San Francisco voters are being urged to vote for so-called pension reform proposals. The labor union officials, Mayor Lee and the Chamber of Commerce have been promoting Proposition C, which will increase the amount of money workers contribute to their pensions. Meanwhile, Jeff Adachi, a prominent city official, has placed a competing measure on the ballot that will require even larger contributions from workers.
Proponents of both proposals have argued that the San Francisco budget deficit and the growing pension costs make reform a necessity. Yet both sides fail to look at the bigger picture. The inequalities in wealth have been growing steadily during the past three decades with the income of the very wealthy skyrocketing while the income of working people and the poor have been declining. The requirement that city workers contribute more to their pensions will simply contribute further to the decline in the income of working people, resulting in even greater inequalities in wealth.
Moreover, those who urge passage of these proposals are hypocritical in the extreme. The San Francisco budget deficit has resulted in part from the unending tax exemptions the city has been bestowing on corporations. During the past year, for example, city officials exempted Twitter from a $20 million tax bill and Zynga from a $30 – $50 million tax bill. So both pension reform propositions are contributing to a city trend of taking from workers in order to give to corporations. In other words, both propositions represent the typical behavior of government officials who respond to the needs of the rich while turning their backs on everyone else.
Unfortunately, labor officials have given their blessing to Proposition C. In doing so, they are going against massive popular sentiment, as evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement, that favors reducing the inequalities in wealth, not adding to them. Instead of taking this controversial position without hearing from the rank and file, these labor officials should have put the question of supporting Proposition C to a referendum among their own membership. This would have been the democratic thing to do. We think the members would have rejected this proposition.