The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 16      April 25, 2011

Workers hit by ‘shared
sacrifice’ in California
(front page)
LOS ANGELES—Under the banner of “shared sacrifice,” California governor Edmund Brown, a Democrat, signed $11.2 billion in cutbacks into law March 24.

The bipartisan knife-wielding includes: kicking workers off welfare—for life—after four years instead of five; cutting $2 billion from mental health and child development programs; closing the state’s senior day care centers; and slashing $500 million in funding for the state university system. Medi-Cal spending will be slashed by $1.7 billion, increasing the cost of medical coverage for those with low incomes and those in nursing facilities.

“California is balancing the budget on workers’ backs,” Carmen Rodriguez, a student at San Diego State University, told the Militant. “If it has anything to do with something workers may need like social services or education, it will be cut.”

The community college system faces an $800 million cut in funding, which may result in the enrollment of 400,000 fewer students and elimination of summer school sessions. “The average student can’t afford textbooks—we rent them,” said Juana Mora, a student at Rio Hondo Community College.

Supporters of the bill cynically claim that prison inmates will be closer to their homes when tens of thousands from state prisons are transferred to county jails. The real aim of this move is to save on physical exams and mental health screening, which are not required in these facilities.

These new cuts come on the heels of those made by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Unemployment is 12.6 percent statewide, with higher rates in the agricultural centers. The city of El Centro has the highest unemployment in the United States—28 percent.

These cuts are just the opening act. Since taking office early this year, Brown has been pushing to place a referendum on the ballot to continue the increase in state income tax, sales tax, and motor vehicle fees. Brown says he will push through changes in public workers’ pensions, with an urgency clause that enables them to take effect immediately.

Top leaderships of the unions are campaigning to get their members to back the tax extensions, claiming this will forestall even more draconian cuts. The United Teachers of Los Angeles website states that Governor Brown “inherited a $25 billion-plus deficit from Governor Schwarzenegger. Brown’s budget splits the difference to close the deficit—one-half budget cuts, and one-half new revenues in the form of extending temporary tax increases.”

Endorsing the tax increases, the website urges lobbying Republican legislators who oppose a ballot initiative to “let the people vote on whether or not to extend the taxes.”

Members of the Service Employees International Union-United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW), who provide in-home and nursing-home services, face sharp attacks.

ULTCW member Ramon Baca told the Militant, “Our hours were cut by 3.7 percent two months ago, and now they’re being reduced by another 7.5 percent. There is even talk about cutting the workforce in half—a disaster for us, and for people we care for. The union stopped cuts in 2010. We fought. This is exactly what is needed now.”

Norton Sandler contributed to this article.
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