Calif. labor on recall: We know how to say no!

PLEASANTON, Calif. – The sun was hot but the angry shouts of “No recall!” from thousands of workers at Labor Day rallies and picnics in Northern California were even hotter.

Sacramento celebrated with a picnic at Land Park where 2,000 union families enjoyed games, face painting and a magic show. Bill Camp, executive secretary-treasurer of the Sacramento Labor Council, told the crowd, “This recall is being funded by millionaires for the purpose of stealing your job, your wages, your health care. We’re here to make politics work for union jobs, union wages and benefits.”

Judy Goff, executive secretary-treasurer of the Alameda County Central Labor Council, fired up a picnic crowd at the Alameda County Fairgrounds here. “We have a huge task ahead of us,” Goff said. “Our COPE phone banks are open until we defeat this recall. … We are all-out to defeat Prop 54. They [the Republican right] have attempted to take away affirmative action. Now they are trying to take away the only way we can prove discrimination.”

Jabbing the air, she added, “We stand together, equal as workers. We will not tolerate the elimination of anti-discrimination laws.” The multiracial crowd cheered.

Goff introduced Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) who “stood alone” on the House floor and said “No” to the war on Afghanistan.

Lee told the crowd, “All of us today are saying ‘No. No to this recall. No to Prop 54.’ I know how to say ‘No.’ Labor is unified and that is why we are going to win. We live in a multiracial democracy. How dare Ward Connerly try to take it away.”

She scorned muscle-man Arnold Schwarzenegger, the leading GOP candidate for governor. “Today is the beginning of our effort to terminate the Terminator!” The crowd erupted in cheers.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) said she was heading back to Washington, D.C., “to fight George W. Bush who doesn’t believe in the eight-hour day. … They talk about Gov. Davis but they don’t talk about Bush who has cost us three-and-a-half million jobs. … With your help, we are going to defeat the recall and reelect me to the U.S. Senate.”

Goff introduced Bay Area workers locked in struggles for union recognition. Chuck McNally said he was fired on “trumped up charges” when he attempted to organize workers at the Berkeley Bowl, a gourmet grocery store, into the United Food and Commercial Workers. “They spied on us. They try to do anything and everything to block us,” he said. He urged the crowd to join a picket line at the posh Claremont Hotel where workers have been fighting for recognition of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 2850.

California AFL-CIO leader Art Pulaski and Gov. Davis arrived from an earlier rally in Los Angeles. Pulaski hailed Davis for signing 300 bills in the past four-and-a-half years to benefit workers. “They want to take away prevailing wages and health care.” The crowd roared, “No! No! No!”

Davis took the microphone and defended his record. The crowd answered, “No recall.”

When Davis left the stage, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was introduced by Teamster leader Chuck Mack. The labor movement, Mack said, stands “foursquare against the recall” but is also urging a “yes” vote for Bustamante to prevent the Republicans from stealing the governor’s mansion “by default.” Bustamante told the crowd he was “not a friend of labor, I am a son of labor.”

Listening to the speakers at the Alameda Fairground was Sarah Coyne, a member of Painters Local 741. “I think we are very fortunate to have a Democratic governor who restored the eight-hour day that Pete Wilson took away,” she said. “I’m absolutely opposed to the recall.”

Steve McClenathan, president of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 24/7, said, “I think the Republicans want to turn California into another Italy where there is a new government every 18 months.” The original purpose of recall, he said, is being perverted. “We’re seeing the disastrous consequences when a minority will be choosing the governor if Davis is recalled. He won fair and square. Not everyone is happy. But you wait four years until the next election.”

Davis and Pulaski raced into San Francisco where they addressed hundreds at a concert featuring Holly Near, Labor Rockin Solidarity Chorus, folksinger Utah Phillips and other labor movement singers. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, and Supervisors Matt Gonzalez and Mark Leo joined San Francisco Labor Council leader Walter Johnson in denouncing the recall.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com. Nell Ranta in Sacramento and Bobbie Rabinowitz in San Francisco contributed to this article.