Unions Vow To Remain Unified in 2006 To Push for New Health Legislation
Twelve labor groups -- representing 2.5 million workers -- that formed the Alliance for a Better California during the special election said they will continue to work together to advocate universal health care and other issues, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The unions formed the coalition to pool resources to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) special election agenda.
Despite their promise to continue working together, "there may be fewer things for labor to unify around" in 2006. Annual state budget negotiations "typically see labor unions fighting for the same piece of pie," since more spending in one area can lead to reduction in other unions' funding or membership, the Chronicle reports.
In addition, the unions have different priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The California Nurses Association said it will push for universal health care, among other measures, while state prison guards and the Service Employees International Union will be working to negotiate new labor contracts.
However, union leaders said they will remain unified through the next year to advocate legislation and possibly push for a new governor. According to the unions, the solidarity will be especially important if Schwarzenegger continues to pursue changes to the state's public employee pension system (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10).
Aides to Schwarzenegger on Wednesday said the governor will work with Democrats this legislative session on issues that could include seismic retrofitting of hospitals, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The retrofitting could cost the state billions of dollars, as it faces a $7.5 billion state budget deficit next year, according to the Chronicle.
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) said state residents will expect lawmakers to address fundamental issues like health care, roads and education, but he added, "We're going to have to make some tough decisions" in the budget. "This is not going to be a year for the weak of heart," Perata said (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10).