Where Did the Love Go?
This blog item -- and the angry responses to it -- are worth reading if you want to understand California and its labor politics. Those who remember the 2005 special election, where the state's leading unions achieved enough unity to deal a crushing defeat to Gov. Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives, will recognize the players. The blog post is by Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist who works for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and helped run the campaign against Schwarzenegger's measures. And the responses come from Shum Preston and Chuck Idelson of the California Nurses Assn., which showed an incredible talent for organizing its members to confront the governor at appearances around the state. As a journalist, I've had extensive dealings with all three men, and have found all three to be knowledgable, thoughtful, and professional.
But in this post, they sound sarcastic, shrill and more than a little childish. Maviglio is at odds with Preston and Idelson over aggressive tactics being used by the nation's largest union, SEIU, which is competing with CNA for members and has taken very different political positions on key issues, most notably health care legislation in California. (SEIU supported the Schwarzenegger-Nunez compromise that preserved the private insurance market but sought to force insurers to sell policies to everybody and to compel individuals to buy policies; CNA opposes the legislation and argues for a single-payer system). What's clear is that the unity of 2005 is gone.
One wonders whether this kind of divide (the nurses' guys accuse Maviglio of being corporate and conservative -- not true, he's neither -- and Maviglio accuses them of hypocrisy -- false, Preston and Idelson are highly principled people) offers a preview of a possible split among California Democrats as the party moves towards a very competitive 2010 gubernatorial election. By the numbers, the Dems should be preparing to take back the governorship and full political control of the state. But one wonders if there's enough agreement on a progressive agenda for Democrats to govern if they get the chance.