Unionists Challenge Schwarzenegger During Fundraising Tour

Before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could fall into the warm embrace of his pharmaceutical industry friends at the upscale St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, he had to pass through a lunchtime picket line of angry union members. Two hundred labor activists, called up by the AFL-CIO, turned out for the protest—despite a freezing snow shower and 30-mph wind gusts—to chant “Hey hey, ho ho, Schwarzenegger has got to go.”

The California governor was in D.C. this week on the third leg of a national fundraising tour. He is attempting to raise $50 million, mostly from corporate donors, to fund a statewide program of privatization and deregulation that could prove to be a national model. At risk is California’s defined benefit retirement plan, one of the most stable in the nation, which the governor seeks to transform into a defined contribution plan with no employer contribution from the state.

Also on Schwarzenegger’s agenda is a rollback of hospital safety standards. Just last week a California trial judge ruled that the administration could not delay the implementation of hard-fought new regulations on nurse-to-patient hospital staff ratios. Among those at the protest were representatives of AFT, SEIU, the Firefighters, and the California Nurses Association, who are dogging the governor on his cross-country fundraising tour.

“Bush is running into trouble with this agenda,” said Mike Cavanaugh, director of the AFL-CIO field mobilization department. “Schwarzenegger is here to provide some star power and earn millions from his corporate sponsors for his California ballot initiatives.”