the union wins, but its troubles
aren’t over. The Mexican secretary of the alliance JM Lazarus
petitions the national AF of L for a union charter. Samuel Gompers responds, “It is understood
that in issuing this charter to your union we will under no circumstance accept membership
of any Chinese or Japanese.” Lazarus and the Mexican members of the alliance
refuse Gompers’ condition. They write back “In the past we have counselled,
fought, lived on very short rations with our Japanese brothers, and have toiled with them
in the fields and they have uniformly been kind and considerate. We would be false to them, to ourselves, to
the cause of unionism if we now accepted privileges for ourselves which are not accorded to them.” Without connection to the broader labor movement,
the JMLA soon disappears from sight. It’s worth noting in the post Bernie Sanders
moment that Fred Wheeler, who got the LA Labor council to support the JMLA, was a socialist. Besides being president of the Labor Council,
and one of the first organizers hired by the California Labor Federation, he was also a
few years later the first socialist candidate elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Wheeler and socialists like him were much
more likely to be fair-minded and antiracist than non-socialists in the labor movement,
although this was not universally true. For instance, writer, Jack London, who lived
in Oakland was a fire-eating member of the left-wing of the Socialist Party, but also
a white supremacist. This moment in 1903 when defeat was snatched
from the jaws of victory was not unusual. The history of labor in the United States
is mostly a history of defeats. If it weren’t, the country would look a lot
more like Sweden with paid maternity leave, free healthcare for all, and free education
from preschool through university. But on the other hand, there have been some
victories here and some movements to get those victories so important that they have kept
the US from looking more like Nazi Germany than it might otherwise. The 1934 San Francisco General Strike and
its aftermath was one of those moments. It remains the most important event in California
history that no one remembers anymore. And given what is heading at working people,
with a right-wing republican congress and president including the loss of agency fee
in the public sector and a national right to work law, we should start remembering tactics
like this. General strikes are quite rare in United States
history, we’ve only had about a dozen city-wide general strikes and none since 1946. There were 3 in 1934 in the depths of the
Great Depression with 25% unemployment, wages lowered to starvation levels, West Coast maritime
workers including many immigrants were trying to reorganize the unions that had been busted
over previous 15 years. When the workers across the west coast were
confronted with the complete refusal of their employers to recognize their unions or even
to negotiate with them they went out on a coast-wide strike. In San Francisco, two maritime workers Howard
Sperry and Nick Bordois were killed by police during the strike. In response, more than 100,000 workers stopped
working in solidarity with the maritime strikers to commemorate the deaths of the two workers
and gain some dignity and respect on the job. Here’s some images from the events leading
up to the general strike. The employers opened the ports with a massive
show of force. They are determined to crush the maritime
workers’ strike. The bosses hire a thousand strike-breakers
in San Francisco alone including hundreds of black workers who are barred from the union. This tactic is neutralized when the union,
breaking with its racist past, approached African American longshoreman and asks them
to join the union and the strike. Many do. But on July 5th other weapons are turned on
the strikers. One witness reports “Struggling knots of longshoremen
closely pressed by officers mounted and on foot swarmed everywhere. The air was filled with blinding gas. The howl of the sirens, the low boom of the
gas guns, the crack of pistol fire, the whine of the bullets, the shouts and curses of sweaty
men. Everywhere was a rhythmical waving of arms
like trees in the wind swinging clubs, swinging fists, hurling rocks, hurling bombs.” As the police moved from one group to the
next men lay bloodied unconscious or in convulsions in the gutters, on the sidewalks, in the streets. “Around on Madison Street a plane clothesman
dismounted from a radio car. Waved his shotgun nervously at the shouting
pickets and scattered. I saw nothing thrown at him. Suddenly he fired up and down the street and
two men fell in a pool of gore. One evidently dead, the other half-attempting
to rise, but weakening fast.” Longshoreman Howard Sperry is dead. A block away so is cook Nick Bordois who is
volunteering in the strike kitchen. For those of you who are wondering what a
gatling gun was in the last segment about the 1894 pullman strike you just saw one go
by with the national guard there. Did you also notice a startlingly contemporary
image among the ones you just saw? It was the chalked sidewalk memorial to Sperry
and Bordois. Could be a Black Lives Matter memorial or
one from Charlottesville. There were two main outcomes from the General
Strike. First, the maritime workers controlled hiring
halls, wage increases, and a leap into the, what we might call, middle class: the ability
to own a home, send your kids to college. For a part of the work force who had been
low paid casual labor, completely controlled by the bosses, this was an enormous change. Second, the San Francisco General Strike and
other similar events and especially the violence surrounding them also played a major role
in discussions in congress before passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. The NLRA established the ground rules for
peaceful conflict resolution in the work place. The same rules that are now on the verge of
disappearing in the Republican congress through the so-called Right to Work laws. What rules will apply when the ones we’ve
had are gone? The labor history we know says it won’t be
pretty. I want to bring us up to the present, but
before we talk about recent labor history I also just want to mention two other important
developments contradicting “come here, get rich” that took place in the 60s and 70s. That’s public sector unionism and United Farm
Workers. These two movements involved many thousands
of workers and millions of supporters in families and community. They were very much social movements as well
as labor movements. Neither would have occurred without the civil
rights movement cracking open the Cold War society of the 1950s and both reflected the
spread of antiracist politics and activism into organized labor. They helped push New Deal policies further,
extending the right to collective bargaining to public workers and farm workers, both of
whom had been left out of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. These movements also supplied some of the
political muscle that created Great Society programs like medicare and medicaid or, here
in California, medical. I’d like to show you a couple of minutes of
images from that moment. “You didn’t end up accidentally standing there
with a sign. You had to purposely decide to do it. Once you decide that one time, after that
I mean when you’re called on you can do it again.” Although administrators and politicians claimed
public employee strikes were officially illegal dozens occur anyway. “The teachers were engaging in strikes and
they had no laws to deal with it and nobody knew what to do except put them in jail or
try to fire them or something and all of these solutions just were frankly not very satisfying
to anybody.” By the late 60s and early 70s teachers and
other public sector unionists build an unstoppable momentum in California and across the country. “We acted as though we had the power and we
did in a sense bargain collectively. We went before the board of supervisors, we
had sick-outs at the hospitals.” “One thousand three hundred sanitation workers
go on strike and Memphis is not being fair to them.” Martin Luther King Jr. involvement in a sanitation
workers’ strike in Memphis Tennessee highlights the deep connection between the civil rights
movement and public sector unionism. His tragic death during that strike forces
authorities to grant the workers union recognition. It also provides a renewed spark for organizing
elsewhere. “The public workers really put on a fight
at the level of the state legistlature and that means that the teachers and the service
employees, AFSCME, that was a group that really put it on.” Keeping up steady pressure one public worker
group after another was granted collective bargaining rights. By 1975 Governor Jerry Brown signs the Educational
Employee Relations Act legalizing collective bargaining for teachers and other school employees. “We didn’t pin our existence on a law, we
were in existence before the law, we acted as if we could bargain before there was a
bargaining law. So it’s a collective action that’s behind
it fundamentally. Now this doesn’t deny the fact that Jerry
Brown’s approval of collective bargaining for Farmworkers Teachers and so forth was
a very very helpful and necessary thing for us. And thank goodness it happened.” The disruption to business as usual by the
public sector union movement, while not as violent as the 1930s, were substantial enough
through strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations, civil disobedience, and other forms of collective
action that the results were similar. The passage of legislation allowing for collective
bargaining and the same dynamic unfolded in California’s fields. Now to the present, 9 years ago my union the
California Federation of Teachers understood that it was time to implement one part of
the Workingmen’s Party program–the taxing the rich part–which the party never got
around to making happen because it was too distracted by racism and xenophobia. We were in the middle of the great recession
following the Wall Street engineered housing bubble and crash, employment in California
was officially 12 percent, the worst since the great depression. 10,000 teachers a year were laid off between
2009 and 2011 totaling more than 10% of the k-12 teacher workforce. Class sizes rose sharply, student fees skyrocketed
in our formally free colleges and universities, and thousands of courses were no longer being
offered. Services to seniors and low income Californians
were slashed, millions of homes were under water. You all remember this, this was recent history. We knew what the solution was, it was to create
a millionaires tax to ask the people who could best afford to do so to pay their fair share
of taxes and prevent what remained of the public sector from sliding into the ocean. What we were up against was the preferred
interpretation of California as a reliably anti-tax state ever since Prop 13. We didn’t believe that that was true anymore,
we thought the crash and recession had shifted the understanding of the majority of the electorate
about growing economic inequality and what needed to be done. The coalition that CFT worked with passed
prop 30 in 2012 included a community group called Move the Immigrant Vote which that
year turned out more than 50,000 people, new or recent immigrants, to the polls to vote
for Prop 30. So with that campaign we came full circle–labor
and the immigrant community finally did the work together in the 21st century that the
Workingmen’s Party of California failed to do in the 19th century. We did it again with Prop 55 in November of
2016. Here are a few minutes of images from that
campaign. “This budget deals with the $42 billion defecit
which is the biggest deficit that we’ve ever had.” “New polling out by the California Federation
of Teachers found overwhelming support, 67%, for a higher tax when it hits anyone making
a million dollars or more.” In response to the crisis, CFT and its community
partners built a movement for a millionaires tax to save schools and services. We showed through mass action and opinion
research that we had enough popular support to win against competing ballot measures. That’s when the governor called CFT President
Peshtal to talk. “Governor Jerry Brown has stopped collecting
signatures for his original ballot measure to raise taxes, he’s now focusing on a new
tax initiative which is a compromise between his original plan and the tax proposal from
the California Federation of Teacher.” “Californians overcame decades of anti-tax
sentiment and approved the first general tax in twenty years” “So proposition 30 is a unifying
force and we had to overcome a lot of obstacles, we overcame them.” “So we were in free fall, so prop 30 stabilized
the situation and in fact there have been some gains. The 8 furlough days that we had to take back,
we have those back now. So teachers are working more, students are
in school more.” “Some of our classified employees have been
restored to partially, to where they were in 2012. Some of them went back to 100 percent and
some of them are sitting around 80 and some are at 90 percent including myself.” “Prop 30 has made a difference, it’s made
a big difference it restored several of the classes that I had previously taught and it’s
meant that it’s no longer the case that students have to wait around for the classes that they
need.” “There’s a lot more say at the site level
of how we’re going to be using our dollars to best serve our children.” “Whether they be english learners of from
very low income families, the money essentially follows the student.” “So opponents of proposition often made the
argument that jobs would be lost, millionaires would leave the state, companies would move
away” “If proposition 30 passes, California will have the most crushing tax burden in
the United States of America by a long shot.” “Berry Broom is actively recruiting chief
executives from California companies and luring them to Arizona, a land of lower taxes.” “What we’ve seen since proposition 30 was
passed in 2012 is the state has added 1.4 million new jobs and we have 10,000 more millionaires
than we had when the measure was passed. What this means is at a minimum there’s really
no relationship between raising taxes like we did with Proposition 30 and economic growth
and if anything the evidence points to the alternative, that it might actually be good
for the state’s economy.” As a result of prop 30 and prop 55, which
was the renewal for 12 years of prop 30, we’re bringing in $8 to $9 billion a year for public
education and services and we’ve gone in a different direction than the rest of the country
has at the state level coming out of the great recession. Thank you, I know a lot of people in this
room did a lot of hard work on those campaigns so thank you all. This is in marked contrast to everything coming
out of Washington today, the thrust of which is to privatize education, hand a huge taxcut
windfall to the rich, and send the children of working people back to the 19th century. Let’s sum up, there words you long to hear. The history that I have been talking about
is clearly different from “Come here, get rich.” The history of most Californians is about
the people who came and didn’t get rich. The occupy movement brought us the understanding
of the 1% and the 99%. That’s a pretty good estimate of how all these
gold rushes have worked out. For a long time California’s economy did fairly
well in helping its immigrant to make a decent living. That was the real story behind that happened
to most people to make enough money so one’s family was comfortable and one’s kids got
a better start than one’s parents had. A critical piece of that success story is
the labor movement; all but invisible in the standard “Come here, get rich” story. Today California unions represent about 16
percent of the workforce which remains considerably better than the national average. If you’ve only got a one in one hundred chance
to strike it rich, to come here get rich, a one in six chance to get at least more comfortable
works out a lot better for a lot more people. Clearly, many immigrants to California figured
this out then we revised the narrative. It’s not “come here, get rich” it’s “come
here, organize, do better.” The Trump environment, whether fascist or
just really bad, poses special challenges for immigrant workers and organized labor. Both groups significantly overlapping here
in California, face targeting and scapegoating at the hands of this administration and the
right-wing billionaires that support it. We’ve seen this most clearly around Trump’s
xenophobia, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and executive orders. But we will also see a spike in the anti-union
invective when the Janus vs AFSCME court case hits the supreme court this year and when
Right To Work legislation starts seriously moving through congress. We have to find ways to build the broadest
possible unity to stand together and fight or we will be destroyed by these things. I’d like to think that if I were in Germany
in 1932 I would have figured out what was being put together around me, I wouldn’t be
like Pastor Martin Niemoller who said “First they came for the Socialists and I did not
speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and
I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not
speak out because I was not a jew. Then they came for me and there was no one
left to speak for me.” What I would prefer… well if this scenario
comes to pass I’m going to be in big trouble because I’m all three. So let’s not have that happen. I like this alternative to Niemoller’s poem
that I saw at a demonstration in San Francisco earlier this year. Can you read that in the back? It’s absolutely true that any fascist regime
is going to go after trade unionists at least the ones willing to stand together and fight. And if you are a trade unionist and unwilling
to stand and fight there’s not much point to being in a union because that is what it
is there for. By knowing the lessons of labor history and
talking them up we give the public a shot at understanding what’s at stake at this moment. Lessons like we lose when allow ourselves
to be divided by racism and xenophobia, sexism or split along the lines of private and public
sector unionism. Lessons like the 1934 San Francisco General
Strike when we learned with that level of unity and militancy we can win and set it
up for winning for a good long time. With labor history we help to fill the vacuum
that should never have opened up in the presidential campaign election… presidential election
campaign after Bernie conceded. The vacuum where working people’s problems
and solutions should have been. Knowing labor history helps to create a progressive
labor movement. It’s what we’ve always needed, it’s what we
need now to defend what’s left of the legacy previous generations of trade unionists have
left us through their blood sweat and tears so I say to you if you don’t like the labor
history that you’ve got let’s go out and make some of our own. Thank you.

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