The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 8, 2012
Column Extra: More about the 'Proposition 32' effect

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Election Day is a lot like the Super Bowl: When it's finally over, everyone -- players, pundits and fans -- offer up hindsight analysis to explain the outcome.

So it is with today's State Worker column about union get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Proposition 32 and how they helped Proposition 30 win.

In a post-election email, California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith called the phenomenon "the Proposition 32 effect."

We dealt with just one aspect of the political spillover that flowed from galvanizing labor groups against the payroll-deduction measure, but as Smith points out, it's likely that union muscle made a difference up and down the ballot -- including Democrats' historic supermajority takeover of both chambers of the California Legislature.

We've posted Smith's email below.


To: Interested Parties
From: Steve Smith, California Labor Federation
Re: Last night's historic victories

As results came in last night, it was abundantly clear that California was on its way to becoming the most worker-friendly state in the country. Defeating the deceptive Prop 32 was always a priority for our state's unions. The measure sought to limit the collective voice of workers and rig the system to the favor of wealthy corporate special interests. More than $50 million was spent in support of 32, money that came from a handful of billionaires and out-of-state Super PACs. The California Labor Federation, affiliated unions, the California Teachers Association and progressive allies mounted an unprecedented ground game to defeat 32, and in the end, voters roundly rejected Prop 32.

Over the course of the campaign, 40,000 union volunteers made more than 3.7 million direct voter contacts on the phone and at the door. More than 1 million contacts were made as part of the final GOTV push in the last week. Union volunteers distributed 5.1 million fliers at worksites and door steps. This massive effort began in the spring, much earlier than we've ever kicked off a ground effort than before. Every evening and weekend for months, working people volunteered in record numbers to educate voters about the stakes in this election. Prop 32 was a personal attack on workers, and they perceived it as such. While the victory on Prop 32 was decisive, the ground operation also played a key role in the victory of Prop 30, a high priority for working families from Day One.

The defeats that Republicans and their corporate interest allies suffered in this election were nothing short of crushing. With a 2/3 supermajority looming in both the State Senate and Assembly, 3-4 congressional pickups for Democrats and victories for working families on minimum wage and other issues, this election proved to be a game-changer. And it couldn't have been possible without a galvanized, motivated labor program on the ground. In that respect, Prop 32 made a big difference. There's a lesson to be learned from this. If measures that attack workers are on the ballot, they will be defeated. And not only will they be defeated, they will drive workers to the polls in record numbers, which has a direct impact on races and measures up and down every ballot across California.

Steve Smith
Director of Communications
California Labor Federation

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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