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October 12, 2005

Big Media Me

I've got an op-ed in today's LA Times focusing on Schwarzenegger's union-busting "paycheck protection" initiative, otherwise known as Prop. 75. Opposing it is a bit of an uphill battle right now, but you can read my attempt here.

October 12, 2005 | Permalink


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Congrats. Do you get paid for that sort of thing?

Posted by: Ugh | Oct 12, 2005 12:47:12 PM

Congratulations. I showed it to my husband right away. We're so proud of our blogger.

Posted by: J Bean | Oct 12, 2005 12:48:55 PM

Well done. The "girlie-man" jib at the end is pretty funny too.

Posted by: sprocket | Oct 12, 2005 1:02:17 PM

A well reasoned and written piece, Ezra, that aims some good kicks at Arnold's ankles.

The last sentence, however, may be the most effective since it is aimed at and hits a more vulnerable part of his anatomy - his steroid-shrunken no-so-manly testicles.

Repubs masterfully play hardball, with spit-pitches and all. Dems need to send the message that they won't play the role of the schoolyard picked-upon. Bullies are brought down by fierce counter-attack, and then those faux 'big men' wail that the previously dominated aren't playing fair.

Kick them in the nuts.... again, and harder.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Oct 12, 2005 1:46:08 PM

OK, now I'm impressed.

The Prospect didn't impress me and being a blogger certainly was not impressive. Looks like the big-time to me!! Congratulations.

As for the argument, let the people decide. One of the few things I like about California is the initiative system. It is democracy at it's finest.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 12, 2005 1:54:56 PM

It seems you have a few inconstancies in your argument there.

Your main point is that this won't effect the ability of Unions to funnel money into political campaigns. Taking you at your word on that point, the idea that the real reason it is on the ballot is to force unions to combat it. If it won't hurt them, then why are they forced to combat it? Indeed, it seems to me that if that is true you should be FOR it, because it won't hurt and if it passes it won't be available for use as a tool to funnel away the focus of unions in the future, while if it fails, it will remain just as useful for its 'true purpose.'

I also wonder about the logic of saying that maybe union money is bad but corporate money is bad too, therefore you can't combat union money unless you simultaneously combat corporate money. I wouldn't hold you to that standard on, single payer health care for example, by saying that you can't advocate single payer unless you simultaneous can solve all the other problems in the world. Why do these two things necessarily have to be solved at the same time? Would you have the same feelings if a stockowner protection referendum was on the ballot without a paycheck protection one? Somehow I doubt it.

Along those lines, I have a genuine question as well. Corporate control and shareholder votes are carefully monitored by government to ensure fairness and accuracy. Is the same thing true for union leadership votes? I have never been a part of a union, so I don't know a lot about how union leadership works. From an outsiders perspective it seems that they are often fairly corrupt though, and therefore your argument that both union leadership and corporate boards are both democratic representation may be weak.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 12, 2005 2:02:51 PM

Good piece, Ezra. Well done.

This is a really odious proposition, and of course they're using thoroughly dishonest means to sell it. I posted this yesterday, about one particular aspect of the dishonesty.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Oct 12, 2005 2:06:03 PM

1) Because they would prefer to be able to advocate for elections directly, rather than screwing around w/ language. Moreover, it looks like a defate for union power if this passes, and no group likes to look weak.

2) Because California politics are balanced between unions, which donate to Democrats, and corporations, which try and fund Republicans. This isn't the leimination of an i9nterest group, they're trying to destroy a force. That it won't work is immaterial -- the problem is moral. Arnold is going for payback against political enemies. It's not reform, it's not protection -- it's recenge, and the governor shouldn't be engaging in it.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 12, 2005 2:08:22 PM

Along those lines, I have a genuine question as well. Corporate control and shareholder votes are carefully monitored by government to ensure fairness and accuracy. Is the same thing true for union leadership votes? I have never been a part of a union, so I don't know a lot about how union leadership works. From an outsiders perspective it seems that they are often fairly corrupt though, and therefore your argument that both union leadership and corporate boards are both democratic representation may be weak.

My understanding (and I invite anyone with specific knowledge to correct me) is that there is a great deal more democratic participation in union elections than in shareholder elections--that most shareholder elections are purely a formality, a rubber stamp for the choices of management, while union elections tend to be hard-fought contests involving actual campaigning and such. That may mean there's more incentive for corruption in union elections, but that's a side effect of unions being more democratic than corporations.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Oct 12, 2005 2:14:43 PM

Certainly most corporate elections are rubber stamping, that is because each share (or each voting share) votes and a few people usually control a majority of votes. If I own 90% of a company, the vote is pretty assured. However, there is oversite and the votes are accurately counted.

Certainly corporations are not democratic in the one person one vote sense. That is at least partly balanced out by the ease of voting with your feet, if you don't like the company you own it is easy to sell the stock and put your money somewhere else. Changing jobs is much harder, and in some cases requires an entire change of career.

I don't know how union elections work, or what protections there are to ensure that the vote isn't 'fixed.' The big union bosses seem to have effectively 'lifetime' tenure, which isn't a good sign of an actual democratic process. Of course I only know of the famous and quite possibly very popular union bosses so they may be an exception and not the rule.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 12, 2005 2:23:35 PM

Corporate shareholders hardly get any voice at all in the "elections" their shares afford them a vote in. Major investors often with ties to the current board and/or executives hold all the sway and in some corporations the executives get to control who is nominated for board seats and what gets put up on the ballot as initiatives. How is that democratic? It Isn't.

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 12, 2005 2:27:24 PM

Great column, Ezra. Extremely enjoyable and convincing—the long format suits you. Now, if only people read the newspaper...

Posted by: Mr Furious | Oct 12, 2005 2:31:46 PM

Excellent piece. Well written, clear and cogent. And not just becaue I agree with you.

Posted by: chamoudi | Oct 12, 2005 3:44:17 PM


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 12, 2005 6:14:14 PM

Ezra, glad to see the LAT ran the article. I notice that you made your points much more forcefully here in the comments than in the original article. It would have been great, from our perspective, to see you call Prop. 75 for what it truly is, revenge on Arnold's political enemies. All of that aside, I am glad the article run and would love to see more here and in the Times exposing these "reforms" as nothing but shams and attacks.

I think you are glossing over an important point when it comes to the ability of Prop. 75 to have a real effect on California politics. Assuming their is a loophole that would not restrict the amount of money spent it would have a real impact of the effectiveness of the money. Not being able to directly say "vote for ___" does matter.

Posted by: Julia Rosen | Oct 12, 2005 6:47:07 PM

Nice article, Ezra!

Posted by: Lauren Miller | Oct 12, 2005 10:46:03 PM

Gotta disagree on the point about corporate money and getting permission from the shareholders.

Some union members are forced to join a union against their will - a "closed shop". I don't know if California allows closed shops, but the states in the Midwest and Northeast do. So, there members are forced to join a union and then forced to pay money to elect candidates they might not support.

As far as corporate money goes, very few people are forced to buy shares of a specific company's stock (some high up managers are required to at some companies), so there is virtually no forcible extraction of money to politicians stockholders don't support.

Posted by: cf | Oct 14, 2005 2:00:47 PM

California does have some closed shops, however anyone that belongs to one can become an agency fee payer where they get the collective bargining benifits but do not have any of their dues to politics. No union member in this country is ever forced to have their dues go to politics they don't support, as per the Supreme Court. They all can opt out.

Posted by: Julia Rosen | Oct 14, 2005 4:16:17 PM

cf, the point is that the people who do own stock aren't asked if they, the ultimate 'owners' of a company whose stock is publicly traded, approve of the amounts and the recipients of corporate political donations.

If the law were changed so that only 100% shareholder approval would enable the corporations to make their donations as they do now, it would be as fair as the current Proposition 75 claims to be.

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