Greetings at the COPE Banquet Honoring Congressional Leader Nancy Pelosi

Posted by on April 23, 2012

Welcome to the San Francisco Labor Council’s celebration of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s 25 years of leadership in Congress. This is a very special fundraiser and a reminder of how she was first elected when Ronald Reagan was president and has been in the belly of the beast of national politics since those first days when corporations were given the green light to attack unions and working families who choose to have a voice at work. We are honored that she will grace our banquet and proud of her leadership during these unremitting attacks on the middle class.

2011 has been a watershed year for both good and bad reasons. On the bad side many of our members are still out of work and fighting to keep their lives and families intact. On the good side we are more active than ever.

And a main reason the labor movement is active is because so many of our labor contracts are open and so many of us are active in negotiations. In the public sector 28 of the 31 contracts in the City and County are open. In the private sector (janitors, parking attendants, waste management drivers and building trades unions, to name a few) are also in regressive bargaining. With the concessions asked for by Verizon for the 40,000 CWA and IBEW workers on the east coast, we see a continuing pattern of attacks by corporate America.

But we will continue to fight.

On the good side – the success of Measure C in San Francisco a model for consensus and coalition building to save jobs and protect pensions. In the worst of economic times we thank all of you who helped us defeat the attacks on public workers through Measure D by 70% and secure our victory by 70%. Labor, government, business and community ensured this success.

And I must give an extra shout out to investment businessman and civic philanthropist, Warren Hellman, who anchored the business community’s commitment to San Francisco city services by devoting an extraordinary amount of time to work with us. He understood that City unions and workers are smart enough and willing to acknowledge the economic downturn and contribute to the financial recovery of this great City. We are saddened by his passing.

And to those of us who have been part of the OCCUPY movement:  we are invigorated by new partners who share our disgust with corporate greed. The foreclosures, the billions of dollars not invested in jobs, the Republican’s refusal to stimulate the economy, the continuing war budgets…. We will continue to be on the streets to fight for economic justice.

The one issue that will occupy the labor movement in November will be the crass attack to silence our political voices with the Corporate Deception initiative that right wing businesses are putting on the ballot in California. This initiative will make Proposition 226 (in 1998) and Proposition 75 (in 2005) look like window dressing. This Corporate Deception, if passed, will stop us as union members from participating in political affairs. Even if we sign up for COPE we will be forbidden from participating in electoral politics. And it’s not just public workers (firefighters, nurses, teachers, etc.), it will also stop janitors, building trades workers, gardeners, hotel cleaners, and grocery workers – ALL of us – from participating in elections. This must – and will – be defeated.

As you know, the United State Supreme Court (sic), has declared that multi-trillion dollar corporations have the same rights as individuals. And that means that the bosses can outspend us by 100 to 1 instead of the ubiquitous 11 to 1. The Corporate Deception initiative must be defeated so we can even have half a chance at funding our voice at work in political affairs.

New revenue from those who have benefited from this economic downturn is also important. As the ink dries on this booklet there is a compromise being worked out to tax the millionaires through a consensus between those unions who have worked with the Governor Brown and those who pushed the tax initiative on the 1%, led by the California Federation of Teachers. I urge all of us to work to get the consensus measure on the ballot in order to fund public education and other safety net services. NO MORE CUTS!

As always I want to acknowledge the Labor Council staff and the work they do:

Emily Nelson, my Assistant and Communications Coordinator, has almost single-handedly arranged for this dinner to happen. She has also reconfigured our Web and Facebook pages.  Check them out. Thank you for your assistance and hard work.

Our political director, Amber Baur, is on maternity leave with her new son, Arlo Jude. W are looking forward to her return in a few weeks to anchor our political campaigns.  We miss you, Amber.

Hang Le To, our Finance Manager, has continued to diligently manage and oversee not only our budget and payroll, but our campaign finances and community service funds as well. She updates any changes in IRS and campaign finance laws, which we abide by assiduously. As we move into more campaigns and political fights her professionalism is a resource we value every day.

Ramneek Saini, our Community Services Liaison, is now in her second year on our team and as a committed organizer, we are delighted at her dedication to our programs.

I want to thank all of you: union leaders, Executive Committee, staff, delegates, community partners and public officials for being a part of our team. I am proud to work for all of you as we continue to build capacity and programs to ensure workers the standard of living we deserve.

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