Labor is facing its biggest election challenge in the country's biggest state, for passage of the major anti-union measures on California's ballot would most certainly trigger moves to enact similar measures nationwide.
The most damaging of the California measures, Proposition 32, is what the AFL-CIO notes as "a brazen power play" by billionaire corporate interests and other anti-union forces to all but silence labor's political voice, while greatly increasing the political strength of labor's wealthy opponents.
Prop 32's corporate sponsors deceptively call their measure an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. Yet it would only limit – and limit severely – the political spending of unions. There would be no limit on the political spending of corporations and other wealthy interests.
They'd have less direct effects nationally, but California Propositions 30 and 38, one supported by labor, one opposed by labor, also are rightly drawing much labor attention. Both measures would raise new funds for education, although in much different ways.
Prop 30, which is widely supported by unions and a broad base of community organizations, would do it through a tax increase that would be levied on wealthy Californians with annual incomes of $250,000 or more.
But Prop 38, bankrolled by some of the same billionaire interests that are contributing heavily to the Yes on 32 campaign, would raise money by taxing everyone, including the poor. And while Prop 30 specifically calls for added education funds to go to schools at all levels, including the community colleges that train workers for jobs that are heavily unionized, Prop 38 does not apply to community colleges.
There are, of course, other state as well as local elections in California, as elsewhere, that are particularly important to labor. That includes, as it very well should, union support for the re-election of labor-friendly President Obama and the candidacy of just about any other Democrat.
Although the odds are heavily against Democrats regaining control of the House or adding to their narrow margin in the Senate, that has not kept labor and its allies from trying to beat the odds.
Here, too, California is playing a major role. National Democratic strategists are sending out an unprecedented barrage of requests to Californians for money for Democratic candidates in general and especially for candidates in swing states.
Unions are playing an important role in that effort and in many local elections as well, helping provide lots of guidance, lots of money and lots of campaign workers seeking contributions and votes.
They surely feel, and probably correctly, that as California goes so will much of he nation.
Dick Meister, a San Francisco writer, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.