For Immediate Release:
Labor Asks for LGBT Help
Labor, in the form of Michael Zucchet, Lorena Gonzales and Eric Banks came to the San Diego Democratic Club to ask for help from the LGBT community. Gonzales, Banks and Zucchet, representing the San Diego & Imperial County Labor Council, Service Employees International Union Local 221 and San Diego Municipal Employees Association respectively, spoke to the Club's monthly membership meeting about the scapegoating currently being heaped on American Labor locally as well as nationally. Along with some good natured one-upmanship over which of the labor leaders was a stronger proponent of LGBT equality – Zucchet and Gonzales both claimed to have the best SDDC rating for their respective candidacies (for the record, both received 100%) and Banks joked that “while Lorena may consider herself a woman in the body of a gay man, I am the only openly gay union President here” – the trio presented a sobering picture of the state of labor negotiations with the City and County of San Diego as well as Sacramento and nationally.
Gonzales kicked off the discussion reminding the crowd of the continuing close ties between Labor and the LGBT community. She stated that, “when we go to MLK events, people frequently forget that Dr. King was also a labor leader assassinated in Memphis while seeking economic justice for striking sanitation workers - and they sometimes forget that Cesar Chavez was first and foremost a labor leader advocating for all farm workers. But no one questions why Labor attends Harvey Milk events.” Gonzales went on to discuss the recent well publicized attacks on public sector labor unions in the Midwest. She reminded the SDDC that the stripping of collective bargaining rights and cuts to pay and benefits for state workers in several “rustbelt” States did little to address budget shortfalls – Wisconsin used the “savings” to pay for corporate tax cuts. “Let's be clear, this was a purely partisan act with Republican lawmakers trying to break Unions that, with the LGBT community, represent the most consistent supporters of progressive Democrats.”
Banks discussed the situation at the State and County level. At the State level, the result of Republican legislator's refusal to even allow citizens to vote on whether to extend the current tax rates may force a budget that relies only on cuts, primarily in social services. Most of these cuts in senior services, AIDS and other disease work, mental health care, education, etc. not only hurts the people who depend on this vital help, it also means additional cuts, or elimination, in the salaries and benefits of the workers providing the services. Banks noted that the contract proposal his Union delivered to San Diego County's negotiators for the first time would require the County to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. In spite of the fact that the County is operating at a surplus (approximately $2 million surplus) the County's response to the economic aspects of the proposal was to require “a freeze to all salary steps, removal of the 7% offset employees receive towards their pension, and elimination of many premiums.”
Zucchet, in response to Councilmember DeMaio's stated desire to “…make San Diego the Wisconsin of the West”, reminded the crowd that since local Republicans have been scapegoating City workers for a lot longer, it's actually Wisconsin that is the San Diego of the Midwest. In response to questioning about it, he told the crowd that City workers were removed from Social Security protection when then Mayor Pete Wilson proposed that the City could benefit by taking the money then being paid as the City's contribution to workers' Social Security accounts and dedicating some of that savings to a supplemental pension plan for the workers. This is the pension that DeMaio now wants to eliminate, leaving City workers with no Social Security, no pension and only an inadequate 401k plan to survive on. We have all seen the losses in 401k values during the recent recession. In addition to removal of worker's retirement safety net, current proposals call for elimination of staff – including revenue producing positions – through both “managed competition” and service cutbacks (many in libraries and parks/recreation) and multi-year wage freezes. The last City wage increase occurred in 2005.
Carla Kirkwood, Program Chair for SDDC, reminded the Club, “Labor has been with the LGBT community, negotiating for LGBT protections in labor contracts, protesting anti-LGBT businesses like the Manchester Grand Hyatt and supporting openly gay and LGBT supporting progressive candidates for office. Now they are in the cross-hairs of the extreme right and need our help. We need to urge community members to contact their City Council members, County Supervisors and State legislators to remind them of their obligation to negotiate fairly and directly with their respective labor groups - a partisan attack on Labor is an attack on the LGBT community.”
More about San Diego Democratic Club:
The San Diego Democratic Club, an affiliate of National Stonewall Democrats, was founded in 1975 and is the largest club chartered with the Democratic Party in San Diego County. SDDC's mission is to secure equal human rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution of the United States to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; to foster the ideals of the Democratic Party; to educate and inform the Democratic Party on LGBT issues and to contribute to the Party's growth and influence.