Organized labor in the Monterey Bay area is a potent force -- powerful enough apparently to intimidate Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from visiting Salinas. The Governor was planning an appearance in Salinas on Wednesday to commemorate the opening of a new California Highway Patrol facility, but when a sizable protest organized against him was publicized, he canceled out at the last minute on Tuesday evening. Representatives from Schwarzenegger's office deny that he had planned on being at the Salinas ceremony, but insiders confirm that the city was preparing for the governor's visit.
In print media, the Monterey Bay Herald reported Tuesday that Monterey Bay area labor unions were planning a mass protest against the governor, citing dissatisfaction with his education, health care and worker benefits policies as key issues. Many residents have also taken offense at Schwarzenegger's recent remarks praising the vigilante Minutemen as a solution to illegal immigration and national border control.
Various labor groups have been organizing against Schwarzenegger throughout the state. The first was the California Nurses Association, who have protested his ban on safe nurse-to-patient ratio mandates in medical facilities throughout the state. The California Teacher's Association and California Federation of Teachers have worked in solidarity opposing Schwarzenegger's theft of two billion dollars from last year's education budget, which has yet to be returned. Meanwhile, schools throughout the state are suffering from budget shortfalls. Other labor groups, including state and school employees and service workers, have fought the privatization of the state's retirement system, cutbacks to Worker's Compensation and the Governor's proposed anti-Proposition 98 special election slated for November.
Despite the governor's absence, the demonstration on Wednesday brought record numbers of union supporters out into the streets of Salinas, according to Monterey Bay Central Labor Council's Executive Director, Paul Johnston. He estimated that there were 100 - 200 representing a wide variety of unions in the morning and another several hundred of school employees who arrived in the afternoon. "Outside of farm worker demonstrations, this is probably one of the biggest in the last 50 years," he observed.
Johnston viewed Schwarzenegger's absence as a victory for labor. "He's obviously afraid of facing this kind of stuff."
Local AFL-CIO group MBCLC has recently been increasing its momentum taking on local Charles Schwab offices in defense of social security and supporting local unions against the Monterey Bay Travelodge, Sunshine Villa and UCSC.
On May 25, unions throughout the state are planning a mass convergence in Sacramento to protest Schwarzenegger's regressive policies. Take the message to Schwarzenegger in Sacramento with your union or as a concerned citizen.
Join the caravan!